It's Christmas, and there's no better time than today to share my adventures of being in Israel last week. My dad and I got to go on the trip together, and we visited so many places from the biblical history, most signifant for today: Bethlehem and the spot where Jesus was born! I got to sit in the cave where Mary and Joseph rested with their baby. It made this a very special Christmas.
Through the loudness of Israel, there is a message of peace that is constantly whispering to ears who will hear it. Here's the story of what I saw and experienced. At the end, read about my #1 favorite spot in Israel and what this place means to me, especially this Christmas season.
We were stuck at the Israeli border for four hours due to protests.
After spending a week in the extremely stable Kingdom of Jordan, I could already tell visiting Israel would be a little bit of a different experience. (So many posts about Jordan coming soon!)
The plan was to wake up at 5:30 a.m., leave the hotel at 6:00, cross the border around 6:30, and get to Jerusalem before 8:00. However, we were taken to the wrong border crossing, and after three conversations in broken English and a lot of pointing around, we learned that the whole border was closed. No one was getting in or out of Israel until 12:00! In four hours.
Finally, the border crossing bus came to get us, and in a flash, we were in Israel!
Our first stop in the country was the Jordan River baptismal site of Jesus. It was a great place to start the adventure because it looked exactly as one would envision it: palms, water plants standing tall, and very biblical-looking muddy water. It was FREEZING cold! Icy to the touch, but I couldn’t help but put my toes in such an historical body of water.
From there we went to Jericho (the very one from the Book of Joshua), where we explored the ruins of the city. And we drank water from the same water source in 2 Kings that was undrinkable until God used Elisha to miraculously transform it into healthy water for the people and land of Jericho.
On the way to Jerusalem, we stopped by the mountain where Jesus tempted and fasted in the desert for 40 days, and we saw the exact sycamore tree Zacchaeus climbed to see Jesus above the crowd in Luke 19.
All of these stories I read about growing up were coming to life in front of me. Seeing them in person fulfilled me so much, I would have gone home happy right then and there; but that was before I knew how eye-opening Jerusalem would be.
Because the protests delayed our arrival so much, we got to Old Jerusalem (where most of Jerusalem's biblical historical events happened within the modern city of Jerusalem) at twilight. We met a guide who took us through all of the sights.
Old Jerusalem is one of my favorite places I’ve seen. But it’s not because it’s where I saw a lot of places where Jesus walked (which does feel really surreal!). In Old Jerusalem, there are four quarters: the Christian quarter, the Armenian quarter (which is also Christian), the Jewish Quarter, and the Muslim quarter. The way they work together while reaching for what they view as holy makes this city so special to me. Read more about that at the end of the post, when I share my #1 favorite spot in all of Israel.
THE UPPER ROOM
We went in the Upper Room where Jesus and his disciples had the Last Supper, where Jesus returned to his disciples after coming back to life, and where the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples on the day of Pentecost. The room was redone by its Crusader discoverers, but the stone floor was original and the floor that Jesus would have walked on.
Many Jews have wanted to be buried on the Mount of Olives because of Jewish tradition (based in the biblical verse Zechariah 14:4) that when the Messiah comes, the resurrection of the dead will begin with those burried on this mountain. (See the solid white on the left side of the mountain? Those are all graves.) There are so many cool things that happened here throughout history. But, to me, the most significant was Jesus' time there the night he was captured. The Garden of Gethsemane rests toward the foot of the mount. According to Acts 1, Mount Olives is also where Jesus ascended into Heaven.
KING DAVID'S TOMB
I am so happy I was in Jerusalem during Hanukkah and Christmas, as I learned so much about Jewish holiday traditions! This photo was taken right after watching a group of singing, clapping men light this menorah! It was so brilliant to watch this and other fun Hanukkah festivities for the first time.
King David's tomb is in a small room, and is divided by a wall as men and women cannot touch while praying.
JESUS AND THE CROSS
This church's courtyard is where the trial of Jesus occurred.
Inside the church, the spot where Jesus’ cross stood in the ground is marked, but I feel it’s not something that should be through up on a blog. This tiled sun lays right in front of the spot, and though I touched the gold circle where the cross anchored into the hill, even just standing this close was moving too. Some of the original rock, the ground of Golgotha, around where the cross was is preserved, on either side of the gold circle, in glass casing. It’s continuously surreal to try to comprehend.
WHO HAS THE KEY TO THE CHURCH?
There are two Christian quarters in Old Jerusalem, the Christians and the Armenians (who are also Christian). They share parts of the Church over where Jesus was tried and crucified. However, every morning there is a ceremony of unlocking the church and every night, a ceremony of locking it up. But if there are two Christian groups, who has the key (or control over the church)? The answer is so fascinating. They gave the key to the Muslims to keep things fair and avoid conflict! I thought that was brilliant. I am consistently in awe of how the four religions work together.
THE WESTERN WALL
We walked to the Jewish Quarter where the Western Wall stands. The Western Wall was built by King Herod and is the location where Abraham almost sacrificed his son Isaac, where Isaac went to pray before meeting Rebecca, and where Jacob dreamed of a ladder reaching to the Heavens.
On the other side of the wall, part of the Temple Mount, is the Dome of the Rock, a sacred mosque for Muslims. But where the mosque stands today, the Jewish people used to have their Holy Temple. So the Western Wall is the closest they can get to the holy ground where their temple stood. The wall is also known as the Wailing Wall for this reason.
People write their prayers or wishes on a paper, and stick it into crevices of the wall. I got to do it, which is still so crazy to think about. I signed mine “Elisabeth Huijskens” to make sure God really knew it was me.
Going to Bethlehem during Christmas time was so special. We got to go to exact spot Jesus was born, marked with a gold ring again, and I sat in the cave where Mary, Joseph, and Jesus rested and received the travelers who ventured to welcome Jesus.
On the right side, you can see some of the original cave exposed.
Above: The view of Old Jerusalem, standing on Mount Olives.
Below: Walking down to Old Jerusalem from the top of the mountain, the route that Jesus walked.
The Garden of Gethsemane
BACK IN OLD JERUSALEM
Walking around the Jewish quarter, I got hungry and delightfully ate some yummy chicken shwarma. And then there were these donuts that are particularly enjoyed during Hanukkah. (The Jewish quarter has the best food!)
ABOVE THE FOUR RELIGIOUS QUARTERS
My favorite place in Israel is standing on a rooftop above where the four religious quarters meet. I spent at least a couple hours there, just sitting and soaking it in. It is so incredibly interesting to me how the four religions and their history intertwine and layer together throughout the city. The way they, at times, lean on each other and respect each other to ensure the social ecosystem of their shared city is fascinating. I have felt so heavy this year from so much division raising up all around. It has creeped up from all the sides of my life and has been one of my least favorite parts of 2017. If I let it, it would make 2017 one of the worst years I've experienced. But I don't like giving power to things that I don't add goodness to our world.
God knew how I needed to end this year: in a place where there is tension, there is opposition, but there is also jaw-dropping co-existence and respect. I was beginning to doubt that was possible anymore and needed to see it with my eyes and feel it in my spirit. I have believed for a long time now that the answer to many views of this world is "yes" and "and" rather than "neither" or "or". (I cannot stand "us" vs. "them" language.) When we say "yes," "and," "welcome," and "thank you" to the opposite side, the chasm then closes, the opposite side becomes our side as well, and we realize we're all just humans looking up for Someone bigger than ourselves. And that's when we find Her, because that's where Love lives -- in that closing chasm, where the quarters meet.
You guys, I'm going to Israel, Egypt, and Jordan in ONE WEEK! What?! It doesn't feel real. Making sure I'm all set to travel to a part of the world I've yet to experience has been exciting to master. However, I had a hard time pinning down everything I knew I was going to need (and everything I knew I was going to forget), and there wasn't really anything out there to help me feel I was really ready. So, in typical entrepreneur fashion, I MADE a tool that has put me 100% at ease. And I am sharing it with you all for FREE!
This "I've Totally Got This" Guide (Traveling Edition) has me feeling like, well obviously, like I've totally got this trip to the Middle East! There are multiple schedule-making tools and checklists in here that put all my crazy thoughts on paper. And I wanted to make sure my fellow world travelers could have a pleasant planning experience as well.
Whether it’s a road trip to the countryside, an escape to the city, or an adventure to a new culture, enjoy the anticipation of your trip with this collection of planning tools. Stay organized and prepared for what’s ahead (instead of too stressed to look forward to your travels). Using these sheets (digitally or printed) will keep you in constant awe of how much you’ve “totally got this”!
Click the small, white downward arrow to download my PDF of guides of checklists to keep travel planning FUN!
the GAME PLAN: by day
Use this page to write down notes about what adventures you’ll go on each day of your trip. You can make note of where you are staying that night and what you plan to wear. The blank “Day ___” number space allows you to print off more copies of this page and fill in what day of the trip it is. Use one page if your trip is 5 days or under. Or print more if your excursion is a little longer!
the GEAR check list
If you’re like me, you bring a lot of gear to document your trip. This is one of the more burdensome parts of being a photographer, but this list makes it a little easier! There is space for you to write specifically what you are bringing, a photography/videography section, and an “everyday tech” section for you light travelers!
the DON’T FORGET check list
Before this list, there were always tiny details I forgot about. And how about those things you need to use the night before so you forgot them when you ran out the door? I know I’m not the only one who has bought a tooth brush in the airport! There are 2 lists on this page to make sure you don’t need to sweat the small stuff!
the TRAVELING PET check list
Whether your pooch is a frequent flier or if you’re leaving your furry friend at home, this list will keep you organized and your pet’s tail waging!
the OUTFIT planner
This list is my favorite! When I don’t plan out my outfits, I bring WAY too much. I can’t stand the mess or wasting time figuring out what I’m going to wear during my trip. This makes planning ahead of time a breeze! Here’s to being able to fit everything you need to look and feel awesome in a carry-on. Whoop, whoop!
For those of you who tried this PDF on for size, if you have something that you think would be additionally helpful in this guide, let me know, and I might add it! I would love to make this as impactful as possible for you. Also, if you post/share about this free tool, tag me so I can get in on all the traveling-fun!
If I had to guess, I would estimate that I've been to Haiti about 20 times in my 22 years. I stopped tallying the number of trips at age 13. So, when my trip to spend some time with our artisan partners in Haiti this summer was quickly approaching (amidst the height our catalog design and production, a business conference, and as I was preparing to move), I was not super stoked, if I'm being 100% honest in my humanity. I love Haiti and my friends + family who live there, but the trip sounded like a lot in the middle of a lot. But you guys, it was one of my favorite Haiti trips ever! I hugged so many familiar friends, shook the hands of my business partners, and kindled new relationships. In the whirlwind of so much beauty, I was reminded again of why I am so passionate about creating sustainable jobs to develop communities and end poverty. Here are some of my trip's highlights + reasons ending poverty through job creation is so important.
1.) Dignified Partnerships
Before Trades of Hope, I did nonprofit work in Haiti at the organization my parents founded from the age of 8 years old to 14 years old. Even while I was a kid, I noticed the awkward dynamic of adults in Haiti having less opportunities in the world than I did as a child. Today, after feeling that weird, unjust feeling for years, my favorite part about sustainable business is that everyone involved is in a dignified partnership. Everyone from the artisans, to artisan group leaders, to the retail company (Trades of Hope), to customers who buy our ethically crafted line of fashion accessories -- we all need each other! All roles are needed to develop communities and end poverty. It's a honor, full of beauty and fun, to partner with these amazing women!
Below are some artisan partners using their creativity and skill to make some of our accessories! Also below, I'm smiling with Chandler (right) who founded one of our partnered artisan groups and with Fabienne and Faby, the group's Director of Operations and boutique manager. The group photo is of the leadership team at one of our partnered artisan groups. They are all stewarding their teams in their work and guiding them in conversations about how they can contribute their time to activist projects to make Haiti better!
2.) Educating Others on How to End Poverty
I love this business because it offers opportunity to learn about and education on what is hurting the world and what we can do to change it! There was so much I didn't realize while in nonprofit work. No one told me that by donating free things, I'm actually hurting someone's chances at success, as well as the local (and national) economy. No one told me that I should think about where I buy my clothes from because most are made in sweatshops. No one told me that a woman can transform her life and the life of others when she just has a job opportunity.
Not only do I get to learn and educate others, but I get to see the lightbulb go off in others' eyes and watch them turn into educators themselves! This is the group I lead down to Haiti, who all had those lightbulb moments. And now, as they educate others about how we can make this world flourish, they are creating a higher demand for ethically made fashion. It's a beautiful and ever-growing ripple effect of change!
3.) Hope for a Beautiful Future
Without a doubt, my favorite part about the trip was meeting Jolina. She was one of the first artisans in her artisan group and today is a stockholder in the company! Jolina has so much authority and confidence while she talks about what her company does. She told me that if someone had just handed out free peanut butter to stifle her hunger for a day, she would still be living in extreme poverty. Hand outs meet a momentary need, but do not solve the problem of poverty. But because she became a part of the artisan group and consistently earned a living wage creating accessories, she bought some land without her husband even knowing, built a house, and now her husband loves the house! Jolina has the pride in knowing that she made that happen! In addition, she now runs a side business she started selling peanut butter, a business that employs other people as well! She is such an inspiration to me and a shining example of what job creation is doing: creating hope for a beautiful future!
I shared on Instagram that I had big news, and I'm excited that I can finally share:
I'm moving to Washington D.C. this summer!
I am so blessed and thankful for this next season, but in the name of true transparency, I must admit that the journey I took to get to this decision alone has grown me so much. I have been stretched and molded by choosing a path that is exciting, but hard. I have decided to move to D.C. and then decided against it 9 times in the last six months, back and forth and back and forth, solely out of fear.
And I must say, I have begun to love the sound of my voice saying "yes" to what is frightening to me but good for me, to what is difficult but right.
The journey started almost a year ago. It was August 2016, and I was surrounded by people my age beginning new adventures. I knew people who were living overseas, chasing pipe dreams, starting law school, and randomly picking places on a map and moving there simply because they thought they liked the city. You know why they did these things? Because they could. Because it ignited a fire of excitement in them, and it felt right.
My favorite people are those who seem to have lived 5 lives by the time they're 30.
I want to be one of those people.
So, it was August 2016, and I was sitting in my mom's office telling her about the people living in England and getting educational experiences and hauling their guitars to new cities. I could feel myself going on and on, and the wonder in my voice was causing tension against the grounded-ness of my near future plans. Finally, she said, "Well, then you should do something like that!"
"Uh, no. No, I could never," was my initial reply. "Trades of Hope is here, I already have my dream job at 21, and I'll figure out the living situation." (I lived in Lakeland, FL and commuted multiple times a week to our Trades of Hope offices in Palm Coast, FL -- about 2 hours apart -- and knew the arrangement wasn't sustainable.)
But my mom kept exploring the idea out loud, saying things about how I'm so young, and this is probably the best time I can do something so spontaneous, and all of the work details could be figured out because life, a really full lifetime, is so much more than working.
I was scared. I'm a planner who likes to pretend that she's in control and have comforting surroundings. I have never been a fan of change. However, through life experiences, that horrified fear has evolved into a distaste that has honesty felt the goodness that comes from shifting seasons. It has evolved so much so that I decided to bring a really big life change upon myself, even though I was (and am) terrified. I determined that I was just going to do it, even if I had to do it afraid.
From there I started dreaming: I could live pretty easily in Europe with my Dutch passport, or some mission work abroad would be so eye-open-- No, there's no way Trades of Hope could be in your life if you're in a different country. Okay, America it is, then. But where? And what? That's when it came down to graduate school.
I graduated with my undergrad 2 years early, as a 20 year-old, in 2015. Ever since I started taking college classes at 14 years old and knew I would be ahead of the timeline society has put on us, I felt I have always had a golden ticket. As Gilmore Girls star, Lauren Graham, also ahead in the education timeline as a girl, described it in her book Talking as Fast as I Can, those years ahead of the curve fell like coins in your pocket that you rub between your fingers like a secret weapon until you are ready to cash them in for a reward at some point in adulthood.
Looking back on it now, the reward was being able to have this past year at Trades of Hope full time. For the last year I have been commuting multiple times a week for 2 hours, one way, to our offices to be a part of our amazing team. It has been so good for me and such a gift. And because I was "ahead" of the game by two years, I cashed in that golden ticket, those coins, to be able to focus on helping Trades of Hope (the company I co-founded and love so much) grow without splitting my time with school, got to have amazing professional experiences before starting my master's, and still get to go to grad school "on time" (whatever the heck that means). It was definitely worth exchanging my ticket and coins to have given what I was able to give to Trades of Hope this past year without school being in the way.
After deciding grad school was what I wanted, I started studying for the GRE. I was determined to get amazing scores, so I began my studying in September 2016 for the Fall 2017 school application season. I figured I already traded in my golden ticket, so a phenomenal GRE score was my ticket out of Florida now. I studied through September, October, November, December, January, and in February, took the test. I applied discipline and diligence to studying for this exam like I never have before. (This is another area in which I saw growth for me.) I bought books, hired an online tutor from Harvard, read more for fun, ate a little better, and made sure I was going to bed at the same time every night (it helps to increase your memory, apparently).
Then, it was time to fill out applications. I completed applications for schools in New York, Boston, and, of course, Washington D.C. -- 5 different schools among the 3 cities. I have always dreamed of a metropolitan experience and decided this was the opportunity. After receiving only acceptance letters, it was just a matter of choosing my favorite city.
I was in D.C. last month and, despite my fears, knew it was the perfect city for me. Beautiful, diverse, cultural, passionate, and not too big -- no where else in the United States has ever spoken to me so gently, so powerfully, so personally. Within Washington, I received admission offers from American University and George Washington University. I am so excited to share that, this August, I will begin working on my Master's Degree in Public Relations at American University. I will be going to school part time so that I can continue pouring myself into Trades of Hope!
If you are thinking about reaching for a dream that feels impossible, let me tell you, if I found a way to move to Washington D.C. despite my personal and professional ties in Florida, your dreams are possible as well. A year ago, I never would have thought this was an option for me. The reality now is freeing and exciting, but also really scary.
I'm probably going to be afraid for a while, even after I get settled into my new home. But I'm going to do this move afraid. Sometimes choosing what is right is choosing to do it afraid, and that's more than okay. There are certain situations in which fear can be eradicated, and I'm a fan of those circumstances. But sometimes, fear stays. And that's when you start talking to it, to fear. Or at least you should, because it works:
"Fear, I understand you have a job, and you're just trying to do your job. We've all gotta pay the bills. So, you can come along on this adventure. However, you're staying in the back seat. I'm the human here, so I'm the only one who will be calling the shots. You can't back-seat-drive; you can't give directions; you can't even touch the aux cord. But you can come along and give your short-lived warnings. But the front is reserved for logic, trust, and thankfulness, and your seat in the back doesn't crowd them out of the car. I'm the one in control."
Fear is good. Its existence does not permit it to take control. You take control, breathe your dreams into reality, and create the life you actually want to live. Use it to empower people, to make the world more beautiful, to build something awe-inspiring, to create something meaningful. You will not regret saying "yes," even if you say it afraid.
Threw together some of my video footage from my trip to Iceland to make this video for you all! If you're interested in Iceland or planning a trip, check out this post for photography and details about what I did!
Part I: Reykjavik (The Most Northern Capital On the Planet)
Part II: Scenic Adventures (Waterfalls, Cliffs, Glaciers)
Part III: The Euro Cup + Insta Pics
The pony riding company I went through: Viking Horses
Last week, a couple of my girlfriends and I jumped on planes to visit our fellow-college-roommate in Chicago where she is living while working on her Masters. We ate, drank, shopped, took photos, and were constantly in awe that we were far along enough in life where we could visit our college roommates in a pretty city like Chicago. It was such a gift, and I'm thankful 2016 delivered such an incredible one so early on in the year. I got tons of pretty pictures and some random thoughts for recent/almost college grads out there:
// ONE //
Whatever you're feeling right now - incredible fear, incredible rage, incredible loss, incredible joy, incredible contentment, incredible boredom, incredible confusion, incredible lack of fulfillment - it will fade away. Even though it is consuming your heart and lensing your vision and you can't believe it ever will, I promise it will fade away. You'll stop caring about the things you're enraged about, and you'll stop feeling that happy jump in your step so effortlessly. I don't know why it works that way, I guess it's a life thing; I've learned to trust the process. I started my post-undergrad life feeling the first three of that list above; and I don't fully know why or how (other than my concentrated efforts), but those feelings have faded into smooth, cleansing waters. The happy (unfortunately) and the hard (thank, God), it will fade. So soak up all the nutrients that whatever the currently feeling has to offer, really feel it; but do so with the intention of moving looking forward. Then whenever the next feeling comes you will be ready to face and learn and grow there.
I wrote this post in August about feeling like a plant underground, yet to be grown. What I feel now is much more acccute to a sprout; above the ground, sometimes wondering why I don't have abounding leaves and pedals like the plants taller than me, but often I'm `pretty freaking proud of my stem and of my green hue and of how far I've grown in such a small time. Like I said, I don't know why or how it happened, just that I chose to be intentional about who I was and what I did in that season.
// TWO //
You are so, completely not alone. What you're feeling, there are others (far more and far closer to you in proximity than you think) who have those same feelings beating in their chests. It's easy to be impersonal and lack vulnerability in this world. Sharing your heart, your true heart with wisdom and discernment, is the only way to discover that you are not alone. Just share little, honest, authentic pieces at a time. Sometimes people won't relate (or at least don't act like it). But most of the time that little, honest, authentic part of your heart will bring comfort and healing to other confused souls, and then in turn to your own.
// THREE //
I believe that believing you'll survive is what makes you survive. It's a scary thing to chose to believe, because what if you're wrong? But without it, without believing you will survive the pain at present, there is absolutely no chance that you will. It takes bravery, so much bravery. But I believe that believing you will survive is what makes you survive.
// FOUR //
The past's pain and the future's unknown are such small matters compared to what lies within us. Our strength to keep ourselves alive in every season, our ability to plant hope and healing in another's soul, our heart's emotional-cell-regeneration to make us feel like new again, our power to chose kindness when everything around us is screaming, "harden, harden, harden!" - it is miraculous what lies inside of us. And when we bring those miraculous things that are inside of us out into the world, it chases darkness away a little big more - for yourselves and others around you.
My driver's name was Nayo.
He seemed really polite, asked lots of questions about my family and made me feel really comfortable being in that red Toyota Corolla alone together as he brought me to the airport. But that's your job, isn't it, Nayo? To make sure I feel really comfortable and unsuspecting... I see right through you.
Nayo gets another phone call and answers, too mumbly and too Spanish for me to comprehend. That's the fourth call in thirty minutes, Nayo. I see right through you.
That's when I am once again thankful that I kept my sweater on my lap in the front seat with me. I did that intentionally, you see, just in case I need to use it fashioned as a protective glove when I punch a window open. In that moment, I'm also once again thankful I'm wearing my glasses just in case I need to break them and use the pieces to pick a lock or as a sharp weapon. And as I'm memorizing significant landmarks along our journey in case I need to give someone emergency directions to where I am being held captive, I'm thankful that I saw Taken 2 (even though it freaked me out at the time) -- because now I'm a pro at this. You should have blind-folded me, Nayo. This is way too easy. At least make it a challenge.
Unfortunately, (and by "unfortunately" I mean "fortunately") I didn't have to use any of my international kidnapping survival "expertise". Nayo brought me to the airport safely and was very sweet when I gave him the lamest tip ever because I barely had any cash. I felt bad then, as I walked into the airport to check my bag, assuming so poorly of kind Nayo. The guilt soon was displaced by an uncontainable mental laughing at myself for being so silly. It set the tone for an overall silly day of traveling as I left Guatemala. But this was a big day, a day signifying the end of my Guatemalan season. And while it was a good thing, I was feeling so much and, well, sometimes if you don't laugh you cry.
I didn't need to cry, though. Even though I was missing the Doese family like crazy, I was feeling weirdly, sillily good. I threw my luggage to the lady behind the check-in desk, spun around, whipped my carry-on and guitar over my shoulder and sang (very powerfully but still to myself), "This girl is on fire!!!!!!!!!! This girl is on fiiiIIIIIiiiiire!!!" Reflecting on my 5 weeks in Guatemala, I had never felt like myself less and had never felt like myself more.
When you're in a place completely different than the world you're accustomed to, you find out a lot about who you are. When you don't have your comfy bed, don't have a fully functioning toilet, and haven't had a hot shower in four weeks, you can figure a lot of stuff out. You realize that comfort is a luxury and something one creates, but not something to be pursued and certainly not something for which anything should be sacrificed. You begin to fully appreciate people and relationships, even the light, on-the-surface-I-probably-will-never-see-you-again-but-I-hope-I-do relationships. You realize that you're actually a pretty maternal woman and you're really excited about all of the little and big ways life has and will completely enamor you.
I've said it before:
I think the most significant reason why you go away and travel, is so that you can come back.
Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.
While I was in Guatemala, I told friend after friend, "I know this is exactly where God wants me." But now that I'm back in the States, I feel new wave after crashing wave of why it was so precisely perfect for me to live in Guatemala for 5 weeks. Perfect is a word we throw around a lot, but rarely ever truly experience, but it's a Heavenly experience when we do.
In Eat, Pray, Love Elizabeth Gilbert says this, "I've come to believe that there exists in the universe something I call 'The Physics of The Quest' — a force of nature governed by laws as real as the laws of gravity or momentum. And the rule of Quest Physics maybe goes like this: If you are brave enough to leave behind everything familiar and comforting (which can be anything from your house to your bitter old resentments) and set out on a truth-seeking journey (either externally or internally), and if you are truly willing to regard everything that happens to you on that journey as a clue, and if you accept everyone you meet along the way as a teacher, and if you are prepared – most of all – to face (and forgive) some very difficult realities about yourself... then truth will not be withheld from you. Or so I've come to believe."
I've come to believe so, too.
The tortillas are hot and the guacamole radiates lime and onion as everyone at the table (in at least four different languages: English, Spanish, Dutch or Portuguese) inquires and answers about the day’s recent unfolding. I look around at these people sitting around one table. A family of five hearts I have come to love as if I’ve known them my whole life. A girl a little older than me who is from my home country, the Netherlands, with the accent and poise to match. A married couple from South America who met in the Netherlands and abandoned anything resembling a home to now traveling the world together. I look at these people, who only two weeks ago a few were strangers to me, and I can’t imagine my life not having spent this time with them. We didn’t really go through a lot together. No, for the most part, we truly only shared meals three times a day. All the same, after celebrating Diana’s 30th birthday with cakes and songs, after quietly drinking coffee early in the morning with swollen eyes, after sharing the same dysfunctional toilet, and after making this random household in Antigua our home – it saddens me to leave this place in two days to continue adventuring in Guatemala.
The coast is calling and beckoning me to make a home there for the next few weeks. And while I am truly excited for the unknown, I think of Telma – who runs this household, not only taking care of her own large family, but then spoiling us houseguests as only a grandma-figure can. And I pray, pray, pray that through my growing Spanish that she understands how thankful I am for her, for the time she’s worked in the kitchen to prepare expectation-exceeding Guatemalan meals everyday, for her kind conversation, for her smile, for her heart. I think of this house of clay, tile, and corrugated steal roof panels – how distant it felt walking in for the first time, and now how much I’ll miss my bed’s corner, I’ll miss playing my guitar on the roof, I’ll miss hearing the rain dance carelessly on the tin outside. Home.
For the first time in my entire life, I do not crave comfort or security. They are simply not things I desire or want for my life during this season. After eradicating every idea I had of who I was and what I wanted, God is showing me how this girl – originally a homebody, a planner, a comfort-seeker – can truly make a home wherever He leads her. And it’s so freeing. To think I am excited to go to this new home on the coast, of which I know nothing about – a month ago that would be truly inconceivable. Preconceived notions are not promises or definitions or destinations. They are chapters, only a part of the story. A great, grand, beautiful story that far surpasses anything scribbled in a book, anything desired in a heart. And I come back to this over and over again: it is all grace, it is all His generosity. His pure generosity – I will never know the depths of it. That He should honor me so much to pull me into the light and dance with me. That He should bend to reach for me – through the stench and the clouding of my sin, He does not hesitate – and lift me from despair and into unquenchable joy. There is so much joy, I can hardly think and it massacres my grammar, but I don’t care because it’s joy.
Please know, this great, grand, story is for you, too. The pain, hopelessness or sadness you feel are irrelevant, not even factors, not even indicators of your future. There is always more light, more love, more hope and peace. Let today be the last day you allow something that keeps you from the beautiful life He is dreaming for you. Do not hold onto that struggle, that distraction, that him, that her, or that fear out of a desire to avoid depression or anxiety. If you have to experience insecurity or loneliness for a while to reach that beautiful life – so be it. Don’t be afraid of it.
“I think you deserve something beautiful,” He whispers, “let’s make room for the new.”
Open up your life so that your future can be filled with surprises yet to come.
I cried on the eve of my 5th birthday. Balled, actually. I was told upon turning five one is expected to go to school all day and carry more responsibility. That was all so very vague to me; therefore, I was terrified of turning five and cried in my mom’s arms. Needless to say, if I can go from being paralyzed by the unknown (as I have cried about it once or twice in the last 15 years) to excitingly making room for the new – everyone can.
Except for maybe Ireland, I’ve never taken to a new place as quickly as I have to Antigua: the ruins, the colors, the coffee shops, the markets, the hospitality and the garden courtyards. This is a new ability for me – to embrace and absorb and thrive off of that. It’s been fun and good, truly good – but this free woman’s heart is happily beating for the new, the unknown adventure ahead. Who would have thought? (;
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With relentless ambition + passion I live intentionally to take my dreams from plans to reality + empower other women to do the same. I'm a Trades of Hope founder, public speaker, and designer living in Washington, D.C. When I'm not following fashion trends, catching airplanes, or playing with my redhead pup, I'm offering up fashion shortcuts, life lessons I'm learning, and free wallpapers to remind you of how much you've got this.