Hinges Strain

Like hinges straining from the weight
My heart no longer can keep from singing

Again, some more lyrics have been stuck in my head lately. This time they come from MercyMe’s new album. About a month ago MercyMe came to Penn State and they sang this song and ever since then, I have found myself singing this line over and over. And I got to thinking; I wonder what is causing the weight on my hinges.

Regardless of how hard we try, the weight always manages to sneak into our lives. And I used to think that all of that weight was a bad thing. Maybe the weight is caused from a few difficult courses causing you to struggle in school. Maybe the weight is caused from the death of someone close to you. Maybe the weight is caused from the end of a relationship. Maybe the weight is caused from a health problem. Maybe the weight is caused from a few difficult neighbors that push you to your limits. But what if all of that weight is what causes us to sing.

It’s not really the natural thing to do. A lot of tough things start building up in your life, so what do you do, you turn to God and thank him for all of it.

It was thanksgiving today and what I tend to find myself doing is thanking God for all of the awesome things he has placed in my life recently. I look at all of the good things around me and am so grateful for them because they are what have caused me to get to where I am now. But what about the hard things? They have had an equal role in getting me to this point too.

Maybe this is just me being optimistic, which I’m still not convinced is a bad thing. But think about it…

Like hinges straining from the weight. We are straining to hold ourselves together, as if hanging anything else on that door will cause it to tear off and crumble to pieces. But it’s hard for me to imagine that God is a god who likes to rip doors off of their hinges. He’s not out to see how much weight it takes to rip our hinges out of the wall. But I’d be willing to bet that he also likes to see those hinges being used. Hinges with no door on them, with no weight on them, really don’t serve much of a purpose.

I think when we finally understand that we are meant to praise God for our weight, to thank him for not only the good in our lives, but the tough as well; we will finally begin to understand what it means to sing from our heart. As Rush of Fools writes:

You are infinite worth
When we’ve not the words
Our hearts will sing
We are here on the earth
And somehow we‘re heard
When our hearts sing to You

I think too often I associate blessings with good things, with comfortable things. But it’s the uncomfortable that shapes us, that teaches us.

According to my little sister, one of my annoying habits is that I sing quite poorly in the shower in the morning. Luckily for me, God doesn’t care what it sounds like. I’m not even sure he cares too much about when our voices sing at all. As long as our hearts are singing the same song, God is smiling down on us. Praise and worship take root within our hearts. It doesn’t matter if you’re raising your hands, or singing with your eyes closed. Maybe singing isn’t even your thing. I think God looks a little deeper than what we can see. He’s got a higher priority, a vested interest with our heart. He plants His seeds in our heart. It’s our turn to nurture that seed and use what it grows into for a grander purpose. We all have a different seed and a different end result. But look at nature around us.

Think of how many seeds it has taken to grow what you see around you. Sorry, just one more set of lyrics to include. Eleventyseven has a song that has the following few lines:

I wish that You would tell me how
You know me well and want to be together.
Fallin' short and faded out
but You keep making gardens in this desert.
despite the grace that I dismiss
forgiveness was the catalyst
to penetrate my heart with what is true.

Redeem the years I've thrown away
I'm ready to make good on what I've wasted.
I'm asking You to shape my heart,
I wanna be Your work of art.
'Cuz when You change me and make me more like You

It's beautiful
You can turn mistakes to miracles.
The way that you still love me after all
It's beautiful.

So help me God forbid
I never take for granted
This endless gift You give.

What are we going to do with our seed? What garden are we going to be apart of? You keep making gardens in this desert…


It’s hard for me to understand why some people do the things they do. I look back on the Holocaust in Germany and wonder how so many people could have treated others like they did. I look back on Rwanda and wonder how families could turn on one another and kill their own kin. I look now at Burma and wonder how men can open fire on peaceful monks. Is it not obvious to some that we are all the same?

Most of you are probably familiar with Bono’s song ‘One.’ After watching videos about what is currently happening in Burma, I couldn’t get these lyrics out of my head.

We're one, but we're not the same.
Well, we hurt each other, then we do it again.
You say love is a temple, love a higher law

One love, one blood, one life, you got to do what you should.
One life with each other: sisters, brothers.
One life, but we're not the same.
We get to carry each other, carry each other.
One, one.

We hurt each other, then we do it again. I guess that’s the part that doesn’t sit right with me. We all mess up. We are all judgmental and we all view others through tinted lenses. But how can we continue to make these mistakes. How can a soldier in Burma burn a mother’s home, watch as she and her family retreat into the jungle, and then move on to the next home and do the same thing?

Yet it’s so easy for me to question those half-way around the world that are doing acts that deliberately destroy the notion of ‘one’, but do I take the time to analyze my own life as well? Shooting a monk in prayer or burning village after village is clear to us that something is not right. But how much time do I take to look at my life. What bridges do I burn down? It’s probably not as obvious, but they’re there.

We get to carry each other. God gives us the option of either building up those around us, or tearing them down. It seems like the option we should pick would be so clear. And talking about it is easy. But doing it is hard. You got to do what you should. We should be carrying one another. You should be loving one another. You should be living this life as one.

It seems simple, and part of me wants to look for a deeper meaning behind the song. Where’s the catch? As an engineer I’m taught to question. As a college student I’m expected to think about things on a deeper level. Never be satisfied with your initial view of something, always look from a different angle.

But the more angles I approach it from, the more I find that I’m simply thinking about it too much. ‘One’ is simple. Think of one grain of sand. Think of one blade of grass. Think of one pencil stroke. One star. One smile. One tree. One atom. One guitar. One child. One degree. One sunset. One color. Think of one…

It’s simple.

One love. One blood. One life.

There’s nothing complex about that. As humans, we feel like we need to know more, we need to dive deeper. We need to read more books explaining love before we can feel it. We need to hear more sermons about love before we can act on it. We need to hit play on the song ‘One’ just one more time before we can understand it.

But love is a higher law.

We keep looking for love within our own contexts and laws. Truly we must be able to explain it. If you look up love in the dictionary you’ll find “a feeling of warm personal attachment or deep affection, as for a parent, child, or friend.” This is love according to our law. But love is higher.

What good does it do to define love with words? Define love with life.

Once we understand this, then we will begin to understand ‘one.’ We seem to like making things harder than they should be. It gives us something to do with our time. But think of what we could be doing with that time? I wonder…

Be the difference

This past weekend a good friend of mine passed away. He was a friend to many. Although his official role was to teach us about physics, he taught us so much more. Everyone has that one teacher that has shaped who they have become, has guided them to their present spot, has encouraged them through thick and thin, has loved them as their own child. You tend to put that teacher in a special spot in your past and expect that they will always be there to teach those younger than you. As if they were there when the school was built and will be there until the day it crumbles. Unfortunately that's not how life works.

My friend once wrote me a letter. In it he wrote the following:

"Life is tough. Life is good. Although these sound like contradictory statements, they are not. They are simply two aspects of life. How you decide to handle this apparent dichotomy will determine your outlook in life. In my life, I've found that if I concentrate on how tough life is, the goodness of life seems very small. But if I focus on how good life is, the tough parts of life seem much more manageable."

As a freshman in high school, those words didn't carry the same weight as they do now. Life is tough. Life is good.

When you hear of unexpected deaths, you tend to associate a lot of questioning along with the death. Why would they take them away so soon? They were so young, with so much left to do? However, I'm not asking those questions this time around. My friend had come and done what he was sent to do. God had laid some very specific goals on his heart, and I don't doubt that he didn't finish every one of them. If only I could live like that... Think, to be able to go to bed every night and be more than satisfied with what you have accomplished. To know that you had made a difference in someone's life.

I sometimes wondered how my friend could have a smile on his face every day. He wore a smile painted in sincerity. It was genuine. It was love. It was what we needed as high school freshman.

David Crowder writes in one of his songs:

And I don't know
How to be a love like that.
When all the love in the world
Is right here among us
And hatred too.
And so we must choose
What our hands will do

My friend knew how to be a love like that. It was in his smile, in his open door, in his listening ear.

Over the past few days, the amount of love and gratitude that has been expressed concerning the impact my friend has made on others has been overwhelming. How can one man accomplish so much? I think the difference was that he didn't sit around wondering what he could do in the future to make a difference. He made a difference in the here and now.

"Wherever you are and wherever you go, never forget to make a difference."

Stop planning, start acting. Do something. Be love. Look at those around you. These are the people God has entrusted you with. You are meant to impact them.

My friend knew that.

I'm not upset that God took him away from us. I am happy for him. He spent his whole life reflecting the light that Christ shines on us, and now he gets to spend his days living alongside that light. That's cool. I am so thankful that he was able to impact as many people as he did. We are always wondering how certain things can possibly be a part of God's plan. My friend was able to impact thousands of students' lives. I don't think we all realized though exactly what he was doing. He was humble and simply lived his life out to the best of his ability. Now that he is gone, we all recognize the full extent of what he did. Is it sad that it took his death for us to fully realize this? Yeah. But do you think God thinks it's sad? I don't think so. My friend's sole purpose in life was to make a change. I believe we all have this similar purpose. Sometimes that change happens during our life. Sometimes that change happens after our life. Luckily for my friend, he made a change both during and after his life. That's not something to be sad about.

I doubt my friend is sitting up in heaven and wishing he could have had one more day to finish his job. Rather, he's sitting above us with the same smile that was so familiar to all of us still on his face. Is he looking down on us and watching how the next chapter plays out? I don't think so. The bible never says that those in heaven will pay special attention to this world once they arrive. He's with his Lord and this world was simply a stepping stone to where he is now. Earth is a connection point. Not a final destination. It's like the terminal of an airport. None of us get excited to arrive in terminal C4, we are more concerned with where we are flying to. But the terminal is a necessary part of the trip. This world is a necessary part, but it is simply preparing us for the grand destination. God was ready for my friend to fly on out. I am more than happy for him.

And he did all that he could in that terminal. He made a difference.

Way to go Mr. Way.

If faith were easy

"Mountains are moved with faith, Immaculee, but if faith were easy, all the mountains would be gone."

I just finished "Left to Tell", a book about one women's story through the Rwandan Holocaust. As she sat cramped in a small bathroom with 7 other ladies, she began to hear her killers searching the bedroom on the other side of the door. A single wardrobe was all that stood in front of the door. Any movement or breathing might alert the search party to where she was hiding. "I have killed 399 cockroaches, Immaculee will make 400. It's a good number to kill." What do you do when your enemies are surrounding you on all sides? You are trapped with your back against the wall and paralyzed from fear. You hardly want to pray in fear that they may hear your thoughts and know where you are.

As Immaculee began to pray, she envisioned Jesus standing in front of her; and that is what he had to say. "Mountains are moved with faith, Immaculee, but if faith were easy, all the mountains would be gone." Is that the response we would expect? Wouldn't we want Jesus to just look at us and say everything will be ok? Instead he tells her that this will be hard, but it had to be that way.

I haven't been able to get that line out of my head after putting that book down. What does that mean in my life? The odds that I will have to face any situation even closely related to what Immaculee experienced is extremely slim, and I thank God for that. Yet it is so inspiring and incredible to hear of stories when people literally entrusted their entire life over to Jesus, and simply waited for Him to carry them to whatever lay ahead. Whether that meant death or life.

"I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you."

I think we so often read that verse and expect that if we say we are Christians, we must be able to move mountains. And when that doesn't happen for us (which as far as I know has yet to happen) we get upset because we feel that God is backing off on his end of the deal. But where does it say that faith is easy. It doesn't say that being a Christian and having faith are the same thing. Saying you believe in Jesus doesn't mean that you fully trust in Jesus. And if we only need faith as small as a mustard seed, then we must really be confused on what this whole faith thing is all about.

I know that I sometimes get caught in the trap of thinking, "well I'm not faced with difficult situations like the millions of people in Rwanda, so how am I supposed to develop a faith like Immaculee." Although God says that our faith will be purified by fire, He never says that all fires are the same.

"Left to Tell" also showed me what true forgiveness is. After Immaculee returned home, she received the news that both of her parents and two of her three brothers were killed in the genocide. The only brother left was studying in Senegal at the time and avoided the war. When Immaculee finally comes face to face with the man responsible for the killings of her family, he is unable to lift his head and meet her eyes, ashamed of what he had done. He was being held in a prison and Immaculee had all control in her hands, able to say whatever she needed to to the man. And how does she respond, "I forgive you." I read about how we are taught to forgive both our friends and enemies in the bible. And although I would like to believe that I would be able to do that, I read Immaculee's story and can't stop thinking of how I might have reacted.

"…if faith were easy…"

And then I got thinking; well faith is easy when you can hear God talking to you and you can see Him guiding you ahead. Too much of the time I expect that when I ask God for an answer, he will respond to me. But that would make faith easy. That's not how God intended things to be. This is meant to be a struggle. Our relationship with Him is meant to be marvelous and beautiful, simplistic and pure, yet hard and trusting as well. God will always be there to pull us out of the pits we fall in, but what if we get stuck in a rut of expecting Him to always act this way. What if we are meant to lean on Jesus? What if we had to place our trust in Him, rather than wait for Him to save us from our falls? But how do we trust?

After Jesus spoke to Immaculee in the bathroom, He continued on to say this:

"Trust in me, and know that I will never leave you. Trust in me, and have no more fear. Trust in me, and I will save you. Trust in me, and you shall live."

How do we do that? It seems so easy; everything will be fine as long as we trust in You. But I think I'm learning quickly that trust is much more than I ever imagined. This semester has brought with it plenty of bumps in the road. And as each one comes, I have to constantly remember that I will not be able to scale even the smallest hill. For me that used to be scary, because I used to associate trusting in God to giving Him all control. And although I believe that God is still in control of everything happening around me, I am now recognizing that I still have to act on what God is putting around me.

It gets you thinking. Or at least it got me thinking. I would really recommend you find a copy of the book and read it. Reading has never been my biggest thing, yet I finished this book in one sitting. Every now and then God seems to make some things more clear than others, and that's how I felt with this book. I'm beginning to see that God wants to use me. I can feel Him tugging on me, opening my eyes to the world around me. There's many things in this world that I have no idea are taking place, yet God sees each and every one of them. That's why our experiences are so important, those are the moments when God takes us and shares a new realm of His kingdom to us. God is entrusting us to take this new knowledge, this new sight, and share it to those around us. When God provides us with a new set of eyes, we need to take advantage of that opportunity. This is God's kingdom, His beloved creation. We are an integral part of everything around us and God wants us to experience as much as we can.

Peace Rains

As I woke up this morning, the trees outside my window were beginning to lose their leaves. I sat there in bed and watched as the yellow leaves slowly landed on the grass beneath them. Sometimes I forget to just sit and watch the peace around me. I sometimes feel like God has done such awesome things in this world around me, yet it's all so complex and bigger than me that I easily get caught up in this whirlwind. Why is it so hard for us to recognize and act upon the peaceful things God has placed around us? Maybe it's not so hard for others.

I think too much of the time we find ourselves trying to find answers. In Australia, I spent some time talking with a few of the elders of an aboriginal community. We sat around a fire and they explained the difference between white men and aboriginals. They told me that white men are always trying to box everything around them up in order to find answers to those things. However aboriginals believe that answers will come with time, and there is therefore no reason to ask questions. When the time is right, answers will be presented to you. When the elders said this, a few of the people around the fire acted as if this was such a pointless approach to life. The elders saw this through their facial expressions and responded by saying "If you believe, you believe; if you don't, you don't."

And I got to wondering, week after week these aboriginal men encounter new white people traveling around the continent, and I'm sure that they receive the same response from each group. Yet they never question or get defensive about their way of thought, they simply share their experiences and thoughts. They were at peace with what was around them. Be that nature or people or God.

I haven't found that kind of peace since I've been back in the US. What was it about that culture that brought along such a peace?

The next day we traveled to Jim Jim Falls, one of the largest waterfalls in Australia, and this is what I wrote in my journal:

    "Massive boulders line the rock walls. Green life arising in between the cracks. The water flows quietly underneath the rocks, as if they weren't even there. Butterflies and other insects find shade among the rocks. And in the back, the water falls. The sound of the falling water crashing into the lake blends into the background. The rock walls that the water trickles over are painted tan and black, the colors dripping into one another. The tiny pools formed around the rocks ripple toward the shore. Even the rocks themselves have a story to tell. The lines on each one are like the wrinkles on an old man's face, hiding secrets and stories within them. As I sit on these rocks, I feel like I'm waiting to hear their story. And all along man walks on by, just another place on their checklist of places to see. Yeah they see the beauty, but do they take the time to appreciate it. One day sitting near the falls or even a few pictures of the area are not enough to understand this place. There is history here, majesty and power, secrets that God has hidden among the nature. This is aboriginal."

When you sit beneath water trickling towards you from 700 feet above, it's hard not to feel small. It's hard not to sit in awe. It's hard not to feel the peace raining over you. To aboriginals, this isn't just another tourist attraction, this is home. This is where God has placed them. This is what He has entrusted them with, to look after and tell its story.

What has God entrusted with? We spend too much of our time pushing forward and seeking after the next new thing. What if we sat back in our bed, watched as the leaves fell, and listened for what God was telling us. Watched for what he was giving us. Treasure that which with we've been given. Has God buried His treasure and we are left with the task of finding it? Or is He holding it out in His hands and waiting for us to grasp hold of it? We make things too complicated most of the time. We have too many questions.

His creation is here and waiting to be experienced.

God is here and waiting to be experienced.

...but God's purpose prevails

Proverbs 19:21

We humans keep brainstorming options and plans,
but God's purpose prevails.

This verse got passed onto me in an email recently and it’s been on mind ever since. Sometimes I feel like God has entrusted all of this stuff to me and it’s therefore my responsibility to plan out and watch over everything. And although there is some truth in that, Proverbs 19:21 opened my eyes to show me that regardless of what we scheme up and create, none of it will have any meaning unless it is a part of God’s plan. I know I get caught quite frequently brainstorming, and to be honest, that’s one of my favorite things about me. But how often do I sit back and wonder how my plans are tied into God’s plans? I think the easy answer for me sometimes is to just assume that God has this grand master plan and if it’s all laid out already, then it really doesn’t matter what I do because it’s all going to work out regardless. And that therefore leads to me forgetting to talk to God about stuff. I go along scheming and planning and every now and then, I look back and hope to see that what I’ve done is pleasing to God.

But what if I stopped looking back at what I’ve done, and rather looked ahead. And before the brainstorming begins, before my plans begin to fall together, I look to Jesus and see what He has to say about things.

As some of you know, my thesis project has been in the works for the past semester. And it seems like each day something new pops up and surprises me. And I am so quick to jump at grand ideas and projects, simply because that’s how I’ve always done things. And at first, when there was only one option presented to me, I went full steam at it. Because I assumed that this awesome thing that was in front of me must be a part of God’s plan. But as the weeks go by, more and more options continue to arise and now I’m left wondering which one is the one that God wants me to pursue. I think God has been trying to teach me to slow down, and come and get advice from Him first.

Most of my life has fallen together so easily that it’s hard not to look back on it and think that God was leading everything. And it’s not just that things have been easy, but that things have always been planned out for me. And all of the sudden, I’m left with trying to make those decisions, and it’s harder than I thought.

At what point do we know when God is giving us the go-ahead on life? When do we know that we’re on board with God?

And maybe we’re not always meant to be on board with God. Maybe those times when we stray, both accidentally and on purpose, are the times when things become clearer. When we start to understand what God has been saying.

Life would be pretty nice if everything was planned out for us and all of those decisions were already taken care of. But life would also be pretty boring. Our God is one who entrusts us to take the next move. He’s not sitting in the backseat whispering every few seconds in our ear which turn to take next. But he is there. And he’s waiting for us to turn to Him to get directions. He’s not going to get mad though if we turn down the wrong road and start heading in a different direction. He’ll just wait patiently in the back until we’re ready to get back on route. And regardless of where we go or how far away we stray, he always knows how to get back. We’re not in this alone. But we need to talk to him about stuff. We can only go so far on our own.

Approach it with love

What does love feel like? Can you see it, does it have a voice? Do you always know it’s around you or can you sometimes miss it? I don’t think some terms have definitions. We can try and explain what love is based on our experiences and reasoning, but lately I’ve been thinking love is something more than a word in a dictionary.

I placed a sign above my door a few weeks ago that says “Approach it with love.” And ever since having that sign up, it seems that I have been more intentional with finding acts of love surrounding me. I feel like for so much of the time I miss the love around me. I catch the obvious acts, but the littler stuff is harder. I get too caught up on the latest important thing that I forget to focus on what I should really be looking for. It’s been neat to approach each day with the intention of seeing how the people around me portray and demonstrate love to others.

There are some things that seem so simple yet mean the world to people, and it’s these things that have been standing out to me the most recently. And most of these things usually arise from simply asking how others are doing. Sometimes this comes through a specific question, but more often than not it’s just sitting down beside someone and asking how their day went.

I think this is the part about people who hand out tracts or shout the Gospel to passerby’s that really annoys me. For me, a follower of Christ is meant to live a Christ-like life, which from reading through the New Testament seems to mean to live a love-filled life. How is it that a person shouting on the street corner is demonstrating God’s love to their neighbors? I don’t see how that can happen until you sit down beside someone and ask about their day.

And sometimes I forget that non-Christians aren’t the only ones we are meant to act like this towards. It’s equally as important for us to love other Christians. And yeah this seams obvious, but this week it finally became evident to me. Simply to see others pray for me and take the time out of their schedules to connect with the stuff going on in my life was the coolest thing. Personal prayer is important, but praying with other Christian friends is equally as important.

Sometimes it’s easy to get discouraged and unsure about the state of affairs around the world. A few days ago I walked through a World Vision exhibit about AIDS in Africa and what is happening around the country. Then tonight I heard a speaker talk about his background as a former terrorist who used to train radical extremists in Iran, and then his eventual encounter with Christ. And we hear about all these things happening around us that make our hearts just ache. Because deep down we know that God did not intend for the planet to be like this.

I’m working on my thesis project for the next two years and will be focusing on community development and relief work in areas such as South America and Africa. And it seems that each day, more and more people are looking for answers. Why is it so hard to turn things around? Why can’t the world just be the way that our hearts truly long for? Where do we look for a solution?

I don’t think we can find the answer to these questions anywhere on a website or in a book. Because the only solution is love. And love has no definition, it is only experienced. This is why when you go to Africa and witness the love around you, the spark of hope ignites within you that there truly is a solution. But you won’t find that in a book. You can’t even find it in an organization’s mission statement. It’s something more.

Its Christ’s love.

But we don’t really know or understand that kind of love. Its’ something that we try so hard to obtain, yet always fall short. That kind of love is so different that we don’t know how to approach it. Yet we know that it is pure and good and what this world needs.

Crowder put a new album out this week and his one song has a verse that refers to this kind of love.

“Surely We Can Change”
-David Crowder

and the problem is this
we were bought with a kiss
but the cheek still turned
even when it wasn't hit
and i don't know
what to do with a love like that
and i don't know
how to be a love like that

So how do we be that kind of love. If we want to start making a change in this world, it’s time that we start making a change in the way we love others. I don’t know what forms it will show up in, but the opportunities are there, we just need to look for them more intentionally.


Sometimes I wish God would just write the first sentence to my thoughts. Because I know there's all this stuff up there that I want to try and piece together, but I don't know which piece to pick first, or even for that matter, what piece says what. Even with things in my life, I wish God would just give me that nudge (or maybe a more noticeable nudge than normal) which tells me where to go. At times I feel like I really know where I'm going, and that God has his hand on things. However recently I had to look back on all the things that I've been prioritizing and see how they were fitting in to my whole puzzle. I don't know why I chose to describe this as a puzzle but it seems to make sense in my head. As if I find some puzzle piece lying off in the corner (one in which I had to spend awhile looking for) which seems to be the perfect piece, and I start devoting all my time to try and figure out how to make this puzzle piece fit in. However, there's no way that I will be able to make it fit in unless I realize that I can't overlook the pieces right in front of me which will form the opening for that piece.

I know that that is vague, but for some reason that's kind of what I'm thinking. Apply it however you want to yourself, but it seems that all of the sudden I've realized that my thesis and future career and wife and all these things that are "important" really aren't important unless I make time for other things and people first. The pieces that may seem too ordinary at first but are crucial for the final picture.

I wonder if God wants us to go through life like this though. If we had someone (God) sitting beside us the entire time we worked on a puzzle and telling us which piece to pick up next and where to put it, the puzzle wouldn't be exciting anymore. It wouldn't hold the same value to us when we finished it. What if God expects us to get really frustrated over not finding that one piece that we have spent days looking for so that we may begin to appreciate the complexity and beauty of the puzzle once it is completed. When you work on a puzzle, you have to put your faith in the designer of the puzzle, you expect that they put all the pieces in the box and that it really is possible to complete. It's the same with our faith in God. If we don't trust in Him and believe that all of these little pieces of cardboard actually form together to make something bigger, it would be easy to get discouraged quickly. Because we would never know whether or not it was all actually possible.

But that's the beauty of faith. Because it gives you the assurance that all of this is worth it. That you will be rewarded for your time and effort and will be able to sit back and smile in the end.

Now I guess it's a little different because God doesn't give us the cover of the box. We don't know what it all looks like together. Instead, we are left with these little images and feel that we have to immediately figure out how it all works together. If God gave us the cover of the box, life would be too easy. But this is why God has placed friends and people who love us in our lives, because they can come and give a different perspective on our puzzle and help us find that one piece.

Ok, so this is getting pretty metaphorical for me now and maybe it only makes sense to me because it relates to stuff happening around me. Sometimes its easy to write your thoughts out and other times its pretty hard. And for the record, it is a lot easier to think when the music is turned off. Sometimes I go and take quiet time for myself but leave the music on, surprisingly it is actually a tad bit distracting, go figure. Anyway, I really don't have any wonderful conclusion or anything (sorry to let you down, ha) but I just needed to write something. Hence all of the above.

My Box

Every now and then I get caught up thinking that miracles are only things that used to happen in Biblical times. Sometimes I just can't get my mind around the fact that God really may still be working and sending angels into our lives every day. I feel like too much of the time I try to make God fit into my own little box. Not intentionally or anything, but I'm just so used to what's around me that I expect God to show up throw those things. I think that's why this summer was so awesome for me. Because I was thrown out of my normal scenario and into something I was very unused to. A different continent, different friends, and different culture. And for the first time I was in a situation in which I didn't know what was typical, so I had no walls built up in which to corner God into.

But it's not easy to recognize that there are walls and to tear them down. I keep finding these things about American culture that bug me. And although there's parts that bug me about the way people act, there's also a part that bugs me because I see how this culture has shaped me growing up. But I wonder if I would feel these same feelings had I grown up in some other culture and then come to America. Is it the culture that bugs me, or is it the fact that I've simply grown up in a culture. I guess that part's kind of hard to avoid, but it still frustrates me slightly.

I've realized that when I stop thinking about stuff, I see God working more. Maybe I should say worrying instead of thinking, but its' true. If I stop trying to figure out where God is going to show up, it seems that more often than not, God reveals himself. I think too often we try to figure things out on our own. I know for me, I love to be in control. I like knowing where projects are going and what's happening around me. I feel more comfortable that way. But look at this summer, all my control was taken away and I suddenly started seeing things so much clearly.

This bothers me, because I wish I could always have control. I mean even down to the fact that here in my bedroom, I can scroll through iTunes and pick the worship song that I really want to listen to. Which there's nothing wrong with that, but I've become so used to that form of worship that I sometimes forget to look for worship in other aspects of my life. In Africa, I didn't have iTunes, I didn't have Pulse every Sunday where I could go to and request any song that I wanted. Rather all I had was nature. Anywhere I went, nature followed me, naturally. (ha, I just realized that was a play on words). And I realized that God had placed this beauty all around me and for that entire summer, my worship was tied to nature. It was tied more into God than into the song with the perfect drum beat or guitar rift. I had never experienced that form of worship before. God was no longer confined to my box.

Now the challenge for me is to try to get rid of that box as I sit here in my room at Penn State. I wish I didn't have to try and get rid of that box, I wish it just came naturally. But I'm not in Africa, I'm here. However I've learned things and those lessons will stay with me. Now it's time to apply them to my life here, to the culture that surrounds me at Penn State. Traveling all across Africa is the easy part; it's applying what I learned to Penn State that will be the challenge.

How to Relate

How do we feel the pain that others experience? How do we understand the sadness that Christ feels when he watches his beloved creation stray from him? How do we understand what it means to lose both your mother and father to AIDS? How do we relate with a child that has witnessed their dad beat their mom? Is there a way to actually relate to everyone around us, or is that not our job?

If my passion is to help those in developing countries, and the most important part is to get to know them first, then what happens when I encounter people with experiences that our unfathomable to me? How can I just sit and listen to a lady tell me about the tragedies that have arisen from AIDS in her country? I’ve never had to experience things like that. I hear these stories of horrible things happening in the lives of people all around me and my heart just wants to scream because it knows that that is not how love acts. Yet for many people, they don’t know what the other option is. They have been surrounded by sin and pain for so long that love begins to wane away.

I struggled with this thought at the end of last semester and began to get frustrated because I couldn’t relate with people on everything. This is not to say that I wanted God to place bad things in my life, but I wanted so desperately to be able to relate to my friends and those around me. After this summer, and living with kids that have survived through tougher times than I have ever seen, I realized that I don’t need to have experienced the same things as others to be able to relate to them. Maybe I can’t exactly relate on the level of “yeah, I’ve been there and know the pain, it will be ok,” but perhaps I can relate to them on much simpler terms. I know what pain feels like, and I know what love feels like. When it all boils down, most heart problems come down to the fact that they have been hurt and simply want to be loved.

Johnny was mute and had a deformity in his legs which caused him to walk with a limp. Like many of the other children, he suffered from some brain damage. On top of this, Johnny was also an orphan. Not with any of the things that Johnny dealt with daily was I able to relate with, but what I was able to offer him was a hug, a smile, someone to play with, a chance to escape the pain that he had to deal with regularly. Now maybe because of Johnny’s age he didn’t realize any of this. Most of the kids truly seemed happy the whole time we were at the orphanage, and that gives me hope. But I was only there for 4 weeks and I don’t know what else Johnny deals with when I’m not around.

I think when God calls us as Christians to serve those in need around us, we are meant to simply offer hope. To show love. To show people that they are not in this thing called life alone, that as brothers and sisters we are meant to help each other along. Why do you think community is such a big deal in the Bible, because life is meant to be shared.

I wonder how much we mess that part up. In Africa I had 4 weeks to not think about anything, to not try to figure out what I was learning, but to just be. It’s amazing when you take away everything else how loudly your heart speaks to you. All the blog entries and letters and thoughts that I had in Africa were from my heart. Maybe that’s why they were so clear, because my head wasn’t getting in the way. God’s compassion began to shine through everything else in my life. I was reading in Romans and came across this verse. Romans 9:14-16 ~ “I’m in charge of mercy. I’m in charge of compassion. Compassion doesn’t originate in our bleeding hearts or moral sweat, but in God’s mercy.” It made me wonder about how to approach my passion.

I got so caught up in trying to figure out how to relate with everyone around me, that I missed the bigger picture, the picture of my heart. Colossians 3:12 says “Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” He doesn’t say that we need to search for the thread within us that relates us to our brothers and sisters, rather he says clothe yourself. Don’t look within on your own life as to what you need to do, rather put on compassion, put on kindness and humility and gentleness and patience.

It’s weird that I’m finally learning these things now, yet the process of learning it happened 3 months ago. A broken heart is a broken heart, and sometimes those in pain simply need some encouragement to hold on one more day. Lifehouse has a song that speaks about the condition of a broken heart (you didn’t think I was going to have a post without lyrics in it). Don’t just read the lyrics, listen to the song. We all experience a broken heart every now and then in our lives. It may come in different forms but this is what relates us to one another. It’s simple yet for some reason had me confused for a quite some time. I guess it took a kid in Africa to reveal to me what my heart was telling me all along.

Lifehouse – “Broken” (listen)

The broken clock is a comfort, it helps me sleep tonight
Maybe it can stop tomorrow from stealing all my time
I am here still waiting though i still have my doubts
I am damaged at best, like you've already figured out

I'm falling apart, I'm barely breathing
With a broken heart that's still beating
In the pain there is healing
In your name I find meaning
So I'm holdin' on, I'm holdin' on, I'm holdin' on
I'm barely holdin' on to you

The broken locks were a warning you got inside my head
I tried my best to be guarded, I'm an open book instead
I still see your reflection inside of my eyes
That are looking for a purpose, they're still looking for life

I'm falling apart, I'm barely breathing
with a broken heart that's still beating
In the pain there is healing
In your name I find meaning
So I'm holdin' on, I'm holdin' on, I'm holdin' on
I'm barely holdin' on to you

I'm hangin' on another day
Just to see what you will throw my way
And I'm handing on to the words you say
You said that I will be ok

The broken lights on the freeway left me here alone
I may have lost my way now, haven't forgotten my way home

I don't have much time to write too much, but I came across these lyrics and they got me thinking (as lyrics tend to do). Just thought I'd post them for now and then come back later and write about them. The song is called Legacy by Nichole Nordeman.

I don't mind if you've got something nice to say about me
And I enjoy an accolade like the rest
You could take my picture and hang it in a gallery
Of all who's who and so-n-so's that used to be the best
At such'n'such ... it wouldn't matter much

I won't lie, it feels alright to see your name in lights
We all need an 'Atta boy' or 'Atta girl'
But in the end I'd like to hang my hat on more besides
The temporary trappings of this world

I want to leave a legacy
How will they remember me?
Did I choose to love? Did I point to You enough
To make a mark on things?
I want to leave an offering
A child of mercy and grace who
blessed your name unapologetically
And leave that kind of legacy

I don't have to look too far or too long awhile
To make a lengthly list of all that I enjoy
It's an accumulating trinket and a treasure pile
Where moth and rust, thieves and such will soon enough destroy

Not well traveled, not well read, not well-to-do or well bred
Just want to hear instead, "Well Done" good and faithful one...

Composed of pictures

Well, things are finally beginning to settle down and I'm getting somewhat organized in my room up at Penn State. For those of you who don't know, my room is absolutely massive. It has three closets, five windows, and more room than I know what to do with. How I got picked for this room is a mystery to me, but I'll take it. As I've begun to unpack over the past few days, I continue to come across items from this summer, and I find myself daydreaming for a second about the trips from the past months.

When I returned from my adventures this summer, my brother told me he had two surprises for me. The first, although it took me a second to realize, was that he had glasses. The second was a large collage of pictures from the orphanage arranged in the shape of Africa that he had made for me. It was probably one of the best gifts I have ever received and today I finally hung it up on my wall. In the collage are pictures of me and Johnny, Schola doing her homework, kids that we randomly met on the streets, giraffes eating from the trees and me teaching the kids how to dance. I've been thinking about the idea that if I had to make a collage of Africa, Australia, Lancaster, Penn State, Hempfield High School, and all the other places that have got me to this point; I wonder what pictures would fill my collage of that place. When I look at the pictures that make up Africa, I smile at all of them. Each one brings a memory to mind that makes me want to fly back to Tanzania and hold those kids in my arms again. And that gets me thinking about all those other places in my life, can I say the same about them?

Would those collages be full of pictures that I am proud of and can't help but smile at? For the most part I would hope I could say that, but there are obviously parts that wouldn't bring to mind those thoughts. Yet there's nothing I can do about those old collages; but there is a huge amount of influence over the collages that I will form in the years to come (actually I'm pretty sure I hold all the influence). I think this is what has me so excited about this upcoming semester and even more so for the next few years. I can't wait for a couple years down the road to be able to look back at all my collages to see what has shaped me to that point.

After writing this, I kind of want to actually make these collages at some point. One of my hopes this year is to be able to write and draw more. Last year I started painting more and it was such a stress relief, not that I really get stressed, but it helped take my mind off things. I think I found the same thing with journaling this summer. Especially with college, it can be so easy to get caught up in the craziness around you, that sometimes you just need to stop everything and not think. That's what happens when I paint and draw and I think it happens when I journal too. That's one of my prayers for this semester, that I can find and make the time to get alone with God. As I look back on the past summer and try to figure out all those things I learned, I realize that the reason I learned so much was the fact that I took a lot of time for just God and I. I've always said that I'm a Christian and participated in the Christian activities whether that be church or UCM; but I never actually took the time to really sit and listen to God.

I like to be busy and I like to always have something to think about, but when I have all that stuff on my mind, I kind of push God to the back and it's hard for me to hear him. American culture encourages us to be busy so we don't really see it as being out of the ordinary. But in Africa and Australia, everything is very laid back and less chaotic. In Africa, if you said you would meet someone at 5:00, they wouldn't show up until 5:45 most likely. Although this would annoy most Americans, it taught me that I need to slow down a bit.

It's so easy for me to get caught up and think that if I'm not working non-stop, then I'm not being used by God to my fullest potential. But by being so busy, I'm missing out on the important things in the margins. For example, in Africa when we were weeding the garden, the three of us were working quite quickly and efficiently to do the best job we could the fastest. As we went through the garden we would toss the weeds to the side and move on. As we neared the end of the garden I turned around and watched as Johnny sat there playing with the weeds. He would pick through the pile of weeds we had discarded and admire each weed in the sunlight as if it was the most beautiful thing.

It's funny how God talks to you sometimes.
I wish I had more Johnny's in my life.


So junior year is right around the corner and although I never would have guessed it would have come this fast, I am more than ready for it. It seems that as each year goes by at Penn State, I become more comfortable with who I am and realize that this is truly where I am supposed to be. I think so much of the time we get caught up in worrying about how the future will pan out and what turn we need to take next that we forget to look back and see where we actually came from and how much of the journey we have already made. I remember thinking way back in junior high; I know, ages ago, about which college I would be going to and which major I would eventually choose. Now that I have actually decided those things I'm focused again on looking into the future and wondering what career I will have and who my family will be. By always planning for the future, I easily miss the fact that God has been working all along and many of the things that I worried about in the past, are taken care of by now. When I realize this, I know that I don't need to worry about how things will work out, God has been and will take care of everything.

Sometimes I wonder if this thinking is just me being carefree and because of it, I can easily put trust in Christ. After this summer though, there's something that makes me believe even more wholeheartedly in my faith. Something that reaffirms my feelings and beliefs. I've been thinking about this something for a bit since I've been back.; and I try to explain it, but it's one of those things that is hard to describe because it was something experienced.

Lately I have developed more of an interest in reading, and the more I read, the more I am impressed with how authors are able to express their thoughts and share their stories. Maybe the fact that I have a bad memory doesn't help, but I feel like there are so many moments from this summer where I am left not fully being able to describe it, as if words don't do justice. Luckily I have pictures so I have something at least to show to people, but I'm still working on how to actually describe the pictures. I suppose with time that will come.

But I think all of those experiences are the parts that make up our journey, and whether or not we can fully express them to others, they are part of what shapes us and defines where we are headed.

I had a physics high school teacher who one day took my class out to a cemetery after one of our classmates had passed away. Although I don't remember much of what he said, the one thing that did stick in my head was when he pointed to one of the tombstones. And he told us that there is the date in which you enter this world and the date in which you leave this world, but neither of them are significant in comparison to the little dash in between them. Each one of the gravestones out there had that little dash, and each one represented a different journey for someone, a journey in which only they and God knew the entire path to. Although a dash may not seem like much, it's exciting to think that as each day goes by, we are chiseling away part of our dash. I think that realization is what has me so excited about this next semester at Penn State. It's gonna be a good year and I can't wait to see what happens from here.

Light Gives Heat

So the one nice thing about being home is having access to the internet 24/7. For this reason, any time I hear a new song I am able to go right to the computer and look up the lyrics. I heard this song the other day and it got me thinking again about Africa. I had actually listened to this song before I went off this summer but it sheds new light on the situation after actually walking through the foothills of Tanzania. The song is called Light Gives Heat and is by Jars of Clay. Below are the lyrics and what the band has to say about them, makes you think a bit.

Catch the rain empty hands,
Save the children from their lands,
wash the darkness from their skin.

Heroes from the West,
We don't know you, we know best.
But this is not a test.

You treat me like I'm blind, setting fires around houses on the hill,
But light gives heat.
You segregate my mind, burning crosses from your fears, your fears,
But light gives heat.

It's not the way to light their way,
Boys in holes and empty fields,
Oh, how good it feels.
Lower class, and understate, empty promise, empty plate.

You treat me like I'm blind, setting fires around houses on the hill,
But light gives heat.
You segregate my mind, burning crosses from your fears, your fears,
But light gives heat.

You treat me like I'm blind, setting fires around houses on the hill,
But light gives heat.
You segregate my mind, burning crosses from your fears, your fears,
But light gives heat.

Will you teach us how to love? To see the things you see,
Walk the road you walk, and feel the pain that you feel.
At your feet I kneel, I want to see you shine,
See your light not mine... 'cause light gives heat...
your light gives heat... gives heat.

Behind the Song:
"This song represented being comfortable with sharing the moment we’re in about Africa. I have wrestled with the idea that we’ve been awful with the way we’re approaching Africa. Stripping them of their dignity, when that’s not the whole story. Starting the organization Blood:Water Mission served as the push into learning, trying to offer help, while giving people their dignity. Light Gives Heat is about learning a better way. It’s learning not even to approach it saying “I’m going to Africa to serve these people”. I wanted to write a song that was kind of part confessional, saying I’m sorry I am part of the problem. And the second part of the chorus is from an African perspective, which is “however you approach us, we find hope in the midst of what you offer.” That’s the picture of African dignity and African determination that is so powerful, which is why we got the African’s Children’s choir to sing with us." - Dan Haseltine (Jars Of Clay)

to listen to the song go to http://www.myspace.com/bloodwatermission

Finally made it to August

I wish I could remember all of the different places I've been to write a blog entry over the past few months. But at least for this entry, I'm sitting back in my living room back in Lancaster with my dogs laying at my feet. As awesome as it was to travel around the world and see everything that I have, there is something about family and home that simply takes the cake. It's currently 4am and although I thought I avoided the jet-lag, apparently I was wrong. But because there is nothing else to do at this time of the night, I've got some time to write down my final thoughts. Although these surely are not complete and I will continue to learn things and remember experiences over the next few months, this will be a start.

When I started out on this trip I remember going in to everything with a blank mind. I didn't want to bring any thoughts with me about Africa or the people I would be living with because I wanted all of my thoughts to be formed from my experiences. That's probably what I'm most thankful for that I did, because that allowed me to go in and experience a completely different world. It's so easy, especially living in the States, to think that our way of thinking is the way that will decide the future of the world; or that our ideas will be the ones that solve the world's problems. It's simply how our culture shapes us and it's hard to avoid. I spent a lot of time in Australia looking in to how you approach aid work in developing nations, and every time I came back to this idea. The idea of aid groups going in to other communities, whether they be within a country in Africa or an inner-city in Chicago, and approaching the situation with the mind set that we have all the knowledge and creativity to solve the problems there. I'll be the first to admit that I used to get caught up on this. Sometimes we (speaking about industrialized countries) get the idea that because we are more "advanced" that we are the ones that will have to develop the technology and ideas that will drive change in the world. We seem to miss the key step of involving the people that we are actually working on helping. Unless you get to know people on a personal level, you never fully understand the creativity and ingenuity in these people. So that's the first thing that I learned, the importance of loving someone. It's easy to simply get to know someone and make friends with them, but loving that person is on an entirely different scale. It's easy to say but hard to do. Sometimes people can be hard to love. But sometimes it's in those people that God teaches us the biggest lessons. Life is too short not to love.

The second thing that I took from this trip was trust. From trusting God in making sure that all my flights went safely and that I got from place to place over the summer, to trusting my instructor that he knew what he was doing as we jumped out of a plane. Trust is scary. Trust can hurt. But trust is necessary. There's many times where I feel that I can take care of everything on my own, that I have all the answers and that sometimes people just get in the way. That was more of what my thinking was like a few years ago, but especially after this summer, I have come to realize the importance of trust and faith. I was lying in my bed last night and I was thinking back and realizing that there wasn't one point over the past few weeks in which I worried about the future. I was always at peace with how things were going and never got worried. Now granted I don't get worried very easily, but there was something different about this summer. The thought of being worried didn't really cross my mind. Maybe that was due to the culture I was in, maybe it was because I was by myself for the entire trip, but my faith seemed to strengthen itself for some reason and I was able to rely more fully on God, and more fully on others.

The other thing that I learned is that God is beautiful. God's creation is incredible and spectacular and his plan for each of us in crazier that we could ever imagine. I think this theme probably came across a bit in some of my other blogs, but it is well worth repeating. I'm in the process of transferring all of my pictures to my external hardrive (which if you're curious I have roughly 8,300 pictures from this summer) and after skimming through some of them I couldn't help but smile. I have been extremely privileged to see what I have and it has taught me to appreciate what is around me, both man-made and god-made, so much more than before. Yet as spectacular as a sunset over the Serengeti is, as wonderful as worshiping with Masaai is; there is still something incredible about the things around me here in Lancaster. Maybe it took a trip around the world for me to realize that. Maybe I had to experience what a sunset looked like in a couple other continents before I truly appreciated the sunset out my own bedroom window. But God has placed the same beauty here in Pennsylvania that he has in Africa and Australia. That's something that will always stay with me. Finding beauty in life. To wake up each morning waiting and wanting to see what God will be doing has really changed the way I look at things. It has changed the way I interact with people, changed the way I approach work, changed the way I approach prayer, changed most aspects of my life.

The sun rises a lot earlier here in Lancaster than it does in Sydney. A few dark clouds scatter themselves across the sky as it fades from red to blue. The field outside my window is slowly being developed with homes and the cell phone tower's light blinks in the distance. The distant tree line on the horizon seems to be all that separates me from Australia and Africa. The birds flying above the trees look much like those that flew in the southern hemisphere. The sun rises the same way as it does on the other side of the globe. But the people here are different. With different stories to tell, different jobs to go to, different families to care for, different passions which drive their daily lives. It feels like this summer happened years ago. The sky is getting more colorful and vibrant as I type this, flooding the ground below with light. Days can go by faster than you expect. I remember sitting in the Philly airport back in May by myself as my mom and dad drove off. The summer was finally happening and there were so many things ahead of me, that my flight from Sydney to LA seemed to be so far off. But now I'm sitting back in my house, faced with the daunting task of unpacking my bags, and that night in the Philly airport seems so far away yet at the same time feels like yesterday. That's how I feel with most of my experiences this summer. Rereading some of my blog entries and looking over pictures brings back those memories, and I realize how lucky I am. It's hard to sum up this summer in a few paragraphs, and I don't think I will ever be able to. But at least I have a rough outline of what I was thinking, and hopefully this blog did a decent job at expressing my thoughts. Thanks to everyone who's been reading and following this, now I can start telling the stories to people in person. It's been an incredible summer, but I am more than excited to start the next semester at Penn State. I found what I'm passionate about, and I can't wait to see where God leads this passion and how He forms it.

So for the last entry from this summer, it's time to end a couple months worth of entries. However I have a feeling that I will still be updating this every now and then, so check back to see what crazy stuff is next. It feels really good to be home and I can't wait to see everyone again and catch up on the past summer. Talk to everyone very soon, cheers! (sorry, I had to add some Australian slang in here somewhere)

Whoops, forgot to post an entry...7-25 Thoughts

Alright, so it’s time for an entry from Cairns, the last destination for me this summer. It’s amazing how fast ten weeks can go by. It is Wednesday afternoon and this morning we took our final which completed the last part of the class, so now for the next few days it’s pure fun (not like the last 5 ½ weeks haven’t been though). I’m sitting in my hotel room in Cairns looking out our huge windows which overlook two mountains which run into the ocean, dotted by boats and seagulls competing for fish. The clouds are drifting in the distance and will slowly overtake the peaks of the mountains. The overwhelming sight of the mountains and ocean is so calming, the boats and clouds move by but each morning the mountains remain. I feel like this is the perfect place to end my summer of travels at, and although I’m sad that it’s almost all over, there’s a larger part of me that can’t wait to get home and see everyone again.

So a quick recap of the events that have happened thus far. We had our final presentation for class on Thursday and it couldn’t have gone any better. My group presented on how to provide aid to developing nations and what problems and solutions are facing these countries. We were only supposed to go for about 12 minutes and we ended up going about 30 minutes, but I don’t think the professor minded at all, which is a good thing. As I went through the PowerPoint and talked about all the research we had done, I realized how much I have come to care about this issue over the past summer; I have a feeling my thesis topic is going to be an easy choice. After the presentation, we had the rest of the week to finish up our business in Sydney. That night I went to the Opera House and watched Morrison play Schifrin. It was made up of the Sydney Symphony, James Morrison on trumpet, Ambre Hammond on piano, and Lalo Schifrin conducting. Schifrin is the guy who composed the theme song for Mission Impossible, which yes, they played as the final song for the night. The next day we walked in the morning on top of cliffs for 2 ½ hours which overlooked the ocean and then hung around the city for the rest of the day. On our final day we managed to hit every corner of the Sydney we could and ended up going on a ferry ride to a beach called Manly, we felt we had to go simply because of the name. On the ferry ride back, Dave and I sat outside at the front of the boat. Two minutes in to the ride, it began to rain and everyone deserted us to head inside. Being that it was our last day in the city, we decided to stick it out in the rain. Eventually one other group joined us outside, turns out they were three extremely drunk men (now it was only 6:00pm at this point). We naturally struck up conversation with them and then one of them decided that the view just wasn’t good enough for him. He proceeded to climb over the guard rail, climb to the very front of the boat and swing about the flag pole. One slip and he would have easily slipped off the side and in to the water, but somehow he managed to hold on and eventually was called back inside. Sydney always finds a way to impress me. The next day we were up and at it early and off to the airport, where we later arrived in Cairns.

Cairns is a small (at least in comparison to Sydney) tourist town. We are staying at an incredibly nice hotel (I guess they wanted us to leave the country with a good impression, I’m not complaining) and we are in walking distance to everything in the town. For the first two days, myself and two other guys Dave and James, went around to find a dive company. Seems it’s not too hard to find one, so we ended up booking with a group for Friday to Saturday. We will have a total of 7 dives and one of them will be a night dive. For a guy who had just got his certification and has only dived in muddy, cold quarries in the middle of Pennsylvania; this is going to be quite the experience. We will be living on the boat and hopefully I don’t get sea-sick, we’ll see how that goes. I also found a company that I can rent an underwater digital camera from so I will have some pictures to post as well. Tonight we are looking into trips in to the rainforest and bungee jumping and skydiving, it should be a fun night. Yesterday we went and visited a Sugar Mill which really wasn’t too exciting because they cancelled our tour. However that meant that we had more time to spend at Port Douglas, another tourist spot with an incredible beach. Other than that and our final, we have been doing a lot of ultimate Frisbee (which we added a rugby rule in to which makes the game ten times better, Vaughn and Keith, I’ll have to teach you when I get back) and Volleyball and the pool. It’s been an awesome end to the trip and once again I have some free time to journal and write stuff.

If there’s anything I learned from this trip, well actually there’s a lot of things I’ve learned, but one of those things is that it’s important not to let the busyness and craziness of our everyday lives get in the way of allowing us to spend time on the important things. For me that’s been taking time for prayer, or taking time to write down my thoughts every now and then. Or even just going outside and starring at the stars on a clear night. Some times we forget about our priorities and it’s easy to get mixed up. Even here in Australia, right after I had spent so much time thinking about this in Africa, I managed to forget to take time out of my busy schedule. In some of my earlier blogs I talked about the book that I was reading “This Beautiful Mess,” some times the mess part can get so big and distracting that we forget about the beauty among it. Every now and then God just has to place a big mountain outside my window so I remember. This trip has been full of experiences like that, where God is just placing beautiful and amazing things in my path. Well, it’s soon time for me to go, but I’m sure there will be blogs to come, especially with my schedule over the next few days. I will try to make time to write, see everyone very soon!

7-30 Thoughts (Wow, I made it)

So as most of you may know, I have this thing against Finding Nemo. Don’t ask me why, but for some reason I just couldn’t like that movie. Well, for all of you who were shocked to hear that when you first found out, you will be glad to know that I may be rethinking my position on the movie after diving in the Great Barrier Reef. I was on the reef from Friday to Saturday and stayed overnight on a Liveaboard boat. We did a total of 7 dives and I haven’t been more tired in awhile. By the seventh dive I finally found Nemo and was pretty excited. On top of Nemo, I found essentially every other fish in the movie, including the sharks. The way the trip went was that we did 3 dives on Friday, 1 dive Friday night, and 3 dives on Saturday. Well as you may have guessed, the sharks were a fan of the night dive. We got in the water around 7:30pm and were each given a flashlight (but for some reason Scuba divers like to call them torches). Because this was may first night dive I had to go with a guide, so 4 of us grouped together and went down with a guide. Night diving is one of the coolest things, if you’re claustrophobic, you probably wouldn’t care for it. All you can see in the water is darkness and beams of lights moving around from all the torches. You have to scuba a bit to actually get to the reef so for the first part you are just swimming in darkness with no idea what is around you. We then got to the reef and saw all of the fish and turtles sleeping. The turtles kind of just glide around and you have to be careful not to shine the light in their eyes or you will wake them up. Our guide then took us to a section to show us luminescent material, we kind of saw it but we didn’t know what we were looking for so instead we all sat on the ocean floor starring at our guide trying to figure out what he was saying. We then came back to the boat and stopped at one of the mooring lines. Tied to the mooring line was an oil drum. The four of us held on to the mooring line as instructed as our guide swam down to the drum. According to our guide, there’s no better way to attract sharks than to beat on an oil drum. So there we were, hanging in darkness with a few little flashlights and being shaken about by huge vibrations echoing through the water. For the next few minutes, we saw brief glimpses of gray bodies moving by us, I couldn’t quite make out the sharks but from what I heard when I got on the boat, there were quite a few circling us. So yeah, it was pretty awesome. After that dive we were quite exhausted but it was all well worth it. We then ended the trip with an awesome last dive. As I was swimming back to the boat, I looked up and noticed that everyone on the boat was pointing and looking off in to the distance. As I turned around, I saw a humpback whale surface about 100 feet out in the ocean. The crew tried to get the whale to come by our way but it stuck to it’s path and swam off, but nonetheless, I can legitimately say that I saw a humpback whale as I was scuba diving. What a way to end the trip.

However the excitement doesn’t end there. For the last day of our stay here in Australia, our group organized a party at AJ Hackett’s Bungee Jumping. The facility is hidden back in the rainforest and has both bungee jumping and the large swings that you find in amusment parks. Since it was our last day in Australia, I decided that I had to go out doing one more awesome thing. We started off the swing to warm up and prepare for the bungee jump, which was a great idea until we realized exactly how high we were about to jump from. The bungee tower is about 160 feet high, which isn’t bad in comparison to sky diving however for this, you have to make the decision to jump and you come about a foot from hitting the water. A little bit more scary. Yet this didn’t stop me from jumping, and although I was nearly peeing my pants, I made the jump. It was one of the coolest feelings, and just like skydiving, is a little hard to describe. The thought of looking off the edge of something really high and then jumping pretty much sums it up. What made the jump even better was that we were doing it at night, so when you looked straight ahead, you looked out over the city of Cairns and you could see all the stars above us. To make it better, we were jumping on a full moon. What a way to end my summer, I don’t think I’ve ever done so many crazy things in such few days. I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

But now it’s time to head home and I am itching to touch ground in Philly. This summer has been incredible and I am so grateful for everything that I have been able to see, learn, experience, and take back with me. I’m still processing some things and realizing how lucky I have been. It’s amazing how fast 10 weeks can go by. Now it’s time to start back up in PA, hopefully I can apply many of the things that I learned and hopefully I never forget the friendships and memories that I have made here. Between my journal, this blog, and letters that I have written, I have a feeling I should be able to remember it pretty well. If there’s one thing I took from all of this, it was the importance of just writing and keeping track of your thoughts. By actually writing down some of the things I was doing and seeing, I realized just how incredible this summer has been. The fact that I have circled the globe is cool in itself. I can’t wait to see everyone back home (especially my dogs) and hope to talk to everyone really soon. For one last final good bye from Australia, g’day mates!

7-26 Thoughts

So I just got back from Sky Diving, and wow, what a ride!! That was by far one of the craziest and coolest feelings. We got up at 7:00 to be picked up from the company, but when we got down there, we found out that because of the rain they were going to cancel the beach site that we were scheduled for, however we were able to rebook and go on the Cairns site which is located in the middle of the mountain range, both very cool options. So Dave and I switched over and drove quickly to their headquarters to get suited up. By this point we were a little late so we had to rush through to get everything taken care of. We got to the building and filled out all of the “sign your life away” paperwork and signed a bunch of forms. They then brought our harnesses out and strapped us up. The harness is essentially a rock-climbing harness and has the same cut off circulation feeling. We then spent about 1 minute talking about the form for falling out of the plane and then we were shuttled into the bus and off to the airport. It was a pretty efficient process to say the least. A few minutes later we arrived at the airport and were standing outside of our plane. It was raining lightly so we had to wait around for a few minutes before it passed over. We were then given the go ahead to board the plane and before I knew it, I was sitting on the floor of a plane on my butt with my feet essentially hanging out of the door. Now one thing I did not expect was the fact that there was no door, instead there was a hole in the side of the plane. Since I was the last of the four people to get on the plane, I got to sit right beside the opening for the entire ride. This was equally as cool as falling out of the plane. As we ascended, I got look right outside of the plane and see the mountains that we were about to fly over and the ocean beside them which lead to the Great Barrier Reef. Farmland then began to come into view and soon we were passing through the clouds. Looking out an open doorway from a plane in comparison to a window is entirely different. I could see the clouds passing right beside my feet and soon we were up above them all, with the sun the only thing in the sky. I wish I could accurately describe what the clouds looked like; it looked like the surface of Antarctica, huge snow-like mounds with a magnificent light blue sky. Now this entire time going up, I was not yet attached to my instructor. So essentially I could have just leaned over and fallen out, there were no handles or seat belts to hold us in, just the floor, walls, and an open door. As we were going up, my instructor then told me to put my hand outside the plane. For those of you how might now, I love the put my hand out my car window as I’m going down the highway and ride the wind, well this was about 1000 times stronger and cooler. As we neared 14000 feet, the height in which we were jumping (which is equivalent to a 60 second freefall) we started to attach ourselves to the instructor. Then before we knew it, it was time to fall face first through the door. I was second to fall and I don’t even think I had time to think about it. The first person fell through, I was shoved to the front, I had about 5 seconds to stare down at the clouds beneath me, and then I was thrown through the opening. The rest of the dive is hard to describe (luckily I got the DVD so I can show it to everyone back home) but essentially the best way to describe it is that you are falling through a cloud. That’s something you typically don’t do. You’re face is going in every different direction and the clouds come upon you quicker than you can imagine. All I could think about was the fact that I was getting down so much faster than it took to get up there. After 60 seconds, which feels like 15 seconds, the parachute is pulled and you are jerked a bit. At this point, I hear the instructor talking to himself “come on little guy, open up, open up, a little more, ok there we go.” I’m not sure if he always does this but I just tried to ignore it, assuming that everything was fine. The rest of the dive was then so surreal, we gently floated (although I’m sure we were still booking) down to our landing site. Around us were mountains on every side with the ocean peaking through between the peaks. What looked close to Lancaster county was directly below me and quickly we were about to land on one of the fields. As we were coming down, the instructor put his hand around me and started undoing one of the straps. Naturally, I began to slowly slide down. Assuming that he knew what he was doing I let him go, but still was quite unsure of what was happening. I later found out that in order to see for landing, he had to lower me a bit. The fact that I didn’t know this at the time really added to the adrenaline. I pulled my feet up and before I knew it, we were sliding along the ground on our butts, much like the position we were sitting in on the plane. And now I’m laying in my bed and going over the fact that I just jumped through a cloud. That’s awesome!! Anyway, so tomorrow I have a two day scuba trip and then the next day is Bungee jumping. Talk about ending Australia on a high note. I’m pretty sure I’ll sleep good on the plane ride home. Well now it’s time to play some sand volleyball, see everyone very soon!

Quick Update

So Australia has been keeping me quite busy over the past week. Our final project and presentation is on Thursday and as things typically go, we’re all working on it down to the last minute. My project is on energy and sustainable design for developing countries and what is the correct way to approach aid work in developing countries. It’s an awesome topic so I’m not complaining. Conveniently this topic will most likely be very similar to my thesis topic so it’s like I’m getting a jump start on it. On Friday, a group of us went to the Blue Mountains which is about a 2 hour drive from Sydney. At the base of the mountains is an entire rainforest which we were able to hike to. We then took a train car which has the steepest slop (52 degrees) in the world. It was a wild ride. I sat in the front, which was actually the back (I was facing the valley) and there was no seat belt or front to keep you in, it was a little more intense than I expected. The next day we went out on the Harbor and went Whale Watching. Well I guess we actually went out to sea, but we started on the Harbor. Out of about 200 people on the boat, about 100 of them were throwing up, even the lady over the loudspeaker telling us about the whales got sick. It was pretty crazy, but we did end up seeing two whales which swam under and around our boat for nearly 2 hours. It was awesome!! And now it’s Tuesday night and we’re cramming to get our project done. I needed a break from the Engineering style writing for a bit so I jumped back to the blog. After writing creatively for the entire summer, I’ve realized that engineering papers are extremely dry, they’re much harder to write. Anyway, it’s time that I get back to work. Lancaster count down…15 days!

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