i’m a strong, independent woman who don’t need no…

I’m kinda over relationships. Surprised?

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I’m the one who has an excessive amount of pictures on her Pinterest wedding board. I’m the one who opens her laptop and clicks on the links to the latest Hollywood relationships. I’m the one who spends minutes turned to hours on YouTube watching cute couple’s video blogs. I’m the one who has their head in the clouds when thinking about the idea of being in a relationship. But I’m over it. I’m done talking about my ideal guy and my dream relationship. I tired of hearing “I’m going to find you someone” or “when are you going to get a boyfriend” or “you should go out more”. I don’t want to be nudged every time an attractive guy walks my way. I’m tired of reading relationship articles and seeing stupid headlines like “How to Make Him Like You” or “5 Things to Look for in a Perfect Guy”.

This isn’t a bitter post about how guys suck and chivalry is dead. I don’t want to this to convey that I hate relationships and that I envy the people who are in them. Healthy, fruitful relationships are awesome — I actually really love love and seeing it blossom (except for PDA, don’t do that). And guys are cool human beings. They make great friends, comedians, and role models. In this season of life, I’m lucky to have some really great men around me. But the love God has for me? Incomparable.

Something that was really convicting for me was a Matt Chandler sermon on women’s purpose. Although most of it was directed towards women’s roles in marriages, he talked a bit about a woman’s role as a single lady. He said “don’t sit around waiting for someone to cuddle with or watch a movie with when the God of the UNIVERSE is inviting you to dance with him.”

And that’s what I’ve been wrestling with. The fact that I can easily spend minutes and hours of my day dreaming up my next date or my future life with some rando, when God is literally offering me life. The low self-esteem, self-doubt, and thoughts of hopelessness creep up on me every now and then, reminding me that I’m the lonely, unattractive one in the friend group. Memories come back of me being called a prude in high school, trying to become relevant again. The pressure of being in a relationship only heightens when I see my friends on Facebook announce their engagements or new relationships, pushing me to think I need to step my game up and get out there. All of these things are lies. And that may be obvious, but I have to tell myself this, every single day. That yes, I may have never been with someone, but my Creator would move mountains to be with me. I may be alone, but God hasn’t given me a spirit of loneliness. He shows His love in the sun that warms my skin. He shows it in the waves I get swept up in at the beach. He shows it in the stillness of the woods. He shows it in the peace of watching the sunrise, in the serenity of reading a good book, in the midst of a deep conversation, in the sensation of a home-cooked meal. It’s in the risks I take and in the challenges that I accept, whether it may be traveling, accepting a new position, or showing my vulnerability. And even though these things are tangible, God is behind it all. And He’s the ultimate gift, the ultimate joy. He’s just greater.

That felt super cheesy, but it’s real and I’m holding fast to it.

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what Gossip Girl taught me

Now, I know you may be reading this title thinking what on earth did you learn from Gossip Girl? If you are not familiar with the television series, it is centered on teenagers living it up in Manhattan’s Upper East Side, where there’s masquerade balls, endless dinner martinis, and the most scandalous hookups. Shallow, but entertaining to say the least.

However, today’s episode (and by today’s episode I mean one of the several I’ve binge watched today) taught me a good chunk about life. It was an episode set on Thanksgiving Day, and focused on the drama happening within the show’s main families, with short flashbacks to each family’s Thanksgiving experience the year prior. A year ago, the relationship of Blair Waldorf’s parents seemed to be just fine. Nate’s father was in good standing with his career, moving up in his position. Serena’s mom had gotten over her past love, living a single life, and Dan’s dad was content in his marriage. Fast forward 1 year later and Blair’s father left his wife for a European man, Dan’s dad cheated on his wife with Serena’s mother, and Nate’s father was arrested for embezzlement, became addicted to prescription drugs, and attempted suicide. Obviously, these events were put in the plot for theatrical affect, but they are unfortunate situations people do get themselves into. And these characters were adults — like grown mothers and fathers who seem like they have mastered the game of life.

The teenagers showed a lot of resentment towards their parents. They were upset about not knowing, disappointed in their role models, and simply shameful of the things their parents had done to affect their families. But at the end of the episode, each parent in some way became vulnerable, admitting their fears and failures to themselves and to their kids. And the kids loved them regardless; showing them that they were important and adored.

We have to love them regardless. We have to give them grace. It reminded me of that awestruck feeling we all had when we were like 10, that our parents were these earthly grownup gods who were perfect and all-knowing. But they’re human, and that’s actually impossible. Just because they got married and had kids doesn’t mean their life is together and neatly wrapped in a bow. They are no longer kids, but they make mistakes, they have low self-esteem, their relationships are not easy, and they have insecurities. They know how to show confidence and assurance, when in reality there may be feelings of uncertainty and worry. And we have to love them regardless. We have to understand that they are still growing, developing, and learning in this life just as we are. We shouldn’t expect them to be perfect, because they’re not.

Another Gossip Girl lesson I picked up on was how much can actually change in one year. With my birthday coming up in 2 weeks, I’ve realized this year has been one of my favorites; filled with self discovery, blossoming friendships, and endless challenges. Every year, I underestimate how different things are. I think about my past a lot, but it’s usually just blended together with the rest of my past. I don’t often look at my life as certain periods and seasons put together. I see the bigger, vaguer picture. A sweet friend of mine has inspired me to write down all the important things that happened to me in my 21st year; good and bad, successful and unsuccessful, awesome and crazy. I hope to be observant and grateful of changes, expected and unexpected, because life would be bland without them.

I encourage anyone to just take a moment every now and then to think about where you are in your season of life, and why that is. And don’t forget to give the people around you grace when they screw up. They are still figuring out this whole life thing, too.

MattyRo

A former resident of mine, a boy I was entrusted to care for, support, and guide; a kid with enough sass and love to spread to everyone he encountered, a popular and distinctive personality among our residence halls and university, passed away sustaining injuries from a freak bicycle accident. Five long, grueling months, he spent in a coma on a ventilator, fighting for his life. Enduring multiple surgeries, losing nearly all his weight, and always having no less than 5 tubes in his body, he was later moved to hospice. Each day his loving mother, sister, aunt, and others surrounded him with hope and love. With flowers, notes, and balloons nearly occupying all the space that was left in his room, he was really loved, every single day, deeply and widely. And exactly 5 months later, his time was called to an end.

I hate being cliché, but it’s not fair. It’s not fair that such a sweet soul was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and endured all that pain. It’s not fair that his sister has lost her little brother. It’s not fair that his best friends are missing a piece of their team. It’s not fair that he was only 19 and his parents have to bury him.

My heart really hurts, partly because he was one of the few residents I had who, from the very beginning, treated me like a friend rather than just a random person on his college floor. Let alone, as the bossy authority figure some people think RAs are. But, death just straight up sucks. My heart hurts for his family and his friends who had to lose something so special to them. I can only imagine what they are going through. I couldn’t bring myself to attend his funeral today; crying is exhausting, and I’m about out of tears. But time and time again, when I’m reminded how of cruel and unjust life is, I’m also reminded of the little joys that you can find. This morning, I got to act out the famous Shakespeare play “Hamlet” in class with strangers, and it was hilarious. I got lattes with my friend/bible study leader, and having someone so intentionally ask me questions and actually listen felt good. I got to see one of my best friends achieve one of her biggest accomplishments, alongside her family and closest friends. I received the sweetest hugs today from some of my favorite co-workers. Even the warm smiles sent my way have meant a lot. And the sun today is shining so brightly, feeling it on my skin is reminding me of my time in Ghana and bringing me bliss.

No, I’m not particularly happy with the card my resident was dealt. I’m not exactly in a chipper, optimistic mood. But I can find joy, which to me isn’t an emotion; it’s something that’s always there. It’s weaved within the fibers of all of us, if you choose it to be. It’s a gift that does not leave us in times of oppression, persecution, or illness, and it doesn’t separate happy from sad, or success from failure.

One of my favorite quotes from author Walter Wangerin Jr. is this: “The difference between shallow happiness and a deep, sustaining joy is sorrow. Happiness lives where sorrow is not. When sorrow arrives, happiness dies. It can’t stand pain. Joy, on the other hand, rises from sorrow and therefore can withstand all grief. Joy, by the grace of God, is the transfiguration of suffering into endurance, and of endurance into character, and of character into hope–and the hope that has become our joy does not disappoint us.”

Don’t go looking for happiness, and don’t fake it either. It’s circumstantial and it’s not enough. Choose joy, and choose it every single day.

R.I.P. Matt Rosin

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time’s up

As I sit here and reflect on  my journey here in Ghana, I am astounded by the roller coaster my emotions have taken me on. Only 3 weeks ago I was crying because there were ants in my clothes and dirty toilets with cockroaches. And here I am crying again, except not about the conditions, but about the fact that my roommates from Germany are leaving, and I will soon have to say goodbye to everyone too. Don’t get me wrong, I want nothing more than to return to America. I miss wearing scarves and boots, watching Gossip Girl with my sister, dabbing to every rap song, and eating way too much chicken Parmesan pizza. But in Ghana, I’ve had the pleasure of sharing meals, engaging in discussion, and exploring the Brong Ahafo region with a some of the most remarkable people I’ve ever met. I didn’t think I’d become attached at all, but beyond the language barriers and cultural differences, I grew to love the natives and the visitors here.

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I definitely won’t miss the nauseating car rides, never having hand soap, or not having electricity every few hours. I won’t miss the aggressive flies, the intrusive mosquitoes, or the lizards that frequented. I won’t miss being stared at because of the way I wear my hair, or being called a “bruny” because I’m from America. I’m not particularly sad about not seeing C-sections and hysterectomies everyday, and I won’t miss peeing into a hole in the ground and getting it all over my feet. Nor will I miss the impatience of taxi drivers, causing them to casually drive in the opposite lane (this literally happened every day, I almost lost my life 21 times).
What I will miss, and am already missing, is the laughter of my Aunt Judith whose sandals got swept up by the ocean. I’ll miss intentionally being asked questions about education and racism in America, and being told of history in Europe. I will miss asking Peter our cook to toast one more slice of bread, and then wondering why he disappeared, only to realize he biked all the way to the market for more bread. I will miss Fanny doing her shimmy every time a surgery was about to start. I will miss the bluntness of Ghanian students, who asked me everyday if they could “be my friend”. I will miss Professor asking every evening if what we are eating is considered “stew”. I will miss being told Awkwaaba (welcome) every where I go and I’ll miss talking about music with my cousins. I’ll miss watching horrible Indian television shows, and poorly directed African movies. I’ll miss Sister Patricia’s hugs, and I’ll miss being cooked for day in and day out. I will miss being thanked over ten times for giving people American deodorant and toothpaste, and will miss hearing “enjoy your meal” every night before dinner. I’ll miss holding the hands of frightened mothers during delivery, and wiping the tears of children whose parents weren’t around for their surgeries. I’ll miss 4 year old Henry and 9 year old Boabeng playing ball outside our hostel, and then running towards me with open arms when I walk back from work. I will miss only paying $5 for a beautiful dresses and the Multifrutas juice served at dinner. I’ll miss hearing stories of my grandmother and mom when they were younger. I’ll miss picking tangerines and starfruit in the woods, and seeing goats walk around like they’re humans.

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Ghana is really a beautiful country, and while they do not have half the luxuries of the United States, there’s so much life in everything they have here. The weekend long  funeral celebrations, the endless lush green trees, the children who knew little English but had great smiles — God helped me find joy in everything. Gratitude isn’t a big enough word for how I feel about having the opportunity to stay here. It’s not your typical tourism country, but you learn a lot about yourself and about others when you step out of your comfort zone in a place like this. People have been asking me all week if I would come back here, and for awhile my homesickness was speaking for me. But Ghana’s got a little piece of my heart, so it won’t be a goodbye, it will be a see you later.

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a week in Ghana

My first night in Ghana was spent in the city of Accra, and the next day, I took a 9-hour bus ride to my aunt’s house in Berekum. We waited to get on the bus for about an hour, but in the heat, it felt like several. We only stopped once on the bus ride, so naturally my bladder felt like it would explode at any moment. When I finally got to use the bathroom, it was hidden deep in a dark alley. It was so insanitary that I thought I’d quite possibly die if I touched anything surrounding it. Eventually, we arrived in Berekum, and my aunt took very good care of me. She always made sure I had a full plate of food, heated up my shower water, washed all my clothes, and even gave me her room to stay in. I met her convent sisters, and they were all so loving and generous; wanting to make sure I was as comfortable as possible and had huge smiles waiting for me when I arrived. Although I had been traveling for a total of 2 days, exhausted, dirty, and jet lagged, I was hopeful for the weeks to come because of they way they welcomed me. I was certain I would enjoy every moment here and thought to myself, “I can get used to this”. However, that night made an interesting start to my stay. I couldn’t sleep because of the heat, but became so exhausted at 2 am that I ended up closing my eyes. After less than an hour of sleep, the roosters and dogs that inhabit Ghana kept me up all night with every sound you can imagine. With their howling, barking, and cuckooing, I stared at the ceiling for hours, wide-eyed, praying I’d go back to sleep. But then, a congregation of Muslims, who began their prayers and worship daily at 4:30 am, kept to routine and shouted all morning directly outside of my window. So I just lied in bed, angry and frustrated. But my aunt reminded me I wouldn’t be staying with her for the remainder of the trip. Rather, I would be moving into a hostel connected to the hospital I was to volunteer at, so that transportation would be easier. I would also have the opportunity to connect with other internationals that came to work in the hospital, so I excited to say the least! As long as I didn’t have to sleep with the roosters, I was all about it. I woke up in a pool of sweat, but was excited for my first day at the hospital. After being shown around the facilities, shaking hands with nearly every doctor and administrator, and meeting my two roommates from Germany, I got settled into my room. My aunt hugged me, wished me luck, and then left.

 

I looked into my room, which resembled the old miniscule dorms at school, and sighed. There was no air condition, no fan, and a dim bulb that did everything but provide light. I went into the bathroom and learned the water was not running. Instead, there was a waste bin filled with water, with some mysterious particles floating inside. This was to be my bathing and tooth brushing water. The floor was wet and dirty, along with the toilet, and it definitely did not smell like roses. There were numerous little ants hanging out on the sink, and there was no soap or trashcan. I dipped my washcloth and soap in a bucket of water, and grabbed another bucket to rinse off. As I poured the cold water down my back, a small lizard fell out and into the shower. I ran to the other bathroom freaking out, only to see a non-flushable toilet and massive cockroach next to it. I quickly retreated to my room to get dressed and lay down for a little; just to be sweating profusely again, but was soon was greeted by my roommates from Germany. They came together a week prior, so they were already well acquainted. They warned me beforehand they were not trying to be rude when speaking German instead of English, but it’s hard for them to explain when they don’t know the words. So a lot of our conversations included me just looking around. Eventually, they said they were going to the market in town and asked if I wanted to join. I opted to stay inside because I wanted to maybe go online and chat with some friends or family, but alas, there was no Wi-Fi, let alone a network. Then the electricity cut off and the kids next door started to shout. Rather than taking a nap, I just cried. I cried a lot.

 

I felt lonely and isolated. I quickly began to make a plan to complete my clinical hours as soon as possible so I could return to my aunt’s place, and eventually home. I still couldn’t believe I was in a foreign country, and started to feel the immensity of being alone. I so strongly wished that I had come with someone, or that I was maybe on the other side of America rather than on a totally different continent. Everything was unfamiliar and hard to understand. I was slowly realizing how much of a contrast living here was compared to my life in Delaware, and had no desire to keep going. My homesickness was growing, so I called my mom. Her encouragement and presence helped me calm down a lot, but as soon as I hung up and was reminded of how far away she was, I became saddened again. In the hospital, I got a lot of stares – maybe because I was wearing Nike sneakers, or because I said “like” a lot. Or maybe because I can only speak English, and everyone else speaks Twi (their native language). I got teased because of words I said differently or embarrassed when I couldn’t understand people through their accent. I wasn’t sleeping partially because of the heat, but also because of the anxiety of how I’d make it for 3 weeks.

 

All week, I kept asking myself why did I come here? Why did I forgo a month off from school with friends who live next door to me to spend time in an underdeveloped country? Why did I subject myself to uncomfortable taxi rides, innumerable mosquitoes, and excessive heat? Why did I travel halfway across the world all by myself? I didn’t know any of these things would happen. Had I known things would go this way, I may have thought twice about coming. But that is the cool thing about uncertainty; not knowing what is going happen causes you to trust in something outside of yourself, and for me that has been my faith.

 

I wasn’t given a how-to manual on how to live here, I kind of just showed up and trusted God would take care of me. For a little while, I thought he forgot about me, because of the loneliness I was feeling. But I’ve made some sweet friends in the pediatric and surgical ward at the hospital, who want to know absolutely every detail of my life in America. They have beautiful smiles and big dreams; I wish I could bring them home with me. I’ve grown to know the ladies from Germany very well, feeling a lot more included in their conversations than before. They even invited me to sightsee with them in the city, along with their professor. We spent Saturday visiting museums, buying cultural items, and eating delicious food. They cared for me so well and it was nice to see outside of this small town. I’ve never missed a meal because the people here are fantastic cooks. I have a bed to sleep in, I have survived the 110 mph bumper to bumper taxi rides, I have drinking water, I haven’t been bitten by mosquitoes (yet), I was not harmed by that lizard or cockroach, I have been checked on every single day multiple times a day, I have not been forgotten.

 

I know God has me in Ghana because in America, we knowingly and unknowingly live in ignorance. We have more than we need, and that in abundance. So many things we have, we take for granted. When situations happen outside of our confines, especially in other countries, and they do not directly bother us, we don’t concern ourselves. And even when we do with curiosity, we would most likely choose not to experience it. It has been good for me to be out of my comfort zone, and to learn so much about the comfort zones of the people here. The people of Berekum, Ghana deal with on a regular basis what I consider struggling, and it is not foreign to them. I can only imagine how my mom might have felt moving from Sierra Leone to Brooklyn, New York by herself at a young age.

My eyes have been opened a lot here in the past 7 days. It’s been a challenging and interesting week, and I’m currently trying to rid off the ants that have found their way in my t-shirts… but with time, patience, and changing my perspective, I’m making the most out of my situations, and know things will only get better!

Disclaimer: shortly after writing this post, I got bit by a mosquito.

with vs. without you

In this season of life, I have really gotten know who I am at my core. And she’s not my favorite person.

We live in a world where discovering who we really are deep down is a life goal, known as “finding yourself”. Finding the part of you that was so hard to love and embrace as a teenager; the part that’s supposedly going to appear as a young adult. And apparently what you find is intended to be this really, beautiful thing. But let me tell you… the essence of who I am is not that exactly. Rather, it’s a sinful, broken human being.

I am inpatient; unwilling to adapt to someone else’s time because I’m worried about my own. I gossip; living to hear the lives of people I envy in shambles, and sharing it with others. I am selfish — automatically moving my lips to form the words “no” when I know I’m being asked for help. I’m judgmental; quick to convey that the way I live my life is generally better than someone else’s. I’m anxious; worried for what’s to come and over-analyzing my performance at all times. I am irritable, I am lustful, I am prideful, I am jealous. I believe the same lies I was told or believed in the past — that I’m not truly cared for, that I’m not pretty, that I’m not intelligent, that I’m a prude, that I’m not significant. I dwell in loneliness; convincing myself that I need a significant other to feel better to understand me and the people I have in my life now just won’t do.

I love myself, flaws and all. But the stressors of life tend to reveal a lot about your character. This happens to be what comes out when I’m not at my best, but fortunately enough, I have a God who sees me differently and willingly makes me new every single day.

I am patient, I am kind, I exude love. I am cared for, I am intelligent, and I am beautiful. I leave conversations based on rumors and talk to and pray for those people and their struggles instead. I accept the differences of people because that’s what makes them unique; something that took me a long time to figure out. I trust in God and tune into my faith when feelings of anxiety take over. I give to others, because the reward of their needs being met does something to the heart. I’m not lonely because I have people who take the time out of their day to do whatever they can to love me well. I’m surrounded by people who encourage me, complete tasks for me, and simply just listen when I talk.

People may think they encounter the “better” side of me, because that’s what they love. But it has nothing to do with anything I’ve done. I can’t boast in my own achievements, but I can boast in Him. God’s grace is really the only thing that makes me so wonderfully made. He’s the reason the essence of my soul and my heart can have joy.