cleanse

I stopped using social media for a month and here are 9 positive lessons I learned:

  1. Enjoy the moments you get to be apart of and fully immerse yourself instead of wishing you recorded them for other people to see
  2. Don’t automatically pick up your phone during socially awkward moments of silence and dull conversation; put away and dive deeper
  3. Detach your self-worth from outward love and approval ; love yourself for who you are, and your body for what it is
  4. Be more intentional in your relationships and facilitate sincere conversations with people you think you know really well
  5. Don’t assume friends are doing well from photogenic pictures and 10-second videos; put meaning to ‘keeping in touch’
  6. Form your own opinions instead of cleverly articulating someone else’s
  7. Take pictures because you love them and want to capture the candidness life has to offer
  8. Let go of the pressure to persuade your followers how adventurous and artsy you can be; you are both
  9. Don’t compare your journey to others’ journeys; not everyone is getting married or working their dream job (there’s always a few that happen at the same time so it feels like everyone, but you are most likely in the majority)

A month isn’t a long time, but it made a significant difference. A month ago, I was waiting by my phone, hyper-vigilant about how many likes and views I was getting. I was watching friends’ Snapchat videos, wondering if I wasn’t invited because I wasn’t actually that likable. Every time I exited a social network, I’d open the next one, continuing this rotation of opening and closing apps as if anything would have changed within the last 15 minutes. Surprise! That cute couple is still together. That girl from college still turns up every weekend. That friend is still dancing in the car (LOL totally me)… Nothing ever changed. I was still me; they still them. But I noticed the more I used social media, the less content, less creative, and less confident I was. Scrolling through timelines became less about keeping up with people I cared about, and more of a place for self-loathing, pondering why my life didn’t look a certain way.

Gradually, I let these minuscule, fleeting things equate my value, and it’s a bad habit I think we all fall into every now and then. It’s hard when our world glorifies money, beauty, and success. But I know that my worth and my identity isn’t rooted in the things of this world; it’s rooted in Christ. He goes before me; to Him my heart belongs and in Him my treasure is stored. I know that I exude love and that I’m full of life and that I’m fearfully made and that I’m beautiful every single day, without the fashion and the makeup and the Insta likes. I just had to be reminded. And what a sweet reminder God’s love is.

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“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” – 1 Peter 3:3-4

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just do it

I was talking to someone the other day who felt like she was stuck in a spot. She shared how she has longed to move on & be the foster mom she’s always wanted to be, but feels like she has issues to work through first. Issues that have been in place for years, but haven’t been resolved because of work and negligence of counseling. I asked her if she felt like these problems had to be fixed right now in order for her to achieve motherhood, and she said she doesn’t know if it’s really holding her up, or if it’s just an excuse.

We think that because we are not as loving as we could be, as selfless as we could be, as adventurous as we could be, that we can’t do great things right now. We are perfectionists, and want to show up in tip-top shape, looking our best, but God does the coolest things when we are the most out of shape. He wants to meet us right where we are, in the grit and rubble of our lives, and show us how He can take something that is broken, and remake it into something that is beautiful. You don’t need to be all fixed up and wrapped with big red bow to be useful. Sometimes, we have to be really screwed up in order to recognize our need. I think that is incredible.

I struggle with this a lot. There are some goals I want to achieve that I won’t say out loud because I don’t want to fully commit, or I’m scared it won’t come to fruition. There are so many opportunities that I turn down or run away from because I don’t think I’m a good enough person to go for them. I think there’s a lot of work to be done and I never think that I’m ready to take on certain tasks that come my way. But having these weaknesses and doubts are a chance to see what grace is all about. Some of the greatest growth and blessings come through not knowing what the hell you’re getting yourself into. Not being ready. Being broken.

Embrace the fact that you may not be your best self. You think you’re unlikely; well you’re not. God has used some of the most amateur, unlikely people to take on his most marvelous deeds.

thankful.

for the simplicity life can offer.

for a quiet night in where I can learn how to knit.

for the opportunity to start a new show on Netflix.

for being able to go out for a drink with my friends.

for a car and a parking spot that’s not far.

for the fact I can sit in my room in peace.

for not having to fear being displaced from my home.

for not being in an area where war is happening.

for not having to worry about my next meal.

for making it through the semester without giving up.

for getting paid extra by doing very little.

for a mom who helps me out when I’m struggling financially.

I know how to be positive. I try to take the time and appreciate the small things in my life. I love celebrating little triumphs, even if it’s finding $5 or completing something on my to-do list. When life is good, I’m good. But there are those seasons when life isn’t so good. In tough circumstances, I am neglectful, reclusive, and negative. I give up so easily, I don’t ask for help, and I get pretty ticked at God for not doing what I asked or wanted.

There are always going to be bad times where smiling, laughing, and rejoicing won’t feel right. Life is not catered to us. It’s important to smile now, laugh now, rejoice now, in the joys and simplicity of life. Take a moment and be thankful for the good things around you, in whatever situation you’re in. I’m working on it too.

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.

a love that doesn’t leave

August 11th, 2014. Top 5 worst days of my life. My parents are away in Georgia, I’m moving back into college after living at home for a year, and the reality of my good friend Phil being killed in a car accident the day before decided to finally hit me.

Rewind to August 9th, 2014. Had such a fun time at our friend Denzel’s baby shower. His sister happens to be one of my best friends from high school. She goes to school over an hour away from us, so it was great seeing her and her family. The food was so SO good and Denzel was being his usual hilarious, ratchet self, and we got to catch up with high school friends. Phil, his best friend, shows up and immediately we all start cracking up. He looked high, which he probably was, but we didn’t care, we missed him so much! Haven’t got the chance to hang out since after high school graduation, so getting to catch up with him and his comedy was the best thing ever.

Fast forward back to August 11th, 2014. I’d been crying all morning. I didn’t want to leave my family. If anything, I needed them at that time. I didn’t want to live on campus. I didn’t want to train for a job, because I knew I would be surrounded by people that I didn’t know. How is it that someone I was just cracking jokes with could no longer be here? He wasn’t even driving, he didn’t do anything to deserve this. Are you kidding me, God? He’s seriously gone? I saw him two days ago HOW IS HE GONE. Just crying, sobbing, screaming. My siblings hugging and caressing me from all directions, trying to console me as I drive us to iHop for breakfast. I’m sure it was delicious, but I don’t remember, I lost my appetite.

 

—–

Super fast forward to the 2nd week of school, September 8th, 2014. Ate something contaminated a few days prior and cannot sleep because the pain in my stomach is so bad. Mom was working so I spent the night in the student health center (if you go to the University of Delaware, you know it’s a useless place). I had never in my life felt pain as bad as I did that night. Constantly wrenching in the bed, on the floor, in the bathroom. God knows what coming out of my body on both ends. I thought I was going to die. I thought that every ounce of liquid that was in me would leave my body and dehydrate me. I was so frustrated that I didn’t know what was wrong. I couldn’t sleep, I wasn’t allowed to eat, and no one there knew what to do with me. Even with the nurses best care and presence, I had never felt more confused and alone.

Couple of days later, my mom takes me to the hospital after my pain only gets worse. All the drugs I learn about in my pharmacology course actually became real, as my pain subsided and drowsiness came over me. Turns out I had an E. Coli infection that inflamed most of my digestive system, causing colitis. Lasted for 8 days, and took about a week for me to recover and get back to normal college student speed.

A couple days later, I read an article about a kindergartener who died that day because of an E. coli infection via her turkey sandwich.

And I’m alive?

—–

Fast forward to now, December 11th, 2014. Just took my last final and can officially begin my real junior courses next semester! Lost my way last year and unfortunately had to withdraw from one of the hardest nursing classes here, and was asked to leave an internship I got. But after several hot cocoas, long days, missed events, and cramped hands, I re-took the class and gracefully passed. I even get to return to my internship! Finished my 1st semester as a resident assistant also, which is such an accomplishment for someone as worry some as myself. Being handed this job was such a blessing, but it can be stressful at times. Having to be the head honcho on a floor of college students, when you really just want them to understand you are exactly like them, creates a lot of pressure. Pressure to be a good role model, pressure to be likable, but also pressure to do what needs to be done!

 

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All of this reflection, just to say that I am truly grateful to be blessed in the way that I am. This was just a small glimpse into my semester, but now that it’s come to an end I can’t believe I made it. The fact that I made it out of the hospital, the fact that despite my friend’s death, I still found joy in the relationships I have, the fact that all pain I’ve ever felt has been temporary, and that regardless of what happens in my life, God is still good. There was bitterness and negligence towards Him for awhile because I thought He had forgotten about me. I thought everything I’d been through was my own doing. But God seriously loves me more in a second moment than any one could ever in a lifetime. It took a rough semester for me to finally understand that, but I’m going to hold on tightly to that truth and carry it with me as I continue on!