Saturday, December 31

{ year in review }

So I was going to try to do a blog post with just one photo from each month and I straight up gave up. It can't be done. This year... this year.


I moved to Guatemala. I know, right? Talk about overwhelming. I fell in love with my new city straight away, and I had the greatest group of girls at my side.

My first family were sweethearts. Flor, Brian, & Byron. They took such great care of me as I started to adjust to my new life.


Happy birthday to me, I got my face shoved in a cake!

We also went to Tikal. Um, hello, adventure!


Talk about beautiful. March was full of the most incredible views I have ever encountered.
Above is Semuc Champey, a trip the 11 of us girls (pictured) took alone, and below is Lago Atilán, a lake surrounded by volcanoes and famous for some of the best coffee-growing environments in the world.


 April started out with a much-needed weekend away at Playa Quilombo.

 We also went to the Forensic Anthropology Foundation of Guatemala (FAFG) as a part of a very intense weekend, including in-depth interviews with individuals who work in one of the most dangerous suburbs of the capital, the cemetery, and the city dump.

I also spent a lot of quality time with my kids, whom I had fallen helplessly in love with by the time April rolled around (oh, and the puppies, they were pretty cute, too).

April was a hard month. My Spanish progressed by leaps and bounds, but I also had to begin to prepare for my return stateside.


In May, I said goodbye to Guatemala.

To Gloria, who was the most incredible teacher a girl could have asked for. She was patient, encouraging. She kept my goals in mind, and she pushed me every. single. day.

To Cindy and Anderson (and yes, even Leo) who became like family. I spent February through May with them, and every day held another adventure.
 Finally, we said goodbye to Antigua and to each other. Our "Guat Squad" was definitely something special.


God said, "Go," so in June I went. June, July and August were passed living just outside of Indianapolis, Indiana and interning at Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic in the Immigrant Justice Program.
God did a ton of work on me here, and I got to do life alongside some pretty great people.

I also spent a lot of time in that chair. It's weird, but that chair was where I always ended up sitting when it came time to call people. Talking on the phone, and doing so in Spanish, was something I had to get good at pretty quickly.


In August, I said goodbye to another city that I'd learned to call home.
My mom and grandma came for a visit, I established a list of my favorite few parks to run at, and Naturalization Day was my last day interning.



In September, I returned to Spring Arbor for one last year of undergrad. I moved into a K-house with six of the most wonderful ladies I've ever met.
I think it's safe to say that we were all a little apprehensive at first, unsure of how personalities would mix and routines would get established...but they did.

God also did some pretty cool stuff in giving me a top-notch roommate. Lins and I had never met before moving in to the same little room, but from day one we got along and have only gotten closer since then.


I didn't get many pictures of that day, but I got to go back to Indy at the end of October to be lead volunteer for Refugee Adjustment Day.
I became best friends with a two-year-old little boy from Egypt (his words, not mine), I got to sign the same piece of fabric that Bob Goff did (it's the clinic banner:), and my heart was so, so happy to be able to go back to a place that still felt like home.


November included a trip to surprise my little sister at her final cross country meet of the season (the only one I was able to make it to this year) with three of the sweethearts I lived with.

We also took a trip to Chicago to celebrate Syd's birthday!


 December was dominated by a whole bunch of laughter, late nights, and memories as our house of upperclassmen prepped for finals.
Late night Just Dance, deep talks, and good food were regular occurrences.

On a sad note, December also meant saying goodbye to my four-legged child. Lucy was almost 14 years old and every time I left the house I told her that I loved her. Every time I left for school, especially the past couple of semesters, I'd sat that dog down and told her she had to stay her sassy, healthy self until I came back home. That she did.
The last picture I took with her was at the end of November on a walk around the block (about as much as her old little legs could handle).

All of the spare minutes in December have been designated to my honors thesis, which will be due towards the end of January. It's been overwhelming to really dig into passions on this project that I've developed all year. Since coming home from school, this little room has been thesis headquarters.

Looking back, this year has been absolutely incredible. It's been insane. It's been more than I ever could have imagined.
Doors have opened and closed.
I learned a second language, I lived in two countries and two states. I gained four more 'families' and moved something like 7 times between 5 cities.

Looking ahead, I'm not sure what all 2017 will bring.
If all goes according to the 'plan' in place now, I'll be finishing up my undergrad degree in less than 5 months. Graduation will be a whirlwind followed immediately by moving. Again. This time to either Indianapolis (to attend IUPUI and work at the clinic I interned at) or Northern Virginia (to attend George Mason or Virginia Commonwealth University).

It's scary and there are a lot of unknowns... but as I look back at how faithful God has been this year, I know that whatever comes next is going to be equally incredible.

Tuesday, September 13

I'm not dead!

I think I've forgotten how to words to some extent.
I've been moving from place to place, I've been switching gears and hats and mentalities and filling different roles. It's been crazy and overwhelming, but I'd do it all again in a heartbeat, exhausting and terrifying as it was.

Basic summary of my life since January.

In January, I moved to Antigua, Guatemala. My first 3 weeks I spent with Florecíta, Brian, and Byron in the Hermano Pedro house on the south east side of the beautiful little town.
Then I moved to the south west corner of Antigua with Cindy and Anderson, where I spent 3.5 months. We were gone quite a few weekends, everywhere from visiting the capital to the ocean to the rainforest.
Then in May, I moved back stateside, where I spent 2.5 weeks or so in Michigan with my family trying to manage some crazy reverse culture shock and re-adjust to speaking English and driving cars.
And then I spent 11 weeks in Indianapolis as an Immigrant Justice Intern at Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic, which entailed driving, translating, interpreting, note-taking, phone-call-making, scanning, driving, visiting, listening, question-asking, people-loving and making-it-up-as-I-went.
Return to Michigan for 2 weeks, where I unpacked from a semester of college, Guatemala, Indy, and then repacked everything for a semester. Oh, and worked for a week and a half.
Now it's back at the arbor, where I'm finally settling again.

It's hard to go back to being a student after living abroad and interning out of state. I have literally walked in the places that we're learning about in Latin American civilization (um, Mayan dialects? Ziggurats vs. temples vs. pyramids? corrupt governments? history? walked it, seen it, got the t-shirt) and I've implemented the strategies that all of my social work classes this semester are covering. (Practice with Groups? Practice with Communities and Organizations? Social Welfare Policy? Macro social work, guys. Macro social work. That's kind of what program management looks like. That's kind of what nonprofit life looks like. That's kind of what my summer looked like.)
I'm not saying that I'm somehow superior to other students, because we've all got a lot of learning to do yet, but it's hard to change my mindset back to that of a student.Especially when that student mindset means reading hours a week for each of my classes and sitting at a desk taking notes on lectures.

This last year is going to be a challenging one. I've got 15 credits this semester, one class plus hopefully registration for my honors thesis (a year long, 60+ page project) in January, and then a 10 credit internship, 1 credit internship seminar, 3 credit online class, and 3 credit Spanish class (17 credit hours of crazy, thank you very much).
Basically, the goal is to survive and graduate and in that process figure out what in the crazy world I'm supposed to do with my life after graduation. And that's a massive, already-looming question of applying to graduate schools, sending out job applications, and trying to line things up.
I'm not sure I want to stay in Michigan, but that means that I'm looking at schools in Indianapolis, northern Virginia, and can't for sure rule out anything in between them.

So right now, I'm making it up as it comes to me.
God has been teaching me some amazing things, and I'm thankful that He's doing it so gently and patiently. For the past 9 months, all He has done is carried me and given me just enough clarity to get to the next half step, commit to it, and trust through the whole messy process. So as I start on graduate school applications, pray over my future, and try to remain present in my final two semesters, all I can do is trust that He will continue to do just that.

Saturday, June 11


So Guatemala was Guatemala, but what now?

Well, I'm not taking it easy, that's for sure.

I got back in Michigan on May 12.
I spent 3 weeks with my family before making my next move for the next adventure.

Which brings us to what life is looking like now.

I'm an Immigrant Justice Program intern at Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic (IJP, NCLC) in Indianapolis, Indiana.                                   (Mouthful, isn't it? But it does sound pretty official.)
Even when it's exhausting and terrifying and overwhelming and crazy, I'm loving every beautiful second of it. I'm using my Spanish, I'm getting lots of face-time with clients and prospective clients, and I'm able to actually listen to people in an office full of lawyers and other professionals. This organization is truly making a difference and I get to watch faces light up with little rays of hope for their situations.

A generous family offered to take me in, so my residence for the summer is a basement in a house about 20 minutes from the clinic and downtown Indy (all of the perks of a private apartment, all of the advantages of living with a family:).  Even Oscar, the cat, has been nothing short of welcoming.
I'm following leads for part time work so I have some income in addition to my 20-ish+ hours a week at NCLC. I've been there a week and already I'm assisting with intakes (that started on my first day!) and do odds and ends of filing and data entry (Joys of being a non-legal intern...I input data. They write official lawyer-ey things.)
Sorting through all of the emotions of reentry after my initial rough bout of reverse culture shock has proven to be more of a long-term process (I think I can safely say that almost, if not all, of us from the Guat semester are still dealing heavily with this) and there are days that still just feel ridiculously hard. But that's the reality right now. It's part identity crisis, part homesickness, part reverse culture shock, with significant shares of being easily overwhelmed, constantly exhausted, and always feeling like there's something missing.

There's an awful lot going on in my heart and my crazy little head. But it's all good things and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Friday, June 10

the 10-second Guat review

Now that I finally have a little bit of time to breathe and have started to determine some semblance of 'normal', I guess we're due for an update.

Guatemala was incredible. It was beyond words. It broke my heart in so many ways and left me feeling like my soul is spread into two different countries and, no matter where I am, I'm never really 'whole.'

It's impossible to sum up the trip in a way that's both meaningful and does justice to the realities of Guatemala, so, instead, here's some random pictures. For more detailed stories, my guatemala blog is still in existence.

The semester adventure crew, on top of the most famous temple at Tikal (Templo del Gran Jaguar, featured in Star Wars, lots of historical sight info...good times.) I'd say it pretty well displays our interesting personalities and sense of humor.

 Just, please believe me here...everything about Guatemala is beautiful. Yes, some parts hurt and you have to dig to find the hope and beauty there, but it's there. Even in the (surprisingly comfortable all considering!) traditional clothing.
We'd do just about anything to help out with each other at school, including being models for presentations.

This woman is a saint. Her name is Gloria and she's the reason I now consider myself as functionally bilingual. Her patience, humor, and genuine desire for justice spurred me on every day.
{Gloria, eres uno de las personas del mundo que ha enseñado y ayudado me lo más. Otra vez, gracias no esta suficiente. También, todavía, mi Español esta mejorando.}

These kids. Oh my heart. Semillas de Amor basically just gave me an extra mountain of little siblings that I'll love forever. Reading homework (plus any other homework that needed help getting done) four days a week with some of the silliest, most difficult, frustrating, beautiful, sensitive kiddos out there. When my return trip happens, seeing them will be on the itinerary.