Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Just. . .go.

Last week I finished re-reading my absolute favorite Nicholas Sparks book and once again am blown away by how well-written this story was. Now, I know that because a lot of his books have been turned into movies people have become sick of his books and hearing about them, but honestly not all of them are about stories of some "great love." There is more to life than love, if that's what you're thinking and I agree. Well, I find that each story is unique and can change your perspective about a situation. If you don't care for Nicholas Sparks at all, I would challenge you to read this book because it will change your mind. It's called "The Choice."
It has more than just love in's about family, careers, life...and a choice I hope some of us will never have to make. Anyway, I want to share this excerpt on traveling with you that really impacted me:

"At times, it almost felt like I was destined to take the trip, like all the people I met had somehow been waiting for me. But... But I'm different now than I was then. Just like I was different at the end of the trip than I'd been at the beginning. And I'll be different tomorrow than I am today. And what that means is that I can never replicate that trip. Even if I went to the same places and met the same people, it wouldn't be the same. My experience wouldn't be the same. To me, that's what traveling should be about. Meeting people, learning to not only appreciate a different culture, but really enjoy it like a local--following whatever impulse strikes you. So how could I recommend a trip to someone else, if I don't even know what to expect? My advice would be to make a list of places on some index cards, shuffle them, and pick any five at random. Then just...go and see what happens. If you have the right mindset, it doesn't matter where you end up or how much money you brought. It'll be something you remember forever."

Apply this to any season of your life. I, of course, thought of my study abroad trip last year almost immediately...but I could also apply this to college. Honestly, though, you can apply the first part of this paragraph to any stage in your life: high school, a family vacation, mission trips, college, internships, semesters or years abroad, first jobs, first years of marriage, moves, new family adventures...and the list could go on. I may share what I have reflected on from this excerpt in a future post...but for now I will leave you with this: I think that I experienced the Spanish culture in this way and it was the kind of experience God intended me to have (and forced me to see that it was the best one for me). I definitely followed whatever impulse struck me at times and drove my host mom crazy! haha But in my opinion, it's the best way to live life because hey, you only get one, right?

Abrazos, mis amigossss!

<3 Sarah

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Prayer + Fasting = Breakthrough....or a WHOLE lotta temptations?

To recap from my last post I have been fasting meat, sweet tea, chocolate and anything else sweet (or desirable for me) for the past two weeks in hopes of having some breakthroughs and getting closer to God.

Well, let's go back and compare my hopes/goals pre-fasting and how things have really gone these past two weeks:

I hoped to start the semester off right and get into a good, productive routine.

In all honesty, I have been really lazy these past two weeks. Okay, this past week, not so much...but when you only have class 4 days a week, for 3 hours a day and no Friday classes...what ARE you supposed to do?! Do the required endless amounts of readings, research your topic and do your homework AHEAD OF TIME, DUH! So yeah, it's been a little hard to get back into the swing of things...

I wanted to have the tutoring calls start pouring in and work to arrange that schedule.

Well, that hasn't gone as planned either. I dropped one client because the type of tutoring and time I would have to devote to her would be too much for me to handle plus school. Also, languages are not her thing at it would have been even more frustrating to tutor/teach her this time around. One of my clients dropped me because things were getting tight...and one of the others who is continuing with Spanish 102 basically needs to cut back on how much time we spend together this semester cause money is also tight. While I's just, uh, things are tight for me too when I'm paying for most of these school expenses all on my own! I have done more advertising though, so maybe it's just a matter of time before things pick up again. Or God just wants to teach me to be patient and reliant...again. :P

I hoped for more internship opportunities and possible part-time job gigs to pop up.

The good news is that I have been finding more (paid) internship opportunities in the state of Florida that I can apply for...but the bad news? I can't seem to find the right time or environment to finish them! And things are messing up as far as internet and technology for me this past week. I can't access the network at my school this weekend (which REALLY is a bummer since I have A TON to do and internet is key.) because I changed my log on password (which we are required to do every so often) but the password is also synced with my school email and that decided not to sign me in so I changed that password! Long story short, an internship app for the Koch Summer Fellowship that is due on 1-31-11 is what I need to complete but I don't see it being completed fully until Monday some time. :/ I really want this internship because I could possibly stay in the Southeast (Tallahassee, Atlanta and Austin, TX are some of my personal choices) this summer and get paid for writing and learning about state policies and free markets! So yeah... :/

I hoped for more opportunities to hang out with friends before things start to get busy.

This one has sort of been going as I have hoped. While I have been enjoying getting to know my German roommates and hanging out with close friends here at JU and UNF....the hanging out part has involved spending money. Now I wouldn't mind it too much...but it's what I have spent the money on is what has bothered me. A couple Thursdays ago my German roommates (a whole nother story in itself-hehe) and some friends went out for sushi...and I stupidly agreed to it even though I couldn't have any of the rolls that had fish in it them. :/ Also, BCM had their Small group kick-off get together thing this past Monday (at Chickfila--which I LOVE) so I ate before (and missed out on free milk shake night :(, which may seem silly to you, but really I just went to hang out with my friends. Talk about a big sacrifice there! The other big things have been the lunches BCM does at JU (part of our weekly meetings) and one of my roommate's birthdays. At the lunches they have had chicken (and ironically Chickfila was this week :P) and of course we had a cake for my roommate who turned 20! I didn't eat the chicken sandwiches (which two days after I started were the first temptation) and only ate the "bread" part of the cake and not the icing. I really hope my roommates don't think I'm weird....haha
Also, the last thing that I must mention about food temptations is the other night. Some friends and I went out for Mexican food at La Napolera (which means cactus--did you know?). Now, I LOVE Mexican and I always get something with chicken or beef. But that night I couldn' I ate a little bit beforehand too. I never get things with just cheese but I did that night and had to eat around the beef in my chile relleno. To wrap this all up, I think one of the things that God has wanted to test me in was my I really have what it takes to do this fast and control my feelings when things don't go the way I wish? I thought I had learned this while in Spain, but I guess I need a re-test. When you put FOOD, something that everyone needs to survive and something we take for granted so much, it becomes REALLY hard to resist temptation.

And while I had also wanted to read my Bible daily and pray for all the things and people that were on the church's prayer list...I suppose I am just human and I cannot do or be everything I want to be at this time in my life.

Fasting, ayunando, jejuando, whatever you call's hard!

It's three weeks into the New Year and the days have been flying this past week! Usually the spring semester starts off slow and stays that way until at least the middle of February...not this year though. Maybe it's because I'm in my second to last semester and I'm taking all upper-level Business/Economics classes that involve reading, researching and math!!! Talk about some scary stuff.

The year has gotten off to a good yet rough start for me. I know it's going to be a fantastic semester, but it's going to be a lot of work. My church up in Bellbrook, Ohio on January 3rd started a three week time of prayer and fasting for God to move in the church, memeber's lives, the community and this nation. I felt strongly that I should do it with them because my pastor preached on how "Prayer + Fasting = Breakthrough."
I needed a breakthrough and was desperate for God to move in my life and provide answers to my uncertain plans for this year so I knew that I should do it. The question was when to start though...I left to return to Jacksonville on January 4th so I decided to wait until I got settled in again and could see what I had for food and what I needed to buy. Needless to say I waited until I ran out of these delicious little egg and sausage sandwiches that I had in my freezer and so the morning of Sun. January 9th was the day. (I had my last one the day before-haha)
I hope you're not freaking out and thinking that I, one of the most fortunate girls who hardly gains weight--hehe--haven't been eating at all, well, please stop those thoughts right there. :P
The fast that Bellbrook Community Church has been doing has been "the Daniel fast." In Daniel 10:2-3 it says, "At that time I, Daniel, mourned for three weeks. I ate no choice food; no meat or wine touched my lips; and I used no lotions at all until the three weeks were over."
Now I have not done the fast for three weeks as my pastor had wanted the church to do for ideally three weeks was best. He said that it was up to the individual to decide how long they wished to do it. Honestly, I could have done the full three weeks but I started late and financially (and physically) I can't really go too long without meat. I'm also starting to exercise more and be more active so I will need more protein. BUT...I have gone two weeks (nearly) without eating meat! I never knew it was something I could struggle with until I chose not to eat it! Major props to anyone who is a vegetarian or vegan...I respect your personal decision/belief, but I will admit that I just can't do it...I love meat too much! haha
Okay, so I cut out meat from my diet (and that has included fish and seafood--which has majorly been killing me) and I don't really drink so "wine" for me did not mean meant tea....SWEET. TEA. For those of you who know me well, I love any kind of tea--except unsweet and...English breakfast-haha--and I will drink it ALL the time. So cutting this out was also a huge challenge for me. I am drinking a certain type of tea for health reasons so I limited myself to just drinking tea from tea bags (and only from my collection).
The part about "no choice (desirable) food" has probably been the most difficult part of this whole period of fasting. I live and eat on a college campus so I am pretty limited when it comes to finding bland or just so-so foods (without meat in them mind you, there's plenty of horrible food on any college campus--except maybe Harvard? haha) to eat. That is why I chose to only do it for two out of the three weeks. Some of my choice foods have been chocolate, anything sweet (cereals, desserts, cookies, ice cream, pastries, muffins, brownies, bakalavaaaaaaa (my new all-time favorite dessert-btw) but you get the picture), things dipped or marinated in olive oil, tortilla españolas, pasta with butter and garlic, my favorite juice, smoothies, etc. I haven't started having dreams about these foods yet, but if I went another week I probably would be.

Anyway, since starting this fast I have noticed some good things health-wise. Problem areas on my face, where I always seem to still get a little bit of acne, have been clearing up. My skin feels softer, my nails seem whiter, I don't get really thirsty anymore and I have been falling asleep much easier! I think it's because I have been drinking more water, eating a ton of fruits and vegetables, pasta, whole grains, eggs, rice, whole wheat bread (lots of PB sandwiches for lunch-hehe)...all the things I usually eat but without meat! It's odd how something with so much protein and other good things can be bad for you when you think of all the additives and preservatives (and how processed they become!!!) that are in the meats we eat in this country. While I need and crave the protein from meat, honestly it's done me some good to go without it for the time being. Cleansing my body (and spirit) this way has been beneficial...but it doesn't come without challenges that's for sure.

I came into this fast hoping for some big breakthroughs. I hoped to start the semester off right and get into a good, productive routine. I wanted to have the tutoring calls start pouring in and work to arrange that schedule. I hoped for more internship opportunities and possible part-time job gigs to pop up. I hoped that my home business (which is a whole nother story) to start growing. I hoped for more opportunities to hang out with friends before things start to get busy. I hoped to be able to tithe and start trusting God for answers this year.

Well...I'll fill you in on what has actually happened during this season of fasting in the next post! Keep reading. :)