Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Monthly Update: March 2014

This is the start of a series of posts I will be doing throughout the rest of this year. A lot of changes are happening and will continue to happen in my life in 2014 and I want to share them with you!

If you are interested in receiving these blog posts via email, you can enter the email address you check the most often in the subscribe box on the right hand column of this post. I sometimes have the tendency to create a blank post solely because I wanted to make sure I had a certain number of posts published each month. However, once I have a few people subscribing to this blog, it will keep me accountable and help me to break that bad habit. Besides, who wants a blank email coming to their inbox late at night? Yeah, didn't think so, haha!

Now, without further ado, some updates way back from the month of March. It's hard to believe that my surroundings are completely different now than they were just one month ago.

Some big events that took place in March 2014...


  1. Traveled to Southern California with my brother (first time in 12 years!)
Nathan and I at Pacific Beach, California (San Diego area)
The last time I personally was in Southern California was in June 2007. I went with Xenia Christian HS on my second and final mission trip to Baja California, Mexico to minister to the migrant workers at camps and help translate from Spanish to English and vice versa. I had just completed 4 years of HS Spanish but only had head knowledge of the language. I realized, as I sat on this beach, that I really didn't know Spanish the last time I was there. And what's even more, is that the last time my brother and I were in Cali together, we both didn't have cell phones and our cameras both had disposable film in them, haha! We also didn't have driver's licenses as we were only 13 and 16 at the time. Regardless, we had a wonderful time with our grandmother (my mom's mom) who generously flew us out to visit and visited with other family members out there as well. It's a shame that we all live so far away but I'm grateful for the time we all got to spend together, the laughs we had and the memories we made. I'm also thankful that there are so many ways to stay connected through cell phones, social networks and apps.

Until next time, Cali! You left me California dreamin' as always...(but for the mountains this time! :P)

2. I moved out my college city! --> Jacksonville, FL


At the Metropolitan Park entrance to the St. Johns River, October 2007


On the Main Street Bridge in front of the Jacksonville Landing (Downtown) in March 2014

As someone who had never been to Florida before her college orientation weekend, I didn't see myself staying in Jacksonville for as long as I did. I lived there for almost 7 years (off-and-on)! I cherish my time there and all of the ways I grew personally, emotionally and spiritually there. I met and go to know so many wonderful people from all different ages, backgrounds, languages, faiths and cultures.

Sitting on the JU side of the St. Johns River in December 2009.
I went to a fantastic private college where I earned not one but two Bachelor degrees (BBA in Economics and a BA in Spanish), studied abroad in Spain thanks to JU, met so many amazing students and alumni who taught me many important life lessons and gave me invaluable advice. I also discovered a love for a sport I'd never thought I'd try: rowing. Though it's been 5 years since I was last in a rowboat on the St. Johns River, my eyes and my mind are always drawn to bodies of water, no matter how small or large they may be. As someone who was born and raised in a land-locked state, I had more than enough water and water activities available to me when I lived in Florida. Through my participation on JU's Novice Rowing Team, I was able to travel to almost every part of Florida and other parts of the South for races. We visited places like Augusta, GA; Orlando, FL; Tampa, FL; Sarasota, FL; and Oak Ridge, TN. I had been under the impression that Florida was largely the same landscape wise wherever you went but throughout my college career, I was pleasantly surprised by how diverse Florida really is.

With Matt and Jamie Wilbanks outside of MissionWay. Wonderful friends and mentors!
One of the other major blessings in my life in Jacksonville, was my church family. After some searching, a friend and I were invited to MissionWay Church all the way back in February 2008 at Nease High School (St. Johns County). The church did not have their own space to rent yet at that time but were praying for one and hoping that God would provide in His timing. I loved how genuine the members of this church were to one another and to visitors and felt an instant connection with a couple people. The pastor was at first a little too laid-back than what I was used to but he quickly won me over with his warm, welcoming and open personality. His love for God is transparent and you could also see how much he cared for others in the way that he interacted with them. I met a lot of great people throughout my years of attendance there at MissionWay and I am proud  to say that I was a member all 6 out of 6.5 years that I spent in Jacksonville. It was at times a struggle physically to get to church as the church's location was always closer to St. Augustine than Jacksonville (and I did not have my own transportation) but I was always blessed in some way when I attended. I learned that, if you really want to get somewhere, you will find a way to do it! And I did, with God's help most of the time. It was sad to leave my Jacksonville church family behind (along with several good friends and mentors) but I know that we will always stay in touch and that we will continue to pray for each other and encourage one another, whether we live near or far.

In front of the Three Lions Fountain in Historic San Marco. I had so much fun living there! 
I really discovered my likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses, and most importantly, my passions in life while living in Jacksonville, Florida. I went there as a shy, quiet Midwestern girl who only had a slight idea with what she wanted to do with her life but left a nearly tri-lingual, confident, outgoing, college educated woman (who is a world-traveler-in-the-making) with a rough plan of what she'd like to do for the next 5 years. (There is plenty of room for surprises and changes of plans along the way, though!) After months and weeks of praying and feeling that God was closing doors for me in Jacksonville, I made a decision in December 2013 to move out of the room I was renting the following spring and leave Jacksonville for good. Where was I going to go and what was I going to do? Good questions! Keep reading to find out the answers. :-)


3. I finally visited two iconic St. Augustine landmarks

There are still a few things in the Jacksonville area that I have never done or been to before (the Cummer Museum and Gardens to name one thing) but I managed to cross two things off my Jax bucket list before I moved out of the area. The top of and the inside of the St. Augustine Lighthouse and the inside of the Castillo de San Marcos (affectionately known as the Fort). I got to do the first thing by myself and the last thing with family. And for once, it didn't rain on us in St. Augustine like it had during our past visits there. I couldn't have asked for clearer, sunnier or more arid weather that last day in Florida.

After seeing a pictures of a couple of friends getting proposed to on top of the St. Augustine Lighthouse (and okay, also after seeing Ted Mosby propose to the mother on HIMYM on top of one--on TV--the month before, haha), I figured the view must be spectacular and that I should make it a point to visit the lighthouse closest to me for a long time before I left. So, in a skirt and in flats, I climbed up and down all 219 steps to the top of the St. Augustine Lighthouse and was rewarded with a gorgeous view of the Atlantic Ocean and St. Augustine itself. It was very windy up there but the sun was shining brilliantly and I could see for miles. I also saw my dad and brother below and arranged for them to come over to that area beneath me so that I could wave to them. And though I went up alone, I met a nice male tour guide who kindly took a few pictures of me at the top. I felt like I was going to fly off the thing and my unruly, windswept hair was going to ruin every single picture but nothing extreme happened. He even waited a few seconds for my hair and the wind to cooperate! What a nice guy!


On top of the St. Augustine Lighthouse facing the Atlantic Ocean. March 30, 2014

Lastly, I finally went into the Castillo de San Marcos. I have been to many castles and fortress like structures in Spain but I had been dying to see the inside of the Fort. I love all of the Spanish influence in St. Augustine now more than ever primarily because I have been to the "homeland" a couple of times and love the Spanish culture and architecture even more. I was really impressed with the condition of the inside of the Fort, how beautiful the inside courtyard and outer grounds are and the fact that people reenact the blowing of the cannons off of the Fort a few times everyday. The commands are rattled off in [broken] Spanish by gringos (white people) and that alone really enhances your experience at the Fort. I was particularly pleased to recognize some architectural similarities between the Fort and a small castle I had visited in Cádiz, Spain about four years ago. Our entrance tickets to the Fort were good for one week but unfortunately we weren't going to be there within that time frame to go visit it again. It's good to know for the future though and we'll have to plan ahead to visit it multiple times if we can!


Just hanging out in a little cove on top of the Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine, FL



4. I moved back to my hometown! Dayton, OH <--



All of the room I had during a 15 hour car ride home from March 30-31, 2014!
Don't try to move someone halfway across the country with their whole adult life's worth of belongings in a Chevy Equinoix. Do try this if you have a dad who has a very mathematical and engineering geared mind! (That's what I had thankfully.)

 Yes, I did what every young Ohioan (or anyone who has ever gone away to college or moved out of their parents' house) prays they won't ever have to do: move back home with your parents. I certainly didn't see this becoming part of my post-college plans but it did. It's not for an indefinite time because I have a move-out month coming up! Let me explain.

One of many things that I was praying about and making decisions about was what I wanted to do next in my career. I know I'm just getting started with my career and have plenty of time to "figure things out," but there was one thing I was certain of. I didn't want to be tied down to Jacksonville, Dayton or anywhere else in America to be honest. I wanted to live overseas and keep traveling but there were several things holding me back. The first was spending so much of my time and money to afford to live in Jacksonville on my own. I was unhappy with the way some things were going there but overall, I felt that it really was time to move on and start a new chapter of my life. I knew that I couldn't move home on a temporary basis without presenting a plan to my parents. I got all the plans squared away and then worked on a move-out date. Things pretty much came together rather quickly (including selling some of my large furniture items) and before I knew it the last week of March was upon me.

At that point, I was working on getting all packed up and saying goodbye to friends. The most important plans were already set and out of my mind. Chief of all of my plans was what I will be pursuing in the fall. I am very pleased to say that I will be going to Northern Spain (hopefully) from October 2014 to May/June 2015 to teach English in a primary or secondary school. I was accepted to the North American Language and Culture Assistants Program in late February 2014 but I do not know my exact placement yet. I am very excited about this next step in my life, my move overseas and the opportunity to become fully bilingual in Spanish as well the chance to act as a cultural ambassador for both the English language and the United States in the school I will be assigned.

However, there were still a lot of unknowns before me. I still don't exactly know why God has called me back to my hometown for this short period of time, what He has planned for me personally and spiritually, or how living at home will be as we transition back to having everyone under the same roof. I certainly don't know what kinds of people I will meet, re-connect with or get to minister to while I'm here but I am convinced that, based on recent events, they will be the kinds of people who will bless my life and that I in turn might be even a blessing to them.

Stay tuned for the next update!

Hasta la próxima, (Until next time)

Sarah


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