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Surprising Myself

I debated on whether I wanted to make a blogpost about this, because it is so personal; however, I think God was calling me to share. I don’t know why He is, but He does, so I will listen.

I did something I honestly thought I would NEVER EVER do. Anyone who knows me would understand how shocking this is—I got a tattoo. I stare at it sometimes, because I am still in disbelief that I actually followed through with it. Now let me tell you why.

I have shared my story about my friend Kara and how she impacted my life many times. The idea of this tattoo started with her. I was having a conversation with her one day about how she wanted to get multiple tattoos. She had a notebook where she drew them and explained why she wanted each one. Everything with Kara always had deep meaning, which is one of the things I admired most about her. We related in that way. At the end of the conversation, I told her that I would go with her to get a tattoo. I said I want to get a tattoo with her, because I was caught up in the moment. She busted out laughing without any hesitation, and she gave me her look. If you knew her, you know what look I am talking about. After laughing at me for a solid three minutes she said, “You and I both know that you are not going to get a tattoo. You are the least likely person to do such a thing.” I laughed and said, “Yeah, you are totally right. I’ll watch.”

I had no idea that was going to be the last full conversation I ever had with her. I had no idea that she was never going to be able to get even one of those tattoos—not one. When she died, I played our conversation about tattoos over and over in my mind. The day she passed away, Matt Richardson, my former youth pastor, sent me the song “It is Well” by Bethel. It became my anthem song during the grieving process.

God taught me in that time that it was well, because He was right there alongside me. I was not alone. My friendship with Kara started, because I felt God call me to her. I would have never approached her on my own, but God knew how bad she needed Him—how bad she needed someone to allow God to use them for her. So, I decided that I was going to get a tattoo. It took me over a year to talk myself into it. I did last week. I got a tattoo that says, “It is Well” on my arm.

I got the tattoo, because I want to remember Kara. I got the tattoo, because we had the kind of friendship where I wanted to rub in her face that I did something she swore I would never do. I got the tattoo, because I knew how bad Kara wanted one, so I did for her. I got the tattoo because I want to constantly remember that regardless of my circumstances it is well with my soul, because God has embraced me as His daughter. I got the tattoo to forever remember that when God calls you to do something or share with someone, DO IT. He sees a far bigger picture than you do, so why wouldn’t you listen to Him?

I got a tattoo, Kara forever impacted my life. This is a part of my story; God convicted me to share it.

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When the Enemy Strikes

 

There are times where I feel like I am drowning. I have always been the type of person who doesn’t just have a bad day. They have one of those bad few days that you see in movies that doesn’t seem possible in real life. I normally have a long list of every little thing that could have gone wrong, ranging from dropping my jacket in the toilet (yes that happened at the local Starbucks) to long time plans cancelled. I have always questioned why the heck I have such terrible days on occasion. Then it hit me. It’s always when God is working through me.

It never fails. Every time I am glorifying God in big ways, the enemy is lurking around the corner—ready to strike. I describe it as something like this: I see multiple ministry opportunities in the distance. My eyes are set on them; God is calling me there. As I am swimming towards them, the enemy strikes. He ties a rope around my ankles and begins attaching rocks to the bottom of the rope. It becomes harder and harder to swim towards the ministry opportunities. Even more so, it becomes harder and harder to stay above water. I begin to question God. I wonder where He is, because I am no longer swimming, but fighting for my life. Meanwhile, the quantity of rocks are increasing steadily. Then I remember that I have a God who is much bigger than thousands of rocks, and I only have a hundred attacked to my feet. Miraculously, I start to swim, because out of nowhere, I have a life jacket. God provides like that.

I laugh at myself for questioning God, because I recognize His endless supply of life jackets. I reach the ministry opportunity I was swimming towards in the beginning. God fills me with strength. God speaks and works through me. After I finish, I praise God for how beautifully powerful He is. I jump back in the water, looking for more ministry opportunities only to find people jumping in with me. I smile because I know that the enemy is angry. I know he is ready to strike again, but I also know that God is already fighting back. I look into the distance, and there it is. Another ministry opportunity.

James 1:2 says, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds.”

Why?

Because it means that you are doing work for the Kingdom so the enemy feels he needs to fight you. It also means that you have an opportunity to grow closer and rely on God. I cannot think of anything more beautiful than that.

If you are battling rocks that are weighing you down, look up. Your life jacket is right in front of you.

Receipts

Sometimes,

I wonder what it would be like to live as the minority,

instead of living among my ethnicity where so many feel they have superiority.

 

How would I handle the dirty looks?

How would I handle the idea that because of the color of my skin I am considered one of the crooks?

 

What would it be like to always have to worry about taking the receipt at a store?

And the only reason being so you have proof you didn’t steal what’s in your hands as you walk out the door.

 

What would it be like to always have people telling you that you are loud

or that you have to conform to the culture already set, because your culture isn’t allowed?

 

Sometimes,

I wonder what it would be like to live as the minority

instead of living among my ethnicity where so many feel like they are the superiority.

 

America is supposed to be filled with opportunity.

From the outside, it looks like America is supposed to be a place of congruity.

 

I can’t help but notice that those ideas are really just fiction.

The America that is played out is really a lake of friction, affliction, and contradiction.

 

By the way, I am tired of people saying “what race are you.”

I am human. I belong to the human race, and you do too.

 

It doest matter where you were born, what color you are, what gender you are; you are the human race.

Stop asking what race are you; it’s a disgrace.

 

Why can’t we recognize that regardless of what we look like, we are all human, and that is how we are all called to unite?

I can tell you we are not called to consistently fight.

 

Sometimes,

I wonder what it would be like to live as the minority,

but then other times I wonder what it would look like if there was never an ethnicity that felt that they had superiority.

Talking to Strangers

It’s a long one, but hang with me.

 

What would it look like if we had the kind of faith that led us to talk to complete strangers about Jesus?

 

I found myself questioning that as I spent time reflecting from my mission trip to Las Vegas. I planned to write a blogpost about the trip when I arrived home, but I realized I needed some time to reflect first. The question has not stopped coming to mind since I have been back. What would the world look like if everyone who claimed to be a Christian had the kind of faith that led them to talk to complete strangers? I think the 10/40 window wouldn’t exist, and the churches wouldn’t be decreasing; they would be increasing. There would be more missionaries than there are today, and I can’t help but think there would be a lot less hate and whole lot more love. When we talk to strangers, we set aside our own judgements we make, and we leave the judging to God. What would the world actually look like if we had the kind of faith where we talk to strangers about Jesus?

 

The question was raised, because our team from Stones Crossing Church did just that all week. We talked to strangers about Jesus in a myriad of different settings.

 

On the first day that we arrived we did some chores around the YWAM base and we worshiped on a mountain. On the mountain, you could see a large portion of Las Vegas. I found it ironic how alive it looked with all the lights when in reality the city is so dead. It is all fake. The lights are fake. The Eiffel Tower is fake. The Statue of Liberty is fake. Even the short-lived happiness in gambling is fake. I spent time praying that the people of Las Vegas would recognize that everything around them was faulty and fake. I prayed relentlessly that they would understand that Jesus is what is real. As I prayed I realized that Las Vegas was really not any different from the rest of America. We focus on what is fake instead of what is real. We focus on fake stories through Netflix. We focus on pointing out what it fake news and we focus on fake fulfillment in purchasing the next best thing. All along the real fulfillment and real love is right in front of us. As I looked over the “Sin City,” where I would spend the next week, I prayed for strangers to meet and fall and love with Jesus.

 

The next day we attended service at Grace City Church where they introduced the phrase “turn Sin City into Grace city.” I laughed, but later I started to dream of what that would look like. That phrase started to reoccur in my prayers after that. After we arrived back from the service, we did evangelism training to prepare for that night. Evening came and we worshipped on the strip, waiting for God to lead us to evangelize or pray with someone. Lexi and I prayed with a man who stopped to worship. He said he wanted to take this idea to worship out in public back where he is from in California. We prayed with him—a total stranger. Later, a man who was heavily under the influence of alcohol stumbled where we were. There were several conversations amidst the group with strangers, and Satan sent this man to distract from the fruitful conversations. One of the leaders prayed specifically that God would quiet his tongue. The moment she ended he passed out on the sidewalk. I felt heartbroken for him as I recognized he was most likely drinking to numb himself from something that was hurting him. I began to pray over him and as I did, he was stirring. He continued to readjust himself until I said Amen. As soon as I said Amen, he did not move the rest of the time. I couldn’t stop thinking about that moment. I prayed with a couple people that night—each of them strangers.

 

Day three rolled around, and I did not know it when I woke up, but it was the most difficult day for me personally. We started off by traveling to Grace City’s House of Prayer where we prayed and worshipped. The worship throughout the entire trip was easily the most Spirit-led worship I have ever been a part of. After we finished there, we went to Fremont Street where we were offering free prayer to people. We partnered up and were supposed to go ask to pray with people we felt led to speak to within the boundaries set by the leaders. As an introvert, I was incredibly intimidated by the idea of walking up to random strangers to ask to pray with them. I loved the idea, but actually doing it was a whole new ball game. As my partner and I passed people, I could feel a pull to talk to specific people; however, another voice was convincing me not to. I was battling inside my head when a large man approached my partner and me. Our conversation quickly escalated to the point that he yelled in my face and walked away. Mitch came over quickly and asked what had happened. I answered immediately that I was not sure and it was not a big deal. In reality, that was Satan attacking me and it was only the beginning. The voice telling me not to talk to the people became much louder after the difficult encounter. I began to be filled with things like “You think you are called to ministry and you can’t even talk to people” or “You are called to Urban Ministry and you are failing.” This mission activity was incredibly challenging, but God redeemed it later on in the trip. When we arrived back, I was prompted by one of the YWAM leaders to share my experience. After I shared, Mitch and I had a conversation that I know was completely led by the Holy Spirit. God taught me that I must rely on Him through all experiences, especially ones like those. I spent some time with the Lord to prepare for the anti-sex trafficking outreach we were scheduled for that night. For this outreach, we were passing out fliers of the most recent missing children to the lower end motels and gas stations. As we drove around, I felt an overwhelming comfort in walking into any of the motels, including the ones that looked to most unappealing to enter. I knew that my overwhelming sense of peace occurred for two reasons after reflection. One—God was showing me that I am capable of performing any ministry in any circumstance if I rely and trust in Him. (I had not earlier that day.) Two—God instilled a passion in me that day for anti-human trafficking. He broke my heart over that topic that day, so I wanted to do anything to help.

 

The fourth day we attended worship at the House of Prayer again. In the afternoon, we packed a lunch for ourselves and for a homeless person, and we headed to what is known as the homeless corridor. When we arrived on the street, my heart dropped to the pit of my stomach. There was hardly any space along that entire street, because it was filled with homeless people. As I looked at each of the strangers, my heart broke for them. When I saw homeless in the city near my hometown, I would look the other way while passing. As we walked down the street, I tried to make eye contact with as many as I could. Their eyes told me they had stories. Mitch was my partner for this outreach, and we found a guy named Richie to sit with. We gave him a lunch, sat, and ate with him. As we ate, he told us a little about his story. The whole time we were talking, I kept thinking I would have never done this back home on my own. Later I asked myself why not? In the evening, some of the group went to the park and a few of us went to relieve foster parents for a night in order for them to go on a date.

 

The fifth day came, and I could not believe how quickly the week had gone. The last day was the block party, which I believe was one of my favorite parts of the trip. At the block party, I had the opportunity to share my testimony and a spoken word I had wrote myself. I was incredibly nervous, but God reminded me that in those moments it is not me but the Holy Spirit speaking through me. God gave me my testimony for a reason. God gives each of a testimony for a reason, and we have the opportunity to use it as a tool to show people how incredible our God is. After I shared, I was able to speak with a woman and pray over her—a complete stranger. By the end of the week, praying with and speaking with a complete stranger felt normal.

 

On the last day, we spent a day exploring Las Vegas. In the evening, there was a commitment service night where were could make a commitment to God of any kind. We spread out across the room to pray and worship with God. I began to pray to God seriously questioning my call to not only urban ministry but ministry in general. I cried as I said, “God make it completely clear if you want me in ministry. Give me a sign that is so blatantly clear I cannot deny it.” As soon as I said Amen, Mitch came around the corner, and said “God told me to tell you that your call to ministry is so clear and I saw it all week.” I obviously cried more. I think sometimes we doubt how amazing God is. We are afraid to pray out of fear that he won’t answer our prayers. God answered my prayer in a big way, and he redeemed the day I struggled. He showed me that not every day in ministry is going to be stellar, but every day in ministry will have God’s presence. That is all I need.

 

As I conclude on my reflection of this trip, I see a theme. God was calling me to love on complete strangers. Our society and our culture preaches hate, yet God preaches love. He calls us to love everyone, including a complete stranger, so why the heck are we not doing it? I question why it is radical to go and pray on the street with people. I question why we even consider what our team did a mission trip. Shouldn’t what we did be things that we do normally? Shouldn’t we be sharing the good news of Jesus with anyone—especially the people we see hurting? I keep coming back to the same question only a little different—what would it look like if we had the kind of faith that led us to talk to complete strangers about Jesus ON A NORMAL BASIS?

 

The world would look like a completely different place.

Uninvited

I think in society today, one of the biggest fears everyone has is the fear of not being included or invited; I have a confession to make. It is one of my fears–a fear of missing out. The problem with this fear is it has become enhanced thanks to technology like social media.

People are obsessed with the next best thing or doing the cool thing and sharing it with their followers and friends. It’s probably because they want to look like they have their life together. Truth be told, they probably don’t, because no one really does. That is the problem with social media. It escalates that fear. Fear being:

F- False

E- Evidence

A- Appearing

R- Real

I know, because I do it too. I could be having the worst day where I dumped coffee down the front of me, had an argument with a family member or friend, and spent the last fifteen minutes crying; however, I can post on social media that I just had the best cup of coffee in my life, and I am now energized to take on the day. It isn’t lying, because maybe I did have the best cup of coffee in my life. I just happened to wear more than I got to drink.

Sometimes, I wonder what it would look like if instead of always trying to do the next best thing, everyone focused on making the present moment the best moment yet. I think of the times I let an entire day become ruined because I am stuck in sorrow after seeing that I wasn’t invited to something. I let myself become devoured by lies from Satan like I wasn’t good enough to be invited. While stuck in sorrow, I missed an opportunity to be the inviter. It may not be exactly what you wanted, but it is an opportunity to find that you desired something you didn’t know you wanted.

There are days I cry, because I focus in on the fact that I wasn’t invited to something. I think that I did something or there is something wrong with me. I laugh when I am outside that moment, because going to that dinner or that party doesn’t mean anything when you consider the ultimate invitation etched within Scripture. I am invited to the ultimate party–a party with the ultimate host. I am not good enough nor do I deserve the invitation, but I am chosen.

When I start to feel down in the dumps, because I may not have been invited to an event, I can remember the invitation I already have–the invitation I was chosen to receive.  I can also remember that I don’t always have to be the invited, but I can be the inviter.

And you can too.

Obey

Obey

Let God tell you it’s going to be okay.

When you feel like you can’t make it another day,

pray.

 

Sometimes, God gives you a call

it feels as if He is making you fall

or throwing you into a wall,

but that is not the case at all.

 

God knows more than you do.

We have absolutely no clue

why God would make some things ensue,

but listen to Him—only Him you should pursue.

 

Obey

Pray

Let God tell you it is going to be okay.

 

How? is probably a question you may ask.

How can you follow the call and perform the task?

 

Obey

Pray

 

God will provide you with what you need—

whether it is to help someone flourish or just plant the seed.

 

Obey

 

It is hard,

because sometimes it leaves you scarred.

 

But abide.

Take Pride

 

that a perfect God wants to lead you,

so pursue what He is calling you to do.

A Dream vs A Call

Growing up my favorite game to play was “school” where I was the teacher and anyone I could find to play with me was the student. I loved school and I still do. There has always been something about learning new material in an academic environment that led me to immense joy. I was more often than not the student who always connected with her teachers. Even more so, many of my teachers have left lasting impacts on my life.

With all of this being said, since I was in first grade, I wanted to be a teacher; it was my dream. It really was all I could talk about. When the time came for me to check the box next to a major, it seemed like the simple, obvious option; however, there was something deep within me that stirred.

I wasn’t sure what that stirring inside me was nor what it meant. Later, I had a hint about what it possibly could be, but it did not match my plan, causing me to ignore it. The stirring inside me became stronger as the time for college crept closer. I wrestled with it until I decided to vocalize my thought of what the stirring could possibly be. After lots of discouraging responses, I decided that I was misinterpreting the feeling inside, and I would continue the plan I had always known–to  be a teacher.

I arrived at Indiana Wesleyan a little less than a month ago. My time here has been a roller coaster. It was different than I thought it would be. For some reason, something just did not feel right. While I was navigating the transition of college, the stirring inside me rose again only this time it was stronger than ever before. At first, I ignored it and went about my classes, but I couldn’t ignore it for long.

It all started with a conversation with a Professor. She had just finished a lecture that I attended with Lexi, my roommate. I was not even her student as I had decided to attend with Lexi for fun. (I recognize that a student who attends a lecture for fun is a nerd.) She approached me and introduced herself, asking me what my major was. I responded that I was an elementary education major. She smiled and asked if I had always wanted to do that. I hesitated. The conversation led to her telling me that it was one hundred percent biblical for a woman to be in ministry, and that is where my story begins.

I didn’t expect any of this to happen. Classes started and I still felt like something was off. I was enjoying my classes, but not as much as I thought I would. There was one class, though, that I loved; it was theology. I prayed to the Lord asking why I was feeling confused and disheartened. I had been looking forward to college for so long, but I was in my room crying more than socializing.

One night, I was in my dorm studying, and two girls on my floor at separate times asked if I was a ministry major or if I had considered being one. They each followed with the idea that they saw me as a ministry major, which was why they asked. I laughed and told them I was in education, but later I thought about their questioning more seriously. That night I prayed to God for a significant amount of time, seeking out what God wanted for me.

The next day, I had a mandatory, one-on-one meeting with my theology professor. Our conversation was great; I was able to learn about her as she was able to learn about me. I thought we were finishing up our conversation until she stopped me and asked if I had ever considered that maybe I had a call to ministry. I just laughed.

I prayed harder than I ever had before, wondering what in the world was wrong with me. I was not content here, and I had not the slightest clue why. I asked God to make it abundantly clear what path he wanted me to pursue. My dream was always education, but maybe my call was something else. The following weekend, I grabbed my friend Rebekah and headed to Fort Wayne to visit my former youth pastor’s church.

The service started with an opening prayer, and the word’s nearly knocked me out of my seat. The pastor stated that he felt that there was anxiety in the room and that whether it was caused by change, a large decision, financial insecurity, or a loss to trust the Lord and give it to Him. Rebekah and I laughed as the prayer was so relevant it was as if God was slamming a brick in our faces, saying here is what I want you to do. As I tried to comprehend the prayer and what God was saying to me, Matt, took the stage. He began preaching, and his sermon was the icing on the cake.

When I really considered why I hadn’t chose ministry as my major, I always went back to the same thoughts. I was afraid and it wasn’t part of the plan. Also, I didn’t want to upset the people who had discouraged me. Then Matt opened his Bible and read the following verse: “…Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent for I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you…” -Acts 18:9-10

I knew right then what that stirring was and why I was so discontent at IWU. Today I made one of the biggest decisions of my life. I chose to listen to God, and disregard my plans for myself. I chose to trust God. I met with my professor today and officially changed my major. I am now a christian ministries major with a minor in biblical literature. I am following my call that I know more clearly than ever to full time ministry. Only God knows exactly what that looks like, and I trust Him.

Since my decision, I have not stopped smiling. I have a couple of friends that I can already tell will be lifelong friends. My discontent is gone and the stirring inside my stomach is now buzzing inside my heart ready for whatever God has planned for me. This has not been my dream my whole life, but it has been my call, and God knew all along. I knew I always wanted to be a teacher, but I never knew it would be a teacher of the Word.

Trust Your Instinct

“We are meeting every Wednesday night at this place. It is a restaurant. The vibe is weird there but the food is good. So good, in fact, that it is almost addicting,” Maddie told Jenna.

“Sure I will come,” Jenna replied.

An hour after their conversation Jenna pulled into the parking lot with a weird feeling rising from the pit of her stomach to her throat. The building was made of gray brick and there weren’t any windows. Jenna noticed that there weren’t very many cars in the parking lot either, but she did notice the gray transit and kia that Maddie’s family always drove. She parked next to them and turned off the car. The weird feeling flipped in her throat again. She acknowledged its recurrence, but chose to go inside anyway.

Walking up the cement steps, she looked up at the large black door. Once she reached the top of the steps, she reached for the knob; she hesitated. Something was not right, and she could not place it. She turned to look towards the street and noticed there wasn’t a restaurant sign. Actually, there wasn’t any way of knowing this building housed a restaurant at all. She turned back to face the door, contemplating whether or not she should enter. She started to leave, but remembered Maddie and her family were inside. There was no way this restaurant was inimical, because Maddie’s family would never attend there otherwise. Jenna chuckled at herself for being so paranoid and turned the knob, stepping her first foot on old, deteriorated wood. She walked in and noticed an old woman situated at the front desk right away. There were black chairs with green cushions that lined the walls. A few souls sat in the chairs dispersed around the room. Jenna avoided eye contact with any of them, heading straight for the old woman at the desk.

“Excuse me. I am looking for the restaurant” Jenna stated.

“Down the stairs,” the woman grunted.

The voice startled Jenna. It was much too low to be a voice of a woman and the grunt within the voice sounded like a noise from a pig. Jenna shook off the encounter and started for the staircase. Once she rounded the stairs, she saw another door. Turning past the door, she smiled at her second family sitting at a long table covered with a white cloth. Jenna laid eyes on Maddie first, smiled at her, then glanced around the table to see who would be present for dinner.

“Hey Jenna!” Emery exclaimed as he walked to her to greet her with a hug. The rest of the family followed suit. The dinner consisted of family style turkey, mashed potatoes with gravy, and green beans. Everyone passed the bowls around after the waiter placed the food in the center. Jenna observed the waiter while everyone else jumped to serving the food.

He was tall, thin, and had some scruff. He wasn’t friendly nor was he rude; it was that awkward in between.

“What are you staring at?” Maddie asked.

“Oh nothing! I was just thinking, so I stared off into space.” Jenna replied quickly.

“The food is delicious, so you should dive in.” Linda exclaimed.

Jenna nibbled at her mashed potatoes, but because she could not shake the feeling that something was off, she decided it was probably better to shift her food around the plate instead of ingesting it. After hours of laughter and conversation, everyone realized that the restaurant would be closing soon, so it was time to leave. Everyone stood from their chairs overstuffed from the food.

The waiter darted back to the kitchen as everyone began to leave. Jenna exchanged hugs with everyone as they began to head up the stairs towards the parking lot. She was on her way out as well but decided to stop for a restroom break before her drive home.

The bathroom, old and unsanitary, was a destination in which Jenna would spend the least amount of time that she could. The feeling she got in this place was unlike anything she had ever experienced. She couldn’t interpret it, but she could interpret the growling of her stomach since she chose not to eat at the restaurant. The toilet flushed as she stood up. Quickly, she washed her hands and dried them. She opened the restroom door to find that everyone had left. That only made her want to leave that much more. On her way out, she glanced around the room. There were only two other guests dining in the restaurant and the waiter was in the kitchen doorway watching them like a hawk. Suddenly, his dark eyes met hers. She darted her eyes towards the wooden floor. After a couple steps, she glanced at him again. He was glaring at her. Her pace quickened as she reached the staircase. Taking two steps at a time, she made her way towards her car and farther away from the creepy place that gave her a feeling she just couldn’t shake.

The half way point of the staircase was marked by a landing; right as her foot hit the landing a large, disgruntled man stepped out of the door near the bottom of the stairs.

“This place isn’t what you think it is. This place doesn’t just have a restaurant for the money. They don’t make money just through the restaurant either. This place isn’t what you think it is,” he said panicked. Jenna turned to get a quick look at the character shouting such remarks, matching her suspicions. The crazy look in his eye told her that if she didn’t get out of this building right that second she may never see the light of day again. She practically ran the rest of the way up the stairs unaware that the strange man was following her. She ran past the people in the waiting room and the old woman at the desk. The front door shook, but it did not budge as she pulled.

“This place isn’t what you think it is,” the man shouted again. She shook the door as if her life depended on it, because quite frankly, she was pretty sure it did. Jenna observed the door from top to bottom. There were two small locks at the bottom near the floor. Kneeling down, she flipped both locks as the man made his way toward her; she was very aware of his closeness now. The door flew open this time, revealing the empty parking lot with only her car. Seconds passed, and she was in her car with the door shut and locked. She sped off unsure of where to even begin in attempting to process the events that just unraveled.

Jumbles of thoughts shot around in her brain. Did they poison the food? Was Maddie’s family who she thought they were? Was she just letting her imagination get the best of her? She arrived home and prayed.

“Amen,” she ended. She decided that it must have been all a pigment of her imagination. She probably misread the waiter, misheard the man at the bottom of the stairs, and Maddie’s family was her family now. She knew they wouldn’t ever do anything to put her in danger. Jenna thought about talking through the crazy thoughts she had with the family, but decided it was better just to keep it to herself and hope that they would choose another restaurant for the following Wednesday.

“Hey Jenna! We are planning to meet at the same restaurant as last week. I have been craving those mashed potatoes all week,” Maddie exclaimed.

“Oh. I though you said you wanted to cut back on the carbs,” Jenna replied, fishing for a reason to talk Maddie into another restaurant.

“Yeah I thought so too, but those mashed potatoes are all I can think about. I am not the only one either. The rest of my family has been craving the food as well. Meet us there at 7?” she asked.

“Uh I think I have something Wednesday.”

“You just told me you were free through text an hour ago.”

“Oh right… I forgot my plans were cancelled. I will be there.”

The clock ticked by as Jenna felt more uneasy by the second. She tried to convince herself that she needed to get out of her own head and enjoy some fellowship with her family in Christ.

She pulled into the parking lot just as the Youngs were getting out of their car. Molly ran over and opened her car door.

“Hey Jenna! I can’t wait to eat their food! Can you?” Molly yelled while jumping up and down.

“Uh yeah I can’t wait either,” Jenna said nervously smiling.

“Come on!” Molly grabbed Jenna’s hand and led her to the door. The old lady wasn’t at the desk this time nor were there people in the chairs. Molly pulled Jenna down the stairs right to the table they were at the week before. The table was set as if it were the Wednesday before; nothing was different.

The food was served in the same platter by the same waiter with the same weird look in his eye. Oddly enough, Jenna also noticed the same two diners at the same table as before. It was as if it was the following Wednesday and no time had passed at all. Everyone barely let the waiter set the food on the table before digging in. The feeling that overwhelmed Jenna the week before was unbearable this week. It did not leave room for an appetite. She quietly put her food in a slot under the table so that it looked as if she ate the meal alongside them. The waiter eyeballed her frequently, so Jenna had to be sly. Conversation was normal, but everything else was far from, and Jenna was in disbelief that she seemed to be the only one noticing.

Luckily, the night didn’t last as long as the week before as all of them had to be up early the next morning to drive a significant ways away for a job. Again, Jenna had to use the restroom. She thought that if she went right then, then they wouldn’t leave her there alone again. Four minutes passed during her bathroom trip, and she rushed back out only to find an empty table; it happened again. The waiter was in the same doorway except this time he was more intent on watching the couple at the far table. Jenna bolted towards the stairs. Immediately, the door flew open.

“You won’t listen, will you? This place isn’t what you think it is,” the same man from before yelled. Jenna didn’t take the time to look back at him this time. She went right for the two locks, noticing in her peripheral vision the chairs in the upstairs were still empty. She glided out the door to her car.

“There is absolutely no possible way I am returning to this place,” she wheezed to herself, driving home.

The phone rang Tuesday night, causing Jenna’s stomach to flip as Maddie’s name flashed across her phone’s screen.

“Hello?”

“Hey Jenna! Are you ready for those mashed potatoes tomorrow?” Maddie exclaimed.

“Uh sure.” Jenna couldn’t believe herself. She just agreed to go to the same place after promising herself not to go.

“Great! See you at 7!” The phone clicked. She would arrive and leave at the same time as the rest of them. No excuses. She also felt an obligation to go to watch out for them. They seemed to almost be in a trance while they were at this sketchy place.

She pulled in a little late as traffic was backed up more than normal. She opened the door to find the old woman back at the front desk. There were around six people dispersed in chairs around the room again. Jenna walked slower towards the stairs to give herself some time to look at the faces of the people. Every single one of them looked as if no one was home. They all had blank stares. Jenna made her way down the stairs, immediately, noticing that the dining area was more crowded than normal. Everyone was at the normal table, but in the back was a long table of special needs adults, each one wearing an identical set of blue scrubs.

Dinner carried on as usual; they devoured the food on their plates while Jenna shoved her food around to make it look like she ate as well. Jenna couldn’t believe that Maddie was more interested in the food than she was in the special needs adults sitting nearby. Normally, Jenna and Maddie would lose their minds over how much they loved any special needs they saw in public. Tonight, Maddie was completed uninterested.

The waiter walked over to the table full of the special needs and slammed the plate of mashed potatoes and gravy on the table. The gravy flew all over the adult nearest him.

“Hey! That not nice mister!” the man yelled. The waiter laughed and turned to walk back towards the kitchen. Jenna’s heart dropped. The Smiths were all exchanging hugs and goodbyes, complete missing the scene Jenna was appalled by. She quickly said her goodbyes before she quickly rushed to find a manager. She reached the manager and lost all control, completely forgetting where she was.

“Your waiter should be ashamed of himself. He should not treat someone with disabilities in the way he did. If you want our group’s business, then you better fire him,” Jenna screamed.

“Oh you will be back regardless of if we fire him,” she replied with a smile and walked away. Jenna was shocked; she turned to storm up the stairs right as the door swung open yet again.

The door swung shut. He didn’t chase her this time. Jenna hustled out the door back to her car. She began processing everything that had occurred every trip she had made there. The realization of what was occurring hit her like a brick to the face.

Two Types of People I Love

I have a tendency to overcommit myself as I am someone who struggles with the word “no.” Guilt has a tendency to answer for me when people ask for favors. I love to volunteer and even more so, I love people; however, I recognize that too much can equal overwhelming feelings.

The idea of overcommitting stemmed from my exhausting (and extremely rewarding) week of volunteering at two major events. Over the course of this week, or more so the past three days, I have learned several things about myself.

The first is that I love people, but I also need time to recharge. I hosted my graduation open house on Sunday where I had the amazing opportunity to speak with many of my friends and family in the celebration of my graduation. While it was an incredible experience, I felt like I had been hit by a bus by the end of the party. I recognized pretty quickly at VBS the next night that I was not capable of serving in my fullest capacity if I did not allow myself some time to recharge with some quality time with myself as well as God.

The second thing I learned about myself this week is that I love both kids and special needs. They both can make you smile even when you are facing the toughest of circumstances. The pure joy and confidence that oozes from a student with a disability is simply remarkable. I enter into time with them thinking I will be able to help them and teach them. Ironically, they end up teaching me significantly more. Kids have a purity to them that I am jealous of. Most of them haven’t been completely tainted by the world yet. Their lack of a filter when sharing the way they see something or someone is humorous on a high level.

The third thing I learned about myself throughout the week is that I know God led me to the right decision in choosing a major for my future career. I learned that I love people, yes, but I have two favorite types of people: people with disabilities and kids. God led me on a path to study elementary education and special education. It is easy to question all the decisions you made that will impact your future over the course of the summer before starting college, especially when you see the dollar amount of debt you will soon drown in. The week of VBS and Project Reach made me realize that I should not question my calling. The Lord has placed me where he wants me, and everything else will eventually fall into place.

Busy weeks can be the most stressful; however, they are definitely the most rewarding. I am thankful for the opportunities I have been given this summer. The point I am at in life is interesting because I learn more and more about myself everyday. I recognize that lately, life has just been a journey to discover who I am as a daughter in Christ.

True Meaning of Memorial Day

The meaning behind Memorial Day is concealed by a race and a day off of school and work. When one pulls off the cover that consists of cars speeding around a track and cookouts, one can see the decorated graves of loved ones lost in order for people to have freedom. Bruce Lambert wrote an article for the New York Times titled “Recalling the Meaning Behind Memorial Day.” He includes in his article, “ In 1868, Maj. Gen. John A. Logan ordered that: ‘The 30th day of May is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land’” (Lambert). Memorial Day is in memory of the men and women who raced for their life on the battlefield so that Americans would have the freedom to watch cars race around a track.

Memorial Day is about the father, husband, son, brother, mother, daughter, wife, or friend that lost their life in the line of duty. War is not a video game that is played on a television screen nor is it a dramatic addition to make a movie or book action-packed. It is a reality in which millions of families face the day they look into their loved ones’ eyes to say goodbye—not knowing whether it could be the last time. War is a nightmare made into a reality into which men and women alike volunteer themselves in order to gain confidence that their American people are eligible to maintain their freedom. America would not be America without the soldiers that put their country before their own lives.

Memorial Day is a day to honor the men and women who kissed their loved ones goodbye before they left for war and never returned. The U. S. Department of Veteran Affairs explains further on their website The National Moment of Remembrance under “Memorial Day History.” The article states, “The National Moment of Remembrance encourages all Americans to pause wherever they are at 3 p.m. local time on Memorial Day for a minute of silence to remember and honor those who have died in service to the nation” (“Office”). Although it is a significant day to recognize the fallen, it is important to remember them daily. Each soldier has an impact and a relevance to each American’s daily life. The families of a fallen soldier—it is your honor to be related to such a hero.

This day should not only be a day to remember the fallen heroes, but also to inspire Americans to live a life, embracing the gift of freedom. Wallace Bruce, a poet, once said in his poem “Memorial-Day,” “Who kept the faith and fought the fight; The glory theirs, the duty ours.” It is the American public’s duty to rise above the hatred that has consumed this country and join together, because regardless of race, gender, or religion, we are all American. Thank you to the fallen soldiers who have fought for the right to claim that title—American.