1. Take the leap outside of your comfort zone.
Growth happens OUTSIDE of your comfort zone. When you fully immerse yourself into something unknown you are given a new opportunity to discover something exciting and maybe even a new passion in life. You won't know unless you try. So go after that one thing that you keep holding yourself back from. 

2. There is no definitive path to navigate through life.
I had a distinct plan for my life after I graduated high school. Go to college followed by grad school and marry the guy I was dating at that time. Begin having children in my early 20's and make a house a home with my little family. Grow our family on the foundation of loving Jesus Christ. Guess what...that relationship ended, I graduated college with two degrees after transferring schools, I did not attend grad school, I rented an apartment for a while then moved back in with my mom, I am 26 years young without a husband or children and I am now pursuing travel physical therapy with my puppy. Talk about a complete turn of plans!! It took me a long time to accept that my path is not wrong nor is there a "correct" path to take. Everyone has a story written for them by God, He has our journey mapped out and we do not need to worry or feel pressured but rather, love Him and love others. That is my new plan.

3. Pray + Love + Be Kind.
Pray your way through the good and bad times, love those you meet (even the mean ones, God will handle them later), and always remember how far a simple act of kindness can go.

4. Adopt a puppy.
Fun fact: the longest I have ever gone without having a dog in my life was 3 months as I was transitioning to my first apartment and returning from an international mission trip. I am definitely what one would label "a dog person" complete with my obsession with puppies and my unashamed dog voice. Once life was somewhat settled I adopted a shepherd mix puppy from a rescue organization called Tails of Hope in Cincinnati, OH. He is my little fur baby that I am completely obsessed with. So, do a good deed and adopt from a rescue shelter.

5. Read, read, and read some more.
I grew up a reader and continue to enjoy it. You can usually find me with a book in hand at nighttime reading myself to sleep. I am an old soul. The more I read as a young adult the more I am reminded of just how important it really is and how far it can bring you in your education, everyday life, and for me personally, my writing skills.

 6. Write what's on your heart.
My blog's main purpose is to encourage others. To use my hills and valleys to help those who may relate, even if it is just one reader. The other focus of my blog is to keep it raw, real, and vulnerable. To be honest, I struggle with that sometimes because I think to myself "I am here to encourage others, not fill the space with a sad post or share that I am having a rough day," however I remind myself that there is no such thing as perfection and everyone has rough days. 

7. The past is the past.

Life goes on. The pages will keep turning. Whatever you are currently struggling with, I am here to say that I promise times will get better. Loss, heartbreak, grief, hardships will all mend with time and while the scar of those adversities may be present, you are given the opportunity to come back a completely renewed person with a newfound strength that you may never have known was inside you. Use it for the greater good, embrace the good and bad days that will follow.

8. Volunteer.
You know what I find more beautiful than anything? Someone willing to put themselves in a situation that may be outside of their comfort zone or in a situation where they share what they have knowing they will not receive anything tangible in return. Being the hands and feet of Jesus..."Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms." 1 Peter 4:10. LOVE THIS VERSE. God blessed each and every person with an extraordinary gift that is different from person to person. What an amazing God we serve. Use your gift to encourage your family, friends, community, or abroad.

9. Believe in something greater than yourself.

I cannot express to you how fulfilling and encouraging it is to believe in something greater than yourself. For me, I believe that God sent his only son Jesus Christ to die on the cross for our sins and my job here on earth is to Love God and Love others. It gives me a deeper purpose and a desire to continue spreading the joy that I have in my heart. When hard times hit I can dig deep into my heart and soul to find that even little bit of joy that is left and be full of the love of Jesus Christ. For some it may not be your faith or maybe you are on the fence about pursuing a relationship with Jesus Christ and strengthening that foundation. My prayer is that you find that something that overfills your heart with love to discover your purpose in life.

10. Don't be afraid to say "no."
I continue to struggle with this one because simply put, I am a people pleaser. I would much rather see that you are content, that you are given the advantage point even if it causes a little more stress in my life. It is just how I am. However, I am learning that I cannot do it all and that my well-being is just as important because how can I be a light to others if my overall well-being is in a constant struggle? Pursue the things that you enjoy doing, move forward on your own path, grow into the person you are called to be and be conscious of others' opinions but do not let them change you and your passions.

11. Accept that there will be tough days.
I have had my fair share of hardships in my short 26 years. Perfection does not exist. There is no such thing as a perfect life, family, relationship, etc. Instead we serve a God who formed our hearts, He sees our imperfections and continues to love us through those. We will have days that are rough, morning alarms that are difficult to wake up to and begin the day, days at work in which we feel inadequate, or days when we just feel discouraged. It happens. So when those days arise, say a little prayer or share your difficult situation with a trustworthy friend and ask for some encouragement to tackle the day. 

12. Use your trials to encourage others.
As we all know, hardships happen and man do some of them have a way of knocking us down to our lowest point. But do you know what is amazing? We ALL experience those low points whether it be once in a lifetime or like most, multiple times. How you handle those hardships are what define you and who you are. Say a prayer and calm your overwhelmed heart to reach a point of clarity. Ask yourself, "Okay God, they say you give the toughest battles to your toughest soldiers, lead me, guide me in this storm. How can I use this storm to lead others to You?"

13. Find the humility to laugh at yourself.
No one likes a prideful person. People gravitate towards humbleness. When you have the power to embrace your embarrassing moments and laugh it off it shows confidence and a sense of boldness. Not to mention, laughing is good for the soul. Putting others before yourself is a beautiful way of surrendering and coming out a stronger person because of it. 

14. Never forget where you came from. 
We all know that one person, Someone who lost themselves in earthly things that in the end will have absolutely on value. Always remember the experiences and the people that helped build you into the person you are today. Remember whose you are and you will always stay grounded. 

15. Go on solo adventures.
One of my favorite things to do is take a little day trip on a free day which always ends up being a Saturday. I am totally the type of person to enjoy solo or group adventures. I am more than comfortable enough to sit at a coffee shop or a restaurant by myself with my laptop in tow and latte in hand without feeling uncomfortable. I always come back to my reality after these adventures feeling refreshed, restored and rejuvenated. Some day trips that I have taken include Lake Michigan, all local coffee shops, outdoor outings with my puppy, venturing around the city, or even something as simple as a drive with my range of music from 80's rock to worship to 90's country and everything in between.

16. Make the most of every little thing.
I have always felt this way as far back as I can remember. I've always been the girl that stops to appreciate something that is overlooked by most everyone. These small details in life are what make up the biggest moments. As they say, it's about the journey not the destination. Enjoy it while you're here!

17. You are created in the image of God.
We all have our downfalls and our insecurities. We are human after all. He formed us in the beauty of His love and grace and He laid out our path before we were even born. Amazing! Embrace what we consider are imperfections and hand it to God because in His eyes we are one of a kind and so dearly loved. 

18. Take a technology detox. 
On a mission to Chile we had the opportunity to spend a few days up in the mountains. When I say up in the mountains I mean way up in the mountains. Zero cell phone service staying in cabins and swinging off of manmade rope swings into a nearby river. (It was absolutely incredible.) We were forced to put our phones down and truly experience what was around us. Have face to face conversations, explore nature in a whole new light. I strongly encourage you to take a technology detox every once in a while. It does good for the soul.

19. Show your appreciation.
Never forget the power of a simple Thank You! These are two words that are so easily forgotten, yet so important in our daily lives. 

20. Life is short.
I experienced tragic loss at a very young age ad learned this lesson right away. I admit, I sometimes underestimate just how short life is at times but the older I get the more I realize how important it is to do the things you love and to pursue your passions because that is the only way to truly get the most out of this life. 

21. Get outside and get some sunshine.
I am definitely a "weather affects my mood" type of person. In the Indiana winter months when I feel cabin fever at its worst, I find that simply going outside and taking in fresh air (even if it is freezing) instantly lifts my mood. Now, if you have the option to sunbathe I definitely suggest that as well. :)

22. It's okay to be single.
Is this one a rough concept or what? Being single is not easy, it can feel lonesome and discouraging. On a personal note, I have been single for about five years. I have been on plenty of first dates that I quickly ended (I am selective), I have been pursued by men that I valued as friendships and I have seen many friends new and old get married to the love of their life and begin their life adventures together. All that being said, I find it extremely encouraging when I see single women pursuing their heart's deepest desires, pursuing their faith wholeheartedly, excelling at their careers and finding peace and patience in the season of waiting. Remember Jeremiah 31:3 "I have loved you with an everlasting love, therefore I have continued by faithfulness to you." We are loved by an amazing God, single/married/widowed whatever your situation may be. And He is faithful through each and every one of our seasons.

23. Take every opportunity to experience the beauty around you.
The world is a big place, take a moment to look around your own community, get to know the people you pass by everyday, and if you have the opportunity to explore new towns, or continents...DO IT. I promise you won't regret it.

24. Your inner circle says a lot about you - choose wisely.
People come and go over the years. You will soon discover who your core group of people consists of and I suggest that you hold onto them. The ones who build you up when you're down and celebrate the good times right along with you. The ones who encourage you to be the best person you can be. 

25. See the good in everyone, but be wise enough to realize not everyone is for you.
This one is hard for me. I am the type to see the good in everyone. I have a hard time realizing that not all intentions are meant for "good." Continue to see the good in everyone but let your wisdom sneak in to validate the situation. 

26. Matthew 7:3 Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?
This one is a biggie. Why judge someone else for who they are when you yourself will never be perfect? We all make mistakes. Let's leave the judging up to the Big Man upstairs. He will take care of it, I promise. Just love everyone in the meantime. 



Thursday July 13th

This morning a few of us had the opportunity to chat with Roy, an influential part of Strong Missions. We were eating our breakfast for the last time at the mission base and having some small talk when Roy asked us what we consider the meaning of life is. Personally, I love these kind of deep convos. It opens peoples' hearts and souls to be revealed to those around them and you always walk away feeling a deeper sense of purpose.

Roy expressed his heart's desire for each person to know their own power in this world. To realize the change we have the power to make to positively impact the world around us. He said if only everyone realized they are gifted beautifully and individually, the world would be a much better place. He has a beautiful soul that longs to see a better world and I am so grateful to have met him.

We left for Cahuita, on the Caribbean, soon after breakfast. What was expected to be about a 4.5 hour bus ride ended up being almost 6 hours. We stopped at one rest stop on the way for some snacks and empanadas. YUM.

Once we arrived we had the chance to explore Cahuita, the national park, the beach, and continue our seemingly endless eating. I absolutely love the sound of the ocean waves so of course this captured my heart immediately.

Tonight we went out for smoothies and strawberry daiquiris followed by a night spent dancing with the locals. Almost 3 hours of dancing...in the humidity. We definitely fully immersed ourselves in each aspect of this mission and connected to our fellow Costa Rican friends as much as we could. If you want the most out of life, make the most of each little moment.

Friday July 14th

Today is summed up with salt, sand, canopy tours and FOOD. Bonnie, our group leader, quoted "Seems like every time I turn around you guys are eating again!" To which we all agreed and headed onto our next foodie spot.

I was up and at 'em about 5:30 every morning ready to take on the day. This morning I turned my Bible to Colossians 3 verses 15 and 16. The words fit so perfectly with what we had experienced this week.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and counsel one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.

We went zip lining in the morning which fed my adventurous soul and left my abs aching from the constant tensing up when flying through the trees. We had awesome tour leaders and we even saw one of the most poisonous snakes in Costa Rica who casually crossed our path when hiking up to the next cable. We flew down 13 cables total and even did a Tarzan swing on one of them. Adrenaline rush for sure.

We spent the rest of the day exploring the festival area and shopping for souvenirs. The president of Costa Rica was in town this weekend so we saw a ton of security riding up and down the streets.

Saturday July 15th

Our last travel day...24 hours of traveling via buses, planes, and trucks we all arrived home safely. Also, no delays on the route home! It's a miracle. :)

My 4th time to Costa Rica has again transformed my heart. Each mission has a way of taking you outside of your comfort zone and imprints a new sense of being in this life. Although, my body is slightly exhausted, I returned with a longing to go onto my next adventure. I strongly encourage you to immerse yourself in serving above yourself, take yourself outside of your own comfort zone, conquer a fear that's been holding you back. I promise you won't regret it. Pura Vida.

To God be the glory.



Monday July 10th

Today began our first day of work including gardening, tinning, digging, concrete mixing, welding and spackling paste. We divided up our total team of 50 with Indiana + Texas included to each task and went to work. I love how everyone took their task given even if they had no experience in that particular area and tackled it without complaint. We worked together with people we had just met one day ago as if we had known them for years. Some of the Indiana team had activities ready for VBS with about 15 kids from the community where they discussed 1st Corinthians chapter 13 focusing on verses 4-8 :

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no recored of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But when there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 

The children are amazing at soccer which they love displaying for us to see and enjoy seeing our attempts to play. The language barrier is overcome as soon as you begin connecting on another level with the children. We had everything from bubbles, jump rope, beach balls and cross crafts and friendship bracelets to play with the kids. The joy on their faces brings so much happiness to those around them.

We also had the unique opportunity to learn salsa dancing. Most of our team members jumped right in without missing a step. Such a fun way to end the activities for the evening!

Devotions tonight included going around the group and saying what we have learned so far on this trip. We all agree we it's unreal that it's only our 1st full day here, it seems like we arrived weeks ago because we have already done so much. Most people discussed the fact that we are are so overprivileged in the US with the basic necessities we have readily available with an overabundance and just how much we take for granted. We also talked about how the people here are genuinely overjoyed with the simples things in life.

Side note: The cooks here have been absolutely incredible. Typically on past mission trips we have had rice and beans as a main dish, I don't like beans so the options were limited. We have had everything from tacos to chicken stir fry with fresh fruit and juice paired with each meal.

Tuesday July 11th

Today is our last full day of work. My group was working on putting the tin up on the outside walls yesterday and we are now onto the drywall portion as well as pouring some concrete. A couple of us learned our hand at drilling screws into the drywall, it was a rough start at first but then we began rocking it out. It has been awesome learning new trades and knowing that we are doing these tasks as a service to others to be the hands and feet of Jesus makes it that much more powerful.

The afternoon was filled with our last day of VBS with the kids, today we had about 30 kids from the community. The children really tug at my heartstrings on these missions. Their free spirits, loving hearts and realization of the important things in life as such young kids amazes me.

Charlie Strong, the director of Strong Missions leads a children's and adult's karate class on a weekly basis. We had the opportunity to watch him lead the karate kids in hour long intense sessions. The purpose of the activity is to instill a sense of belonging and community in them to keep them out of the gangs and off the streets, in hopes they will positively influence their own family and friends at home.

A group from our team went to the convenient store just down the road right before dinner, the uphills were grueling to say the least but we managed. It was a great workout! And to follow this wonderful workout, we got ice cream and sweets to help end the evening. :)

Wednesday July 12th

Good morning! Today we began the morning with our construction projects in which each group finished what they could. All in all, every group came a long way! It's amazing the progress to be seen with hard work, teamwork, and getting your hands dirty.

After our morning work, we hiked down to a beautiful river flowing not far from the mission base. It was so refreshing to hear the sound of the river flow and the greenery surrounding it. A couple people were brave enough to climb a couple of rocks and swing back on a sketchy rope swing. No falls were noted. :)

We hurried lunch along and headed to Latin American Biblical University where we got to hear the president speak as well as a few students originally from Peru and Chile. They shared a mixture of their testimonies and how they arrived at UBL. Their stories were very inspiring. I especially enjoyed one in particular who shared how she tries her hardest to be the light in the midst of darkness when surrounded by people who are not like minded in her faith. The joy that radiated naturally from here was infectious.

The artwork in this University was beautiful with spiritual meaning behind them. My favorite was the cross filled with earthly things we tend to discriminate people on. All of these discriminations on the cross are mixed together because God welcomes all of our brokenness. He is just that great of a God!

Tomorrow we leave for Cahuita on the Caribbean side after breakfast. We are all so excited to see all of the ways God continues to use us on this journey.

Thank you everyone for keeping us in your thoughts and prayers as we continue to venture our way through Costa Rica. We truly appreciate the support. :)



Saturday July 8th

[Romans 8:28] And we know that for those who love God all things will work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose. 

We were reminded today that just because we make our plans and expect them to go accordingly, does not always match what God's plan is. Our flights were delayed multiple times that put us arriving to Costa Rica 18 hours behind schedule on about 4 hours of sleep and waiting on some luggage to arrive on another flight due to the confusion. We were also reminded how far simple acts of kindness can go in these unplanned situations...a lesson we can all take home with us to use for the greater good.

[Colossians 3:12] Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.

Sunday July 9th

Finally our feet landed in Grecia, Costa Rica! We have a team of 21 and we met up with a team of 29 from Texas. For some of us, this makes multiple trips with Strong Missions. We were able to reunite with some familiar faces from years past and see how much their families have grown. These are truly amazing people with hearts of gold. I feel so blessed to have had the opportunity to have first met them ten years ago. My [extremely] broken Spanish can only get me so far verbally so thankfully we have a few people who jump right in to translate. Charlie, the founder of Strong Missions said it best, "The love of God surpasses all language barriers." 

We are surrounded by greenery and the most beautiful landscape, photos simply don't do it justice. There will be stray dogs that roam the grounds and you can hear the birds chirping almost always. The program assistant also informed us how common the scorpions and spiders are in this area to which we all triple checked our sleeping area and baggage to make sure we didn't have any unwanted critters. As a team we were able to have some time to connect with one another and become more oriented to where we're staying, our schedule for the week and becoming accustomed to Costa Rica in a short period of time. Tomorrow is when the work begins, we will be working on site where we are staying so we won't have to travel far. For devotion time I shared a couple of my favorite verses centered around how we are all made for a unique purpose designed by God if we lean into Him and put forth our kindness, compassion, humility, gentleness, and patience miracles will be done in Jesus name. 

Psalm 139:13-14 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that fully well. 

Matthew 17:20 I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.'

I pray that whether local or international you find something that sets your heart on fire. Something that reveals the passions of your heart and use it for the greater good. Even if you only encourage one person, that is one more life impacted by the love of Jesus. 



[A display of what mid-move looks like. Boxes, empty spaces, so much more room for random dance parties.]

Holy blogging hiatus!

I have been anxious to get back to writing and back to what makes me focus on my biggest aspirations, putting the "typical" stresses of life behind for a quick little blog post.

My mind feels like it's on overload sometimes, especially here lately. You know those days/weeks when you feel as if there is so much going on that it becomes hard to keep up, when life happens and plans do not necessarily go as YOU had been wanting. The past few weeks I have been reminded (yet, again) that as much as I think I can plan everything and expect it to go exactly that way without any detours or bumps in the road (and without having to rely on anyone, I can be stubborn when it comes to asking for help), I simply cannot do it alone.

We are placed in seasons of true reliance, perhaps even several seasons of reliance throughout our days here on earth. Times in life when our faith is really the only solid ground and firm foundation that we can stand on, even if it feels shaken. When our hope and strength in Christ is the one thing we count on that stays constant.

Writing helps clear my mind and organize it in a way that calms my heart and soul.
Friendships remind me of the beautiful people I have to encourage me along life's journey.
Family is my trust that I will always have people to lean on for support.
Time to recharge, being away from technology and having alone time help gather my thoughts and ideas to feel restored.
Fresh air is a peaceful place to take in all the beauty around me that is quickly forgotten in the mundane day to day routine.

This weekend was full of the list above leaving my faith feeling reaffirmed for the first time in a few weeks. Self love is important, people. What helps you break out of a season of feeling alone and as if you should be self-reliant?

One of my best friends came to visit from out of town for the weekend and it was just the refresher I needed. We caught up on the latest of life, ate Rise n Roll donuts (I highly suggest tasting these delicious masterpieces of perfection), ran a 10k (where we conquered the Indiana weather of sunshine > clouds > a light rain > a downpour), moved the majority of my furniture with the help of family + friends to prepare for another chapter.

Also, my church shared in baptisms this morning, to which I ALWAYS end up crying tears of happiness for these brave, God fearing people.

[To Sum It Up]

It was a grand weekend that was much needed.

So, thank you to my friends and family for continuing to be a light in my life, for being the boost of courage we all need at times. And praise God that He continues to be my rock, even when my faith is challenged.