Wednesday, January 27, 2016

5 Killer U.S. Travel Destinations

I have two strong gut reactions when I think of all the places I want to travel—1. Excitement! I can't wait to see the world! and 2. Sadness. I know I'll never make it to all of them. (Being a realist definitely has its ups and downs.) But whether it be time, or money, or most likely both, the reality is there just isn't enough to do everything. So I narrowed it down to 5 places that I want to travel in the U.S., hopefully in the next 5–10 years. Baby steps, yes?

After narrowing it down to the 5 places I want to visit the very most, I noticed that there's a nice combo of city and nature, with a little bit of child-like fun thrown in—the perfect mix, in my book! So here it is... my list of 5 U.S. destinations I'd love (insert heart eyes emoji here) to visit.

1. Seattle, WA


I've been told by multiple people on multiple different occasions that Seattle is my city. Apparently I'd love all the sights and sounds. Apparently the quirk is just right and the food happens to abound in the seafood-variety and it just screams me. So how can I not want to go, right?? This one is a must, and I have plenty of pins on my "explore" board to prove it. Let's go!

2. New York City


I've been to NYC a few times, but once was when I was a kid and couldn't fully appreciate everything, and the other two times were on mission trips where we went and helped out with summer VBS-type programs and did homeless outreach. So not super tourist-y. But holy moly do I love everything about this city! I love the lights and the buildings and the people and the noise. I love the food and the shopping and the transportation. Now don't get me wrong, I would go crazy living there, but to visit for a week? Count me in! 

3. Redwood Forests, California


I've also been to the Redwood Forests, but also when I was a young child and just have a foggy dream-like memory of it. I remember being amazed by the huge trees, and ever since whenever I see photos I want to go back. Plus, it's California... sooooo, can you really go wrong? I think this would make a perfect pairing with the Seattle trip, but only if there was sufficient time for both.

4. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming


In college I took a class called "Geology of Our National Parks." At the time, it was my sneaky way of trying to take the least-science-y science classes, but it actually turned out to be a pretty sweet class. After a semester of getting a virtual tour of many of our National Parks and all the wonders they hold, I can't help but want to see them! And Yellowstone is just one of the classics. 

5. Universal Studios, Orlando, FL


I've never been to Disney World or Land or any other iconic child-hood place, so when the Wizarding World of Harry Potter opened, I knew that I had to go. I love Harry Potter, and I love theme parks. Win-win. Universal Studios kind of seems like the more adult version of Disney World, which is A-okay with me. This could be a fun one to do with kids someday, but it might also be a fun place for Loverboy and I to explore by ourselves. Or with friends! Any takers? 

What's on your U.S. travel list? Stay tuned for an international list!

Monday, January 25, 2016

Coffee Date


If we were having coffee, I would share my excitement over our upcoming trip. I can't believe that in less than 2 weeks we'll be Thailand! Let the packing commence! 

If we were having coffee, I would let you know that I've kind of been getting into cooking lately since Loverboy gets home later now with his new job. Basically I get home and am bored and hungry, so what better thing to do than cook a tasty meal? Plus it's turning into a nice way to just relax and have some alone time after work.

If we were having coffee, I'd want to know what your favorite quick, easy recipes are. Because even though I've been getting into cooking more, I still thoroughly enjoy a recipe with just a few steps and/or ingredients.

If we were having coffee, I'd let you in on the little secret that you can borrow digital books from the library to read on your computer, tablet, or phone! This is a total game-changer for our trip, as instead of toting 5 books around Asia, I'll just have our tablet packed with books. Score!

If we were having coffee, I would tell you about how BASE is doing and that I'm encouraged by the interest and participation that we have. I would tell you about how this past weekend 10 of us sat around a table at a cafe and shared ideas on how we can best help fight trafficking and raise awareness and it was just pretty sweet. 

If we were having coffee, I would ask you about the ways that you are experiencing God. I would ask how you are seeking Him and what you do when seeking Him feels hard.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Packing for International Travel

Ever since I started packing for myself, packing and I have had a love-hate relationship. Especially packing for trips that aren't just to grandma's house where if you forget something it's no biggie. There was the mission trip to NYC my freshman year of high school where I painfully underpacked and had to wear the same sweaty tshirt three days in a row. Then there was the same trip my senior year of high school, where after vowing to never underpack again, I was towing around a giant suitcase and probably only wore half of what I packed. I hate packing because there's always the last minute panic of wondering if you remembered your charger or your toothbrush. But I also love packing because of the organization and the planning it involves. My inner planning nerd always tends to come out and I see it as a challenge to pack well.

So now you know way more than you ever needed to about my love-hate relationship with packing, and as our trip to SE Asia approaches (less than three weeks!), it's definitely been something that's on my mind.

We've gone back and forth on if we should do two small carry-ons, or one bigger checked luggage, or one checked and one carry-on, the possibilities are endless! (well, not really, but there are a few to consider). On top of that is the fact that we'll be in lots of different atmospheres and situations—meeting with different organizations and ministries, time in rural Cambodia, and then a few days at the end that we're tacking on at a resort in Thailand. That's a pretty broad spectrum to pack for!

I've been scouring the interwebs for packing wisdom and have found this article on packing in just a carry-on suitcase that seems like it will be helpful, as well as this one about packing your carry-on bag.

Overall, I'm feeling a little overwhelmed at the task. Not like fall apart in a puddle of tears overwhelmed, more like a "Help! Share your wisdom with me!" overwhelmed. So I would LOVE any tips, tricks, and advice that you world travelers have! Carry-on vs. checked, what not to bring and what I won't be able to live without, any articles you have found helpful... please share your knowledge!

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Creating a New Rhythm for Our Evenings

We're about two weeks into this whole 2016 thing, and so far it's going pretty well, besides the raging cold that I've had ALL YEAR LONG! (Doesn't it just sound so much more dramatic that way??) Anyway... one of my big goals for this year is to read more. I even shared 16 books that I want to read this year (and I've found more since then... help me!).

So when Loverboy and I sat down on January 2 to do our annual Looking Back & Looking Ahead New Year's Date (yes, it's official because it's capitalized), we talked about ways that we can actually make this whole reading thing happen. Because it did not happen last year, and legend has it that if you keep doing the same old things then you better expect the same old results. So something had to change.

We decided that although we love our TV shows, that they were kind of dominating our evenings, and when given the choice between vegging in front of the TV or actually turning on our brains and reading something... guess which one we most often chose?

Our solution? One hour of technology-free wind-down time before bed. So that means that usually sometime around 9pm we're heading upstairs to read for a bit before bed, which is so relaxing! And it also means that we usually get more talk-time in since we're not staring at a screen right up until we climb the stairs to fall into bed.

We've decided this will be a weeknight only thing, so we can still totally binge late into the night on a Friday night if we want to (phew!). So far we are loving having the extra time to relax before bed, take a break from technology, and start chipping away at my over-zealous 2016 reading list (already half way through For The Love!).

One practical change we made for this new rhythm to really take hold was getting a new headboard. Our old headboard was a cute little brass one that I hunted down on Craigslist that was totally adorable but so not practical for sitting and reading in bed. You had to stuff 5 pillows behind you to have any chance at being comfortable and not sliding through the bars. And reading in bed is probably my most favorite place to read, so this was an important part of the change.

So what 2016 goals do you have that you could work into your day by creating a new rhythm? What practical step can you take (even if it means biting the bullet and spending a little bit of dough) that could help you reach your goal? Why not keep riding the January New Year momentum and make a change today?

Monday, January 11, 2016

Guest Post // On Being a Refugee: The Sojourner's Hope

Editor's Note: Kayla and I were "random" roommates in college (good one, God!) and have been close friends ever since. We kind of thought we'd never see each other after I graduated and she had two years left, but then I decided to stick around and work with The Navigators and after two years we both moved to Minneapolis where we roomed together again, got married, and now live 15 min away from each other. Score! Kayla moved to Minneapolis to work with refugees and has been doing so for the last year and a half as an employment counselor at two different non-profits that serve refugees and immigrants. She gets exceedingly excited about maps and nutrition, enjoys red wine and chocolate, and is always looking for people to cook for. She is a true gem and is one of the most compassionate people I know. You will be blessed. —HD

On Being a Refugee: The Sojourners Hope

There are countless stories, and a few told by people who I’ve met in the last year and a half.
Akberet* hasn’t seen her husband in eight years because he was imprisoned for being a Christian. Mohamed is desperate for a way to support his family living in poverty back home. Rashiab received the opportunity to move to the US from a country plagued by Ebola and had to leave his young family behind in order to support them. Hawo came to Minneapolis after 7 years in a refugee camp with her young daughter, few belongings, and no knowledge of the English language. A family came to Minnesota in the middle of winter with minimal possessions, dressed in t-shirts and sandals.


All of these individuals have had pain and hardship in their arduous journey to the US. And now, they each have challenges as they face a new culture and language in a foreign land. Being around people with these stories every day has served as a reminder that as believers in Christ, we are truly sojourners and outsiders as well. As Peter wrote in his letter to believers, “Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul.” (1 Peter 2:11). Clearly a refugee is an exile from their homeland, but why would Peter call the believer an “exile”? For the same reason Jesus says that His people are “not of this world” (John 17:16).

Like the refugee, I am a foreigner. I am not home. Like the refugee, I am a sojourner on a journey. Like the refugee my journey can leave me weak and thirsty at times. Like the refugee, I do not belong to this culture that I am living in. “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20).  Just as the refugee faces a new language, new cultural rules, new weather, I face challenges as I learn more and more what it is to be a citizen of heaven in a sin-filled world

In the midst of the sobering stories aforementioned, there are also stories of great hope. In the two years she has been in the US, Akberet has learned English, earned her certification to work as a nursing assistant and took college readiness classes to study nursing. Rashiab published a novel. Hawo is attending school for the first time in her life to study English. A family was reunited with relatives whom they haven’t seen in years.


For the refugee, there is great hope found in resettling to a new country with seemingly boundless opportunity. For the Christian, there is also a hope, but it is much greater and much more secure. Our hope is not found in working towards a degree or supporting a family or arriving in a new country. Our hope is in the redemption that Jesus Christ brings in forgiveness of our sin. This hope will be fully realized the day that we stand before the great Judge, faultless because of what Jesus did. For “he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead…” (1 Peter 1:3).  Like the refugee, our desire is for a better country. “But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them.” (Hebrews 11:16).  When we arrive in that place, that city prepared for us, we will be gloriously welcomed and reunited with our King forever.

Let us pray that our friends and neighbors who have been forced to flee their homeland will come to share in this hope. How great it would be to tell them "… you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and members of the household of God…” (Ephesians 2:19).


*Names have been changed to protect privacy.

If you want to help the refugee crisis here are some organizations I recommend:
Additional resources:

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

One Month & Counting (SE Asia)

Somehow time has passed (strange how that works, eh?) and we will be in Thailand in just one month! I have lots of thoughts swirling around in my head about this trip. Excited ones like—Brian and I will get to travel together! I love our team! I'm so glad we have a seasoned traveler with us! I can't wait to meet all these people who have hearts for the exploited! This will be such an eye-opening trip! And worried ones—What if we get sick? Will there be compromising situations for Brian? I hate jet-lag! What if something scary happens? What if I don't react right to a situation? But amidst all these thoughts, one truth rises to the surface—God will be with us. He will be with us through the exciting parts and the scary parts, the happy parts and the sobering parts. He will not leave us, and for that I am so grateful.

We have so much to do before Feb 5... raise the remaining money needed, read a book on cultures, read a short-term trip guidebook, meet with our team, figure out packing, get more shots, and all the regular life stuff in between. Thankfully our passports and visas are all taken care of. And we have been blown away by how God has been providing for our financial needs! Not only has he provided $4300 of the $5800 needed for the trip, but we also discovered that our shots are covered by insurance when we were initially told they might not be (they cost over $500). Our God is good!

So if you think of it in the next month would you pray for our trip and for the preparations beforehand? I know I need to do a better job of praying as preparation for the trip. I know we will face physical, emotional, and spiritual hardships on this trip, but I am praying that God would take those things and use them for His glory. That He would break our hearts for what breaks His. That He would give us first-hand experiences that shape who we are and how we love others. That we would come out the other side looking just a little bit more like Jesus.

Thank you for your prayers, your support, and your love! We feel the Father's love through yours!

See more posts about our trip here.

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