I love being able to adventure and experience God's beauty in the world from behind my lens. I've been blessed to go to 10 different countries in the past 10 years for mission trips, work, school, and vacations. Here are a few of my favorite stories and photos from some of those adventures.
In May of 2018, Jonathan and I jumped on a plane and headed to the Emerald Isle. Green grass, roaming sheep, and misty mountains. I had dreamed of visiting Ireland for many years. As I arrived, the beauty and the feeling of a new adventure coupled with anxiety and unfamiliarity. After many years of wanting to visit, here I was: struggling to shake the nerves away. What you may not know about me is that I have been dealing with anxiety my whole life. I never knew what it was…I just assumed this is how everyone felt. When I realized it wasn’t, I knew I couldn’t stay locked up and fearful. I started counseling to find healthy ways to cope so I could live my healthiest life. I knew going to Ireland was going to fill me with anxiety and all I could do was pray I could enjoy it.
So here I was: trying to breath, monitor my thoughts, and pray for peace in the midst of turbulent waves. Jonathan and I walked up to Kylemore Abbey, originally a castle built by Mitchell Henry for his wife, Margaret. Many years later, it became home to the Benedictine nuns after their abbey was destroyed in the early days of WWI. They are still there today. We strolled to the neo-Gothic Church near the abbey and went inside. In this quiet place I found a prayer that spoke to me. “O Holy Spirit, replace the tension within me with Holy relaxation. Replace the turbulence within me with a sacred calm. Replace the anxiety within me with a quiet confidence. Replace the fear within me with a strong faith. Replace the bitterness within me with the sweetness of your grace. Replace the darkness within me with a gentle light. Replace the coldness within me with a gentle warmth.” A smile spread across my face and I prayed that prayer in my heart as we continued on our adventure.
Trekking up mountains in Wicklow Mountains National Park. Soaking up rays of sun as they sink below mountains in Killarney. Gazing at the rugged Cliffs of Moher while waves crash below. Walking through the quiet church at Kylemore Abbey. These moments of peaceful stillness steal my heart and quiet my soul in a loud, busy world. God knew it was exactly what I needed.
In May of 2018, Jonathan and I decided to take a quick detour from Ireland and make a pit-stop in Scotland. My ancestors on my Mom’s side of the family came from the area of Edinburgh, Scotland so we spent a day there learning and exploring. We walked by Arthur’s Seat in Holyrood Park, toured the Palace of Holyroodhouse, gazed up at the Scott Monument, and explored Edinburgh Castle. It might have been a quick day trip, but it was a nice adventure—complete with kilts and bagpipes.
In July of 2017, I had the joy of going to Granada, Spain on a mission trip, not only to serve, but also to capture stories for my job at PCC. I took 1 backpack with my camera and video gear and 1 small duffel before hopping on a plane to fly internationally on my own for the first time. It was a nerve-wracking experience, but I gained a great deal of confidence that I could do it again if I needed to. I arrived and that evening got the most beautiful view of the Alhambra at sunset.
On this trip, I stayed with a host family and we took part in an English Camp that happens every summer through some missionaries connected to PCC. I had a wonderful time connecting with some girls in the group I led at English Camp for a few days and enjoyed helping them with their English. I got to meet an connect with different people who helped at this camp who were from all over the world and all over the United States. I also LOVED my host mom, Viviana. Getting to know her and spend time with her family was my favorite part of this trip. I helped her with her English and she helped me greatly with my Spanish. She welcomed me into her home and showed me so much love and kindness. Vivi took me to the Sierra Nevada Mountains (which is where she worked as an altitude trainer) and we hiked a couple of times. She also insisted that I go rock climbing one of those times and it was crazy cool! She even took me swing dancing in the town square on my last night. Vivi introduced me to her friends, fed me, and even let me borrow items that I didn’t bring with me. I was being immersed into a beautiful culture and was welcomed with open arms. It reminded me of how God loves us and welcomes us with open arms. It is true, amazing hospitality.
In the spring of 2017, Jonathan and I adventured to Japan. Jonthan had been wanted to explore Japan for a long time and this was his chance! We spent time in Tokyo, Kyoto, Nara, Osaka, and Koyasan. For me, this was a little more outside of my comfort zone at first, but I really enjoyed it! Some of my favorites were Rokuon-ji Temple (Kyoto), the bamboo forest (Kyoto), seeing the cherry blossoms in bloom, bowing to deer in Nara, and spending time in a traditional ryokan in Koyasan that was a Buddhist temple. We ate ramen for many meals (ohmygoshsogood!) as well as some very yummy fish. Jonathan loved the sushi and I loved the snacks (the donuts were tasty and I had one every morning). I learned so much on this adventure and treasured the time spent exploring with my other half.
In June of 2016, Jonathan and I took a trip to a place we’ve always dreamed of going to together. We spent time in Rome, Florence, the region of Tuscany, and Vernazza. I would go back to Italy in a heartbeat because I truly fell in love with it. I loved that for each meal we had, we sat outside. The food was amazing especially when combined with an aperol spritz! I loved that we found the quaintest places to stay and experience the culture. Airbnb is the way to do international travel, my friends. People always ask, “What was your favorite part?” Well, I have two. One of favorites was the time we spent in Vernazza and hiking along the trails in Cinque Terre on the Italian Riveria Coastline. It was so peaceful and time seemed to almost stand still. My other favorite was seeing the Sistine Chapel—that moment almost brought me to tears because I had dreamed of seeing this masterpiece for a very long time. This was the trip I had placed on my bucket list for a very long time and getting to share it with my husband was the best part.
In the summer of 2013, my new husband and I went on an adventure to Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic for our honeymoon. I had never really stayed at one of those all-inclusive resorts so I wasn’t sure what to expect. It was pretty awesome. After a year of wedding planning, working my hardest to keep all A’s in college, and graduating at the top of my college class, I was EXHAUSTED. My Hub and I spent an entire week soaking up sunshine, taking naps on the beach EVERY DAY, listening to music, eating good food, and building sandcastles. It was a small taste of paradise in a season of much needed rest.
In the spring of 2013, I went to England for a mission trip with Lincoln Christian University. I spent the week living with an amazing host family, seeing so many beautiful sites in both London and Nottingham, and of course, teaching. We saw Big Ben Clock Tower and House of Parliament, Buckingham Palace, London Eye, went to a church service in Westminster Abbey, and toured Wollaton Hall which was used as the exterior of “Wayne Manor” in The Dark Knight Rises.
We worked in a school (equivalent to a high school in the United States) with incredibly intelligent students. Our purpose was to facilitate discussion in their religious education classes during their lessons on Christianity which were going on the week we visited. During this trip, I spent a lot of time praying and learned a great deal on what it means to rely on the Holy Spirit. In these classes, we would break off into small groups to discuss certain topics related to Christianity. I remember one day in particular, I didn’t have someone on my team with me and I was very nervous. What if I didn’t answer this student’s question well? What if I didn’t prepare enough and I sound stupid? What if I answer incorrectly? The thing is, I learned a lot of what the Bible says about many things. I could give those answers. But when the students you are speaking to do not look at the Bible as a book that carries any sort of authority, answering a question with Scripture doesn’t prove to be sufficient to them. I needed to be logical. And I wasn’t sure if I would be able to give a sound, logical answer consistent with Scripture in a live setting. I remember that one student was speaking very passionately and asked me a question that I wasn’t sure how to answer. As the words came out of his mouth, I simply prayed for help. For the right words. For something that made sense. In a matter of seconds, I spoke with an answer that I didn’t prepare ahead of time. It was logically sound. It was consistent with Scripture. It even came with an analogy. The student sat back and said, “That makes sense. Good answer.” This moment changed my life. It opened my eyes to the workings of the Spirit and what it means to trust Him in the midst of an overwhelming situation.
In 2012, I went to Poland for a mission trip with Lincoln Christian University. While there, I was able to help adults learn English through a Christian church/school. At this point in my life, it was the farthest away from home I had ever been and to be honest, I was very anxious about it. I knew nothing of the language and little of the culture. But my goodness, did I learn a lot and God opened my eyes to a different kind of ministry. This ministry was so intentional about simply loving and helping others in their sphere of influence. The longer I was there, the more I learned about the culture, language, and the history. We were in Krakow most of the trip and saw beautiful churches, castles, and art. But one day, we visited Auschwitz II-Birkenau in Oświęcim, Poland. I will never forget what I felt when I stepped foot here. I had read books, I had watched documentaries, but nothing—NOTHING—could prepare me for what my eyes saw and the pain I felt in my heart. It was humbling to say the least and it showed me that darkness exists in the world in a tangible way. It also showed me that in the midst of a dark history, there is a God full of light changing this city inside and out through His people who love Him and love others.
In 2011, I went to Puerto Rico for a mission trip with Lincoln Christian University. While there, I worked in a Christian School teaching English to students—some of the sweetest kids ever. The warm weather and the warmth of the culture was amazing. It was one of my first cross-cultural experiences and it opened my eyes to how God moves in cultures that are vastly different from mine in beautiful ways. We danced in the streets, ate amazing food, and, well, I got to practice my rusty Spanish-speaking skills. The beach was beautiful and the view from Castillo San Felipe del Morro is San Juan was gorgeous!