Good Friday- Understanding Christs’ Humility


I have visited many cathedrals and grand churches in many countries around the world.  And no matter the location I  am always in awe of their grandeur and decadence.  I usually end up rendered speechless by their overwhelming size and opulence.  And while I always appreciate the aesthetic beauty and the sheer accomplishment of creating somethingIMG_1294 so grand and monumental (especially considering most of these churches were built before the existence of modern machinery), I also typically feel a little uneasy.  It seemed so strange to me to think that the church in those time periods would build something so grand, so expensive and so elaborately coated with gold while there were people starving in the nearby villages and cities.  It never set well with me.

It didn’t seem like the churches back then really understood the point of Christianity.   As someone who grew up as a non-denominational Christian I have often had a hard time understanding these grand traditional views of religion that is based on hierarchy of man and full of man-made traditions.  It always seemed so formal and distant and not at all consistent with the Jesus that I knew who fought against a deeds based/ self glorifying concept of righteousness. I often wonder what he would think of these palatial cathedrals.  The Jesus I know didn’t grow up in a palace surrounded by gold.   He was born in a stable. He was real and probably dirty and smelly in comparison with current social norms.   His hands were most likely rough and callused by years of hard work as a carpenter.   He lived a life of true humility and loved everyone without judgment.  He, who was fully man and fully God, was the only one worthy of glory and honor and yet he received none.  IMG_1294

I was thinking all of these things as I entered into St. Isaac’s Cathedral in St. Petersburg Russia.  I was instantly struck  (and I say struck because it hit me like a two by four to the stomach) by the beauty of the church.  I stepped inside and I couldn’t move or breath for a moment.  I know I talk often about being overwhelmed by beauty, but this time I literally was.  I just stood there in the entryway with my mouth open not really able to take in the grandeur and extreme beauty and over the top decadence that was displayed on every inch of this magnificent cathedral.  It hit me more than any other cathedral I had visited before.  And I began to wonder that if I feel this in awe of this place, how overwhelmed will I be of Heaven.  That is when it hit me…..I understood something about cathedrals that I had never understood before and for the first time I had an emotionally spiritual moment in one of these grand churches.  The below video captures what I was thinking and feeling.

After that video I went into the holy prayer room.  There I truly communed with God in prayer and worship.  I thanked him for all he did for me.  I thanked him for choosing an ugly humiliating death on a cross instead of the life of decadence he deserved.   I thanked him for loving a sinner such as myself and allowing me,  even with all of my imperfections, to glorify him with my life.  Then I just sat in reverent worship of Him and His perfect and beautiful plan for the salvation of man.

IMG_1297When I left the prayer room it was amazing to me to see how just being in the very presence of God through prayer and worship transformed my perspective of the church.   The building that had before seemed so striking seemed dull and insignificant in comparison to the glory of God.   I suddenly saw it for what it was…a beautiful building that will one day waste away.  However, God’s glory is eternal and the only thing worth our adoration and praise.  And one day when I have been cloaked in the complete righteousness of Jesus, I will be able to enter into His very perfect and indescribable presence and behold Him in all of His glory, not because of what I have done, but because of Christ had done for me.  And in that place, because of the gift of Jesus’ sacrifice on a cross,  I will be able to abide and dwell in God’s presence and worship Him forever and ever.   That is worth my worship and honor and praise….not a building made of stone.

How Fulbright? Why Finland?

1538713_915985696776_2591682710804324384_nHow did I become a Fulbright Distinguished Teacher?  How did I end up here in Finland researching at the University of Helsinki?  Why did I choose Finland?  These are all very interesting questions and the answer is very simple.  God planned it.  He set out an intricate plan for my life.  He wove a very intricate trail of experiences that have led me to this point at this time for His purpose.

It all started with me wanting to spend a year in Bolivia in November of 2013.  Yes. Bolivia.  A country that couldn’t be more different than Finland if it tried.  I don’t know why in particular I wanted to spend a year in Bolivia.  Maybe I had just hit the 5 year slump as a teacher and felt I needed a change…… and teaching in Bolivia would be a real change.  I do know that in October of 2013 I suddenly felt very restless.  I had started dating a great guy, but I realized I didn’t want to settle down.  I was terrified of commitment and I wanted to do something else.  Something big.  I broke it off with him and knew that right now if a “normal” life with a house and kids was not what I wanted then I had better start pursuing what I did want.   I remember finally expressing this decision out loud for the first time to my group of girlfriends at our favorite restaurant in November.   I told them my fears of leaving a school I loved, but that I felt like I needed….more.  More of what I wasn’t sure, but I know I needed change and a challenge and Bolivia seemed like as good as place as any.  I could learn Spanish. It would be cheap.  And that was all I knew.  I had literally just picked Bolivia out of thin air, as if I had just picked it out of a hat. I knew it was in South America, but that was about it. The following weekend I told my parents I was planning on spending a year in Bolivia.  I didn’t have a plan or a reason, however I have the most supportive friends and family in the world and they told me that I needed to follow my heart!

So, I had finally made my proclamation and verbalized the fact that I wanted to move on to something new. Now I just needed a game plan.  I remembered that a woman I had met  randomly in July 2013 when I was researching in China suggested I looked into researching for Fulbright.  I was telling her about my project in Asia and she said a Fulbright placement was just right up my alley.   I  hadn’t heard of it before, but I wrote it down and thought I would check it out later.   God had sent her to me all the way in China to plant this seed in my head.  However, He usually has to drop me several hints before I recognize His plan.  Then last October (2013)  I found myself back in Idaho with my great aunts visiting my great uncle.  Idaho is where I go to recenter myself and this trip meant so much for several reasons.  During my time there, I was starting to discuss my feelings of unrest with my Uncle.  He also brought up Fulbright.

IMG_0763So a few weeks  later when I was looking up opportunities in November of 2013, Fulbright was fresh in my mind.  I started trying to find a Fulbright placement in Bolivia.  I didn’t meet the requirements for the placement, as I would need a PhD.  I decided it would be easier to switch programs than get a PhD.   So, I started looking down a different rabbit hole.  I looked into other Fulbright placements and found myself in a placement described the Fulbright Distinguished Award in teaching.  I read the description of what this program did and I KNEW this was for me.  I JUST barley made the requirements.  You had to have 5 years of teaching experience.  I was currently in my 5th year.   You needed to have a minimum of a master’s degree, which I had JUST completed thanks to a seemingly random and quick decision on my part 18 months earlier. I just kind of woke up one morning and signed up to get my master’s degree.  I literally went to work one day not even thinking about going back to school. Then I got an email advertisement for a program through Purdue and signed up that afternoon.  It seemed like a whim, but it was God working everything out!  He had me start and finish my degree just in the nick of time!

So, I met ( barely) the Distinguished Award in Teaching criteria, but there was one problem.  They didn’t have a program in Bolivia.  So, I started looking at where they did offer this program. I looked at the list and Finland instantly jumped out at me.  I didn’t know much about Finland so I started to research and read about its education system and became mesmerized and obsessed.  The more I read the more excited I got about the prospect of studying and learning here from some of the BEST educators in the world.  I discovered that Finland was one of the few countries where girls out performed boys in mathematics and I knew I just had to figure out what they were doing to support female development in math!   So I sent a text to my parents and my friends:  “Change of plans:  Finland, not Bolivia.”   Yes,  like Finland, Finland!  And they were all instantly relieved.

So, I started the application that fateful morning!  And as I did I started to laugh and cry at the same time.  I prayed that God would use this, and I thanked him for leading me to this point in my life.  I was so filled with joy at the prospect of going to Finland and researching here, but more importantly I was filled with absolute glee at knowing I would be fulfilling God’s plan for my life.   I thanked him for that and my heart was in a state of reverent worship and total giddiness as I wrote my application. I seriously sat there laughing and crying because I knew….I just knew that God was going to make this happen for HIS glory!  And if He didn’t, he had something even better planned.  The absolute joy of knowing God is in control of your life is truly indescribable.   He was in control not me.  I don’t have to be perfect.  And although I just barely met the criteria for this award, I knew that if He wanted me to go He would make it happen!   This became even more apparent to me when I botched the interview.  I did not do very well on the interview, but I am so thankful for that.  If I had done well, I would have been tempted to give myself the glory.  However, God gets all of the glory here!  He worked it out even though I was/ am imperfect and I messed up.   This is the beauty of our God!  He uses imperfect and messed up people like me to fulfill His purpose and to bring Him glory!

IMG_0815So, why am I here?  I am here because God led me to this point.  That is all I know for now…and that is good enough for me!  I know that without a question of a doubt.  I just pray that I am open to the opportunities He sends me to expand His Kingdom and bring Him all of the Glory and Honor and Praise forever and ever!

Wednesday Wanderings: The Accidental Castle!

IMG_1933When one sets out on a leisurely stroll in a Canadian harbor town, one does not expect to discover a legit Castle.  This, however, happened to me as I set out on a walk around Victoria.  I rounded a corner and there was an actual full on Castle.  It was quite the happy accident.  I was able to take a tour of what I found out to be Canada’s famous Craigdarrock Castle.  On the Tour I got a glimpse of what life was like for the very interesting and quirky Dunsmuirin family who built the castle during Queen Victoria’s reign.  This serendipitous discovery was a highlight of my time spent in Victoria and another reminder that when you travel and allow yourself to truly wander, you never know what sort of treasure you might find along the way.  

People often find it strange that I don’t really plan my trips or research a city before I visit it.  I find that when you happen upon a treasure like this you find so much more joy and excitement from visiting it than if you had planed to see it all along.  When I travel, I love living in the moment and taking advantage of each experience as they present themselves.  I also know how grateful I am when God is in control of my trip and I relish in all of the amazing adventures, views, and people He sends my way.   Traveling without a plan allows me to marvel at His goodness and really exist in a state of continual awe and worship.  I can give up control because I know God is faithful and just so good!  You never know when He just might place a Castle in your path.  

Point Judith Lighthouse- Rhode Island: Wednesday Wanderings

Point Judith Lighthouse- Rhode Island:  Wednesday Wanderings

There is something so uniquely wholesome about lighthouses. Perhaps their ability to secure ones instant trust shouldn’t be all that surprising. Their very reason for existence is to guide the lost home. They provide a beacon of hope and light to the weary traveler while nobly identifying the dangers before them. Their constant drumming of light provides a rhythmic path to safety that calms and assures the soul.

I have not done much/any sailing on my own. I would be the first to tell you I wouldn’t have the first clue how to circumnavigate the seas. I can only imagine the powerful all consuming wave of relief one would feel when they first catch glimpse of the shore through that beacon of light. Its dancing reflection across the water would be a blanket of security to those searching for asylum from the unforgiving seas.

When I come across a light house in my travels I am captivated by their beauty. This one taken at Point Judith in Rhode Island was particularly captivating. With today’s new innovations these beautiful structures are more historical artifacts than tools of navigation; but I love them because they represent a bygone era where man relied on his fellow human being rather than a machine for assistance. In a storm sailors depended on the honor of the men who ran these houses to guide them through the rough and merciless waters. When I see a lighthouse I often wonder about the men who lived and worked in them. I also think about their lonely life; living in a tower above the world. I am sure they saw all, but engaging in so little. Who were these men? What stories did they have?

While Lighthouses invoke my romantic sensibilities about the days of old and delight my imagination they also provide such great parallels to the God I serve. When I see a lighthouse I am reminded how God is that steady unwavering beacon of true light in my own life. He is always guiding our path and leading us home. He is unwavering, unchanging and unyielding. He is the one and true constant source of security, love and peace. He alone can help us face the trials and storms of this world.

Psalms 119: Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.

2013: A year of Adventures


The first of the year always brings with it reflections of the previous year.  I started to get down on myself for not accomplishing everything on my lofty “to do” list for the year.  I may not have lost the weight I wanted, wrote a book, or learned a new language…but as I reflect on the things I did accomplish I realized it might not have been as unproductive as I originally thought.  It turns out I had quite the year!

Things I Accomplished in 2013




1)  I finished my Master’s Degree and Graduated from Purdue University, ( I ran a race the day after I finished my degree.)


2)  I ran a two 5k races, two 10k races and my second 1/2 marathon!   13.1 Miles!


IMG_29923)  I returned to Spain….and it was even more beautiful and meaningful than the first visit. I visited my favorite parts of Madrid and we were reunited like the old dear friends that we are.  I also had the chance to make “New Friends” of the enigmatic Granada, the majestic Alhambra, and the leisurely Mallorca.  Most importantly, God spoke directly to me during this return pilgrimage to Spain, and I learned how to Abide in His love and through that, my joy was made complete.  This return to Spain last April was one of the most spiritually rewarding experiences of my life.  I will always treasure this trip, as I will always treasure Spain.


4)  2013 will be the year that I lived with my brother.  We shared an apartment this year and on top of being the best brother anyone could ask for, he has also been a great roommate! I respect and admire him so much for the incredible man he is. it has been great fun living together!   I will be forever grateful for the this time we spent together here at Ashley Place.  Derrek is more than my brother, he is one of my best friends.


5)  I attended my first professional soccer game… a Quarter final championship league game at the Santiago Bernabéu stadium in Madrid.  I  wanted to go but I couldn’t afford even the cheap tickets.  However, God provided above and beyond my expectations!  He took the opportunity to show off and I was GIVEN 14th row VIP tickets!  It was an incredible once-in a lifetime experience!



6) I was awarded the Lilly Grant witch funded my summer research trip to Asia. I planed and organized this massive 2 month expedition.  I found the schools, teachers, and translators necessary to complete my research, as well as plan all the travels, get my visas, and arrange all my 19 different flights.  It was a massive undertaking that included 15 different cities.  In two months I didn’t spend more than three nights in a row in the same bed. A large part of my year was dedicated to planning and implementing this project, but I learned so much about the Asian academic systems and the unique Asian Culture.   This trip also allowed me to add seven new countries to my map which include; Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, China, South Korea, and Japan.  It even extended my total country count to 25!  (I only have 5 more to go in my whole “Thirty before I’m Thirty” plan!)


7)  It has been an amazing year of adventurous firsts! I walked the great wall of China and I explored the ancient temple complexes in the Cambodian Jungle.  I got a real Thai massage in Thailand. I navigated seas off the coast of Phuket in my Cave Canoeing adventure.  I rode (and fell in love with) an elephant named “Sabo”. I saw the most beautiful orchids in the world at the Singapore Botanical gardens and I journaled in front of my hotel room window that displayed the mighty Petronas towers of Kuala Lumpur.  I saw an epic light show dance across the Hong Kong Skyline,  I stood in attention with the ancient Terra-cotta warriors of Xi’An,  I explored the streets of old Beijing, ran to the birds nest and visited a real silk factory.  I attended both a dumpling feast and a tea ceremony.  I sailed down the river Li and witnessed its glorious 20,000 peaks!  I met the kindest people I will ever know in a South Korean coffee shop.  I ate a black egg that had been boiled underground in the sulfuric waters under Mt Fuji.  I attended a festival in Kyoto, saw the Golden Pavilion, stayed in a traditional Japanese Ryokan (inn) by the sea where I slept on mats on the floor and bathed in (public) natural hot springs.  I also visited a real Ninja House!




8)  I also dated someone for the first time…it turns out I am not really good at that sort of thing. I really prefer my independence it seems.  However, it was a great learning experience and I am glad that I went on my first real date in 2013…..finally!

9)  I had a student teacher teach in my classroom. (I know! When did I become old enough to be the one imparting wisdom to future teachers?!)   I did not enjoy this experience as much as I had expected as it was more difficult for me to give up control of my classroom than I had anticipated.  Maybe there is a theme here and in 2014 I should work on being less independent and more collaborative.

10)  This year I also took a chance and applied for a Fulbright Fellowship in Finland.  This is perhaps the biggest adventure I have dared to pursue.  It would mean me leaving my teaching position in Westfield for a few months to head to the Nordic Country of Finland for a 4-5 month research project.  I will not know until April if I will be accepted into the prestigious Fulbright community, but I put myself out there and dared to dream.  Who knows what the next year will bring, but I think I can content that 2013 was an amazing year.       Image

HERE is to another great Year!  HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Redeeming Love


Last month I returned to Spain.  I had not traveled for a few months and I was getting restless.   I mistook these feelings of restlessness as a superficial need to satiate the little bug inside that feeds on travel and adventure.  This human weakness might have contributed to this building desire, but I now believe there were more powerful forces at work.

God needed to talk to me.  He needed me to truly stop and listen.   And He, being my creator and God, knows my heart better than anyone else.  He knew that during this particular journey my heart would be most readily available and my ears would be more receptive to His message.   This is often the case when I travel and perhaps why I pursue it so fervently.    I am not usually the type to be silent or still.  My life is always in a constant state of movement and I am very rarely alone.  I flutter from one social gathering to the next.  As a true extrovert, I gain energy from being in the presence of others and have several different groups of friends that appease my need for social interaction.  However, when I travel, I find myself alone for hours on end; at airports,  around cities, parks, beaches, forests, ect.   Don’t get me wrong, I have become quite an expert at finding “stranger friends” to talk to along the way.  These friends are always blessings sent by God to teach me and quench my need for human interaction, but on the whole my travel experiences force me into a mindset of  introspection.  When I travel, I truly slow down.  I truly listen; to myself, to my heart and to my God.  I am silent and still and my heart is in a state of constant gratitude and worship.  This provides the perfect platform for God to teach and mold me.

This particular trip my soul was in perfect communion with God.  I finally began to understand something He has been trying to teach me my whole life.  The completeness of His perfect love.   I have always had a hard time understanding unconditional love.  When people meet me it doesn’t take them long to recognize that I am habitually apologetic…..I’m sorry.   This stems from my unconscious fear of doing something wrong to loose peoples love.  Now multiply that fear by a million and you can understand my inability to understand why a perfect God could love someone as imperfect as me.  I have never truly believed that I was acceptable in His sight.  I believed in the forgiveness I earned from the death of Jesus but I never truly understood the completeness of that forgiveness.  If I am being honest I have always seen God as someone who merely tolerated me.  I could not picture God’s love for me as it is described in the Bible….the kind of love a groom feels for his bride or a father feels for his child.    However on this trip God opened my heart and showed me the power of his amazing grace and redeeming love.

God used several mediums to explain this love to me during this trip to Spain and  proved his love through several blessings.  One powerful tool was the book “Redeeming Love” by Francine Rivers.  I very rarely take books with me when I travel as I don’t often have time for them.  This time I made an exception and I started reading this book on the 5 hour buss ride from Madrid to Granada.  This fictional book is an allegory of the Biblical story of Gomer and Hosea which is in and of itself an allegory of God and His people.  The novel tells the story of a righteous and Godly man who rescues and marries a prostitute.  The prostitute cannot understand his forgiving love and kindness and runs away from him to rejoin a life of prostitution….THREE TIMES!!  Throughout the book it is so evident the love the man has for his wife and how deeply her desertion hurts him.  The reader feels so confused…why would she run away from such perfect and complete love?  Doesn’t she see that He really does love her and that she is the only one who won’t forgive her past and move on?  Why is she wasting her life listening to lies of  her worthlessness while the Author of Truth is screaming promises of love, forgiveness and redemption?    This truly is a powerful novel and I highly recommend it to any woman who sometimes struggles with understanding God’s love.

This book started an amazing dialog between God and myself during my stay in Spain early this April. I, like the woman in the novel, never felt fully accepted by God.  I never believed I deserved God’s love.  However this book helped me understand the foundational and most liberating truth.  I was right.  I don’t deserve God’s love.  I am a sinner and what I deserve is death.  But God loves me anyway!  This is the life changing earth shaking Truth with a capital T!  It is the one that Satan tries so hard to conceal!  He makes us feel inadequate and like we have to earn God’s love….which is impossible and therefore fuels our feelings of inadequacy.   The truth is there is NOTHING we can do to earn it.   It is given freely and completely.  That is the beauty of the gospel.  It has the power to turn a hopeless story of sin and its consequences into a story of perfect and merciful redemption through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.

This trip to Spain was truly a love story between me and God.  The entire week I remained in His love and my joy was made complete just as Jesus promises us in John 15: 9.  There were times I thought my heart would explode for the joy and love I felt.  There were times when I could not contain the worship in my soul and I wept.  I wept  in Retiro Park when I realized all of the amazing ways God had taken the hopeless situations of this past year and turned them into demonstrations of His glory and love.  I wept when God used a painting at the Thyssen-bornemisza Art Museum to speak directly and clearly the promises of my future.  I learned how to abide in His Love and God poured His blessings like rain on my life and my soul.  With joy, rather than condemnation, I began to understand what only a truly redeemed sinner can.  In a spirit of continual worship my heart  happily sang  “I don’t deserve this love or these blessings” and God’s quiet, constant and graceful response was the same “I know, but I love you anyway.”

Spain: All in God’s Perfect Timing

Screen shot 2013-03-15 at 11.24.23 PMSpain.  Just the word alone elicits an almost Pavlovian response from all of my senses.  Suddenly, I smell the oranges of Valencia and hear the pounding of the Flamenco dancers under palm tree lined pavilions in Seville.   Spain.  My mouth waters for the taste of olives, jamón, wine and paella while my soul aches for the creations of Gaudi’s genius and my heart yearns for Madrid’s ocean of culture.

It took me a long time to get to Spain.  In retrospect, it was a trip almost 10 years in the making.   My obsession started in 10th grade when I took my first Spanish class.  I worked harder in this class than any others.  I vowed to one day live or study in Spain and therefore I worked tirelessly to learn the beautiful Spanish language to the best of my ability.  Oh- How many nights did I fall asleep at the wee hours in the morning going over another deck of Spanish flashcards!?

Screen shot 2013-03-15 at 11.27.09 PMThe opportunity was never right in High School, but I told myself I would student teach in Spain.  This was something that I planed for and pursued all four years of college.   My senior year I was accepted into the international program at my school and I was on my way to Spain at last!  However, something fell through at the last moment and my placement was cancelled.  I was devastated.  Spain had been my plan for the past seven years and suddenly it was gone…like a puff a smoke.  I sobbed that night.   Spain was taken from me and I didn’t understand why.

We say,  “Things Happen for a Reason” often in our society.  This gives us something to say to those who have had disappointment in their life.  We say this when something happened/didn’t happen the way we really wanted it to go.   We say this to sound humble and gracious, but it takes a lot of grace to actually KNOW in your heart that things happen for a reason; God’s reason.  Sometimes we never know why things truly happen, but God has a perfect plan for our lives we just have to have faith and humbly know that that He who created the universe and He who IS and WAS and IS TO COME may have a better grasp of what is good for us than we do.  In this case, however, I have the unbelievable gift of knowing why Spain was “taken” from me.

Screen shot 2013-03-15 at 11.35.40 PMGod, in His infinite wisdom had more planed for me than my impatient heart could have ever conceived.   Instead of spending the last semester of my college experience off campus, He gave me one of the most rewarding semesters of my life.  I was able to host a comedy show call Friday Night Live, I fulfilled my duties as a VP for Student Government, and I was voted by my classmates to be IWU’s Senior of the year at graduation.  If I had been in Spain I would have missed out on all of those blessings and I would have peddled away so many precious “last moments” with my dear friends on a campus that I LOVED.

photo-14_2More importantly, God’s choice to not send me to Spain allowed me to say goodbye to my grandfather.   My pops, a man who more closely resembled Christ than any other man I have ever met, fell very seriously ill the last month of my college career.   He truly lived a life of love like that described in First Corinthians 13:4.  My pops was patient and kind. He did not envy, and did not boast. He was not proud, self-seeking, nor easily angered.  He did not keep a record of wrongs.  He did not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.    Pops was a farmer.  He loved the land, and worked hard everyday to glorify God and live a life producing all of the fruit of the spirit.

Because I was not in Spain, I was able to be there when he got sick.  I can still feel the whiskers on my cheek from when he kissed me goodbye for the last time on this earth. I cherish that moment above any other in my life so far.  That last kiss on my cheek from him means more to me than any study abroad experience ever could.

I could praise God and His wisdom for that reason alone.  But God is even MORE faithful than I could ever imagine.  I may not have been able to student teach overseas, but instead God blessed me with the opportunity to spend 8 incredible weeks in Spain.  This was God’s plan, not mine.  And as always, His perfect plan was infinitely more superior than the one created by my limited human brain.

Screen shot 2013-03-15 at 11.27.45 PMThe summer after my second year of teaching I got the opportunity to live with a family in Madrid in exchange for a few English lessons. Instead of six weeks of stressful student teaching, defined by me yearning to explorer the city while being held captive by grading and lesson planning duties, I spent two beautiful, perfect, unrestricted months soaking up every ounce of experience and culture possible.  I spent my days blithely wondering around the city of Madrid, observing life, reflecting and growing.

Screen shot 2013-03-15 at 11.31.56 PMSpain changed me.  It was an incredible experience, for numerous reasons in which I hope to share in future posts, but most importantly it demonstrates how faithful our God is.  He knows.  He Cares.  And He is continually weaving together a stunning masterpiece that is my life.  Our God is so faithful and in control and if we patiently seek Him and His will, sometimes we get to see the intricately beautiful ways He mends and molds our threads together to create a masterful work that glorifies Him and His unending goodness.

**** Side note:  11 is my favorite number and Spain ended up being my 11th country.  It was the 1st of 11 countries I visited in 2011. (11 in 11).  This post randomly ended up being my 11th post. God is just so good and just so clever sometimes!