Idols, Murder, & Zika

IMG_1988

For my next trip I traveled to the jungles of Mexico.  Having never been there I wasn’t sure what to expect. I definitely didn’t expect to get the spiritual equivalent to a punch in the face but that’s exactly what I got!  More like a few solid punches…  All of these involved a full day trip to Chichen Itza to explore the Mayan Ruins.  For those of you who don’t know me, my undergraduate degree is in history.  Ancient history is my thing.  I love learning about past civilizations and the amazing things they accomplished and created.  So as you can imagine, I was jazzed to be heading to this amazing site!  On our way there our tour guide spent several hours sharing facts and stories about the ancient culture, their accomplishments, and their religion.  That’s when things got weird.

Normally I love this type of stuff.  Mythology courses were always my favorite in college.  The way all the gods have stories that intertwine and rationalize what people back then couldn’t explain is fascinating (insert nerd comment here).  Most ancient cultures have a similar storyline, multiple deities, and statues or idols of them.  Again, no surprises that the Mayan culture has all of these.  It was however, a big surprise when our tour guide pulled out a tiny statue of one of the gods and proceeded to tell us he follows this ancient Mayan religion and prays to these statues.  He also then told us we would be meeting a Mayan shaman who would perform a ceremony of blessing on some of us lucky tourists.  He would also be blessing any merchandise we purchased for a small fee.  We learned about four of the Mayan deities before we got to the shaman.  I forget their names but they consisted of gods of healing, power, knowledge, and fertility. Once we were stopped our tour guide pulled people out of our group to be “blessed” by the shaman.  And can you guess what lucky girl was yanked from her hiding spot in the back of the group to be given a fertility blessing?

Yep, this girl.  It’s important to pause here and say I am an introvert who does not like being at the center of attention at all.  I also won’t even buy a goldfish due to the level of commitment so the idea of having a child is out of the question right now (blog post diving into that later).  So one could say I was not at all happy about this situation.  During the ceremony I was already uncomfortable but was then hit with a scary feeling.  There was a presence there that was definitely spiritual, but not Godly.  Punch number one, direct hit.  I’ll stop again before you start thinking I’m getting  spooky to just confirm it and say I believe 100% in a spiritual world.  Not only does the Bible talk about it at length, but too many things have happened to me for me to ever deny that fact.  If I had forgotten the notion that the enemy takes many forms and is very powerful I was reminded that day.  I immediate started praying imagining a Frank Peretti “This Present Darkness” type battle going on in the spiritual realm.  The experience left me really rattled, spooked, and if I’m honest, feeling really pissed off and judgmental towards the people who still worship these stone Gods.  Did I mention this was all on the way to Chichen Itza?  We weren’t even there yet!  First lesson I learned on this trip?  Don’t underestimate the enemy, the different forms he takes, or the power of prayer.

Once we were there I got my apparently now fertile self out of the bus and began exploring.  The entire site was full of contrasts.  A weird mix of beautiful & morbid, advanced & barbaric.  It’s weird to stand in places knowing thousands of people were killed in that same spot, but at the same time see incredible, intricate, and precise craftsmanship.  I found myself needing to get a little space which is when I took the picture above.  I found myself emotionally rattled and therefore lashing out with the thoughts that filled my mind.  Things like how ignorant these people were to worship idols, and how much suffering had happened because they believe in these things.  I am far from perfect but at least I don’t worship idols or murder people…right?  Wrong.

Again, another spiritual blow.  This time is was from God.  This time is was a powerful pride check.  Two thought instantly popped into my head and humbled me to my core.  The first thought was one word.  Phone.  The definition of idol is an “object of worship” or a “thing that is greatly admired.”  What is more sad, someone who idolizes a statue of a deity or someone who idolizes an electronic device?  Wow.  Not so high and mighty now am I?  The second thought came from many conversations I have had with my dear friend Louisa.  Proverbs 18:21 says that “the tongue has the power of life and death…” and one of the definitions of murder is to “defeat badly, to put an end to, to mutilate.”  I remember her saying how we murder people with our words all the time and don’t seek forgiveness for it.  Didn’t I just “murder” and entire civilization with my words?  Yep.  At this point I feel like Kendrick Lamar should have been singing “Be humble, sit down” over and over.  I am guilty of having idols, murder, and also pride!  What a broken creature I am in need of God’s grace daily!

Like most of my journeys, I went expecting to learn about the superficial and was reminded of my own brokenness and need for God’s grace & protection.  As I plan for a summer full of travels again this year I find myself excited to see where God shows up for me.

Oh and the Zika thing in the title?  No, I didn’t get the Zika virus.  I spent hours walking through the Mexican rainforest and the only mosquito bite I got was in the back of a taxi in the middle of downtown Cancun.  #irony

 

-Lindsay

Advertisements

Vikings and Coldplay Part 2

So about this 12 hour train ride… We departed Oslo early in the day, expected to arrive to Stockholm that evening with time to relax, explore, etc.  While we were on the train, there was an accident on the tracks ahead of us.  This put our train at a dead stop until all investigations were complete and the train was cleared to move again.  At first nobody seemed to mind the stop, us included.  We had everything we needed for survival, internet, snacks, and adult beverages.  We had all of these things…for the first 2 hours of our delay.  After 2 hours the bar/snack car was cleaned out.  Believe me when I say a train full of tired, tipsy Scandinavians is quite entertaining!  We arrived in Stockholm just about the time that the nightlife crew was leaving the bars. We were greeted warmly by two guys, mid-pee on the side of a building with a slurred “Welcome to Sweden!”

I must admit I was a little unsure of what to expect the next day.  I woke up and walked out to a stunningly beautiful city.  The amount of care and attention to detail was evident everywhere you looked.  This was exactly what I imagined Europe to be.  Cobblestone streets, tiny shops, palaces, and awe-inspring churches.  The two top photos above are inside such a church.  Again, forgive my iPhone photography! The alter is made with silver and had incredibly intricate detail carved into it.  The stained glass was just as detailed and amazing.  It was humbling to be in a place of worship like that.  A place where countless hours went into making this church and making sure it was the most grand building in the city.  This makes total sense.  I mean, doesn’t God deserve our very best and grandest?  That was the thought process back in the day.  In every city the biggest, most beautiful building was a place of worship.  That is something I struggle with remembering, to give God my very best and grandest.  It’s easy to give God what’s left over, at night, while I’m trying to fall asleep.  Or give Him my all, when things aren’t going my way.  “Commit to the Lord, whatever you do and He will establish your plans.” Proverbs 16:3  To me this means commit EVERYTHING to the Lord first, and He will  handle the plans.

We closed out this trip with a Coldplay concert.  This was definitely the most amazing, entertaining, and inspiring concerts I’ve ever attended.  Coldplay + 55,000 Scandinavians = a pretty unforgettable night.  I still wish I would have done a better job of recording everything we did, but like my photography, my journalling improves with time I promise!

My next adventure took me south of the equator for a time of relaxation on the beach, and to a jungle full of Mayan ruins…

Until next time!

-Lindsay

Vikings and Coldplay Part 1

To all my traveling friends who don’t journal during their travels, JOURNAL WHILE YOU TRAVEL!  This is something I do every time I go anywhere now but I didn’t do it starting out.  It’s times like this that I wish I could go back and karate kick my younger self.

Fast forward 6 years after Peru and I embarked on another unforgettable adventure.  This time to Norway and Sweden.  I was invited by a dear friend of mine to go with her, her daughter, and her daughter’s best friend (all three amazing women and good friends!).  As I said, I wished I had journaled during this trip.  This is because I have the attention span of a goldfish and if I don’t write down certain things in new places, I will think “Oh wow, God just showed me something amazing!…  Oh look! A mountain!” …Ok, maybe I don’t lose my train of thought that quick, (although I’d be lying if I said it’s never happened before) but If I don’t write things down, I soon am distracted by something else, i.e. goldfish complex.  It pains me to say that I didn’t journal once this entire trip!  I still remember the experiences, but reading journals from my travels make the trips and emotions I felt on them come back to life.  So go hit up a TJMaxx and buy a journal!

While in Norway I had the opportunity to visit many cities, including Bergen, Voss, and Oslo.  Norway is an amazing country full of breath taking scenery and intelligent, beautiful people.  Beauty not only in appearance, (All my single friends, trust me, make the jump across the pond!) but also in how they interact with each other and how they take care of their surroundings.  I remember a vivid sense of awe when we arrived there.  The landscape plays an integral part of the Norwegian culture.  For example, we passed more than one Viking burial mound that were several hundred years old, still undisturbed, in a country where all land is public domain (That means any human can camp anywhere they want).  They respect the land, it’s history, and work hard to maintain the natural beauty of it.  Every city we went to was very clean, the people active, and scenery so beautiful that even when you stood in the middle of it you questioned if it was real.

The highlight of Norway had to be kayaking through the fjords.  Unfortunately, the only camera I took with me was my iPhone 5 (insert karate kick to past self here).  I PROMISE my photography on my trips improves with time!  The picture of the fjord above does NOT do it justice.  I was kayaking in water 3,000+ feet deep, surrounded by mountains 3,000+ feet high.  Waterfalls that were hundreds of feet tall looked like a leaky faucet on the side of these mountains.  Kayaking there almost brought me to tears with how incredible it was.  I kept thinking “God made this!  How awesome is this world He has given us?”  This particular excursion solidified a few things for me.  First, that I needed to spend more time exploring and appreciating the beauty of the outdoors.  Second, I love meeting people who are different than me.  Although, even in the middle of a Norway we ran into a UC Bearcat :).  Our kayak group consisted of a Canadian couple who were diplomats in Prague, a German professor, and a Norwegian teacher.  I loved hearing their stories and why they chose to visit this amazing place.  Lastly, I still remember the feeling after we left the fjord.  It was a feeling of inspiration, excitement, and the need to tell as many people as I could about this amazing experience.   It wasn’t until well after I was back home did I make the connection that these are the exact feelings people get when they encounter Jesus in a real way.  When I look at the spiritual break throughs I have had since then, the feelings mirror when I was in that fjord.  Those feelings were also the feelings I experienced in Peru.  This is now always tucked away in the back of my mind.  Chase that closeness with Jesus and to try and share it with others.  For me, this has taken many different forms including my travels, a shifted viewpoint at work, and a different approach to my marriage.  Overall, that trip lead to the realization that I had been just coasting through life with a “Meh” existence and that wasn’t going to cut it for me anymore.  More importantly, that God had much more exciting things He wanted me chasing.

This trip definitely caused my mindset to shift.  From then on I wanted to jump at adventure, and aggressively pursue things I felt God nudging me towards.

My next adventure started with a 4 hour turned 12 hour train ride to Stockholm, but more on that later…

-Lindsay

 

 

Back in the day…

It was 8 years ago now that I set out on a trip of a lifetime.  As a restless college senior who hadn’t traveled much I was OK with the thought of getting out of my parent’s house and away from my 26 credit hour semester for a week.  Yes, you read right, twenty six!  Being a bratty 21 year old I thanklessly agreed to go on an all expense paid trip (took me a few years but thank you so much mom and dad!) to Chincha, Peru. I went with no thought more than I want to do something different.  I had no idea that this trip would change my life.

You see, it was a mission trip.  I was assigned to be the group’s photographer based on my “experience” (2 classes in high school in photography).  While the pictures above are far from my best work, they remain some of my favorites because of the memories they give me.  This trip not only jumpstarted my love of photography, but also awakened something in me that is a huge part of my life today.  The idea that I was created for something specific, something that glorifies God, and adventure.  During this first trip I met some amazing and beautiful people, was given a much needed reality check on how blessed I am, and saw people living their faith by using their own individual gifts.  I also ate a guinea pig that I had cuddled only hours before, which I’m not proud of…although he was pretty tasty.

It was this trip that planted a seed in my mind that I was meant for something more.  Throughout these last eight years I have gotten married (to a smoking hot and awesome husband), had a wonderful and challenging career as an inner city teacher, visited 7 more countries, and started a photography business.  By no means do I feel like I have anything figured out but I do know the same thing I learned in Peru, that I was created to do something awesome that glorifies God using the gifts He has given me.  My church has been a huge part of my growth and is the main reason I have started putting my thoughts out there for others to see.  I feel like in order to experience more of God and adventure, I need to push myself out of my comfort zone.  Trust me when I say writing a blog for all of the internet to see is WAY out of my comfort zone!  My goal for this page is to share my adventures, my journey with God, and the amazing things He has in store for me.  Thanks so much for tagging along!

-Lindsay