Sunday, May 31, 2015

One Year Local

Anyone who knows me, knows that I love challenges. When I get a good idea or a desire to do something, it'll probably never happen unless I set a goal for it. I have cut out chocolate for a year, completed my 21 before 21 challenge, and done a bunch of other things when there was a goal or a time limit or a prize at the end.

I have been wanting to support local businesses more. There are so many reasons to do this. It helps the economy of your town, you get to discover restaurants and stores that you would have never known about, and you avoid the greasy fries at McDonalds. 

This idea came to me only a few days ago, as I explored West Chester, a town about 15 miles away. The downtown was lined with cute little restaurants, cafes, and shops. I only recognized one chain (a Starbucks, of course) amidst all of the local shops. The shop right next to Starbucks was a little stand that sold tacos and fresh juice. While the latter sounds good to me, the number of people in Starbucks (coming in and out, dozens already seated) compared to the number of people lined up at the taco stand (one) was terrible. 

I have always thought about it and encouraged my friends to try downtown restaurants instead of going to chains, but I have never committed to doing it. Knowing my reputation of actually doing things when there is a time limit or goal, I decided to eat local for one year. 

I have already found so many independent restaurants that are fabulous. My favorite Thai restaurant, my favorite burger place in Philly, my favorite cafe, my favorite vegan restaurant - they are all independent. 

Although I started a few days ago, I bumped my official "start" date up to June, just because it sounds better and is easier to remember. From June 1st 2015 to June 1st 2016, I will be choosing local restaurants to eat at and local cafes for coffee. While I am sure I will still shop at grocery stores and Target, I will keep my eye out for local stores and farmer's markets that I can also shop at.

Exceptions - When a big group of friends, or the bridal party of my best friend's wedding, or a family friend's big family all decide to eat out - I am not going to miss out just because they go to Applebees. I'm going to spend time with my friends, even if they vote on going to a chain restaurant. This happens rarely and to me, it is more important to make memories with your friends than prove a point and complete a challenge. 

However, when it is my choice, or when I am going out with a few friends and I have a big say in where we go, or when I go on a date with Nick (I already convinced him to try this with me), I'll try somewhere independently owned. 

I know some of you aren't able to commit to a whole year, but if you ever discover an independent restaurant/cafe/store, write a blogpost about it to encourage your local friends to try it. Comment with your link below - I'd love to see it! 

Follow my instagram here and my twitter here as I'll be sharing each time I discover a local shop. Use the hashtag #oneyearlocal whenever you find an awesome independent restaurant or store, I'd love to see what you all discover! 

About the picture at the top, for all of you coffee addicts, you probably recognized the green straw. Yes, it is a carmel macchiato made with coconut milk from..Starbucks! A few days ago, I used up my Starbucks gift card (so that I could have no excuse to cheat). I had to photograph it because it was my last purchase from a chain for (at least) one year. Here's to one year local! 

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Student Teaching Memories

I spent my semester of student teaching in a 95% White, high class, suburban elementary school. With SMARTboards and computers in every room and an iPAD cart, there was no lack of resources. However, I have never seen so many hurting, needy children as I did in my second grade class.
Let me remind you that the children in a second grade class are either seven or eight years old. There were students in my class who were anxious, clinically depressed, and severely overstimulated. No seven year old should be taking anti-depressants. I sadly heard the words, "I'm stupid. I never do anything right" from more than one of my students. No seven year old should believe that about themselves.
But what the perfect place for a Christian to be! To show these children the love that they clearly do not receive at home. To pat them on the back and ask about their day. To look them in the eye. To pull them into the hallway and let them cry about their feelings of stress, anxiety, and fear. To just listen to them, when it’s clear that their parents are far too busy.
I definitely feel like I was put in this class for a reason - a reason that goes far deeper than teaching the long E sound and how to use a ruler to measure. Every morning as I drank my coffee and prepared for the long day of teaching, I would pray for each student by name, knowing that most likely, I am one of the only people who are praying for them. For some of them, I am the only person to say, “You’re smart” and “You did well” and “You’re not a bad kid.” Every day I felt thoroughly used by God, and I am so thankful for this experience.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Prayers for Nepal

It's been one week since the earthquake that killed thousands in Nepal. My heart broke for them as I cried and prayed. All of my friends are okay, but I find it hard to rejoice in that, when I know that thousands of other people died. So far the count is close to 7,000 and it is still rising.

Most of these thousands who died weren't Christians. We know this because way less than 1% of the population are Christians. Most are Hindu or Buddhist, a small percentage is Muslim. So besides a handful of people who might have heard of Jesus before, the rest of the thousands all died without knowing Jesus, some without even hearing his name.

And I can't peacefully drink my coffee or wash dishes or go for a walk without feeling the weight of all of those lives lost. I wish I was there, finding people, saving people, sharing with them the good news.

I think of all of the people I saw - the old man spinning his prayer wheel, the little girl who held my hand as we ran through her village, the sweet family who we stayed with in Tukche. Are they alive? Did they know?

Things like this happen all the time. Earthquakes and tornados and hurricanes. But it's never affected me because I never had a connection there. I spent a whole month last year, living with Nepalis, learning their language and culture. To know that some of them are gone breaks my heart. To know that most of them never knew Jesus breaks my heart even more.

What can I do before the next disaster? Before more people die without knowing. Before the next murder or the next child sold into sex slavery. What can I do to save these people before it is too late?

My heart hurts as people speed by me, drinking their Starbucks, bluetooth in their ear. What can I do before the next car accident, before the next divorce, before the next death.

I feel the urgency of spreading the gospel more than ever before. Everything within me wishes I was in Nepal, but commitments and college debt have tied me down for the time being. I can't wait until the time when God sends me and uses me to reach the unreached, to share the good news before it's too late. To love the locals before, after, and maybe even during the next natural disaster.

But until then, I'll pray. I'll pray with the urgency I feel that more lives will be saved. That those who survived the earthquake will find food and shelter and water. I'll pray for workers who can go now - that God uses them in amazing ways.

And I ask you to join with me in prayer. I'll share some pictures of my time in Nepal. Pray for them, pray for their villages. Pray for all of the unreached.

This morning as I write this post, this is the most recent news report. The video and pictures are heartbreaking. Click here to watch and read.