Back to school. Three little words with a punch of feelings.
For a lot of people, going back to school whether it's elementary school, high school, or college is a thing to look forward to. For others, it's a time of dread. And for a select few, it's a mixed bag of both.
Generally, I look forward to going back to school. But if I'm honest, I look forward to the moment when I get back into a normal stride at school. I definitely don't look forward to that first week or two of transitioning back. And for a long time I didn't know why transitioning back into school was so hard for me.
It wasn't until I was at debrief from Poland that I realized why going back to school and transitioning can be so hard for people, especially me. So essentially this post has been a month in the making.
Transitioning back to school in essence is a lot like reverse culture shock.
Merriam-Webster defines culture shock as follows:
A feeling of confusion, doubt, or nervousness caused by being in a place that is very different from what you are used to.
Reverse culture shock is very similar to normal culture shock, but it happens when you return to a place after being in another "culture" whether foreign or familiar.
When you leave a place, you change and the place changes. The proportion to which you change and to which the place changes directly affects the amount of reverse culture shock one experiences when they return to that place. (That's a lot of big words, and they aren't my own. I'm just paraphrasing what a speaker said while I was at debrief.)
The point is, when we're away from school for summer, whether it's two months for elementary to high school or four months like college, we change and our school changes. We are both no longer the same being that we were when we left off.
The culture changes, the buildings change, the people change, we change. And when we discover that things have indeed changed, we can feel many of the same symptoms as culture shock. To name a few: sadness, loneliness, homesickness, irritability, lack of concentration, overwhelming and irrational fears, loss of identity, developing obsessions, and so many more.
Has going back to school ever brought on any of those feelings for you?
I know I definitely experienced a great many of those symptoms while transitioning back to college last year for my junior year.
But if you are experiencing those symptoms whether mildly or radically, there is hope. For one, you're not alone. Secondly, those feelings don't last as you adjust. Thirdly, there is a Comforter during times of culture shock and adjustment and his name is Jesus.
Jesus wants to comfort people during times of distress. Here are a few verses that have been a huge comfort to me whenever I have a hard time transitioning or even as I adjusted to a foreign culture this summer:
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gently and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.
I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.
John 16: 33
And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.
1 Peter 5:10
For I consider that that sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
These are just a few verses, but there are so many verses in the Bible about how Jesus brings peace, how he is a Comforter, how he helps us during times of trial and suffering, and how he has overcome the world! In fact, I highly recommend reading the book of 1 Peter, especially chapter one. It is an amazing comfort in the midst of all trials and sufferings.
I hope this encourages you, whether you're dealing with transitioning back to school, or even transitioning into a new phase of life. It's a lot like culture shock, and it's hard.
But you're not alone, and there is hope and a promise of an eternity without weird transitions or suffering through belief in Jesus. Transitions can be hard, but Jesus is with you every step of the way.
Today officially marks one month since I've been home from Poland. It's weird to think that a month ago I was living in Poland. But it's also weird to think about the fact that a month has already gone by.
Since coming home a lot of people have asked me what my team did in Poland and the answer is: a whole lot a praying.
Praying wasn't the only thing that we did, but it was the foundation of the time that my team was there.
Praying over people.
Praying over towns.
Praying for believers.
Praying for non-believers.
Praying for our team.
Praying for the people we were meeting.
Praying for outreach events.
Praying over our room.
Praying for restful sleep.
Praying against attacks from the enemy.
Praying for clear communication in a foreign language.
Praying for our food not to get stolen from the communal fridge... after it happened twice.
In some ways it was like how Paul encourages the Thessalonians to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
We prayed for anything and everything. We had to in a foreign culture and country. We were completely dependent upon the Lord.
While we didn't see some of our prayers answered while we were in Poland, it's amazing seeing how God is answering my team's prayers since being home.
Like our prayers for Kolbuszowa (Coal - boo - show - va). Kolbuszowa is a town in Poland with no known believers, this means that there isn't a Gospel preaching church and there are known known people that believe in the Gospel (The good and incredible news that Christ died for the sins of all people, so that we could be made right with God, reconciled, and given eternal life, and that belief in Christ alone offers eternal life and salvation). There could be believers in this town, but there definitely isn't a Gospel preaching church, which is why my team went to this town to pray.
We prayed over the town and the people. We prayed that the people would come to know Jesus, the source of true joy and life. We prayed that a church would be planted in this town. We prayed for many things.
And a month later, God is answering our prayers.
While a church has yet to be planted in this town, a couple from Kolbuszowa just recently visited the church we attended in Rzeszow (Jah - shoe - ve). Even though they aren't believers and just wanted to check out the church in Rzeszow, God is opening doors in Kolbuszowa. He is opening doors that allow Polish and American Christians to get to know communities in other towns, building relationships, and potentially paving the way to plant a church that preaches the good news of the Gospel.
A couple just visiting a church might sound like a small thing, but it's actually a huge praise and an answer to prayer. And it's just a small instance of how God is on the move in Poland and everywhere, answering prayers, drawing people to Himself, and working all things together for good.
Below are some photos I took while praying over Kolbuszowa in case you're a visual person like me or you just like seeing different places. These photos were taken primarily in town center.
"A taste of culture"
History of Painters "Blue Dress": I found out about this band from a website called NoiseTrade. If you like Rend Collective, Mumford and Sons, and a whole lot of banjo, you'll like this group. This is a live recording of their song "Blue Dress"
"Rather Be": This is a "rather" popular song right now from a British group called Clean Bandit. It's catchy, and the lyrics remind me a lot of the feeling I get when I experience a great day with the Lord. The video is a little ciekawy (Polish word for interesting) though.
No Place I'd Rather Be: My friend Sarah also wrote a blog post about the song "Rather Be", her relationship with the Lord, and her recent move. Check it out!
What an ALS Family REALLY Thinks About the Ice Bucket Challenge: A great post written by a woman whose family is impacted by ALS and what they think about the social media explosion of Ice Bucket Challenge videos.
How "Blackfish" Helped Cause SeaWorld to Lose a Third of Its Value: Proof that films do have a huge impact and that documentaries in particular are encouraging activism and change. This article talks about the documentary "Blackfish" and how a small budget documentary film is making huge waves.
College Doesn't Change Your Heart, It Reveals It: As I move into my final year of college, this article really strikes a chord of truth. I became a believer a Christian year after my heart was revealed me by the Lord. Great article about why young adults change after going to college.
As some of you may know, I love books and I love reading. I'm a HUGE advocate for reading. But this post isn't about why reading is great: It's about rereading.
I have a few friends that are fellow book lovers, and I'm always impressed when they talk about how many times they've read a certain book. I know people who read Pride and Prejudice every year. People that read A Christmas Carol every Christmas. People that read the entire Harry Potter series every summer. I am not one of those people.
My "philosophy" on books for a long time has been: So many books, so little time.
My thoughts were, "If there are so many story worlds to explore, why would I spend time rereading books?"
However, my book philosophy has changed over the past few months. It looks more like: so many books, so little time, so be wise about what you read, and try to reread the ones that impacted you the most the first time around.
I'm still working on it. But as my book philosophy has changed as well as my reading tastes, I've been thinking about which books I would enjoy rereading again. There are a few definites, but I started thinking about what qualities make a book worth rereading for me. Here is the one qualifier I always came back to:
There has to be the benefit of getting more out of the book a second time around, whether its due to the language or the story structure.
This is the reason I loved reading Shakespeare while in High School. You may laugh, but no matter how many times I read his plays or watched them live, I always got more out of them. The language was so rich (or rather difficult to understand at times) and I learned more about the plot from a second read.
With this qualifier in mind, there are a few series and books that I can see myself rereading. But this qualifier also highlights a great deal of books that I never see myself rereading because they really didn't have a whole lot of depth, which makes me questions whether I should have even read them in the first place. That's a completely different story though.
But as I thought about this qualifier, I realized that there's one book that I enjoy rereading immensely. One book that completely fits the mold of a book worthy of a second read. It's a book that I was rereading constantly without realizing it, because I get so much out of it every time I read it. Can you guess what that book is?
It's The Bible.
Even before I became a Christian my freshman year of college, I loved hearing Bible stories over and over and over again. Noah, Joseph, Ruth, Esther, Daniel, David, Paul, and of course Jesus. So many characters and historical figures. So many stories. So much depth of story. And excellent language. I mean come on, there are so many verses and phrases that are like truffles. They strike a beautiful chord with the soul. It's why people memorize them and quote them and share them. The Bible speaks truth.
It contains one overarching story (God's redemption of man) that is supported by a plethora of stories in between. It has so many elements: adventure, romance, drama, war, friendship, redemption, and so much more.
The Bible is a book worth reading and rereading, so many times.
So there you have it. The Bible: the only book I truly enjoy rereading, a book that I get more out of each time I open it.
If you're looking for a good book with a great story and a whole lot of soul ministering truth that you can go back to again and again, check out The Bible.
P.S. If there are any books that you love and can recommend for reading and rereading and rereading, let me know! I'm also up for a book recommendation.
"Tiny pieces of culture."
Or rather interesting things that I find as I engage culture.
I Want To Make a Short Film: Iconographic for how a short film is made. As a current film student, this is spot on!
La Belle Et La Bete: Just this year France released a live action version of Beauty and the Beast in the famous tale's original language. It looks stunning. Absolutely stunning. Of course, it won't be released in the U.S. for quite some time, but check out the film's website and the trailer with English subtitles below.
La Belle Et La Bete Trailer: So worth it!
Royal Tailor: I found out about this band after listening to their song "Making Me New." This song is very poppy, but it'll make you excited to dance. Check them out!
A question I get frequently since coming back from Poland is "What's it like being back?"
It's taken me a while to honestly answer this question, and the answer is: it's hard.
It's not hard because of culture shock. It's not hard because of getting used to a time difference. It's not hard because of anything most people might think.
It's hard because while I was in Poland, I was on a mission. I had a focus, and a reason for being there. And that was hard in itself. But coming home has been hard because it's so easy to get distracted.
You heard me. Distracted by my future. Distracted by television shows. Distracted by books. Distracted by movies. Distracted by friends. Distracted by facebook, by Instagram, by Pinterest. Distracted by you name it. It is so easy to be distracted and deceived.
And what am I distracted from? From Jesus. Hello
It's so easy in this world to get distracted for what really matters, to believe lies, to think that what people think of us, our achievements, our success, our popularity, our reputation is what matters. But all of that fails and fades. It doesn't last. It's a distraction that keeps us from what truly matters.
I've also been anxious, worried, stressed, depressed, and angry.
And my focus hasn't been just by my own junk, but also on all of the sad things going on around the world, like Robin Williams death and the situation in the Middle East.
In the wake of realizing the pit of my distraction, my preoccupation with the world, I started spending some pretty hardcore time in God's Word, specifically Colossians.
Over and over and over again it talks about what truly matters. Or rather who truly matters.
"Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory."
Boom. There's the focus from distractions.
Honestly, Colossians is pretty hardcore, so if you've never read it, you should. You should also read it with pen and paper in hand. It's rich stuff.
But this passage was my wake up call. Set your mind on things above, not on earthly things.
This world is so deceptive.
Don't believe me? There are a lot of tell-tale symptoms: Are you worried about your future? Are you consumed with how you're going to pay off debt? Are you anxious because you want to be successful or popular or have accomplishments or achievements. Are you worried about what people think about you or if you'll ever get married. Or your weight? Or whether your life has meaning? Or all of the imaginable things that take up a significant amount of your brain space.
Don't be deceived.
"The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever."
1 John 2: 17
Jesus said, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."
The next time you despair about your life situations, believe the world's lies about what the good life really looks like, become really sad over the situations around the world, or distracted by everything that the world has to offer, hold onto this truth: this world is dying, and it will pass away. But Jesus and belief in him is eternal. Faith in Jesus is what truly matters. He doesn't bring stress or anxiety or depression. He brings peace amidst a chaotic world.
So take heart, because Jesus has overcome the world, and set your mind on things above.
Life sure is a lot easier with things in perspective.
Summer is the time of the year in which there seems to be more time to read. Reading on the beach. Reading in the backyard. Reading in the park. Reading by the pool. You name it. People are reading. And I love it!
But you know what else I love? A library. Why? Because libraries these days have so many things to offer, and all you need is a library card.
Honestly, it's like having a Gold Card or VIP access. You get instant access to so many things.
So if you don't have a library card or if you do and you don't use it as often as you should, here are the top five reasons why everyone should have a library card in their wallet.
1. Access to a Plethora of Books
A lot of libraries these days have networks. There's a library network just for my county. And I know for a fact that there's a library network for the whole state of Nebraska. These networks give you access to any and all books. If your library doesn't have it, then the next library over might. And if the next library over doesn't have the book, you can request for your library to buy it.
Also, you can check out several books at a time. Is the one book you're reading not as good as you thought? Give it back, and start a new one. No buyer's remorse!
2. Movie Rentals
A lot of libraries now offer movie rentals. Some offer them for free and others charge a small fee, but if you want to watch a movie and it's not on Netflix, the library is your next best bet!
I've watched multiple television shows (Downton Abbey) and older movies that I can't find even on Amazon thanks to the library.
3. Digital Books
A lot of libraries now offer kindle or e-reader rentals as well as digital libraries. The library at my college allows you to download and borrow books through your own digital devices as well as borrow one of their e-readers. This is great for someone that wants to borrow a lot of books but not have to worry about keeping track of them. For some, there is an entire library on the one e-reader that you borrow.
4. Audio Books
Many libraries also offer audio books of a plethora of books. This is great for anyone that enjoys listening to books rather than reading them. Audio books are also great for travel. Got a five hour car ride? Why not listen to an audio book? An hour long commute everyday? Redeem the time by listening to an audio book on the way to and from work.
In my personal opinion, audio books are undervalued. They're great! And sometimes it's nice just to have someone else read to you.
5. Summer Reading Programs
The majority of libraries offer a summer reading program for children and teens. As youth read books, they can earn prizes or rewards for their reading. Some programs operate based off of number of books read and other programs cater more towards number of pages read. Either way, it's a great way to encourage youth to read during the summer months, especially when they're out of school.
There you have it. Go out and get yourself a library card. And if you have one, it can always use a little more lovin'. And while you have one, why not get a few more?
A year ago, I didn't know a whole lot about Poland. If I'm honest, I probably didn't realize it was a country until I heard about an opportunity to go.
But ever since coming home from Poland, I feel like I hear about Poland everywhere.
Even over the past few days, I've heard Poland mentioned many times.
While at the American History Museum at the Smithsonian in DC, I was reminded of Poland while walking through the exhibit on World War II.
While at The Amish Village tour in Lancaster with my family, I laughed when the tour guide told us that the tour was available in Polish.
And I asked myself, "How many Polish people come to Lancaster?"
Although a lot of Polish people that I met asked why an American would go to Poland.
There was Polish pottery available at the gift shop of a Lancaster restaurant, Shady Maple. (FYI, Polish pottery is a lot less expensive if you buy it in Poland)
And at that point, I realized a profound truth. Poland keeps following me wherever I go.
Before I went to Poland, I never realized how much one country could come up in my everyday life. I never paid attention before.
In a way, it's cool, the mark that Poland has left on me.
I'll be reading about an actress and how her ancestry is Polish and immediately have some cultural context.
Or I'll find out that a tour is given in Polish and smile because of how rare it is for a tour to be in Polish outside of Poland.
Or even be excited by the fact that I can show my family what Polish pottery looks beyond the dish I bought them as a souvenir.
What can I say? I've got Poland on my mind.
P.S. I have no idea what "No BSR" means. If you do, feel free to enlighten me.
Hey There! I'm Madi,
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She Laughs Without Fear