Tuesday, April 26, 2016

When You Don't Need Jesus

I haven’t been doing my quiet times every day like I used to back home.
I haven’t gone to church once since I’ve been here.
I’ve only halfway listened to a podcast from my church in Houston.
I’ve only read two chapters in a devotional book.
I’ve listened to worship music once.
God and conversations about religion have only been spoken a few times.
I can count on one hand the times I’ve prayed here.
I’ve been here for 27 days and just today I realized something has been missing.

Back in the states when I was in school I always stressed about my classes, my grades, and what GPA I would graduate with. I was always “talking” to some guy, trying to get over an ex-boyfriend, and daydreaming about the guy I thought would be perfect for me. I was trying to get over my past while dreaming about my future. I wasn’t living in the present. But I had people around me who perpetually pointed me to Christ, and having that kept me grounded.

Back in the states, after I graduated and while I was living in Houston, I prayed every single day for an opportunity to continue my soccer career. I had family and a community who lifted me up in Jesus’ name constantly surrounding me. I went to church every Sunday with my parents, and went to a community group every Wednesday with my friends. I had people to talk about faith with, and problems to turn to God with, and faith to hold onto when I was scared about how my life would look the next 365 days.

I needed Jesus to ease my worries about school.
I needed Jesus to fix my broken heart after breakups.
I needed Jesus to calm my anxiety about the unknowns in my future.
I needed Jesus for an opportunity to continue my soccer career.
I needed Jesus as my rock to turn to in my fear.
I needed Jesus to heal my injuries.
I needed Jesus to tell me what my identity was in Him.
I needed Jesus to assure me I would be taken care of.

My days here in Iceland are simple and my life is stress-free. During the week I wake up whenever I want to. I choose to workout in the mornings for an hour or two. I eat lunch with the other Americans at the same restaurant every day, and I order the same chicken salad. The afternoons are spent watching TV, hanging out, exploring or relaxing. I eat a snack and head to practice later in the day. When I get home, dinner is waiting for me, and nights consist of reading, or talking with my family, or FaceTiming with people back home. I go to bed later in the night, and wake up to another stress-free day.

I don’t need Jesus to wake me up in the mornings.
I don’t need Jesus to help me as I’m trying to learn Icelandic.
I don’t need Jesus now that I have a paying job.
I don’t need Jesus to calm my fears about my future anymore.
I don’t need Jesus to heal my now-healthy body.
I don’t need Jesus in my new life here in Iceland.

I listened to a podcast today from the church I went to in Houston. The topic was patience in affliction, and the text was pulled primarily from James 5. I’m not currently going through any major affliction, yet the symptoms the pastor talked about that arise from not trusting God and lacking in patience fit me surprisingly perfectly. While I’m not struggling with patience in affliction, I am struggling with patience in a dry season in my life, and still trusting God every day. I think I’ve been so content the past few weeks just living my life for me, I haven’t “needed” Him in my life.

Even though I haven’t been struggling with major life issues lately, I’ve been feeling empty and joyless. I’m happy on the outside, and on the inside most of the time, but there is no lasting joy in my life. My life is simple. My life is stress-free. I’m surrounded by friends and I’m meeting new people and life has been good.

I started reflecting today on the past few weeks of my life here in Iceland, and I noticed a trend start to emerge. The things that come out of our mouths reflect the state of our hearts. The things that have been coming out of my mouth have been an obvious red flag that my heart is not completely satisfied, and it took one podcast to show me that.

Majority of my days are spent with the other two Americans on our team, Megan and Jaclyn, because the Icelandic girls either work or are in school during the day. The topics of every single one of our conversations the past few weeks have been either about boys, pointing out the things we don’t like about our bodies, commenting on how we need to eat better and workout more, commenting on soccer plays and tactics, and talking about shopping and spending money. Each of us have brought up and commented on each of these topics, and most of the time the conversations have a negative twist.

If my heart were satisfied with my singleness, I wouldn’t feel the need to constantly talk about past relationships and complain about the lack of a new one. If my heart were satisfied with the way God made me, I wouldn’t feel the need to look in the mirror every day and point out all of my flaws, then talk about them with my friends. If my heart were satisfied with my job, I wouldn’t feel the need to complain about petty things and get frustrated when I don’t perform how I think I should. If my heart were satisfied with my life right now, I wouldn’t feel the need to buy new clothes to fit in or look a certain way. If my heart was truly satisfied in Christ, the words that come out of my mouth would be life-giving, and positive, and full of joy, instead of negative and joy-robbing.

Even in stressing about school and graduating, I had joy because I knew whatever happened was in God’s plan for me. Even in Houston, in being anxious and fearful about the unknowns in my future, I had joy because I knew God would take care of me wherever He wanted to lead me. In my broken hearts, my worries, my mistakes, God was the center of my life and He gave me SO much joy. I may not have serious problems here in Iceland, but that doesn’t mean I don’t still need Jesus.

I will always need Jesus to turn to when I’m feeling sad.
I will always need Jesus to remind me I was made in His image, and that I am beautiful because of that.
I will always need Jesus to pour love and life into me, so that I can pour love and life into others.
I will always need Jesus to be an example of how I should live my life, and how I should treat others.
I will always need Jesus to talk to about my worries, no matter how big or small.
I will always need Jesus to praise for how He has delivered me from my dark past.
I will always need Jesus to give me the fruits of the spirit, because those can’t come from myself.
I will always need Jesus to remind me I am not worthy of forever with God, but because of His sacrifice I get to spend eternity with Him.
I will always need Jesus to completely satisfy my heart and soul.

It makes me sad that I’ve thought I haven’t needed Jesus since moving here to Iceland. For every trial He has brought me through, every sadness He has lifted me out of, every blessing He has poured over me, and every incredible opportunity He has provided for me, I should be praising Him in every word that I speak.

Looking around this beautiful country should be a reminder every day of just how magnificent our God is.

When I don’t need Jesus, I am trying to satisfy my heart with other things. When I think I don't need Jesus, that’s when I need Him the most.

"I am with you and will keep you wherever you go" Genesis 28:15

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Sweden Trip || Stockholm

First off, let me just say how thankful I am that I speak English. I’ve traveled to Africa, Mexico, and Europe before, but I guess I didn’t realize how useful it is to know English until this trip. When in doubt, speak English, and 90% of the time the other person will understand you. Hooray for that. 

Wednesday, April 6
We began our trip by loading up our bus in Akranes at 3:30 in the morning. Let me repeat that, 3:30. IN THE MORNING. I managed to only get about three hours of sleep that night, but thankfully I slept the three-hour duration of the flight to Stockholm to make a whopping total of six hours. I guess six is better than none, right?

Jaclyn, me, and Megan at the Keflavik airport

Just a couple of hours after we landed in Sweden, we walked to a soccer field by a school close to our hotel (when I say close, it was about a 15 minute walk) and had our first practice there. The walk was very cold and very wet. My legs made sure I knew that they were tired from traveling so much. Three flights in seven days. That’s a lot of air-time.

Our practice field 

Thursday, April 7
Practice number two came quicker than my body expected. A rough night of bad-quality sleep, interrupted by far too frequent trips to the bathroom to blow my nose, left me craving some serious shut-eye. For whatever reason (probably so much traveling and the poor weather), I came down with the symptoms of a cold. Lots of coughing. Lots of nose-blowing. Lots of trying not to be a mouth-breather (yuck).

We had a practice in the morning, ate lunch at the hotel, had a few hours of free time, then another practice in the middle of the afternoon. Luckily for the girls, and unluckily for our bank accounts, a mall was located about a 10-15 minute walk away from our hotel. 

The hotel where we stayed (so tall!)

During our free time in between and after practices, a lot of the girls (yes, including me) went shopping at that mall. Iceland doesn't have an abundance of good stores to shop at, and the few good ones are extremely expensive. Whenever Icelandic girls go to other places in Europe or the states, they make sure they leave a ton of empty space in their suitcases to fit all the clothes they'll be buying while traveling. It's a lot cheaper, and there is such a larger selection. (Everyone here is obsessed with H&M... after this trip, I am too.)

Friday, April 8
GAME DAY!!! Our day began with a light practice after breakfast, then free time until we had to leave for the field around 5 p.m. Megan and I spent that free time napping, which made the day go by a whole lot quicker. Warm-up was cold and rainy, but once the game started and the rain subsided it wasn't too terribly cold.

Y'ALL. I SCORED MY FIRST PROFESSIONAL / FIRST INTERNATIONAL GOAL! I cannot begin to describe how high my heart jumped and how excited my soul was. Scoring is always fun, but after a lot of shots taken and missed, to see my goal hit the back of the net when we were 0-0 in the first half was seriously the best. The ball soared to the back post off a cross, Megan volleyed it back across the face of the goal close to me, and I shot it straight into the goal. Just like that. Magical.

We ended up winning the game 2-0 against a Swedish team in the top Swedish division, so that was definitely a good win for our team. The first game I played in Iceland was kind of me running around like a chicken with my head cut off, hoping I remembered names and how to kick a ball (haha), but after getting to know the girls for a week and spending lots of time with them, I felt a lot more comfortable playing in this second game. All my teammates played really well and we all played really well together. I love games like these!

My team after our win 

Saturday, April 9
A team-jog and stretching session in the morning loosened up our legs from the game, and also prepared us for a long day of exploring downtown Stockholm!

Some of the team at the train station

I researched Stockholm a little bit before we left, reading several times about the uniquely-painted subways. The internet didn't lie!

Two of the many painted subway stations

Megan, Jaclyn, and I walked around downtown, making our way through a section of the city called Old Town. The buildings are huge! And beautiful! I didn't take a lot of pictures of the buildings, but here are two of me with buildings in the background ;)

After exploring and a little shopping, we took the train back to the hotel, got ready for dinner, then took the train back to downtown to eat dinner at an Italian restaurant. After dinner the older girls were allowed to go out in the city if we wanted to, so Megan, Jaclyn, and I decided to see what the Old Town Stockholm nightlife had to offer.

I was tired and my feet hurt from walking around all day, so I didn't really feel up to going out that night. As much as I love being boring, I had major FOMO (fear of missing out), and who knows the next time I'll be in Stockholm?? I'm learning to say "yes" more to experience all that life has to offer. I already said yes to moving to Iceland to play soccer for six months, so I might as well say yes to a few drinks and the possibility of an adventure with fun memories with my friends in Stockholm, Sweden. Great logic, right? RIGHT.

Incredible logic, actually. The night was definitely an adventure with lots of fun memories. We started out and ended up staying at an Irish pub for the majority of the night. We met a cute Irish bartender, and managed to find a group of people who spoke English! The group was a bunch of older, hockey-playing, Canadian pilots who seemed to be perpetually double-fisting beers (they're Canadian though, so who is surprised by that?). Interesting conversations, along with honorary Air Canada hat-wearing and singing lots of classic songs with the live guitar player, capped off the already adventurous day with good vibes.

Trying to find our way back to the train station in the middle of the night and trying to find a restroom for an hour (thanks, Meg), was another adventure in itself. What matters - we found our way home :)

Sunday, April 10
Breakfast, packing, and then a full day of shopping - Sunday turned out to be more relaxing. We shopped at the Mall of Scandinavia, which is apparently one of the biggest malls in Europe. One thing I've learned on this trip: Megan and I shopping together is dangerous, and the last thing we want to do afterward is check our bank account. But hey, we'll be looking stylish for our trip to Italy!! :) Also, thank goodness for tax refunds at the airport, am I right??

After five hours at the mall and a few hours at the airport, our flight departure time moved up an hour because the air control workers at the Keflavik airport in Iceland were going on strike. We needed to land by 11 p.m. or we would have to either turn around and fly to Denmark, or land in Greenland until the strike was over. We landed at 10:45! Thank goodness for that too!!

Overall, this trip was such a fun adventure to experience with my team and our coaches. I'm becoming better friends with the Icelandic girls on the team (which I love), and I feel our team bond becoming stronger and stronger each day. It's been easy to get to know Jaclyn so far because she's American and it's easy to communicate with her, and Megan, well, we've been really close for the past four years. The best teams are the closest teams, so I have confidence that the closer we get the better we will play together. Icelandic or American, we're all football players on the field!

Bye Sweden, we will meet again.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Different Place, Same Game

Soccer gives me so much joy.

I’ve known that fact growing up playing in the states. Every time I step on the field I feel at home. I’m now halfway across the world, in a country with people who primarily speak a different language, surrounded by tons of new faces, and soccer still brings me so much joy. Playing here gave me this realization: the place may change, but the game never does. I’m still at home on the field.

And y’all, Iceland is incredible. I had high expectations for the landscape from stalking five too many Icelandic Instagram accounts after I signed my contract (OK, more like fifteen, but who's counting?), and seriously, my expectations are definitely met. This place is SO COOL. I'm still thrilled I get to play my favorite sport in a cool environment like this one. I'm really digging this change of scenery (and boy, is it a big change).

During the winter we train in our indoor facility. I was really cold at first, but the weather isn’t as bad as I thought it would be. It's no Texas, and I used to always tell myself I couldn't live in a place that was perpetually cold, but as the phrase goes, "there's no such thing as bad weather, just inadequate clothing." I found myself some warm clothes and now I'm doing just fine!

Twelve hours after my first steps in Iceland, I took my first steps on the field for my first practice here. I had just met my coaches that morning and my new family, and then met my teammates in the locker room just minutes before practice. 

Megan and I after my first practice with ÍA

Everyone is so nice here!!!

All the girls know English, some better than others. They speak in Icelandic to each other 99% of the time, but they'll speak English to us Americans and do well at making sure we're included in conversations. Slowly I am trying to learn common soccer words and phrases in Icelandic that they use often so I can have a better idea of what's going on. On the field, if we say soccer terms in English the girls know what we're saying (thank goodness). That made my first game so much better! But I still want to know how to say everything in Icelandic too. I'm getting better every day! 

We had one practice the night I arrived in Iceland, and one practice the night following. The third day I was there, we had a game at 11:00 in the morning. I had only practiced with the team twice prior, and had no idea who we were playing, so I really had no clue what to expect. I was just kind of thrown into it, but being confident enough in myself and also loving challenges, I knew I would be fine. 

We play in a 4-5-1 (for those who don't know soccer - that means 4 defenders, 5 midfielders, and 1 forward). It's a pretty standard formation that I'm used to. I started as one of the two defensive center midfielders (I stay in the middle of the field and defend as well as attack up the middle when we have the ball), and I played 70 minutes. I was so tired! Still jet-lagged and heavy from traveling, my legs were not feeling the greatest, so my coach took me out after 70 minutes to "not kill me our first game" (his words). As much as my heart wanted to finish the game, my legs welcomed the needed break. (At this level, once you are subbed out you can't go back in the rest of the game.)


Sleep-deprived, heavy legs, language barrier, new people, freezing cold, different country... none of those things stayed relevant as soon as my cleats hit the turf. I had so much fun playing on that field with those girls. 

I'm thanking the Lord every day for giving me the game of soccer to enjoy, and for giving me the talent and skills to enjoy it at this high level. Without His gifts and the passion He's given me for this game, I would have never been given this opportunity to see the world through soccer. All the glory goes to God!

"So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God." 
1 Corinthians 10:31

Monday, April 4, 2016

Fjölskyldan mín // My Family

My Icelandic Family:
Ingthor – host dad
Anna Maria – host mom
Thora (almost 6) – host sister
Frida Maren (almost 4) – host sister

Anna Maria is my head coach’s younger sister, and I get the privilege of living with her and her family while I’m playing here in Iceland for the next six months!


Seriously, y'all. I feel SO at home here already. I have my own room in their house with a comfy bed, a nightstand with drawers, shelves with a television that plays dvd’s, and an armoire that hangs clothes and has shelves, and a huge window with a beautiful view out of the front of the house! Anna Maria even decorated my room for me with picture frames and cute decorations. This room is way better than I imagined, and I am so thankful for Anna Maria and Ingthor’s hospitality! And their house is just a few blocks from our soccer stadium and training facility, which is super convenient!

They already call me their oldest daughter :)

"My daughters" 

Anna Maria is so sweet. She has gone above and beyond to make sure I feel at home. She makes dinner every night for the family (DELICIOUS dinners, I might add), does my laundry for me (I haven’t had my laundry done for me since middle school), buys food for the house and for me (she makes sure I have the foods that I like – which I’m not picky so that’s easy!), lets me use her bike whenever I need it (so convenient), and is so patient with me as I’m trying to learn Icelandic (I practice pronouncing words and Icelandic letters with her - which are so hard!). But I’m getting better every day! She knows English well so we can talk to each other and she can translate for me, but there are some words and phrases she doesn’t know so I get to teach her some English too. I’m so thankful for her and everything she does for me – I can’t think of a better person to have as a host mom!

chicken, rice, bread, vegetables

Icelandic lamb, potatoes, corn, peas

Ingthor is awesome too. His English is more fluent than Anna’s so I can also talk to him easily. I’m trying to get him to teach me a lot of Icelandic, but he wants to talk to me in English so he and Anna can practice getting better at English (we’re trying to compromise haha). He also has a very sarcastic sense of humor, which I find hilarious, so he’s really fun to be around. He has also been so nice and welcoming to me, and he has made sure I feel like their home is my home too. Which I do! I love it here already. I love watching him play with his girls; it's so obvious they adore him. And it's obvious they adore Anna too, and love playing with her. It's been cool to see their family interact and see the love they have for each other!

Thora and Frida Maren are both precious. They don’t speak any English (except for a few words and numbers), so the first few days here, since it was hard to communicate with them, they were very shy towards me. I’ve been here five days now and they are finally warmed up to me! A couple of days ago Thora asked her mom to ask me if I wanted to color with her – so of course I said yes! Then today Anna told me that Frida cried earlier because she said she hadn’t seen me all day and she was sad about that. How cute!! I’m not the greatest when it comes to playing with little kids because I haven’t been around them much (I’m the youngest in my family), but living with these girls I’m hoping to get better at playing with them. I'm also getting a taste of what parenthood is like with small children! One thing I’ve learned: making funny faces and being a “tickle monster” has no language barrier ;) And neither does laughter :) 

It's been so hard to blog when I've been busy getting settled, exploring and learning all the places in Akranes, training with the team, and catching up on sleep (jet-lag is KILLER). Hopefully I'll get accustomed to this time zone soon and have some more free time to write down my adventures! I still have to tell y'all all about my team and playing in my first professional soccer game! That post will come soon, I promise!! 

<3 Rach