Like I promised in my last post, I want to share more about my trip to Italy and Greece a few weeks ago! Since this is my first time traveling to Europe, I knew I… More
As I write this, my parents are getting on a plane back to Nashville. Today was hard. My parents and I spent the day traveling from Dublin to London knowing that this was the end of their visit. I was sad when they left, but I wouldn’t change this past week with my parents in London. Not only was this their first time traveling abroad, but I also had the chance to share my life in London with two people I love dearly. On our last night in Dublin, my mom looked at me while we were walking back to our hotel and said, “We are in [insert expletive here] Dublin! Can you even believe that?” That’s exactly how I feel about this experience in London. I don’t realize how blessed I am to have this experience abroad while always having someone to return home to. This past week with my parents not only reminded me of all the things I love about home, but also how to slow down and enjoy the things I love about London. Sitting here tonight, after waving (and crying) when my parents boarded their train, I’m realizing just how lucky I really am.
Before I get too sappy, let’s rewind a bit. When I said bye to my parents waaaaay back in January, I did not expect to see them until I returned home in late May. A few months ago, finances and timing aligned so one person could visit London. As a family, we agreed my Dad would come visit! I have been sending him articles about the city, making dinner reservations at the tallest restaurant in London, forwarding links to different events, and creating lists of things for him to bring me (aka clothes and food). Fast-forward to a few Sundays ago: my parents and I skyped to talk about his travel plans. This whole time, my mom had been telling me about her “girls weekend” with her best friend in Illinois. She would pout a bit about not going to London but then act excited about my Dad visiting. Fast-forward a few more days, and I’m texting my Dad to meet up at King’s Cross Station after his flight. I saw my Dad, and immediately ran up to give him the biggest hug I’ve had in awhile. Fast-forward a few more seconds. My Dad and I walk around the corner, and my Mom is standing there, in London! Let’s just say I shed a few tears (of joy!), and gave her the second biggest hug I’ve had in awhile. My dad captured my reaction, but the picture is definitely not the most flattering. Check out my Mom’s Facebook page if you really want to see that. Who knew my parents were sneaky enough to pull off this surprise though?
I had to alter my plans for my Dad and I since our tour group gained a member. Thankfully, my sister had emailed the Duck and Waffle, the restaurant I had reserved for the night, to make sure my Mom could eat too! Before that, we started that first day off at one of my favorite little coffee shops – Half Cup. They had a traditional English breakfast with tea while I enjoyed my avocado toast and newfound love – a matcha latte. Later that afternoon, we took a Double-Decker bus (a must in London) towards the Thames. After getting a bit lost through the construction along the river , we made it to our first destination: Sky Garden. Sky Garden is the best (and free!) alternative to one of the most popular tourist sites in London, the Shard. The Shard is the tallest building in London, and it has the best views of the city. Sky Garden may not be as tall, but you still get an amazing panoramic shot of London from 155 meters up. Plus, Sky Garden has an indoor garden and amazing bar you can enjoy while taking in the sites. Continuing with the views of London theme, we made our way to the next reservation at the tallest 24 hr restaurant in London, Duck and Waffle. There, you can take in the views of the city while enjoying an amazing dinner. The food (including wine) was amazing and the views were spectacular, but the company was even better.
The next day, we woke up and joined a “hop on hop off” tour on the city! We started the day with a Yeoman Warder, a.k.a a Beefeater, at the Tower of London. We heard tales of prisoners and killings, saw the Crown Jewels, and scouted out the famous Tower Ravens. Next up, we hopped on the tour bus and saw the “must-see” sites in London: Trafalgar Square, Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, and Westminster Abbey. In-between sites, we jumped on the tour bus for a lack-luster guided tour of the city. The ride was great, but it’s not a good sign when I know more information about an area than the guide. Despite that, seeing the sites was great! We ended the night at a traditional pub in Trafalgar Square. I got an amazing beet and lentil salad while my parents enjoyed more traditional fare. My Mom ordered the classic fish and chips while my Dad tried something a bit more adventurous – some sort of British fish pie with salmon, shrimp, and veggies. Are you detecting an eating pattern here?
Friday morning, we continued our London adventure in the Kensington area. After dealing with the tour bus again, we checked out Harrods Department store, Hyde Park, and the Victoria and Albert Museum. I even got a chance to share some of my new art history knowledge at the museum! The next day, we planned to go to Borough Market for lunch and Portobello Market to shop. We started with lunch at Borough market. My parents had their first taste of London street food and we tasted way too many samples at the permanent booths around Borough Market. At Portobello Market in Notting Hill, we walked down Portobello Road, alongside the iconic colored houses, towards the antique traders and different vendors. I came away with a London themed tea cup, and my Mom found a new bracelet. Pretty typical for shopping with the Jacksons. That night we went to a ~local~ pub I’ve discovered, The Camden Head, for a night of free British Comedy (and more wine).
On our last full day in London, my parents and I planned to attend a church service at St. Paul’s. Not only was this my parents’ first visit to an Anglican church but also their first visit to a cathedral this large. St. Paul’s is beautiful, but the service was even better. The components of this worship service echoed memories of traditional Methodist worship services my parents and I attended while I was growing up. It was an amazing experience to listen to the organ play, take communion, and participate in the liturgy with my parents in this iconic London cathedral. I cherished sharing that experience with them. After the service, we checked out the Museum of London before heading to high tea! My dad found a local pub to hang out in while my mom and I enjoyed a, albeit not traditional, fun afternoon filled with tea and mini sandwiches! It was the perfect time to be girly and catch up on life together – something I’ve missed. We found my Dad after our tea and prepared to go on our next adventure – Dublin!
The next morning, we left for our “rail and sail” journey to Dublin. Although we traveled for the majority of the day, the train and ferry trip were beautiful. We saw snapshots of the English countryside (complete with sheep of course), and we sailed across the Irish Sea. Despite a bit of seasickness and a minor (almost major) misstep with the border patrol in Ireland, the trip was amazing! Once in Dublin, we found our hotel that was located near Trinity College Dublin. We immediately sought out dinner, and found an amazing place with the perfect name for this family: The Pig’s Ear. There, we indulged in a Chopped worthy meal. I was just happy to try some Irish seafood. On Tuesday morning, we tried the “hop on hop off” tour in Dublin. To our surprise, it was 1,000X better than tour in London. The tour guide was hilarious (and very Irish). He sang us Irish songs, pointed out his favorite pub, and indulged our Irish stereotypes. Along the tour, we hopped off at the Dublin Castle, Christ Church Cathedral, and Guinness Brewery. That night, we got tickets to Celtic Nights – an Irish music and dancing show! There, I tried my first taste of Jameson Whisky and Bailey’s Irish Creme. Unfortunately, the whisky was way too strong and the coffee was not strong enough. On the plus side, I decided good-quality beer from Guinness isn’t that bad.
Back to Wednesday – the last day with my parents. We woke up, had breakfast, and shopped a bit before the plane ride. Then, we almost missed the flight back to London after battling security and sprinting through terminals at the Dublin airport. We finally made it back to my room at school for a few hours before my parents’ next journey home. Playing cards on the train and eating dinner together, even if it was as basic as pre-packaged soup, were my favorite parts of that day. It may seem simple, but playing cards and eating dinner together reminded me of my best memories at home. I’ve realized this week how much I appreciate the little things – like always beating my parents at our favorite card game or my mom saying things a bit too loud on public buses. Those little moments define my relationship with my parents. Throughout the week, I found myself reaching for my Mom’s hand, leaning on my Dad’s shoulder, and appreciating the little moments with them more often than I do at home. Our trip was filled with hiccups along the way, but I wouldn’t trade my time with them for anything.
Spending the last week with my parents made me appreciate the place I’m in and the people I can share that with. My parents commented on how independent I’ve become. They were proud of the life I’ve created in London. I also realized why I have been able to create this life in London – I have the best support system one could ask for. My parents not only raised me well but they continue to provide support when I need it. They are my parents, cheerleaders, and friends. I m so blessed to have them in my life. I’m also blessed to be able to share London, a place I can call home, with them! Sending them home was hard, but I know that I’ll be making that same journey back to Nashville soon.
So, what’s next? Since I don’t have exams until the end of April, I plan to travel and explore London! If my parents taught me one thing this week, it was to slow down some. I’m looking forward to my next trips and to exploring this city! My next getaway is to Italy and Greece! I’m flying out for Italy on Friday morning to meet my friend Briana, heading to Greece on Tuesday morning, and making the trip back to London on Thursday! Look out for pictures of the Mediterranean sea, Italian art, and delicious pasta soon!
A few weeks ago, I decided I would take a day trip to Paris. With the eurostar train – the high-speed railway connecting London to other major cities in Europe – only a few minutes away, why would I not take a day trip to Paris? So, I booked my tickets, packed my bags, and left on Wednesday afternoon. By the time I got into Paris I had 24 hours to experience “La Ville Lumiere” – The City of Lights.
Since I was going to be in Paris for literally 24 hours, I knew I had to make a plan. Thankfully, my friend Mary Catherine is studying in Paris this year, so I had a place to stay for the night! When I arrived in Paris, I wandered around the train station, Gare du Nord, until I found signs that seemed like they pointed toward public transportation. This would have been a great time to actually remember what I learned in French class freshman year! I found the train (thank goodness for citymapper directions!), bought my ticket, and took the 30 minute ride to the 14th Arrondissement. As I walked out of the metro station, I realized that my phone was not working. I’m not exactly sure how my UK SIM card works (I just do what the phone company tells me to do each month!). All I know is it wasn’t working at that moment. Coupling my phone issues with the lack of clear street signs, I was pretty lost at that moment. Everyone was rushing home, I had no way to contact my friend without data, and I just happened to be at one of the most confusing intersections in Paris. Thankfully, I found my way and made it to Mary Catherine!
That night, we shared a delicious plate of macaroons from “the most famous shop in Paris!” I tried rose blossom, orange blossom, vanilla, and pistachio. We both decided the orange blossom was the best – the inner-Brit inside me thought it would ha ve gone well with a cuppa’ tea. After that, we got ready and headed out for my first Parisian adventure – a jazz nightclub. We walked long the Seine River, drank my first taste of real french wine, and listened to a fun jazz band in a medieval-style club that night. I even got to experience a “Midnight in Paris” as we walked down one of the older, narrower streets in city after we left the club. We decided to head back to get some rest before the next day! Since I packed in ALL of Paris (or at least it felt like it) in one day, I thought a timeline of my day would be the best way to share all the sites I hit!
6:00 am – Wake up call! If you are in Paris for 24 hours, you have to make the most of every moment (even if you went to a jazz bar the night before)
7:00 am – Catch the metro into the city
7:30 am – Watch the sunrise over the Eiffel tower and take mandatory touristy pictures
8:15 am – Start walking towards the Arc de Triumph and realize you are already getting hungry again…
8:45 am – Check out the Arc de Triumph and Eternal Flame
9:15 am – Find some more food and coffee!
9:45 am – Walk down the main shopping strip in Paris
10:15 am – Check out the Musee D’Orsay, home on Monet, Impressionism, Van Gogh, Degas, and so much more!
10:30 am – Take more stereotypical tourist photos in front of the clocks at the Musee
11:00 am – Realize you are hungry again and set out to find lunch by Notre Dame
11:30 am – Lunch! Side note – I prefer French wine to French food
12:45 pm – Say goodbye to Mary Catherine and start adventuring through Paris alone
1:00 pm – Check out Notre Dame!
1:30 pm – Wander upon an adorable flower market, buy “Paris” things like lavender and fancy soap
1:45 pm – Time to face the crowds at the Louvre!
2:15 pm – Find and take stereotypical selfie shot with the Mona Lisa and then leave the Louvre because it is WAY too overwhelming
2:30 pm – Head over to Sainte-Chapelle – aka a kaleidoscope posing as a gothic cathedral
3:15 pm – Realize I am exhausted but still have “must-sees” on my list…
3:20 pm – Decide I need caffeine
3:30 pm – Walk towards the Latin Quarter and Cafe Du Flore – one of the oldest cafes in Paris. Famous for serving philosophers, thinkers, and artists
4:00 pm – Explore the side streets of the Latin Quarter. I stumbled upon a fancy, gourmet food store and bought fancy salt (or “le sel”), tried on perfume while recieving dirty looks from the store owner, and meandered through a little bookstore
4:30 pm – Drink the strongest (and smallest) cup of coffee I have ever tried. At this point, I realized why I would drink tea over coffee any day of the week
4:35 pm – People watch as I sit outside the cafe with my coffee
4:50 pm – Meet up with Mary Catherine again and discover a Parisian tea store…
5:15 pm – Head back to Mary Catherine’s to make dinner and get ready to leave for the train station again
6:00 pm – Eat a French baguette with dinner (a must-do in Paris)
7:00 pm – Leave for the Eurostar station
8:13 pm – Board the Eurostar and head back to London
8:15 pm – Realize you have walked over 35,000 steps according to your phone….
8:30 pm – Attempt to read Art History article in-between naps
10:15 pm – Arrive at Kings Cross Station, walk home, freeze my baguette (it was over a foot long)
11:00 pm – Sleep and recover for class the next day
Can you do Paris in 24 hours? Why yes, you can.
In another life, I’ve decided I would be a history major. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Human and Organizational Development (HOD) program at Vandy. Side note – I almost titled this post, “Explaining HOD in London”. But, I’ve stopped trying to even do that. To British students, I’m simply a “business major” at home. Being a “business” student has its perks – I enjoy marketing, business strategy, and working with in teams. But… being a history major is not so bad. I’ve re-discovered my love of history that began in my AP history classes in high school. Now that I’m actually in some of the places I studied, I love history even more. Simply walking around London is akin to reading a history book. Throughout the city, there are historical sights, blue plaques that tell you who lived or worked in houses, and museums filled with everything from neanderthal bones to pieces of modern art that I don’t understand.
I am also surrounded by academia in London and England. Just a short train ride away is one of the oldest and most well-known univeristies in the world – Oxford. London itself has a more universities than I imagined. My school, UCL, is actually the oldest university in London. Fun fact – Jeremy Bentham was the “spiritual founder” of UCL. Now, his presereved body sits near the cloisters and main library. Legend has it that UCL’s rival, Kings College, stole Bentham’s head at one point and played football with it. Besides all the quirky stories, I love the libraries and sense of academia here. From the beautiful architecture to the expansive (and confusing) library, everything seems very “scholarly” here.
This may all sound very romanticized (and it is), but I really have fallen back in love with learning for the sake of learning here. At home, I only take classes to meet a requirement or finish my degree. Here, I am in a class for humanities credit at home and an HR class for my “business” major, but I choose my history classes solely on interest. As I sit in my British History class (ironically taught by a proud Irishman), I get to explore the towns and sites we learn about. As I attend lectures on medieval Christendom in Europe, I get to learn about academic activity at Oxford and chivalry at castles like Warwick Castle. As I visit museums with my art history class, I get to physically see Raphael’s The Mond Crucifixion as we compare it to other pieces. Even as I go to my Human Resources class, I get to interview British students for their perspective on this international topic. As you can tell – I’m enjoying this break from my classes at Vandy.
Academic life in London is not easy though. I may be taking what many students in the states percieve as “easy electives” but nothing is an “easy elective” at UCL. Because of the differences in the education system in Britain, my classmates are far more advanced in their specific degree of study. Instead of taking a wide range of classes or a liberal arts cirriculum, students in the UK focus their studies in the equivalent of US high school. Then, at university, UK studies only take classes within their major. That means, the first year students in my classes have been taking upper level history courses before attending UCL, and they are ONLY taking history courses at UCL. They are also taking classes to learn how to be a historian. Another difference is class structure and grading policies. Each week, I attend one lecture and seperate seminar for each class. During the lecture my history professors, the Irishman and an Oxford scholar, speak the entire hour as I quickly take down notes. Then, smaller groups meet with the professor for an hour to discuss the readings. In these seminars, you have me – attempting to articulate what I thought the author was arguing. And then, you have the kid sitting next to me who begins analyzing the primary texts from a marxist perspective. I just play along and pretend that I know what is going on! Sometimes I don’t feel quite qualified to be a history major here, in a town filled with history, but I still love the “academia” of it all.
The other difference between Vandy and UCL is the grading process. At home, I am typically graded on a mixture of participation, assignments, quizes, tests, and essays. Here, I am graded on two essays – that’s it. Reading is not required – there are no “reading quizzes” or assignments to keep you on track during the semester. The responsibility to learn, keep up with the class, and be engaged falls on the student. I actually love this independent learning method. I feel like I have to be more engaged in my work, but I like the freedom of choosing how much I work. I’ll update you on my thoughts on this grading system after I get my first essay grade back…
Another thing I love about studying abroad – I’ve decided that visiting castles, going to museums, and experiencing the tourist-y and historical sights in London qualifies as “studying” for my history classes. They always say that “learning is outside of the classroom” right? That also gives me a reason to share some awesome views of Oxford and Warwick Castle – the latest adventure in my London saga!
I can’t believe I’ve been in London for a full 3 weeks now! One one hand, I feel like I just arrived a few days ago. Leaving my parents at the airport still seems like it happened yesterday. On the other hand, I feel like I have been here for months now. I’m starting to fall into more of a routine, my room feels a little bit more “lived in”, and I’ve found a few go-to stores and coffee shops around the area. Although I’m starting to realize that I actually live here (for at least a few months), I’m still trying to do tourist-y things every week! This past weekend I had the opportunity to visit one of the more iconic spots in England – Stonehenge! My university, UCL, offers discounted day trips and tickets to certain places each semester. Stonehenge and Salisbury just happened to be the first one scheduled for the spring.
I met the rest of the group that morning at campus, and we loaded into the coach bus for our 2-ish hour journey to Stonehenge. I had planned to either bring some of my reading to do on the bus (didn’t happen) or leisurely watch English country-side as we drove (also didn’t happen). Instead, I slept! When I woke up, we were magically only 15 minutes away from our destination! I had 2 hours to at Stonehenge, but I waited for two of my friends, who hadn’t gotten the tickets through school, to arrive before I explored. Once they arrived, we boarded the shuttle to the actually rocks in lieu of the 30 minute walk through the cold.
I wish I could tell you that seeing Stonehenge was a life-changing moment – that I experienced the magic of the bluestones the the Normans used to build the prehistoric monument. But, I didn’t. For me, the most “magical” part of the experience was seeing such an iconic monument and learning about the history of the stones. Did you know that Stonehenge was built in 2500 B.C. and the builders used stones that were around 150 miles away from the building site? Crazy! The site was originally used as a ceremonial burial ground, place of ritual, and temple aligned with the movement of the sun. Around Stonehenge, there are several other burial and ritual sites. The builders sought out the bluestone from the Preseli Mountains, despite the distance, for the magical and healing properties. In the picture above, the replica of the bluestone rock was radiating heat. I may not have experienced any life-changing moements, but in that sense it was magical.
After taking in some views of the English Countryside, my group loaded back onto the bus and made the quick trip to Salisbury. Located in Wiltshire, Salisbury’s history begins around 2,500 years ago when the Saxons invaded the area. It was originally called Sarum until the bishop decided to move downhill and create the modern town of Salisbury in 1217. In 1220, the town began building Salisbury Cathedral and completed it in 38 years. This catherdral is one of the four places where you can find an original copy of the Magna Carta (dating 1215). In addition to the Early English Gothic cathedral, Salisbury also has a fun food market, cute shops, and an adorable walkway along the river (I called it a creek).
That afternoon, I headed over to the cathedral and had a great walking tour! I learned about the history of the building and the things inside of it. Fun fact – the cathedral is actually floating on water. The foundation is built on water, and the tour guides have to check the water level (through a hole in the cathedral floor) every so often to ensure the building won’t collapse! When I had finished the tour, I sought out the market in the town square. It was towards the end of the day, so I found some great deals! After that, I explored the shopping area for a bit. There was a weird mix of new/chain stores alongside cute, local shops. I did find a tea store though, so I was happy! I decided to grab a quick dinner at an adorable cafe, The Boston Tea Party, before I had to meet our tour group at the bus.
Although I got to see iconic sites, historical buildings, and my first taste of the English country-side, my favorite part of the day was learning to explore a new area alone. My friends had met me at Stonehenge, but they did not make the trip to Salisbury with me. At first, I was worried that I would get bored. But, I realized that exploring areas alone can be fun! I didn’t have to go into the shops I didn’t want, I could linger in the tea shop for way too long, and I got the chance to just simply walk through the streets. Even though I love exploring places with others, I’m learning that just exploring is pretty good too.
Today is a bittersweet day for me. This blog post will be the last one I write at my desk at The Nashville Food Project. For the past three months, I have sat at this desk every Friday catching up on my office work and writing posts for this little corner of the internet. As I sit here today, I have my cup of tea that I make every Friday morning alongside a sweet gift from my coworkers – a mason jar of flowers, a beautiful basket, and my first cookbook (signed by each person I worked with this summer). This gift is very representative of the experiences I have had and lessons I’ve learned here. The flowers remind me to find the beauty in the little things; the basket reminds me of the baskets I took to the farmers markets each week; the cookbook reminds me of all the lessons I have learned in (and out of) the kitchen. I just finished reading notes from my coworkers in the cookbook, and I wrote my thank you notes in return. The fact that I am leaving really hit me this morning. I acknowledged my “last farmers market” and “last meal prep” earlier this week, but my departure did not really sink in until I arrived to the office and found this gift. But, I know that today is not the last day I will be at The Nashville Food Project. Today is just the last day of this specific adventure.
In the past few weeks, I have realized that I will not be a different person after my last day here. I was so worried about how I would define myself after my internship ended this summer. I would no longer be the farmers market gleaner or meals intern. I would no longer be spending my days in meal prep or my Saturdays at the farmers market. I really did not know how I would make the transition back to being a student at Vanderbilt, or if I really wanted to. Despite this, I feel at peace with this impending transition. I have come to realize that I will not be a different person tomorrow morning. I may not wake up at 7 to go to the farmers market, but I will still be passionate about the work I have done and will do in the future. I have come to peace with the fact that I am supposed to go back to school, finish my degree, and gain new skills to continue pursuing my passions in the future.
During my quiet time last week, the scripture and devotional I read spoke to the range of emotions I feel about my summer internship ending. The devotional was titled “Fallen and Redeemed Work.” Like the author, my heart mirrored King Solomon’s words in Ecclesiastes 2:18-19
“I hated all my toil in which I toil under the sun, seeing that I must leave it to the man who will come after me, and who knows whether he will be wise or a fool? Yet he will be master of all for which I toiled and used my wisdom under the sun.”
I hated the idea that my work this summer would not continue. I would not be at the farmers markets or working in the kitchen. My identity as the farmers market gleaner would cease to exist – who would I be this upcoming semester? Was all my work done in vain? But, I continued reading and I realized that I had “worked heartily, as for the Lord, and not for men.” (Colossians 3:23). I realized that the is devil taunting me – he makes me think that my work this summer was done in vain just because I can’t continue once school begins. But, that is wrong. “For it is God who is working in [me], enabling [me] both to desire and to work out his good purpose” (Philippians 2:13). I know that I did build relationships between farmers and The Nashville Food Project this summer, I spread awareness about their mission to build community through nourishing food, and I shared local produce with the entire Nashville community through the meals here. My work was not in vain, and I would not be a different person when it ended.
I also know that God is calling me to go back to Vanderbilt and finish my time there as a student. Since I was accepted at Vanderbilt, I have known that God’s hand has been on my entire experience. Things have always fallen into place, and I have felt him lead me to different things there. I am so grateful to be at an amazing university, apart of a competitive scholarship program, and a human and organizational development major. But, being a student at Vanderbilt is hard. God does not promise that the work he calls us to will be easy (Genesis 3:17). My work this summer was not easy, and my work this semester will not be easy. But, I know that God led me the The Nashville Food Project this summer just like he has led me to Vanderbilt.
So, in this bittersweet moment – the transition from The Nashville Food Project to Vanderbilt – I am choosing to listen to God. My place right now is at school. I’m choosing to listen to 1 Corinthians 10:31, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it for the glory of God.” Just because I am leaving The Nashville Food Project does not mean my work was in vain or that my identity is changing. My work is for God’s glory, and my identity is (and has always been) in Christ. With this knowledge, I am leaving today to prepare to return to Vanderbilt and finish my last two years of college. But, that doesn’t mean I am leaving The Nashville Food Project forever! I plan to volunteer and be here when I can. I also plan to still go to farmers market (this girl has to have her veggies!). I am grateful that I have been blessed to have this experience. Now, I just have to be prepared for that little thing called change.
p.s. If you would like to read the She Reads Truth devotional, check it out here!
Sorry things have been a little quiet on the blog lately! Life has been busy lately – getting ready for the upcoming school year, filling out applications, and taking a weekend trip to Asheville. But, I’m back! Today, I want to share an experience that I had a few weeks ago at the Vine Hill Apartments in Nashville. The Vine Hill Apartments are a low-income housing area in metropolitan Nashville. The Nashville Food Project serves 60 meals at this housing area every Friday.
One of my goals this summer was joining a truck team to serve a meal at one of our community partners. The truck teams consist of 3-4 volunteers who commit to serve one of our meals once a month. The teams are on a monthly rotation to serve each of our community partners. The team I joined happened to solely consist of female clergy from around Nashville. When I found out I had the opportunity to join these teams, I was beyond excited!
When we arrived at the Vine Hill apartments, we parked the food truck and set up the table before residents began lining up for food. Once people came over to the truck, we began serving. That day, the meals team had prepared a beautiful meal for the residents. We used donated salmon pieces from a local restaurant to make homemade salmon patties with a lemon-caper sauce. On the side, there were roasted red potatoes with olive oil and herbs. Alongside that was a fresh garden salad with lettuce and toppings donated from the farmers market. We dressed the salad with a homemade basil-apricot dressing. For dessert, we shared 2 cookies donated from Christie’s Cookies. When I saw this meal, I immediately wanted to have my own plate (even though I had just eaten lunch!). At a restaurant, this meal would have easily cost $15 or more. Although I wasn’t surprised that we shared such a delicious, nutritious, and high quality meal, this was the first time I saw one of our meals plated and served.
Seeing people come up to the table and receive that food made everything I do at The Nashville Food Project more meaningful. I actually saw the Nashville Food Project’s mission – bringing people together to grow, cook, and share nourishing food with the aim of building community and alleviating hunger in Nashville, come to life. I saw the lettuce from our garden and potatoes gleaned from the farmers market. I saw the pounds of salmon that a volunteer cooked and skinned during a Wednesday night meal prep. I saw a truck team come together to serve a meal to the residents that they knew by name. It was such a “full circle” moment when I saw the fruits of my (and all of the staff and volunteers) labor on those plates. I wish I would have taken a picture of the meal we served and the food truck that day, but a picture could not have captured the moment. That moment solidified the reason why I am gleaning at the farmers market – creating access to nutritious food (that actually tastes good) with people who normally would not be able to enjoy that meal.
Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. – Matthew 6:34
I know “being present” is a buzz phrase right now. We are told to be present and mindful for our mental health, put down technology and be present with those around you, stop worrying about the future and be present in the current moment. You would think the idea of being present would be easier for me by now considering the popularity of that phrase. I practice yoga (a practice and discipline that emphasizes being present in your body and mind) and value my Christian faith. Only recently have I really understood what being present looks like in my daily life and my relationship with God. The recent police shootings, riots, and violence around the world have altered my perception of the world and people around me. I’m slowly learning to appreciate the little things – like a parents’ hug at night or a bouquet of flowers – and to live in the moment that I am in.
I’ve always struggled with worrying about my current situation and future. I love planning, and I frequently make grand plans in my mind that never truly come to fruition. I’m slowly learning to go with the flow more. Working at a non-profit this summer has taught me to expect the unexpected (i.e. receiving an unexpected 1,400 lb donation from Whole Foods one day) and adapt when plans don’t work out. For instance, I planned to have a booth at each farmers market during the summer to market the Buy one, Give one portion of my project. Instead, I developed deeper relationships with the farmers and shared my passion and The Nashville Food Project’s mission with them. This process taught me to slow down, teach, and learn from the people at the farmers market who could make or break my project.
Learning to adapt to different situations has changed the way I plan things, but I still worry. Since I started practicing yoga, I’ve heard teachers talk about acknowledging emotions that come up and letting them pass. They emphasize being present in the moment instead of worrying what other think about you or what you have to get done at work/school/etc. At first, I dismissed this idea of forgetting all the things I had or wanted to do. It is so easy for me to get lost in my schedule or to worry about the next test I have. I’ve slowly learned how to acknowledge those worries but not let them take over my day. I still have so much to learn, but I can being present in yoga transferring to other aspects of my life too.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. – Philippians 4:6
The Lord has been the best teacher for being present and letting go of my fears and worries. I believe that God puts things and people into our lives when we need them. He opened doors for me so I could become an Ingram Scholar at Vanderbilt and have an internship at The Nashville Food Project. My family has always emphasized serving others because of God’s love and blessings – not because we have to. After looking back on my path to Vanderbilt, my scholarship program, and this internship, I think God used that mindset to put me in an environment where he could teach me how to be present. I also believe God put the people I have met in the yoga community in my life to teach me how to use the idea of being present. In other parts of my life. Lastly, he has used scripture, the church, and the community I have at Vanderbilt to teach me why and how to trust him. I’ve always been a Martha – worrying about how things look and whether or not the dishes are done. He is teaching me to focus on things that are much more important than the small details we encounter here on Earth.
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things” – Luke 10:41
Yesterday, I received news that a friend of mine lost a parent this week. That, in addition to the events happening around us, forced me to reflect on my world and how I want to live. I don’t want to live in fear because I know that God is my safe refuge, a fortress where my enemies cannot reach me (Psalm 61:3). And, I know that we have this hope [God] as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure (Hebrews 6:19). I also don’t want to live a life worrying about the what may happen in the future or even tomorrow. My study abroad process is a great example of living for the present. I’m currently deciding between a few places in Europe or New Zealand/Australia. New Zealand offers a (potentially safer) trip that I may never have the chance to experience again. Life is precious and best in the moment. But, I have always wanted to go to Europe. I’m still not 100 % on my choice, but I don’t want to think of what I “could” do later in life. I want to think about my life right now. I also don’t want to worry about what “may happen” in another country. I want to be present now.
Studying abroad is just a small example of how I want to chose to live my life – enjoy the present, the people around me, and the opportunities that arise. Many people have asked me why I chose to work at my internship all summer when my scholarship program only required 8 weeks. I’ve decided that I chose to work that long because I love what I am doing and I want to take advantage of this experience, the lessons I am learning, and the people I am meeting. I want to take advantage of what is here – in the present. This has been a wordy post, but I felt like it was necessary to process the recent events and truly reflect on what is important to me – my faith, my family, and love. I want to embrace that buzz phrase, be present, in every part of my life (home, school, work, my internship, etc.) so I can enjoy these blessings while I have them.
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Isn’t there more to life than food and more to the body than clothing?” – Matthew 6:25
I can’t believe it is already July! I realized earlier this week that I have less than a month left at the Nashville Food Project – this summer has flown by way too fast. That means I only have a few weeks left to highlight the farmers I meet at the markets this year. The hardest part about writing these features is choosing which farmer to highlight. I have been blessed to meet some amazing individuals and families that are at the farmers markets here in Nashville. With that said, I decided to highlight Old School Farm this week. In addition to selling produce at the 12 South Farmers Market, Old School Farm is a non-profit dedicated to providing employment to individuals with intellectual disabilities. I love the concept of combining sustainable farming with sustainable employment to serve the entire community.
Located in the Bells Bend area, Old School Farm was founded in 2013. The farm is associated with another non-profit that serves individuals with disabilities, MillarRich. The founders wanted to create a sustainable farm to provide fresh food while employing adults with intellectual disabilities. Since then, the farm has grown from an empty field to a thriving non-profit. There is even an on-site farm-to-table restaurant called The Old School (on my list of many restaurants here in Nashville to try!). The farm has a CSA in addition to selling at the 12 South Farmers Market each Tuesday. At the market, I met the farm manager, Rachel. After talking to Rachel, I realized how passionate she was about farming and leading her team – individuals with and without disabilities. I realized that I had actually interacted with many of the people Old School Farm employs at the market. Everyone there has been kind and willing to support the food recovery efforts.
I love seeing a farm grow and operate like any other sustainable farm at the market while supporting a population that is typically misunderstood. At first, my few interactions with adults with disabilities skewed my perception of what they could and couldn’t do. After seeing these individuals working at the market and reading their stories online, I realized that I was wrong. Seeing a typically for-profit enterprise (the farm) also serve as a community organization motivates me to learn more about this type of non-profit. The fact that you don’t even realize that the farm is a non-profit until you ask is even better.
Recognizing these preconceived notions I had about “adults with disabilities” reminded me of the idea that everyone is equal. I found this passage from the book of James where we are called to treat everyone the same – regardless of socioeconomic status, appearance, ability, etc.
My brothers and sisters, you are believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ. So treat everyone the same. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes. And suppose a poor man in dirty old clothes also comes in. Would you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes? Would you say, “Here’s a good seat for you”? Would you say to the poor man, “You stand there”? Or “Sit on the floor by my feet”? If you would, aren’t you treating some people better than others? Aren’t you like judges who have evil thoughts? – James 2:2-4
It is so easy to fall into the trap of believing that I am better than someone else because of x reason. But, we are called to treat everyone the same. Leviticus 19:18 calls us to “love your neighbor as yourself.” That is exactly what Old School Farm does daily. They treat and love every employ the same way. In my life, I have recognized that people have different gifts. Some may be good at writing while the other is good at drawing, etc. But, we are all equal, and we all need each other to thrive. I love this lesson from Old School Farm, and I hope that I can remember it as I finish my work this summer and back at Vanderbilt.
Volunteer – a person who voluntarily undertakes or expresses a willingness to undertake a service – Merriam Webster Dictionary
Through the Ingram Scholarship Program, I have the opportunity to participate in various volunteering activities – working at food banks, helping with children’s ministries, cooking at The Ronald McDonald House, etc. Volunteering is something I have always done. Whether it be volunteering at my church’s VBS or volunteering to organize my 4th grade teacher’s library by author’s last name (Yes, I was that kid), I’ve always chosen to “voluntarily undertake a service” in different capacities. As I got older, I began volunteering my time with non-profits in Nashville like Room at the Inn and The Nashville Food Project, as well as mission trips in other cities. Those volunteer experiences grew my love of service. Fast forward to today, and I am an Ingram Scholar, a service-oriented scholarship, the service chair for my sorority, running the social media for a non-profit, and interning at The Nashville Food Project. I’m not saying all of this to brag, but I wanted to use these experiences to explore what it means to me to volunteer. Now that I have been on both sides of volunteering – the volunteer and the organization – I feel like I have a better understanding (but not complete understanding!) of the importance of volunteering. Below, I break “volunteering” into the two perspectives that I have experienced as a volunteer at a non-profit.
Perspective 1: The Volunteer
As a volunteer, I’ve always wanted to do the “fun” thing at the organization or do something that I would enjoy. It’s always more fun to volunteer with a friend or group. Volunteering can be glamorous, like going on a mission trip to another country or distributing food to a family in need. Volunteering can also be dirty work, like cleaning out a gutter, chopping sweet potatoes, or weeding. I’ve been apart of (and enjoyed) both types of volunteering. I’ve noticed that other volunteers at The Nashville Food Project prefer to do the “fun” work during meal prep. Instead of peeling potatoes or cleaning greens for two hours, people prefer to cook in the kitchen or prepare fruit salad. At first, it always seems more fulfilling to work on something that others will directly benefit from. But, once volunteer begin working on the not-so-glamorous jobs, they begin to enjoy themselves. Volunteering is a great way to build community and get to know the people you are working with. Some of my favorite experiences have not been “fun” service, but those times are always with others. The Nashville Food Project tries to build community through volunteers and their service to others.
Volunteering can also become just a way to fulfill mandatory service hours. I’ve felt like that sometimes when I have to complete 20 hours of service a month on top of school, work, and friends. It is hard to volunteer for the sake of volunteering when you have to fulfill service hours. The mandatory requirement for many students does force you to volunteer when you think you don’t have enough time (but actually you do). Many times, those mandatory hours produce apathy in volunteers. But, those mandatory hours can also produce a passion for service. In my sorority, girls must submit 15 service hours by the end of the school year. I have seen people volunteer at an organization to meet that requirement, but they find a reason to continue volunteering.
People also volunteer for different reasons. Like I said above, volunteering may just be a way to fulfill hours. But, it may be a way to fill the time. Many of the volunteers at The Nashville Food Project are retired or between jobs. It is inspiring to see older adults volunteer because they enjoy it!
Perspective 2: The Organization/Volunteer Manager
Now that I have been on the other side of volunteering, I have a new sense of appreciation for all types of volunteers. At The Nashville Food Project, volunteers are a necessity. Volunteers work in the garden, prep/cook meals, and share the meals in the community. After working a meal prep time with only a couple volunteers, it is evident that volunteers are imperative to this organization and others! There is also power in consistent volunteers. These are the people that know their way around our space. They know what to do, how to do it, and why we do it. We have consistent volunteers that come weekly to prep, cook, and share food. This allows staff members to make new partnerships in the community and handle tasks like meal planning.
New volunteers can also be great assets for an organization. I love teaching people how to chop a new vegetable and letting them taste something grown in our gardens. I also love sharing what The Nashville Food Project does daily. It is fun to see volunteers enjoy the work they are doing and chose to return and help. This organization uses volunteer times to continue their mission – building community by sharing nourishing food. These volunteers are not sitting down and sharing a meal together, but they are working together to share a nourishing meal with the community.
Volunteers are also a great pair of hands for an organization. Most of the time, we need people to do those un-glamorous jobs I talked about earlier. We need people to take out the compost, sweep, clean bins, etc. It may not seem like an important task, but these tasks allow an organization to keep moving and working toward their goal.
So, what does this mean now?
Moving forward, I have a new appreciation for volunteers and more motivation to do the jobs nobody wants to do when volunteering. One thing we say at The Nashville Food Project often is “thank you.” Being gracious is such an important thing. Whether or not that volunteer came to fulfill a service hour to fill their time with something they are passionate about, that volunteer came to work at your organization. I have been trying to be thankful towards everyone – especially if they have been peeling potatoes for 2 hours straight. I am also thankful for the ability to help organizations in any way they need. After being on the organization side of volunteering, I know that every job an organization asks me to do is important (and there is always something to do at a non-profit!)
So, what does it mean to volunteer?
I think it means giving your time to help another individual or organization reach a collective goal. Volunteering at The Nashville Food Project helps share nourishing meals with our community. Volunteering at a local library helps a community provide access to books and knowledge. Volunteering at your kid’s school helps make that experience more meaningful for students. Volunteering can mean so many things. To me, the one thing that makes a good volunteer experience great is thankfulness and grace.
“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is thh will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
This week, I want to highlight a different kind of farmer. Whites Creek Flower Farm does not grow and sell food that I can take back to The Nashville Food Project. Instead, the farmer (Laura) sells “lovingly grown and organically managed” flowers at the East Nashville Farmers Market. I met Laura this year when I began gleaning there on Wednesday nights. Her booth is next to one of the farmers I visit each week. Quickly, she noticed what I was doing and began asking questions about my project and The Nashville Food Project. Since then, I have brought home a few of her bouquets to enjoy at my house. I never realized the power of flowers. They can truly change the entire atmosphere of a room and brighten a person’s day. Laura’s flowers do just that and more. Although she cannot donate food to The Nashville Food Project, Laura wants to give back to the community in some way. Because of this generosity and her presence at the farmers market, I decided that Whites Creek Flower Farm would be a perfect addition to “Farmer Friday.”
So, a little more about Laura and her flower farm – Whites Creek Flower Farm opened on Earth Day, 2012. Since then, Laura has been growing flowers with an English country garden aesthetic. I always thought her flowers were “whimsical” and different than something you could buy at the grocery store. Her farm is located right outside of Nashville in a historically rural area called Whites Creek. Laura and her family owned the piece of land she farms, but were not taking advantage of it. So, one day Laura’s husband suggested that she should begin utilizing it. Whites Creek is close to the Bells Bend area, a historically agrarian area. Because of that, Laura did not want to compete with the farms growing produce. Her love of flowers inspired Laura to google “flower farmer.” From there, Whites Creek Flower Farm was born. After reading her website and blog, it is evident that Laura has always loved flowers. She describes her grandmothers’ and mothers’ garden, as well as, her distaste for the “perfect dome” bouquets you can find at commercial retailers. Laura is as passionate about growing flowers and respecting the Earth as the farmers I have highlighted on this blog so far. Growing flowers, or produce, in this sustainable way also goes back being good stewards of the Earth that God created for us to enjoy! After learning about the way commercial flowers are grown in South America for that “perfect” look that we have become accustomed to, Laura wanted to produce flowers that respect the Earth even if they are imperfect at times. Even then, I love the delicacy and uniqueness of her flowers. I think that is one thing that drew me to Whites Creek Farm – Laura’s passion for sharing these flowers and her love of gardening.
I think another reason why I love locally grown, wild-flower like bouquets is because of my mom. She also loves gardening and having flowers in the house. I remember her telling me stories of taking walks just to pick wildflowers on the side of the road. I tried that once but it didn’t really work out like I envisioned it (like most things I try like that)! She is also notorious for pinching off a bit of a plant somewhere to regrow it at home or buying the dead flowers at the gardening store just to revive them. Stories like these make me feel connected to Whites Creek Farm’s flowers. This is the same connection I feel when I hear stories of my dad growing up on a farm and eating food out of his family garden. I’ve realized that it is not just pretty flowers or delicious strawberries that bring me back to the farmers market – it is the stories and passion behind the goods. That’s why I love meeting the people who grow the food or flowers I bring home. You feel more connected and have the opportunity to build a community. Not only are the goods better, but they are also meaningful! This sense of meaning and community is something I want to continue building and sharing.
Going forward, I don’t think I could enjoy commercially grown flowers in the same way. Just like buying produce out-of-season at the grocery store, sometimes I do it because I really want an apple in February or a strawberry in December. But, I know it won’t taste as good as one from a farmer. And, I know that it may not have been grown with as much care and passion. Even the Bible recognizes the beauty of flowers:
“Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith!” (Luke 12:27-28)
Flowers are just another thing that I enjoy buying at the market and sharing with family and friends. You can learn more about Whites Creek Flower Farm and the CSA at their website or on Facebook! https://www.facebook.com/whitescreekflowerfarm/