» Instead of Waiting for Someone to Bring You Flowers: Romance, God, & A Very Messy Heart

“And so you plant your own garden and decorate your own soul, instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers.” | V. Shoffstall, After a While

I’ve always loved February 14th. I like pink and chocolate (& pink chocolate), flowers and stacks of love-laden cards.

I loved Valentine’s Day in elementary school. It was so exciting and so sweetly innocent. We would all cover little shoeboxes with wrapping paper and carry them proudly in the crook of our elbows, other arm lugging candy-stuffed valentines (one for everyone in the class—that was the rule) in a giant plastic baggie. The teacher would give us an entire afternoon to parade around the classroom, dropping candy into each other’s boxes, simultaneously nibbling heart-shaped cookies and giggling over “who likes who.”

The best was the first grade. My mom sewed me a beautiful dress with a swishy hemline to wear to school on Valentine’s Day. There were puffy sleeves, white pearl buttons and little white hearts peppered on the red cotton. There was a special assembly that day, where the police came to talk about “fighting bad guys,” and I was privileged enough to be picked to sit in the police car (as an envious crowd looked on). It really was the best day ever.

In later years, when my perfect little dress was passed onto a neighbor or folded neatly in a box, I still wore pink or red to school on February 14th, bringing with me a bulging bag of valentines and a huge smile.

I am a romantic when it comes to life, and unabashedly so. I have a soft and sensitive heart and a curious mind. I love making small moments special, and delighting in the little things—sunshine on the pavement, fresh-cut tulips, a sandwich wrapped in wax paper and tied with baker’s twine. If I could paint the interiors of my mind, it would be saturated with a happy and sunny yellow, with touches of seafoam green and big, joyful splashes of pink.

I love loving others and making small efforts to bring them joy. I love loving the little things in life. I love loving God because He is so gentle with me, and the Holy Spirit because it/He (let’s get theological, friends!) is what fills me with peace and joy and a zest for life when I make the conscious effort to both pray and praise. I love my parents and friends, professors and major. I love my beachy home and Texas sweet tea.

There are little pieces of my heart all over the world; I love a lot of people and places and things...but I don’t love romantic love.

I’ve always been comfortable being independent. I’ve dated, but never seriously, and singleness has always brought a genuine sense of relief. Once I settled into college life and had close friends and sorority sisters who were, gulp, engaged, my glorification of independence started to chip and crumble. Did I need someone else? I was, for the first time in a long time, questioning whether or not I was behind in the rat race of romance. My soft heart, once rooted in self-reliance, and saturated with patience, confidence, and trust in God’s plan, began to feel a little bit bruised and a lot a bit sad.

Once in college, wearing pink on Valentine’s Day didn’t bring me the same joy. While neighbors in the dorms received elaborate rose bouquets from loving boyfriends near and far, I had a brown paper box from my mom filled with treats and bits of home, and my family’s comforting words to cling to. I remember wondering how in the world everyone got so...grown up. Did I miss some crucial step in the aging process that would fashion me into an adult, stripping me of my pink-wearing, valentine-making, mom-loving nature?

The feeling lingered, drifting into the following year and colonizing the present moment. I already made valentines, and I still plan on wearing pink, but I have been dreading Friday’s festivities—or lack of festivities—for the past two weeks. My heart has been a little glum and (always) anxious. While I have always taken comfort in giving my other anxieties to God, turning to Him about romantic love felt unimportant and just embarrassing. Where would I begin?

Thank God for God. He saw me wrestling with my thoughts. “My daughter,” he said fondly, holding my hand. “I will love you more than any man—any boy­—ever can. Run to my arms. If you let me, I can be all you need.” We talked for a while. It wasn’t pretty at first—there were frustrated prayers and anxious tears. When I no longer had words for the overflowing, overwhelming feelings that were bubbling up, I took pen to paper.

The ink became thread, stitching together letters to explain the feelings I couldn’t verbalize. The words became a sea, swirling around my knees. The pen became my avenue to God. The page became His invitation to the wild soiree in my heart.

 

And then He hugged me. My entire body felt like it had been soaked in a warm lavender bath, or enveloped by a blanket from the dryer, warmth still lingering.  I no longer had to—have to—limp along alone. Since Sunday school, I’ve known he is “with” me, as He is omnipresent, omnipotent, omniscient. What I didn’t grasp was that he is actually with me, a coalescence of the compassionate King and his humble servant. He is with me because his spirit fills me. It’s this radical, boundless love that reminds me I don’t need to be independent or romantically linked. I don’t have to be anything but His daughter. I am the daughter of a King who is not moved by the world. For my God is with me and goes before me. I do not fear because I am His.

 

“Dance with God and He'll let the perfect man cut in.”

Happy Valentine's Day (week?), friend.

...And now I feel like wearing pink.

 

Laced with History & Salted Air: An Escape

“May I a small house and a large garden have, and a few friends, and many books, both true, both wise, and both delightful too.” –Abraham Cowley (1618-1667)

Had I been a belle of the 1600s, Abraham and I would have been dear friends. We would talk in our British accents and write poetry together as we wring out our tea bags over ancient china cups. Four hundred years later, I dream the same thing. 

It’s a little beach cottage—pre-dawn grey shingles and off-white interior walls. I have a mint green Dutch door in the kitchen; the bottom half of the door can stay shut while the top half is flung open to let in the day. There is a fingernail of a porch in the front, a larger one in the back. The back porch shifts from wooden planks to a small stone path, from the small stone path to a wide sweep of gold sand and a wider stretch of navy water.

On the side of the house, there is a giant garden housed by a short, white picket fence. “The Earth laughs in flowers,” as the soil boasts of tulips and daffodils, irises and sunflowers.I harvest leafy heads of lettuce, deep-green kale and blood-red strawberries without the constraints of the seasons.There are cantaloupes and honeydews, peaches and little tangerines on small-trunked trees. In the summer there are sweet snap peas with crunchy, lime shells (resisting their usual winter routine), and big red tomatoes, thick and fleshy.

I slip my bare toes into sandals, and with a metal watering can in one arm and a whitewashed basket in the crook of the other, I disappear into the dew-studded, earthy embrace of my own big garden alongside my own little cottage.

I have lots of golden retrievers—all ages. There’s Edison and Sebastian, Franklin and Baylee and Ginger. I chase them around all day—through the garden, into the waves. We roll in the sand when the sun shines; when the stars emerge, we lay on the shore, burying our toes and fingers in the cool sand.

There’s a charming little town laced with history and salted air—a white post office, a craft store, an ice cream parlor with long, silver spoons. There’s a newspaper shop selling piping hot cinnamon donuts and a fire station that rings a lunch bell at noon every day (à la Gull Island). The church sits on a soft, grassy hill, fulfilling the metaphor by chance more than intentionality. On Thursdays there is a farmer’s market, tables overflowing with bushels of purple huckleberries and firm green ears of corn with buttery, yellow silk escaping from their tips.

Sometimes when I’m sad, I think of my little placeof my small house and large garden.

When it rains in Texas, I dream of the sunshine on my back as I sit on a kitchen stool, head bent over a watercolor painting. When tragedy breaks my heart and shakes my world—as the death of a friend did this week—I escape to my future life, familiar but uncharted. I know every street, every roundabout, every stitch on an apron that is yet to exist. I’m familiar with a routine I do not know. I savor the friendships I am yet to experience. I touch the hardback cover of a book that I am yet to publish. I love the man I am yet to meet, braid the hair of a child I’m yet to have, and breathe with a peace I am yet to know.

We all have our own little place wedged in a corner of our heart and forgotten in the cupboards of our mind. Sometimes we don’t even know we have a place that is all ours until life is all tears and sharp words, change and heartache, and we are already packing our mental bags and kicking off our theoretical shoes. We slip into a nap, drifting along with sleepy breaths and heavy eyelids to our special neighborhood or forest or village or lake front hidden in our heart.

When the to-do list has been recycled, my water bottle refilled and in the fridge,

When my clothes for tomorrow are set out, and the bath has been drained,

When my teeth have been brushed, and my wet hair has been combed,

When the comforter is turned down, and the blankets outstretched,

When my naked toes touch the sheets, and my head hits the pillow,

My mind tiptoes away from Texas and college and the sorrow of the week, and floats to my place—to my cottage on the seashore.

My place is where moonlight streams through the windowpane, and the glow of the stars tickle the glass. My place is where I wade knee-deep in the sea, running my fingertips along the surface of the water, happy to be a small fragment of His creation. My place is where my phone is a landline, the postman delivers on foot, the smiles are easy and genuine, the laughter is melodic and frequent, and my garden overflows.

 

Joyfully in Christ,

Finding Home (1,600 Big Miles Away)

It starts with coffee. A plain, albeit whimsical coffeehouse becomes the sanctuary for academics and writing—a quiet place of murmurs and coffee drips and tea cups clinking on saucers. On busier days, when the only seat left is in the crowded corner barely boasting the room for my own body, it begins with food instead.

Vegan diners, farmers' markets, organic grocery stores, smoothie shops—my soul is replenished and my stomach nourished. There are a few words exchanged, the warmth of a greeting, the sweetness of a small courtesy (an extra napkin, a door opened). Often there are dreadlocks, contained with an elastic, juxtaposing the orderly and the chaotic. Sometimes the jeans are rolled at the cuff, only once or twice, dragging the eye down to leather brogues. The shirt is usually plaid, sleeves pushed back at the elbows. The smile is always sincere. I give him a few wrinkled dollars for fleshy nectarines. He slips in an extra.

In my hometown, my niche is His creation. It’s the ocean, cliffs, sunsets studded with hot air balloons and hang gliders. It’s the “we aren’t built for this” kind of laughter as friends link arms and take on the rarity of rain in flip flops and tank tops.

My home is the sand, forever living in the trunk of my hybrid and sneaking through the cracks in the seats. It’s the aviators and the messy ponytails, the swimsuits, naked toes, and sunkissed, freckled noses. Home is my old parking spot at the high school, once painted coral and mint, with waves and dots splashing onto my best friend’s inversely painted slice of pavement. Home is the tiny fingernail of an outdoor café, nestled in the neighborhood by the beach, with Belgian waffles and little tin pitchers of steamed milk.

In Texas, it’s the nightly sunsets streaked with orange and pink and lavender, the gold leaves in the fall, and a springtime array of tulips and daffodils, wild by nature but contained by overzealous tender love and care. I brew coffee in my little single apartment and curl up in the oversized armchair to read. Home is my collection of thick, brightly colored paints and humble brushes. It’s my snoring neighbor and the distant sound of laughter and high heels, trailing down the halls and melting into the staircase.

Home is that one really long red light, when I silently curse for just missing the green (oh, knickers!). It’s the greasy burger joint with the sweet buns and my old freshman year dorm, tossing Polaroids of memories down to me out of wide-open windows. That was where we made forts and microwavable cookies and nearly fell out of our lofted beds.

But mostly, home—my own little place in a big, big world—is when I feel connected and peaceful, with a handful of friends over for dinner, laughing over baguettes and pasta with a thick garlic butter sauce, shoes kicked off by the door, phones in a basket, and heart full.

“She left pieces of her life behind her everywhere she went. It's easier to feel the sunlight without them, she said.” | Brian Andreas

The Reflection Phase: 25 Things I Learned from 2013

A year is a small bundle of moments, sewn into the pages of a calendar, and smudged in the top right corner of our history homework. There isn’t enough time or power in one little year for life to radically shift...right?

Every December 31st, teetering on the brink of a brand-new year, I think life can’t really change that much in 365 days. Entering into 2013, I felt that I had sipped every last drop of novelty that life had to offer; I was a second-semester freshman, and would later be a friend of summer, followed by a first-semester sophomore. By January 1st of my freshman year, the sheer newness of college was whittling away into a stale, albeit intellectually nourishing experience. My mind was still being stretched and pulled in the classroom (Italian classes, statistics, oh my!), but after a whirlwind of an autumn, I felt like Life could not possibly have new tricks up her sleeve.

Of course, I was dead wrong. Three small days of 2014 have gone by, gifting me a chance to quietly reflect on the path behind me, as I turn my sights to the yet-to-be. Below is a collection of lessons learned from 2013, some tender, some tough, some comic.

1. Being an introvert can be a blessing.

I really cannot do the topic justice with words when Kristen Hedges has already said it best: “I embrace my introversion with pride. Why? Because it’s awesome. All the best thinkers are introverts. In order to develop brilliant ideas and understand your place in the universe, you must turn inward. Meditate. You go on a solo journey into the very center of your heart, and cultivate a garden there. Then, you can spread your ideas and your creations to the world...Introverts are also incredible listeners. We are sensitive lovers. We’re caring, and nurturing, and we make lifelong friends. And the best part? We throw the world’s best double date game nights. Just don’t invite the whole block. So no, I don’t want to go to that party. Yes, I would rather stay home and scribble in a notebook. Yes, we are still friends. No, I’m not mad at you. You know what I would love to do? Get coffee. Or read next to each other. That sounds good.”

 2. Bravely reject the norm.

Just because seemingly everyone is dressing up and going to the bars does not mean you (or I) have to. Don't feel sheepish just because you find joy in (very) different activities than everyone around you. Follow your passions and seek meaningful fellowship.

3. I really did not need my belly button pierced.

Growing up in San Diego meant that anyone who’s anyone had a belly ring. Long story short, I got one and let it close up 3 months later.  I live in Texas most of the time, with a big coat covering my tummy, and no respectable beach (sorry to the Galveston lovers). The ring got pulled and tangled, fell out twice, and was more infected then I care to divulge. Impractical. 

4. My passions aren’t random—they’re my calling.

I struggled with this a lot when I was deciding on a major. I love the written language and I could geek out about religious history for eternity (pun). Just because what I like seemed different than the other girls didn’t mean I was random or weird (though I am for other reasons).

5. Be Rachel.

Similarly to above, 2013 has really helped me come to terms with the fact that what’s fun for other people might not (and often won’t be) fun for me too (and vice versa--I'm aware that not everyone likes puzzles, pie, and pajamas). 

6. When going to bed in embarrassing pajamas (particularly lime green footies with monkeys and peppermints), set sweats and a jacket by the bed in case of fire alarms.

My apartment complex has been testing my patience, and has had four lovely, earsplitting alarms this past semester. Each time I am in horrible, socially unacceptable pajamas (that I love to the ends of the Earth). Ratty t-shirt that barely covers? Check. Lime green nightgown? Oh yes. Footies of all patterns and colors? But, alas. Just learn from my mistakes and have fire alarm clothes handy. Please.

7. People aren’t thinking of you as much as you think they are.

They don’t notice you’re walking to class alone, and don’t care that much about the picture you just posted. Inhale some oxygen and keep movin’, friend.

8. Choose magazines like friends.

Celebrity gossip is a sugary trap: the buzz and then the crash. Just as the modeling agency was toxic for me, dwelling on successful models and celebrities can be just as dangerous. This year I’ve become a huge fan of Kinfolk and Darling magazines, filling my thinking cap with thoughts with worth and innovative ideas.

9. Keep your standards high.

When it comes to boys, don’t settle. End of discussion.

10. Thou shalt not go anywhere without a Camelbak water bottle.

 

11. Thou shalt also not skip morning coffee.

During the last week of school, my slice of Texas was hit with the “ice-pocalypse.” Slipping on solid ice all the way to Kroger was not on the to-do list, and it was finals week, so I settled for vending machine energy drinks for two weeks. Boom, crash, burn, cry, panic attack. Lesson learned.

12. Don’t be afraid to be smart.

I’ve written about my anxious nature plenty of times. This anxiety absolutely transfers over to the classroom. If my hand is raised, my heart is probably pounding. I don’t really mind speaking in front of the class, but I’m dreadfully afraid of being labeled “the smart girl.” You’d think it’d be flattering when people are over-the-top eager to be your partner on a group project—high school proved the contrary.

13. Twenty is too old for your high school denim shorts.

Goodbye white denim and green Hollister low-riders. You will be missed. (You make me look like I’m longing for 14, and that is an age I truly do not wish to repeat.)

14. Running is not the only kind of exercise.

Growing up a competitive swimmer and being a cheerleader in middle school and high school taught me that while the rest of the world trudges along in tennis shoes, I can have a lot more fun while I sweat. (Though, I did do summer cross-country freshman year of high school. Luckily, for the sake of my point, it didn’t turn out so well.)

As Kinfolk says, “Do some aqua aerobics or just jump in a lake...Skateboard across town. Try to resist grabbing the back of a truck...Chase small children around a muddy field: They cannot get enough.”

15. What you enjoyed doing as a 10-year-old is probably what you enjoy doing now.

I read the line in Gretchen Rubin’s book, The Happiness Project, and was captivated. Ten-year-old Rachel, with chubby cheeks and short, blonde hair, loved to play dress-up, color, play in the backyard, read, and make food for others. Almost-20-year-old Rachel enjoys the very same things.

16. Leggings can be pants if you want them to be pants.

Please don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

17. Chose your company wisely.

The quote is infamous—you become like the five people you spend the most time with. Think about those people. Would you be proud to be a mirror image of them? A melting pot of their qualities? Chose friends you respect, value, and look up to.

18. Make small moments special.

The little things are the best things.

19. Walking is the best way to think.

20. Wake up early.

Seize the day. Though having a lie-in on the weekends and reading amidst rumpled covers is a satisfying treat.

21. Eat well, feel well.

22. Gossip breeds more gossip.

And suddenly, you’re the subject of the gossip. And you feel quite glum. Avoid it, walk away from it, and literally run away from it, if need be.

23. Unplug your phone.

Technology sings a lovely siren song, but there is such thing as too much.Way too much. Check here and here.

24. Read.

25. Christmas music year-round is not breaking the “rules.”

It’s celebrating Christ’s birth daily, rather than “saving it” for a certain season. And while we’re at it, Christmas movies are good for the soul and make my heart smile. Don’t you dare tell me I can’t watch Eloise at Christmastime tonight (because I’m going to).

 

Lots of love and warm wishes.

Here's to a brilliant 2014.

L’arte d’arrangiarsi | The Art of Making Something Out of Nothing

"Edison? Sebastian? Whiskey? Franklin?"

We laughed, looping through Northern California, watching the sun peek through the pines and brainstorming puppy names (for a Golden, naturally).  Twisting around the corner, fleecy patches of snow emerged, their surface area increasing with each bundle of moments. We yawned forcibly and laughed again, trying to remedy our popping ears from the steep elevation.

We arrived at the condo and lit a fire, warming our hands, faces, and bundled-up bottoms, dissolving into the squashy couches and fur blankets. I brewed a cup of coffee, carefully boiling water on the stove and pouring it like molasses over the bittersweet grinds. Mug in hand, I began to unpack.

Coat, hat, thick socks, sweats, plain t-shirts, some hair elastics, toothbrush, running shoes, snow boots.

No makeup. No jewelry. No nice clothes. No planned outfits. No hair straightener or curler or brush. No $100 perfume, sorority gear, or mainstream, tasteless magazines. It was just me, a fresh face, some comfortable clothes, a stack of books, and an open heart.

On the first day in our beloved Tahoe, we took to the pathways—dusty, gritty, and icy. We trudged through our favorite lakeside neighborhoods, Kyle shamelessly checking house prices on his phone while we all dreamed of a more permanent winter escape. The sunlight dreamed along, meeting us at every corner, tickling our frosty cheeks and shade-soaked backs. Through large windows on larger houses, we saw peeks and glances of the horizon, a sparkling lake, bushy pines, and frosting-dolloped mountains.

Once we were lakeside, all we could really do was breathe. We stood, silently swallowing gluttonous gulps of crisp, mountain air. We were peaceful, and grateful, and free.

Kyle took a few pictures, but I indulged in the landscape with naked eyes. I had made a quiet promise to myself my phone would stay in the warm, little cabin at all times, safely tucked away in my duffle or resting quietly on the shelf. I was forcing myself to rebuild my technology habit, jumping on the opportunity to begin my resolution before the fresh, new year came knocking.

One night, the boys ventured into town for some rotisserie and a few light-hearted rounds of penny slots while my mom and I stayed home. We closed our books and got cooking. First came the quinoa. Mom boiled it over the tiny stove, and we listened to the water snap and evaporate. Stirring the hearty seed with a thick wooden spoon, I drizzled oil in another pan with my left hand. Once the oil began to dance—leaping and cracking and popping around the pan—I added the garlic, along with fresh onions, carrots, zucchini, and baby tomatoes. The sautéed veggies mingled with the white and red quinoa; the rich, mouthwatering smell of garlic and onions curled in the air. We made a little toast on seed bread and poured towering glasses of ice water, studded with perfect, square cubes. Happily, we furnished our plates, dishing out towering piles of goodness. When we sat, for the first few moments all we could do was stare at our lovely, little feast.

The art of making something out of nothing—L’arte d’arrangiarsi, in Italian—was richly satisfying. Our tummies and hearts smiled much broader from our nonchalant, strewn-together meal than had we gone for a lavish dinner in town.


L’arte d’arrangiarsi. Making something out of nothing. Living simply. I’m so often caught in the trap of excess, enveloped in More’s sticky clutches. More makeup, more ginger ales and macchiatos and text messages. More consecutive movies and Netflix shows and snacks.

More friends (less depth), more videos (less films), more cheap laughs (less clever wit). Blame it on society, blame it on my generation, blame it on my dreaming, pining soul. Whatever its root, I have a resolution on the mind. I want to make somethings out of nothings. I want to throw together simple, hearty meals with what I always have on hand—fruits, vegetables, simple seeds and grains. I want to call a few friends over and bless the food to our bodies, growing in faith and loving Christ together. I want one cup of coffee, thoughtfully made, in which to sip leisurely in the mornings from my hammered copper mug.

In her wonderfully explorative book, The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin tackles her overflowing closet. She stuffs trash bags with the clothing she constantly justifies—the “could wears,” “might wears,” and “would wears,”—and keeps what she does wear, day-to-day. One of her neat realizations was the newfound ease of getting ready in the morning; she felt like she had more to choose from in the morning from less, because what was left included all of her favorite items. Similarly, many Parisian women indulge in the 10-item wardrobe, investing in durability and class, and mingling the pieces with each other.

While I don’t see myself suddenly jumping to baggy comfort clothes as my daily style (cringing at the thought, actually!), the same simplicity can be translated into effortless sundresses, thick-knit sweaters and rich, solid colors. While leaving my phone at home when I go out isn’t the safest option, I can benefit from my experiences on the mountain by utilizing it less when nonessential. I’m learning a lot about balance here, and I’m excited to put simplicity in motion.

Cultivating Curiosity

I was a very inquisitive child. I remember my childhood brain vividly; my mind was saturated, soaked with a quirky imagination, my dark green eyes always widened in fascination. I had a couple of chipped teeth, proof of my long days of playing, and a big, tender heart.

I remember the books—oh, the books!

A giant case of all of my favorite titles sat unwavering outside of the white wooden door to my bedroom. On the occasions that I could coax my golden retriever into my towering, blankety fort, I would read her/him/her (Ginger, Spencer, and Baylee, respectively) storybooks, careful to give full view of the pictures to the set of chocolate brown eyes next to me. There were even big kid books, stacked on the tippy-top shelf, gleaming in all of their grown-up glory. I would run my tiny, unpolished fingers over the titles, praying that each book would silently and graciously bless me with the ability to read long words one day. Atlases and chemistry manuals and Kyle’s battered European History text each showered me with tiny kisses, down in my little soft fort, telling me that one day I would be tall enough to reach and old enough to understand. In the meantime, it was princesses and fairies, noble knights, and a gorgeous pink book with gold-rimmed pages brimming with bedtime tales. I was fiercely curious, eager to dip my toes into other cultures and lands, going for a midday imaginative swim through the pages and pillows and blankets and words.

My imagination was so bright! Thick like oil paints and smeared like watercolors, my thoughts swirled to the notes of an imaginative symphony, singing to me, “Eat up all of that knowledge, little Buttercup. Eat it and taste it and make worlds out of it.” I wanted to know everything.

Shining eyes, large with wonder, my pupils danced left to right, left to right. I stitched together big-kid words, gliding through waves of sentences. On sunshiney Saturdays, Mom would take the big canvas tote to the library, filling it with new titles to bring home for me. There was a story about Mexican tradition, and a mystery with pearls. I remember towering stacks of yellow hardcovers with black ink—Nancy Drew—and the red and white gingham covers of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s adventures.And after the last page had been turned, I would linger on the last word, not ready to give up my own newfound life between the pages.

There were these old, lace curtains, torn at the seams and snagged in the middle, that I would wrap around my tiny torso and fasten with an old brooch.

My great aunt had gifted me with braided strands of pink and white freshwater pearls; on special days, my mom would let me wear them too. My little feet would slide into Mom’s cream pumps, the very ones she walked and laughed and danced in at her wedding. I’d then use hair ties, balancing in my too-big heels on my mattress, to fasten a blanket canopy to the top of my four-poster bed.

Under my canopy I would play and read and draw a little, just happy to be living.

I was curious, quick to learn and slow to forget. I savored every morsel of life and every string of words. Besides my curtain dress, I wore “playclothes” and romped outside. I bruised my elbows and picked leaves to make very inedible soup (the world will never know why on Earth I didn’t call it salad). I fell down and rolled in the grass, got itchy, and jumped in the pool. I ran barefoot and swam in dirt. I picked tomatoes, delighting in their tight, blood-red skin, and played with Kyle’s basketball when he let me. The Earth was a song and a poem and a picture; under every rock was a new critter friend, and the flowers sang ballads. Everything was interesting and joyful, and learning was scrumptious.

There were bad days, yes. Sometimes there were crocodile tears, thick and splashy. There were red cheeks and scraped knees. I was sensitive, and had not yet learned how to live with it (HSP, which stands for Highly Sensitive Person, is a psychological trait). I was a little bit anxious and a lot a bit shy. There were moments of hiding under the oak table in the dining room. But those moments, overflowing with gritty feeling, were fascinating to me. Life had color, triumphs, texture, and tears, and I wanted to understand every last bit.

I’ve heard some adults, in stressful and busy seasons of life, long for their pre-internet brain. I long for my pre-understanding brain. I long for the times of raw curiosity, before I decided I knew everything there ever was to know in life, ever (the comicality is unnerving). I want to linger over words, drinking in the syllables.

...says Giovanni to Elizabeth Gilbert in Eat, Pray, Love. She delights; he laughs. “Let’s cross over. It is so ordinary,” he states, eyebrow raised and English thick with Italian undertones.

“He couldn’t understand why I liked it so much. Let’s cross the street? But to my ear, it’s the perfect combination of Italian sounds. The wistful ah of introduction, the rolling trill, the soothing s, that lingering “ee-ah-moh” combo at the end. I love this word. I say it all the time now. I invent any excuse to say it.” | Liz Gilbert

Sweet Liz and her wonderful travel tales pinpoint my desire for childlike curiosity. I really know so little. In my 20 years of life, I’ve established some sort of arrogance of “been there, done that.” There is nothing left to see, taste, touch, hear. But really, to believe this is true is to devalue the world and God’s incredible creation. The whole world is still at the tips of my fingers, lands to explore, words to learn, people to meet, hearts to be mended and tears to be shed.

 Let’s discover. Let’s create. Let’s explore and uncover and understand. Let’s stand in awe, drinking in the glory of the skies and the chemistry of our bodies.

Let’s be curious this year

Being Intentional in 2014

I’ve been thinking a lot about intentionality lately.

In correlation with my last post, I think we’re all just a bit too rooted in technology, worshipping the saturated,overflowing internet, and delighting in the instant gratification of telephone chimes and tones and buzzes and bells. I'm both a futurist and a learner, thus captivated by innovation of all walks; I'm not trying to discredit the genius of our devices nor the forward thinking of our minds. I've just noticed something, in both myself and my fellow little earthlings, that I think may be important (perhaps even crucial) to explore.

We have this immunity to instant gratification that leaves us flighty and unfocused—life becomes a perpetual swipe and click, moving on to something more interesting, more shocking, and with less words, but more pictures. More, more, more. Our appetites are insatiable. We swallow up social media in giant, desperate gulps. We are just haphazardly scrolling, and clicking, swimming with frantic, flailing arms.

We reply to texts in 3 seconds, barely reading what we’re actually responding to. We skim emails—if there are more than 2 paragraphs, we delete on impact. Words clatter from our mouths while our speech limps along, muddling meaning with filler—“like’s” and “um’s” and “you know’s” coil tightly around every other word. We say hi without how are you, and mumble in conversation, eyes anxiously searching the ceiling to avoid dreaded contact. Our attention turns to our shoes and phones as we walk from point A to point B, hardly in this world at all.

We’re flighty and aimless and frantic and random.

What if, when we do set down our devices, we look at each other—actually look into each other’s eyes, shoulders squared and feet firm? What if we tasted our words, both carefully and cautiously, before we spit them out? What if we chose them like presents, wrapping and taping and tying bows, gifting our peers with well-thought-out ideas?

What if we paused to think?

One of my resolutions for 2014 is to be intentional, purposeful, and present. It means savoring slowness, sitting peacefully, with a softened brow and relaxed eyes, simply thinking of someone, and sending them love and light and joy. Intentionality means slipping away from the world’s quickening pace, even if for a few moments, and contemplating.

Intentionality means a heightened attention to how we hold ourselves, and the words we let through the mind’s door. It means buying flowers on friends' birthdays and offering to bake the bread or bring the salad at a dinner party. It means candles as housewarming gifts. It means taking the time to call on father’s day, not just send a quick text. Intentionality is thinking—really, really thinking—about life, and people, and our own hearts.

Let’s live this way, friends. I think it might just be worth a shot.

A Season of Rest: Turn Off the Phone

After a month of falling apart at the seams, my soul can now quietly rest. The slowness of each winter moment is absolutely delicious; the peace I am now free to harvest contrasts starkly with a muddy mix of finals, ice storms, and my first-ever B- (really, truly terrifying). With the distress came a season of growth, as my parent’s beloved phrase “character, not comfort,” reigned true yet again. It always does.

Sometimes, though, in the midst of regrowth comes a humble longing for rest and peace. Over the course of the semester I found myself aching for stillness. I so desperately wanted to sit—to just sit quietly, toes gently tucked beneath folded legs, breaths deep and unhindered. I wanted to unclench my anxious palms, upturn them toward the sky, and unleash the stress and goals and grades that I had been vehemently clawing at. I wanted to toss my phone off of the towering yellow brick, and take it for a long swim in the river. I wanted to, for just one quiet moment, simply exist in harmony with the world.

A large bundle of prayers and several broken pencils later, the first semester of my second year came to a close. Joyfully, I zipped up my bags and left for my sweet, coastal home. On one of my first days back in California, my mom and I were driving north along the shoreline, and were faced with the most gorgeous sunset I have seen to date (disclaimer: as a San Diego girl, this is a statement of the highest honor). Since we were traveling north, the sunset wandered along too, gifting us with the most gorgeous twenty-minute sky smeared with thick, pink watercolors, and studded with a fiery thumbprint sun.

A few weeks ago, one of my best friends posted a wonderful little quote that has been clinging to the crevices of my mind:

"We can’t jump off of bridges anymore because our iPhones will get ruined. We can’t take skinny dips in the ocean, because there’s no service on the beach, and adventures aren’t real unless they’re on Instagram. Technology has doomed the spontaneity of adventure, and we’re helping destroy it every time we Google, check in, and hashtag."

As I snapped a photograph of the sun that evening, the quote echoed loudly. Why did I feel so compelled—almost in a reflexive sort of way—to pull out my phone in that moment? Why did I feel as though simply soaking up the moment, feasting upon it with my eyes and storing it away in my mind was not enough? California always gets me thinking.

I’d argue that it’s the bare feet and thick books and warm sand. When I’m home, I’m transported to another life altogether; I see clearer here. I can better see the comicality of the technological age. We are desperately fearful of missing out. Though our desire to share sweet moments with others is innocent enough, the desire tends to be rooted in technological addiction.

We refresh Twitter, only to see that the last 10 seconds have not brewed anything new. We then do the same to Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, and LinkedIn, all in tandem. We envy what others post, failing to realize that often that was their very goal. We invest time and energy into 140 clever characters, and untag ourselves from unflattering photos. We click and scroll and zoom and swipe until there is nothing new to see, and we’re forced to begin the process again, for fear of being alone with our thoughts for one small moment. We’re afraid of pausing. We are afraid of rest.

If it isn’t documented, it didn’t happen. If there aren’t 150 likes, it isn’t meaningful. If there aren’t new friend requests or large handfuls of red notifications, we’re worthless. If there aren’t texts and emails and voicemails, we’re lonely.

 

I want to propose something. We need to set down our phones and wring our hands in panic. We need to feel the constant, tenacious urges in order to see our addiction with clarity.

As we lose ourselves in the lives of other people—their photos and statuses and tweets—our own life passes us by, trying hopelessly to win our attention. We don’t even bother to lift our chins for one small second. We don’t bother to drink in the sunsets, delight in the warmth of the sunshine, laugh deeply, fully taste every bite, dance under the stars, and lay in morning-dewy grass. We are too busy liking, favoriting, commenting, sharing, texting, emailing, tweeting... We have a very debilitating problem on our hands, friends. We all do.

Lose yourself in moments this Christmas, this season, and this fresh, new year. Turn your devices off, allowing both your phone and your soul to rest, recharge, and regroup. Let your eyes be the lens, drinking in the details that no camera can do justice. Turn carefully stitched tweets to clever additions to discussion, delighting instead in the art of conversation. Rest in stillness, without the constant chimes and tones. Tune in to the sprinkled laughter in the next room; listen to the world.

Be peaceful. Be present. Be free.

Fresh & Renewed: The New Year

Between you and the New Year stands a door, acting as the temporary barrier between the trials and triumphs of 2013, and the yet-to-be.

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The golden knob gleams with the last slice of December sun, bidding adieu to another year. You gently run a finger over the fragmented, chipped paint and the deeper scuffs and scrapes—the wounds are still tender. Unclenching your fingers, you brush your palm on the intricate carving, lost in the convoluted twisting of wood. Through both the joyful and the adverse, the pattern unraveled over the course of the year. Your pain and your heartbreak and your ocean of tears were woven together with the delights of your spirit, fashioning brilliance from a unification of moments. Slowly and cautiously, your fingers unlatch the vintage lock.

With one small twist of the knob and a step through the doorway, the New Year rushes in, wrapping around your heart and mind in gusts and breezes and wafts. Like thick, sea-salty air, its embrace envelops you. Blanketed, you feel fresh and clean and pure. Like the vintage chalkboard at the coffeehouse on the corner, wiped down after a taxing day, the burdens of your past are lifted. You breathe, deeply filling your lungs with the crisp air, sending the fresh oxygen to every crevice of your soul. You are renewed.

Taking a brave step forward, your naked toes are kissed by dewy beach grass. Even the Earth delights in the new beginning. Your grin stretches its reach, broadening to a joyful beam. Without being told, you know that this fresh, new year “is a time when wonderful things can happen to quiet people... you aren’t required to be who everyone thinks you are...You can be grateful, and easy, with no eyes on you, and no past” (Deb Caletti).

With your burdens dropped in a heap on the other side of the door, you take off running—liberated—dancing through the tall grasses, wading through sapphire tide pools and spooning sunlight into your soul. You are free. Fresh. Radiant. Glowing. Elated. Optimistic. New.

This year is yours.


He Met Me in the Sky

I am highly, highly, claustrophobic.

After nearly 20 years of practice I can hide it rather effortlessly, but inside I’m dipping into full-fledged panic. I’m this weird sort of hybrid mix of “don’t touch me” and “let’s hold hands forever.” I love being close to the people I love, and I’m beyond affectionate. In terms of strangers, the affection breaks to complete distain. Don’t touch me. Don’t get in my little bubble of space that I have so carefully and cautiously crafted around myself.

On Tuesday after class I braved the airport. It was my first time returning home since July, so I was absolutely itching/longing/pining for my sweet family and cute little beach town.

Long story short, two seemingly bearable flights turned into a massive 10-hour escapade. Everything that could go wrong did (other than complete tragedy, right?), as often happens with airports. I “stepped out of bounds” in the San Francisco airport searching in vain for the shuttle that my pilot had flippantly mentioned. Stressed out and frazzled, I asked for directions from a rude security guard. He then forced me to exit the airport completely and re-enter, once again braving the nauseating security lines even though I had just hopped off of one plane and was looking for my connecting flight. “This kind of thing happens to other people, not me,” I immediately thought while half-crying and practically vibrating with anxiety. I was longing for home. Eventually I made it into the airport once more and managed to track down my gate and shuttle, but was slapped hard in the face with a two-hour delay—the second delay of the night. I was absolutely begging God to carry me home safely. 

After feeling trapped in two giant, security-line-rimmed, travel-sized-bottles-only airports, I finally boarded my second flight. I adore my little beach town, but arriving is always a challenge (last year I was stuck in Arizona alone overnight when I missed a connecting flight due to weather—that was fun). We have a little fingernail of an airport, and thus the only jets flying in and out are practically children’s toys. As soon as the tiny piece of Wright-based ingenuity took off into the sky, I was panic-stricken. The claustrophobic cabin, turbulence and horrible guy sitting across from me (who attempted passing flirty notes with me during the flight... see below) had me praying fervently for my own safety.

“Please, please, please, please keep me safe,” I would repeat. I’m in this habit of repeating my prayers over and over and over again, especially when there is a sense of urgency to them. “Keep me safe, keep me safe, keep me safe,” I pleaded as the turbulence tossed the plane vehemently through ink black skies.  My knuckles were white. My heart was racing. Completely morbid thoughts were skipping through the caverns of my mind.

“My child,” He said, “I heard you the first time.”

It came from nowhere. In the midst of the ratting plane and deafening engine, I heard Him so clearly that I was almost afraid. I have had some pretty radical God-moments in my lifetime, but this was the clearest. The noise was just gone. It was Him and me. All the way home we talked. He comforted me, always calling me His child, daughter, and little one. I love when He does that. I had this out-of-this-world sense that the little jet was resting in the palm of His hand as He carefully guided us home safely.

Through the panic, the claustrophobia, and the urgency, He met me in the sky.

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Happy Thanksgiving-

Good, Old-Fashioned Attention

I am an old soul. While I would also classify myself as a learner and future focused, there are parts of my heart and mind that are firmly rooted in some other soda-parlor, rotary-telephone, saddle-shoe world that I’ve never experienced but always pined for.

Back in February, I wrote about my quirky interest in all things old fashioned:

I belong in the generation of ice cream parlors, soda fountains, and drive-in movies. I want red lipstick and patent heels, a powdered nose and bobby-pinned curls. I crave letters with wax seals, vintage stamps, postmen that walk house-to-house, and mint green convertibles. I so badly want to know how my mind would work without the constant vibration of my iPhone or the siren call of my Mac. I want the simplicity of spending time with the “gals” without the constant distraction of “he texted me this,” or “she tweeted that.” I want to go to the library to do my schoolwork, dutifully researching in books, not Google. I want a flower box and a window seat, with Saturday morning sunlight streaming into my bedroom. I want to wear an apron when I bake, and sit around the fire with family to listen to the radio... I want him to hold my hand and kiss me goodnight on the porch. I want to order one milkshake, two straws (he pays). I want to pull my hair back with a barrette, call blush “rouge” and be allowed to wear a dab of mom’s perfume on special occasions. I want pearls and oxfords. I want matching striped pajamas, and my mom to turn my bed down for me every evening. I want lace-rimmed socks, thick reading glasses, a stack of books, and a reading lamp by my bed.

I belong in a different generation.

 Specifically within February’s post, I spoke of how I craved a life without the constant vibration of my cell phone. This individual thought has metastasized over the last two years.

I absolutely crave creativity, and have a vested interest in entrepreneurship, innovation and progress. I’m naturally curious about everything, and was taught at an extremely young age to be gutsy (though it's not in my nature), to question everything and to think critically. I love technology and the blessings that flow from it; being able to speak daily with my family and best friends back in California is a joy (fun fact: my best friend Kelsey is the one who named this blog two years ago!). The concept of email is simplistic—send this body of text to another—yet brilliant. Sometimes I have to force myself to take a step back and breathlessly gape at the convenience of being able to instantly communicate when face-to-face connection just isn’t possible. There is a perfect fluency to clicking on one article to the next, saturating myself in knowledge, events, and ideas harvested worldwide.

There’s just one thing that I struggle to stay afloat with. I’m just not a texter. Even in middle school (ick, who actually had a good middle school experience?), I was hesitant to engage in the constant text messages and ridiculously foolish-sounding lingo. It’s been eight years since I got my first cell phone and I still feel the same drowning feeling when faced with a sea of unopened texts. Texting is so fragmented. It can be an incredible feat to uncover what someone is actually saying and sift through punctuation clues and emojis and abbreviations—so draining! Texts (and the texters sending them) tend to be quick by nature, as the messages race in and leave me spinning. I can type faster than most (thank you 3rd grade computer class), and could essentially send replies with the same rapidness if I saw it fit. Problem is, I’m a invested reader and deep thinker. I want to fully digest whatever is being told or explained or reiterated to me, turning it over in my mind and making full sense of where I stand. And when my quick-to-listen, slow-to-speak nature isn’t in action (James 1:19 is always the goal) and I’m yet to respond to a text, it’s most likely because I’ve consciously chosen to not bring it on my walk or to class, or I have made the smart choice to not even attempt to text and drive. It’s not to say that I don’t think phones are both advanced and advantageous—I’m not attempting to devalue cell phones at all. I’m just not really attached to this little white rectangle of iOS7 innovation.

Quite frankly, I think my generation’s people skills are rubbish. I hate to use that word because it is so gritty and unforgiving, but I’m tired of spending time with a friend and all he or she is doing is scrolling and scrolling and staring and laughing, eyes glued to the device in hand. It’s unreal how shifty eye contact is these days even with close friends—everyone is longing for the safety of their touchscreen technology to lock eyes with once again. Personally, I see such a stark contrast when I’m in a meeting with an adult rather than someone my own age. Generally with an adult, the eye contact is steady; the topics are various and are stitched with carefully chosen words. There is a certain gratitude stemming from both parties for the other’s full attention. It’s polite, but mostly it’s just expected. Unfortunately, and also generally (controversy is tricky, isn’t it?), I’ve found that conversations with my own peers are disjointed, marked with faux-interest, and bound by a very real inability to make conversation, hold eye contact, utilize body language, think critically, and ask meaningful questions within the realm of face-to-face interaction. This is not to say I’ve mastered the technology-free conversation in the slightest. Especially while writing my frustrations, I see myself in a lot of the scenarios that are streaming through my mind. While for me texting isn’t my devilish, concentration-inhibiting companion, I trip up with the siren call of emails and photos and an endless stream of voicemails (that I really should listen to and sort through).

I guess my personal goal is to find a better balance of my antiquated desire to savor and finesse words, and an unabashed thirst for innovation. While I think there’s a lot of joy that can be harvested from tucking away the cell phone for a while, it would be impractical and arguably unwise of me to call others to try it as well. Instead, I’m going to challenge myself this week to polish the distinction between cell-phone-time and real-people-time. It’s a quest for deeper, meaningful conversations and connections that could easily be missed with my head bent over Instagram as I’m walking to class. I want to sharpen my own communication skills, because the more seamlessly I can communicate with others, the more competent I will be in handling meetings, interviews, friendships, sharing the Gospel, sharing ideas, collaborating and creating.

Put the phone down.

Filled Up

As a sophomore in college, I find myself in this teetering, in-between stage.

I’m hovering between the fairytale wonders of childhood and the supposedly enchanted mysteries of “grown-up life.” I have so much to look forward to, to strive for, and to dream about. I already have had so much sweetness, joy, and sorrow in my past. I have had wonderful days and terrible months; I am reminiscent and nostalgic by nature, and thus revisit these memories frequently. And yet, even with the hazy promises of a smile-studded future and the steady lessons of a laughter-encrusted childhood, I’ve become so fiercely focused on and enamored with the present moment. I suppose it’s somewhat of a quarter-life crisis (hopefully more of a one-fifth-life crisis, but the math is hardly the point). I realize that with nearly two years of college under my belt, I still feel like the same three-year-old, blonde, dare I say chubby, little girl that watched Little Bear religiously and wore white cowboy boots and hot pink jelly sandals. I have faced a plethora of lessons—often the hard way—and my path has been shaped through the adverse and through the joyful. I was blessed with a wonderful childhood in a charming San Diegan neighborhood, and my soul was filled with sunshine, sea-salty air, family, swim practice (my mom will love that!), a rigorous school district, and an amazing, comforting home church.

Nearing twenty years old, I really can’t help but begin to fantasize about my future.

Call me young, but I go to school in Texas, where it’s practically quintessential to be engaged by 22. While I’m not particularly eager to settle down so seriously or so soon, my mind has recently been wandering down that path when I’m not careful enough to discipline it. Who will I marry? Where will I live? Will I be working? Writing? Will I have kids? I think it’s completely normal for a twenty-something to be consumed by these thoughts intermittently. While they scare me on occasion, I attempt to blanket my anxieties with a positive light—there is so much promise and wonderful mystery in my future that God is unfolding for me with each new morning. I am both comforted with and encouraged by the thought that He wants what’s best for me, and is holding my hand, walking by my side, and carrying me if need be as I discover each piece of his intricate life-puzzle. Because of His promise, my soul is filled with excitement, love, trust, and comfort, knowing that some of my best years are ahead of me.

Which leads me to today, on this present moment, at 8pm on this Monday night. With so much promise ahead of me and so much that has been learned behind me, I realize that these moments in this season of my life are both my past and future. Tomorrow is absolutely uncharted, and for all I know, my life could be impacted in powerful ways at some point in my usually tedious Tuesday. When I fall into bed come 9pm (yes, that is when I like to go to bed), my day will be my past. I will be able to reflect on the lessons, both big and small, that I gathered, knowledge I cultivated, and friendships that grew. This present moment is significant. Although I am filled by the lovely memories of my past and the enchanting mysteries of my future, my soul is thirsty for the now. I need to take a step back from the nostalgia and the dreaming, and invest myself more fully into this moment, these next five minutes, and into this day. I will fill my soul—now—with the bittersweet bond of the day’s trials and triumphs. I will consider each new acquaintance as a fresh chance at a delightful friendship. I will finesse the ordinary, typically tiresome happenings of my daily life into captivating, enchanting adventures. I will stop and smell the eternally blooming flowers that my university so kindly replants every few weeks (just to make sure campus always looks pristine). I will channel Christ in my dealings with others, enveloping peers and friends in love. “I really just want to be the warm, yellow light that pours over everyone I love.”

Make it a great one. Make it significant.

Little Lists

Inspiration is everywhere.

Lately I've slipped into a lovely little habit of keeping random lists on my iPhone, and adding to them whenever inspiration strikes. One such list has grown exponentially. The list is a collection of my favorite things (slightly reminiscent of Julie Andrew's infamous song), and it makes me absolutely giddy each time I read it.

It's almost funny how completely me I am--I know what I like, and and know what I don't. This quiet assurance and knowledge truthfully is a tightly woven blessing and a curse.

Though I am confident in who I am, reading my little list illustrates to me (and consequently all who read it) how different I am than the "common college student" or "stereotypical sorority girl." And honestly, this makes me a little anxious sometimes. It's easy to fit in and difficult to stand out. Individuality takes guts, but I do think it's something to celebrate wholeheartedly. 

  • Hot cereal with steamed milk
  • Flower arrangements
  • Baths
  • Old alarm clocks (but without the loud ringing--I detest loud noises!)
  • Going for walks in cute, little neighborhoods
  • Juice boxes
  • S'mores
  • Fountain pens
  • Combed hair, not brushed
  • Nightgowns and pajama sets
  • Diners
  • Cream soda
  • Charleston, South Carolina
  • Vintage 'Do Not Disturb' signs
  • Paper straws
  • Pottery Barn Catalogs
  • Record players (mint or light pink)
  • Mom and Pop stores (preferably a bookshop or coffeehouse)
  • Hot water bottles on cold feet (loads better than a heating pad!)
  • Going without technology (admittedly, my cell phone gives me insane anxiety. It's on silent all the time [when it's not off] because I am even startled when it buzzes!)
  • Small libraries (Del Mar Library is my favorite)
  • The words: platitudinous, puckish, simpering, obsequious, sycophantic, corking, imperceptible, and nutraceutical

Nostalgia, Love, and Patience

Nostalgia is a tricky little lady.

How precious it was, the time when I had morning kindergarten, an afternoon snack (peanut butter and honey with the crusts cut off + strawberry milk), and an episode of Little Bear before retiring for a nap.

How sweet were the days of putting on “play clothes” after church, throwing aside my poufy dress in favor of stretchy pants and light-up shoes in which to run and jump and dance. I miss when my family all lived underneath one roof—it is still a tough concept to chew that I am the youngest, and yet I am almost 20 years old. I suppose it’s a sort of wistful denial; although I am aware of reality, I still feel like a toddler on the inside.

A few days ago, I logged onto Facebook to see a high school classmate of mine got married last week. Married. This tossed me into a fit of anxiety. Then, thankfully, God intervened. He really is swell. Jesus took my racing, desperate thoughts and hit pause. As if I were running full speed on a treadmill and the plug was ripped from the outlet, I was forced (mercifully) to stop letting my thoughts run wild. In that moment, His perfect grace stopped me from allowing those running thoughts to consequently run me.

“My child,” he began (I love it when He calls me that). “Patience.” And that was it. No crazy prophetic experience (I am a religion minor, and would love to nerdily go into detail about prophets and theophanies, but I will refrain for now), and no insight into what lies ahead. Instead, Christ gave me everything I truly needed—patience.

As perfect and simple as life used to be, I have to trust that He has a perfectly complex plan ahead, drenched in the simplest, purest, hard-to-fathom, most wonderful kind of love. I must believe that Jesus has an incredible happiness ahead of me, not measured in juice boxes or in sidewalk chalk, but in laughter, friendship, emotional depth, fellowship with other Christians, service to others, service to the Lord and His Kingdom, and love. I have to believe, I must believe, but most of all, I choose to believe. Patience.

Joyfully-