Emptied of Me to Be Filled with Christ (New Adventures and a Missing Sock)

Sometimes life doesn’t feel real until the bags are packed and unpacked, the boxes are taped up and ripped open, and you’re sitting in the middle of the bedroom floor wondering how you’ve accumulated so many socks and realize that one is missing—potentially stuck to the wall of the dryer in your old apartment 1,700 long and looping miles away—and there is no possible way you will ever see that little pink Nike sock again.

Sometimes life doesn’t feel real until you have one of those trippy moments looking in the mirror, when you really see yourself and realize "this is me... This is my life. I'm a person. I'm living" (Does everyone have these moments? Nope? Just me?)

Life has a way of having long days and short years, with months that drag on and decades that whip by faster than you can say “Beanie Babies” (or Furby, Skip-It, BopIt, or HitClips—I swear we’re still in the ‘90s). I still write 2012 on the headings of my school papers, which was the year I graduated high school (I’m currently a junior in college), not able to digest the fact that we’re almost halfway through 2014.

It didn’t feel real, buckled into my little hybrid, the back window plastered with my sorority letters and the back seat stacked high with Tupperware bins and random, single shoes (we got to the point where my car was so full that we had to stuff clothes and shoes into every pocket of air available—very Tetris-esque). It didn’t feel real as we drained giant cups of sweet tea in Texas, Sonic slushies in New Mexico, and In’n’Out pink lemonade in Arizona (such a California tease!). Even the lease paperwork, endless roadside gas stations/rest stops, getting whistled at by scary truck drivers, and the multiple hotels didn’t really solidify the fact that I was leaving Texas for good.

The road signs kept me updated as to how many thousands, hundreds, and tens of miles we had until sweet California welcomed warmly (literally), but even the giant blue “Welcome to California!” sign in a dusty corner of my favorite state didn’t make it feel real. I wasn’t reciting some sort of Texas eulogy, or caught in the thick of emotions from goodbye and change and a new hello. I was just driving.

It wasn’t till I was sitting on my bedroom floor, exercising my inner obsessive-compulsive, domestic, perfectionist goddess, surrounded by socks and sorority shirts and a pair of brown leather cowboy boots, that I began to physically feel one chapter of life closing and the next opening. It wasn’t a sad feeling at all—just a sweet reminder that God’s hand is guiding me every day, and that I’m back in California for His purpose and by His grace.

I went to a beach bonfire with a friend last week.

After digging a fire pit in the sand (disclaimer: there was no sign saying it was illegal...although the cops showed up eventually), the fire was crackling and the s’mores ingredients were passed around (including S’moreos—s’mores Oreos—my new friend’s creation). After prayer, we all ended up singing worship songs led by a girl with a guitar and a voice that sounded “somewhere between Elvis [...or female equivalent] and angels,” to quote Hannah Brencher. With bare toes buried in the sand, a disposable camera in hand (I’m bringing them back), and the mingling song of the ocean and Jesus-loving voices, I felt the loving sovereignty of God, as he began to tie together all of the loose ends and frayed edges of my life, giving me new adventures, new hope, and new purpose. 

 

Joyfully,

 
 

The Power of Tea (Getting to Know People)

“I think people underestimate the power of tea,” my friend Cheyenne said in class the other day. “Why can’t we just invite someone over to drink tea and talk?”

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She’s this really cool yoga-loving, beach-bred, free spirit (with an Instagram that will leave you equally inspired and envious, especially because of her summer spent in Balicheck out @the_sandy_yogini on Instagram)

We were talking about how so many people feel like they need TV shows and movies and celebrity gossip to hold a conversation. These things provide an avenue for connectivity and give people something to talk about. The scripted drama and sharp words of reality TV shock us and provoke us; our appetites for this kind of entertainment become insatiable. (Like, Oh my gosh, did you see the newest Keeping Up with the Kardashians last night?)

But what about talking of our dreams, ideas, or favorite books? Something of substance and worth?

Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events. Small minds discuss people.
— Eleanor Roosevelt

It’s one of those quotes that everyone knows, plastered on the walls of elementary school classrooms across the nation.  I’ve never actually given the quote much thought until I thought about my own conversations with classmates and friends—convicting. The content of our conversations doesn't have to be about events or people. We don't have to have small or average minds. Through friendship, fellowship, and conversation, we can have great minds.

I’m really fascinated by people—their quirks, dreams, accomplishments and stories. We can learn so much from one another if we simply tear down the fragmented wall of “guardedness” that we’ve built around our hearts and minds. Vulnerability can be a beautiful thing, when done carefully.

Through The Little English Girl, I’ve learned that opening up my heart and letting readers sift through my thoughts can leave them soothed and encouraged by my own related experiences and positive words.

One of my favorite things in the world is sitting around a little table in the corner of a coffee shop, hands clasped around a steaming mug of cocoa, focused only on getting to know the person in front of me. With our phones tucked away in our pockets, we can channel our attention onto each other, laughing over childhood stories or breathlessly talking about our dreams. This is real connectedness, when friendship is about nurturing and building each other up, rather than empty gossip.

People are brilliant. I am so deeply impressed by the doctors, mathematicians, chemists, software developers and app-makers of the world—I never could do what they do, nor do I have much interest in following their path. I like to think that perhaps some of those people feel the same way about artists, writers, photographers, and philosophers. Our differences are brilliant.

As I shift into a new season of life, I’m making it a goal to get to know as many people as I can, so that my worldview and horizons can continue to be stretched on a daily basis.

Let's be pals? Delight in the sweetness of fellowship today.

Joyfully in Christ,

Wandering Feet, Anxious Heart

It wasn't the first time I found myself being yelled at in Sudanese Arabic.

Actually, it definitely was.

I wasn’t sure if the taxi driver was yelling at me to get out of the taxi—perhaps he wasn’t available—or to get in and close the door. So there I was, perched in an uncomfortable squat, half-sitting in his taxi, half-standing on the pavement. Eventually he managed the word “door” in English, and motioned to the phone clenched to his ear. Enlightened but thoroughly annoyed, I closed the door and sat back in the grimy taxi van seat, embarking on my overpriced journey from the airport to my college campus.

Once he got off the phone, he told me that he was from Sudan. It had been his wife calling from overseas, so he couldn’t hang up when I climbed into his taxi. He was here in Texas and driving this van to support his family back in Africa. At one point he fluidly shifted from English to Sudanese Arabic, forgetting that I was just a little English (-speaking) girl—pun intended. In fragmented sentences and broken English, he talked about war, uprisings, and water. When I got to my apartment that night, and took a drawn-out shower and left the sink running too long, I thought of Mr. Taxi Driver’s wife, and a Sudanese water purification struggle.

Sometimes my world gets a little too small.

As it shrinks, my own problems metastasize. My rapidly narrowing perspective makes running out of coffee into a disaster, or an imperfect outfit or homework assignment into a tragedy. Sometimes it takes a little bit of exaggeration to make a point. Obviously these things are not disasters, tragedies, or heartbreaks, but I will sheepishly admit that I let extremely mild annoyances turn into mildly extreme problems. 

It's like the love-hate relationship I have with my major.

I love my major because I’m a thinker. My brain loves to finesse complex ideas and break down multifaceted concepts. I’m passionate about happiness—the science of it, the thoughts behind it, and the way to get to it. Through my major, I learn about the Buddhist “Six Perfections” that a bodhisattva must practice to become enlightened. I love relationships and examining all that comes with them. I can explore the tensions between the four branches of Judaism, or the many Christian denominations. It’s fascinating to me—I devour the words in my religion textbook like they were tiny, chocolate-laced pastries doused in powdered sugar or sprinkled with sea salt. But other times... I hate my major; studying other people and cultures is a harsh reminder of how small my own world and problems are. I’m glad for this wake up call, but it doesn’t always feel good.

I’m passionate about so many things—healthy oceans and beaches (Surfrider Foundation), nutrition, rainforest preservation, and animal treatment—so how is it that my fading tan and minor stress breakout were all I really thought about today? The older I get, the more aware I am of my little world. I want to preserve it, nurturing and protecting my “innocent” mind, and staying safe within the boundaries of a white picket fence and trimmed rose hedges. At the same time, my empathetic nature makes me hurt for impoverished people I will never meet, abused pups I will never play with, and oil-drenched oceans I will never visit. 

And so here I am, back in the uncomfortable position. I am half-sitting in a taxi that promises to show me a beautiful, corrupt world, and half-standing on the pavement, where life is safe and feet are rooted to the ground.

My anxious, wandering spirit craves both comfort and chaos. My feet and heart and mind want to roam; my body doesn't want to get out of bed. And here you are, feeling the same way. Or maybe you're rolling your eyes, yelling at me through the screen to buy a plane ticket to Sudan--I received an email a few months ago asking me if I had ever stopped to think about the children in Africa, because certainly that is the only meaningful issue in the world. I beg to differ. Although I feel stuck, unsure if I want to venture into the world or stay with my feet on the ground, I know that meaning can be found in daily life. Though some of my worries today were laughable (how did my leggings get so see-through?!), I think you and I can really make some positive change happen here. Here. Where we are. Now. Gandhi said: "In a gentle way, you can shake the world." He was right. Ask someone how they're doing--how they arereally, genuinely doing. Challenge yourself to not engage in gossip. Send someone a letter if their corner of the world is feeling a little broken and gloomy. Hop off the social media and do something productive. Go to the beach and pick up every styrofoam fragment and bottle you can find (recycle when applicable, of course). Buy someone sunflowers. Talk to the cashier (working in retail taught me that small talk is, indeed, meaningful). Find something you're passionate about and pursue it. Do something today that is productive and positive--something that helps someone other than yourself. Besides, those who bring sunshine into the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves.

It all began by being yelled at in Sudanese Arabic.

Joyfully in Christ,

California, My Hippie Heart, and a Beachy Buddha

Being San Diego bred, my soul is naturally infused with those hippie, sea-salt-encrusted, save-the-whales, be-one-with-the-earth type of beliefs.

“You’re so Cali,” people in Texas tell me.

I cringe and stare down at my mint Vans or chocolate brown Rainbows. Never say Cali in my presence. It is truly not a real word, but it is the best indicator of who is not from California. I can just feel all of my California readers fervently nodding their heads along to the rhythm of this paragraph. Cali is a horrible, horrible word. But alas, we are all rooted to different corners of the Earth, and so things like this are forgivable (when I push my little California attitude aside).

I cannot, however, push my California soul aside.

I am a free spirit, a dreamer, and a happy soul seeker. I crave sunshine as others do richly hued wine. The ocean nourishes, recharges, and refreshes me; it is my medication and meditation. Wading to my knees or slicing through waves, the ocean is everything—a place for solitude, gathering, thinking, laughing. The ocean is core work, balance and breathing techniques, subtle scares of seaweed around the ankle, and melting layers of sunscreen. The water is liquid magic. It is like this icy radiance that swirls around my body, enveloping me in sloppy, lapping hugs and salty kisses. Navy water is stitched with white foam, spilling over from wave to wave.

Overcome by the brilliance of creation, I think of the artist Himself: “The Earth is full of His unfailing love. By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, their starry host by the breath of His mouth. He gathers the waters of the sea into jars. He puts the deep into storehouses.” (Psalms 33:5-7)

I am (unabashedly) a Christian. I am also a religion major, and so it is my “job” to examine a multitude of religious traditions utilizing epoche, a way to bracket off personal biases. Being so firm in my faith and my adoration of Christ, I am able to see other people’s religious traditions as just that—other people’s religious traditions, which neither offend nor threaten me or my beliefs. There are certainly practices that I am uncomfortable with or don’t understand, but the beauty of Christ is that he loves everyone, so I strive to cultivate the same loving, open mindset when I explore these traditions. 

As a scholar of religion, I delight in drawing similarities between Buddha’s teachings (500 years before Jesus), and the teachings of Christ—my rock and salvation and gentle shepherd. One of the things I love about Buddhism is the Eightfold Path, as part of the Fourth Noble Truth (the path to the end of suffering). The Eightfold Path is divided into three sections:

-       Mindfulness: Meditation practice

-       Virtue: Morals and being a good little earthling and buddy to others

-       Wisdom: Learning, blooming, growing, and evolving every day

The other thing I love about Buddhism is the strong emphasis on the Earth—preserving it, loving it, nurturing it. Way back when (and potentially still in some areas), Buddhist monks and nuns were not allowed to travel during rainy season, for fear that they would accidentally step on insects and other creatures lodged in the mud (the same is true in Jainism; Jains believe all sentient beings have “jivas,” or living souls).

About a month ago, I was browsing through Mind Body Green and came across this explanation of why “om” (or “aum”) is significant to those who practice meditation and chanting.

“Everything in the universe is pulsating and vibrating – nothing is really standing still. The sound Om, when chanted, vibrates at the frequency of 432 Hz, which is the same vibrational frequency found throughout everything in nature. As such AUM is the basic sound of the universe; so by chanting it we are symbolically and physically tuning in to that sound and acknowledging our connection to all other living beings, nature and the universe.”

(Radical)

The way I see it, living beings, nature, and the universe are all created by God. This element of creation binds us in relationship with the Earth—just as God cares for us, he cares for how the lilies grow.

And so, in a sort of "Beach Buddha" manner, I leave you with this nugget of wisdom (let’s say crystal of wisdom, and make me even more of a hippie soul):

“With each inhale, lift your heart closer to the sun. With each exhale, root your feet more deeply in the ground (or perhaps... the sand).”

Be in this world, not of it. Believe in the magic of creation. Be gentle to the earth. And while you’re at it, eat wholesome and clean foods, seeds instead of grains, lots of leafy greens, and meet me at the beach.

Namaste.


Joyfully in Christ-

(And happily en route to California for spring break)

Feeling Restless: The Monotony of Routine

"When I look at the galaxies on a clear night--when I look at the incredible brilliance of creation, and think that this is what God is like, instead of feeling intimidated and diminished by it, I am enlarged--I rejoice that I am part of it." - Madeleine L'Engle

I needed a change. I felt restless but rooted; each subsequent day overflowed with equal parts urgency and apathy. How had I let myself become so entangled in monotony? I was reluctant to unclench my palms, letting go of my familiar, comforting, dull, maddening routine.

I tried to push the feeling back down, but it kept sprouting up again. Tireless and consistent, the feeling that I needed to change something felt as if God were knocking on the caverns of my mind, shouting joyfully, “Wake up! Wake up, my daughter! Taste and see the world! I can give you a new perspective if you simply ask me. Wake up, sweet daughter!”

 

& so I got up.

 

I flung open the windows, and blasted John Mayer (the man of my dreams—that “beautiful, tortured soul”). I pulled a few pots and pans on tiptoe from the cupboard, and gathered ingredients. I brought water to a rolling boil, and added pasta. In another pan, I began making a humble, homemade sauce with thick diced tomatoes and little bunches of minced garlic. I moved all of the furniture in the adjacent living room to the edges of the walls, gifting me with luscious floor space. I piled blankets and pillows on the carpet, filled a glass with water and ice and lemon, and put on my favorite “playclothes.”

The breeze drifted through the wide-open windows, as the curtains snapped joyfully in the wind and the sauce bubbled deliciously on the stove. Something about the simple act of moving the furniture and letting in the Earth’s breath made me feel like my little cottage-y apartment was completely new. For a lingering moment, the ordinary—my little herb garden, the guitar jauntily propped against the wall, and the rollout piano stretched across the floor—was thrilling and novel and fresh.

It’s easy to drift into Tedium’s grasp; she gluttonously laps up every drop of novelty, and robs us of our happiness. It's especially easy for students to slip into routine--a huge chunk of our lives is scheduled out and penciled in, neglecting spontaneity.

We have our favorite spot in the library, that one food that we have at least 3 times a week, and the shirt we seem to wear every day. Even the Friday Night-ers are adamant in the order that they “hit the bars.” Routine is a college thing. We aren’t mindful about the food we consume, the conversations we have, or how long we sleep. This heedless “auto-pilot” mode leaves us flighty and distracted, or stressed when the test we were “meaning to study for” is suddenly staring maliciously up at us from the desk.

There is little time for real whimsy or exploration. We wake up—three or four alarms later—and roll over to check Facebook, Twitter, texts, email, and Instagram in tandem, a faithful servant to connectivity. We spend a few moments sitting on the bathroom counter and staring in shock at our reflection (raccoon eyes, knotted hair, a zit, a weird cheek indentation from sleeping strangely...).

Climbing back into my beddish, blankety ocean between classes is no longer a cozy treat. Naps don’t connote restfulness or relaxation, but exhaustion and negligence. Packing a snack to enjoy during long day of schooling no longer alludes to elementary school lunches (sandwich with the crust cut off, veggies in a baggie). Lipstick and perfume and a swipe of mascara no longer wink of date nights or dinners. I am thrilled by these things when they happen rarely; routine unpacks pleasure when small joys become daily actions. I’m extremely analytical and introspective, so when I began to dismantle my feelings of apathy (basically just a case of the “blah’s”), I realized how many other areas of my life echoed the same passive, lethargic, indifference (more “blah’s). The biggest one broke my heart—I'd forgotten the magic of creation.

When was the last time you looked up at the stars and thought, “God made those, in all of their fiery, interplanetary wonder, and he still made me”? Or when was the last time you even looked at the stars?

I am broken and sinful, easily discouraged, and self-indulgent. There are very few days when I feel quite as radiant as the celestial bodies, and even fewer days when I feel as significant or purposeful. Stars just know what to do—they are kindled, then burn and shine for trillions of years, illuminating our backyard campouts, guiding sailors home safely, and proclaiming the place of Christ’s birth. And me? I go to school. I eat lunch. I swim, run, or walk. I sleep. How can I even compare to God’s mighty creation?

This is the magnificent part—we need not be intimidated. We can rejoice simply because we are a part of it (Madeleine L'Engle). Neither tedium nor apathy can erase the marvel of creation. Nothing can wipe away my astonishment that we are special elements of a macrocosmic masterpiece. Routine will still attempt to steal my joy and hamper my productivity. Monotony will still seek to blanket my purpose, but just knowing that I am a small (yet meaningful) part of the brilliance of creation is enough for today.

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,

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.


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

Today, Not Tomorrow

My sweet and beyond wonderful first grade teacher shared on Facebook an incredible quote that really stuck with me:

"Everyone can change tomorrow. Everyone solves problems tomorrow. But the only changes that matters are the ones I make today. Tomorrow is the easiest day I'll ever live. Today is the scary one, which is probably why I've spent so much time avoiding it."

This school year I am swimming—drowning—in schoolwork. Contrary to what I wish would happen, this increase in vigor didn’t fuel my drive, but depleted it. This week I have caught myself skimming my readings, as my assignments have become more perfunctory than enlightening, and I actually consider not going to class at all in order to avoid the stress completely. This is absolutely and incredibly unlike me.

Not only have I been blessed and cursed with the conscience of a nun and a burning desire to please my parents (and be showered with their attention...dreaming big, I know), but also I have consistently had an intrinsic desire to succeed academically in the past. This month I’ve been praying for purpose and motivation, and here it was on my screen. It is easy to assume that tomorrow I will begin working harder. Frequently this month I have pushed tasks from one day to the next, and suddenly those once-important items drop off of the to-do list all together, floating off into the void of unfinishedness.

No matter how many color-coded schedules I make, my work won’t get done until I do it. It’s convenient to think “studying” is synonymous to playing on the computer with a textbook opened in my lap—as if each time I glance down is the equivalent to dissecting and finessing the material itself!

Here’s the vow: I will not start on Monday, this weekend, or even tomorrow. My to-do list begins now.

Eat, Pray, Love

My favorite kinds of books are the ones that can be reread over again, and each time offer previously overlooked fragments of wisdom, gorgeously crafted sentences, and subtle, effectively crafted literary devices.

Subsequent to each consecutive read, the pages soften, saturated with my own innovative thoughts and boundless imagination while also emitting wonderful new people and places and ideas. Wonderful doesn’t even cut it—books are glorious. Books are incredible.

Eat, Pray, Love coincides with this sort of glorious text. It occupies a perpetual home on my bookshelf; the book frequently invites me to dive in and sift through Elizabeth’s miraculous spiritual (and literal) journey through Italy, India, and Indonesia. As frequently as the invitation is extended to me, I accept it. The pages are worn and the corners have been bumped and bruised and torn, but each little crevice is a physical reflection of my adoration—my copy of Gilbert’s text has been “well loved.” Perhaps my adoration slips into mild obsession, but I view my affection for the written word as a blessing rather than an oddity.

I crave my own culture-rich, pasta-filled, medicine man-laden spiritual journey. While traveling tends to ignite a shamefully malignant anxiety within me, I am simultaneously itching to experience this Earth. Although I think the world of California, and Texas is my moon and my stars, there’s a small voice in my heart—soft-spoken but incisive—that is urging me to venture and voyage and traverse. This voice resembles mine, for subtle tones of anxiety and apprehension are detectable, but the voice contains an element of audacity and wonder that I’ve never consciously housed before. The key word here is consciously, for this bravery and boldness seems distantly familiar, but recognizably not of this world. I’ve been recently led to understand that this is God’s voice, providing me with a fresh perspective and the armor of Christ. He gifts me with incredible bravery and strength, and ignites my passion for His creation.

Let’s see the world-