Tuesday, September 17, 2013

"do what makes you happy"

It seems so...fluffy.

I'm sure you have seen it, too:

"Indulge your every whim....follow your heart...do what makes YOU HAPPY."

Please answer this question for me:
What would your life look like if you just did what makes you happy?
...what if you followed your heart?

Let me open up a little bit of my personal journal and tell you:
---my life would be a freaking MESS.
---my relationships would be DESTROYED.
---my God would be WORTHLESS.
---and I. Would. Be. MISERABLE. 

The heart is deceitful above all things
    and beyond cure.
    Who can understand it?
(Jeremiah 17:9)

Please, oh please, don't believe the lie that this life is all about you.  That you're in control.  And that your heart knows best.  It's sooooo not true.  Trust GOD, who is in control and who this life is all about.


 So think clearly and exercise self-control. Look forward to the gracious salvation that will come to you when Jesus Christ is revealed to the world.  So you must live as God’s obedient children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn’t know any better then. But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy.  For the Scriptures say, 
“You must be holy because I am holy.”
--Peter (1 Peter 1:13-16)

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

rest in the acceptance

She looks all around, a frown etched so deep in that smooth little face, eyes scanning the crowd.  Chin down, she searches as fast as she can - back and forth.

There is concern.  Maybe anger.  Maybe sadness.  But more than anything, a longing.  A longing to see that one face that will stop her in her tracks.  

Finally, it happens: we make eye contact.  Her innocent little mind registers the face, the body, the location.  She has finally found me.  Her eyes light up as her head tilts back and her mouth softens.  She seems to illuminate from within.  You can almost see the hope coming forth from her open mouthed smile.  All frustration, fear, sadness and insecurity are gone.

She knows I am here.  She knows I am watching her.  And with one simple smile, she knows I am proud of her.

The Spirit you received does not make you slaves,

so that you live in fear again;
rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship.
And by him we cry, "Abba, Father."

--Romans 8:15

I realize that I am constantly scanning the crowd.  The little girl in me searches for the one that will answer my questions:

"Am I doing well?"
"Am I loved?"
"Am I accepted?"

It's that smile of encouragement that strips away all fear.  That nod of approval that seems to take the weight of the world off my shoulders.  The insecurities, the confusion dissipates when our eyes meet. 

So take rest, little one.  Release all that intensity that makes you frown and keep your chin down.  Rest in his acceptance.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

week one:: growing pains

Oh goodness. A week and a half in and it feels like forever ago that we were in France, getting our Pilgrim credentials and bursting with excitement for our upcoming pilgrimage. 

The first week was FULL of what I now call "growing pains."  Figuring out how to function as a group of four. Figuring out how to pack our backpack so it feels as light as possible. Figuring out how to get out of the hostel in time (before an angry, loud French man kicks us out). Figuring out (the hard way) that if you don't walk your own pace, you will get injured. Figuring out the limit of your body. 

The scenery as been beyond gorgeous. Every. Single. Day. This has been a huge blessing because when my feet are screaming, I'm soaked from head to toe in rain, covered in mud/dirt, and all I want to do is sleep, looking around gives me hope. It reminds me that I'm exactly where I want to be. Where I'm meant to be. 

We have met so many awesome people and I'm sure we will continue to do so. It was a little frustrating to be in a group of people all the time. When we got to cities it felt like a rat race. There were so many pilgrims who all needed a place to stay. That was the most frustrating + stressful part. But, I'm just adding it to my "growing pains" list and trying to learn something from it. It's not worth getting stressed over. 

There have been so many hilarious parts to this trip already. The memories are continually getting added onto. 

The past few days we have started to get into a groove of things. It's not as hard getting up before the sun. We know what we want and where we want to go each day. And we are learning how to communicate with each other. 

I am so thankful for: 
- ear plugs
- a warm shower 
- wine 
- my family 
- deodorant 
- and that God is patient and walks every single day by my side. 

- invest in yourself now and you (and the people around you) will reap a harvest later.  

-"to reach your destiny, you often have to walk away from your comforts." 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

God: He checks things off my bucket list

I sat down and began to write a list of things I wanted to do/get done during my semester off.

The very first thought I had was, "If I could do ANYTHING IN THE WORLD...I would do El Camino de Santiago."

In English it's called "The Way of Saint James."  500 mile route/trail.  Starts at the bottom of France, goes over the Pyrenees Mountains, across the Northern part of Spain, and finishes in Santiago de Compostela.  At the end of the route is a HUUUUGGE, gorgeous cathedral where the apostle James is believed to be buried.  With your life in a backpack, you stop at hostels in towns and villages along the way.  It's a journey that is said to change your life.    

Buuuut..."It's unrealistic," I thought, "There is no way I could find the people nor money to do it."

"As you do not know the path of the wind,
or how the body is formed in a mother's womb,
so you cannot understand the work of God,
the Maker of all things."
--Ecclesiastes 11:5

I had several people speak into my life and they all said the same thing, "GO."  I'm not sure when it happened but I just got the feeling: I HAVE TO GO

I had no idea when or how this would possibly work out, but I knew if God wanted me there, I would be there.

So, here we are, tickets booked, bags half-way packed, and in < 2 weeks I will be in Europe with my family (Mom, Ben + Brice):

--Hitting up the Eiffel tower.
--Walking 500 miles from France to the edge of Spain.
--Becoming pilgrims.
--Living out of our backpacks.
--Finding hostels to stay in as we stumble upon them.
--Meeting so many randoms (random people from all over the world...what could be better?!)
--Finish it up with meeting up with Brady + Tirza.
--See the "edge of the world."
--Top it off with a few days in Roma

holy. crap. 

As we prepare physically we have also been preparing mentally:

"What is your reason for doing El Camino de Santiago?"

do not process things fast. To process something small takes me a few days.  To process something big takes me triple that amount.  I've realized over the past few months that I haven't processed anything that's happened in my life over the past few years.  I was on survival mode.  I just had to get through.

So, now: I just want to walk. With God.  Have time to be alone with my thoughts and away from all distraction.  To walk with Him and process.  Work through the memories: the good, the bad, the ugly.  Embrace the good, settle with the bad, and come back changed and renewed. 

All of this is truly a dream come true.  So many things getting checked off the Bucket List.  I'm beyond thankful, humbled and STOKED OUT OF MY MIND.  I might explode ;)

As we go, we would love your prayers for us!  Prayers for safety, endurance, peace and that God will bless us with an amazing adventure with Him!

Stay tuned: I will try to update the blog from time to time to let you know how we're doing, if we are annoying the junk out of each other and what God is doing.

BUEN CAMINO, mi amor :)

Monday, March 25, 2013

adrift in the sea of grief

It happened that night.  The moment he took his last breath.  At that moment, unbeknownst to me, I was ushered onto a boat.  I was helpless and did not understand why I had to get on.

In the midst of shock, I followed the prompting to board.  It took up anchor and I sailed out into the middle of an ocean.  I saw the shore behind me get smaller and further away.

Part of me was happy.  I never wanted to go back there again.  The smell of death, the sirens, and the heavy sadness was something I wanted to never remember.  I wanted to sail away and pretend I never had to walk on that shoreline.  "It never happened," I tried to assure myself as I felt the waves and wind work together to move me along.

Over time the shore was far from sight.  I could no longer look back and physically see it but emotionally it was vivid as ever.  At night the dreams reminded me of it. I lived it all over again in a torrent of dreams.  I was there, on shore again, and the emotions were strong as ever.  I awake in a panic, only to look out and realize I'm on a strange boat now.

The view is shocking - nothingness for as far as the eye can see.  It's just me.  In a boat.  In the middle of...nothing.

I hug my knees and mimmic the rhythm of the boat - back and forth, back and forth - as my mind races to make sense of it. all.

In the morning the sun comes up and in the evening it slips away in the distance.  From this, I know another day has gone by.  It could be any time of the week, of any month, of any year, and I would never know.  Time seems to mosey it's way by me with no regard to my opinion.  Slowly and mockingly.

As the days pass i find myself wondering,

"Where am I?"
"What happened?"
"Who am I?"
"Where I am going?"

With no one else on the boat, I ask God these questions.  I sit and try to absorb every word of the Bible.  But the constant rocking of the boat reminds me of my current state.

In these moments with God I am free from the lies and contorted memories of "What If's" that plague my mind.  He sends them away.  And we sit in silence.

I don't tell him about the boat.  I don't try to explain what happened on the shore.  I don't try to help him understand.  He already knows.  He knows how it feels and he has been waiting here.  Waiting for me on the boat.

After more days come and go and go and come, I am finally able to look beyond the bow.  With my eyes in the direction the boat seems to be going, I once again ask God my questions.  Is there a new, wonderful land he is taking me to?

I know I can never go back - though my mind takes frequent weekend trips to that hellish time - so I look forward.  I don't know when the new land will come - what it will look, smell or feel like.  Not sure who I'll meet or what "old faces" will be waiting for me there.

I hope the emotions, smells, sights and memories will be sweeter.  I hope I will arrive refined, renewed and ME by the time I get there.

Until then, here I am.  Adrift.

"...for he called you out of darkness
into his wonderful light."
(1 Peter 2:9) 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

love that's better than life

O God, you are my God;
I earnestly search for you.
My soul thirsts for you;
my whole body longs for you in this parched and weary land
where this is no water.

I have seen you in your sanctuary
and gazed upon your power and glory

Your unfailing love is better than life itself;
how I praise you!

I will praise you as long as I live,
lifting up my hands to you in prayer.

You satisfy me more than the richest feast.
I will praise you with songs of joy.

I lie awake thinking of you,
meditating on you through the night.

Because you are my helper,
I sing for joy in the shadow of your wings.

I cling to you;
your strong right hand holds me securely.

--Psalm 63:1-8

Valentine's Day can be a challenging holiday for numerous reasons.  It can bring up memories of happier days that are no longer here.  It can remind you that you want to be in a relationship when you are 100% single.  It can make you compare the love you get to the love that others get - only to figure out you got the short end of the stick.  It can leave you longing.  Leave you feeling lonely.  Sad.  Maybe even unloved.

Even for people in a relationship, I think the holiday, as a whole, makes you ask the question, "Who do I love?  And who loves me?"  

I found myself so deeply sad this Valentine's Day.  I knew I wasn't going to get that bouquet of roses and cute little note from my dad that says, "To my Special Girl, I love you!  Will you be my Valentine?"  And my heart longed for it.  With all that was in me I wanted to reverse time and re-live my last Valentine's Day with him.  Hug him a little tighter.  Smell those flowers.  Kiss him on the cheek, and tell him I loved him.

That was replaced by other loves this year.  I was so blessed by a early morning walk and new mug from one of my besties, a single rose from my sissy in law and brother, a bag of goodies from my mom and a big bouquet of flowers from my lil bro.  Shoot, I even got a Valentine chocolate from my yoga instructor!  It wasn't like all the years past, and I missed my dad like crazy, but I noticed how much love I DO have.  So much love from family, friends and my super sweet God.

I realized two things:

1. GOD + LOVE.  Love needs to come and go, first and foremost, to/from God.  I really believe that if we can be content in God's love, we can be content with anything life throws at us.  Enjoy being saturated in His love.  Have a longing heart for HIM and He will satisfy.  Cling to your love and He will hold you securely.  

2. ME + LOVE.  I need to love myself AND THEN love my neighbor.  Once again, it is great to be a servant and love up on people, but if you're neglecting yourself, what's the point?  If you can't take care of yourself, you shouldn't be taking care of other people.  Love yourself!  Take some time and do something that makes you happy.  Go buy yourself some roses.  Set up that doctors appointment you've been putting off.  Make time to exercise (you know you'll feel better afterwards!).  Shoot, get some new shoes or clothes if you need it!  Stop trying to be a servant to everyone while neglecting yourself.  

You deserve some lovin'. 
Let God fill you up.
Love up on yourself.

And then maybe you can give some of that reserve lovin' to the vast amount of people that love you.

this was my present to myself: cute nails!  It makes me happy.  To see the adorbs tutorial, click HERE

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

taking a holiday, setting new goals

I went back and forth.

I prayed, made a list of pros and cons, asked people for advice.  And then I bit the bullet.  I pulled out of school.  Dropped all my classes.  So there you have it: in a matter of seconds, with a few clicks of the mouse, I made (what seemed to be) a monumental decision.

And this is what I learned

Society is all about doing.  Everyone asks, "What are you up to?"  or "What are you doing?"  It's all about the go, go, go in the US of A.  To us, a week long vacation seems like such a looooong time to take off.  It seems so sacred to be able to do that.  Seems completely unreasonable - unfathomable, even - to take off longer than that.  We don't go on "holidays" for weeks at a time.  When do we ever take time for ourselves?  Stop.  Breathe.  Enjoy life.  Rejuvenate.  And savor what we have in life.

Well, I for one can say that I've never done that.  I've never put aside time to focus on me.  It seems like a totally foreign concept.  I have no idea what that would even look like!  But, like it or not, that's where I'm at.  For this semester I'm being forced - in a way - to slow down.  No job.  No school.  No set schedule. 

Most people I've told that to sigh deeply and say, "You're so lucky!  That sounds so amazing!"

It's true.  I'm blessed.  And this time will be blessed.  However, I've gotta admit, it wasn't easy making that decision.  I'm all of the sudden asking myself: what is my purpose, what am I working for, and what do I really want to do?  With nothing to "work for" I find myself wondering how much weight I put on my achievements.  Do I find my joy and my purpose in things that actually matter?  At the end of the day do I find my true joy and purpose, my fulfillment and truth, in Christ? 

For me, I found that I don't always do that.  I sometimes I have tunnel vision: I'm going to get through school, somehow find out what I want to do with my life, get a job, travel, marry, have kids, etc.  All of that is fine, admirable, and even good.  However, if my ultimate goal isn't to seek God, His purpose, His Kingdom, and His face, then I've got it all wrong.  That's not to say those things weren't my goals before, but I don't think I truly put them in the forefront.  If my biggest dream isn't to be with Him in heaven, I think I have my desires a little mixed up. 

So I guess this is my "holiday" to let God show me...uhh...whatever He wants to show me.  

To guide me through grief.  
To show me that true joy is in Him.  
To tune my ear to hear His voice.  
To set my feet on the path that goes straight to Him.  
To find contentment in sitting quietly by His side.  
And to find fulfillment in His word.

P.S. I'm planning on going back to school in the Fall to finish up my degree :) 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

it's all about being okay

Yesterday was my first day back.  First day back in the real world.  I sat in class, took notes and tried not to zone out the entire time. 

A girl I know from previous classes came up to me and said, "How's it going?!  How was your Christmas break?!"  Ummm...how do I even begin to answer that question? 

By the time I left school I had a meltdown in my car.  I then proceeded to pat myself on the back as I realized I only cried twice that day. 

And then it hit me.  I. Have. Changed. So. SO. Much.

Between all my closest friends in high school, they would be able to count on one hand how many times they saw me cry...during all 4 years.  So, here I am, super happy to only cry twice in a school day.  I take a deep breath.  And decide again to be "okay" with where & and who I am.

I read this quote the other day:
Life is all about being okay with plan "B" 

I guess this is plan "B."  Letting go of all the expectations I had for myself.  Being okay with being way more emotional than I used to be.  Being okay with the fact that I have zero motivation.  Being okay that I am not super happy and bubbly like I used to be.  Being okay that I'm not back to "normal" and it's been over a month.  Being okay with not being okay

Let's be honest, who wants to be the basket case in the room?  No one.  I for sure don't.  I loved having my junk together and knowing that I was fine.  But all that has changed.  I have changed.  And that has been one of the hardest things for me to come to terms with.  To accept the fact that I am not okay and that I need help.  What is it about us that wants to act like everything is just peachy...even when it isn't?  Why can't we be open, say we are a mess and that we need help?  What's the big deal?  We are all super messed up in our own ways.  So why don't we just be honest, ask for help, and support each other?  

I've learned a lot - more than I probably wanted to - and I am continuing to learn.  Accepting Plan "B" and the way it is shaping my life, figuring out how to navigate life again, humbling myself + asking for help, and relying on God to figure it all out for me.

God + His grace.
God + His embrace.
God + His love.
God + His son.
God + His mercy.
God + His patience.
God + His understanding.

= makes everything seem "okay."

Friday, January 11, 2013

one month

Sitting here watching the tiny snowflakes drift to the ground.  It's a cold, overcast day and I'm reminded of how we used to argue about this kind of weather.  I love it!  I think it's cozy, romantic and peaceful.  Dad would say it's miserable, cold, depressing and he hates it.

And there he is.  Consuming my thoughts again with what used to be.  I'm reminded of the days we would run together (rain or shine).  The times I would fall asleep with my head on his chest.  The long conversations that have shaped me into the person I am today.

The memories flood my mind and I feel it again.  That stab to my heart that I've become accustomed to in these last three weeks.  That feeling that takes my breath away.  That moment I remember I will never have that again.  That moment I'm reminded again that this is my life.  That this is real.  And he isn't here.

Saturday will mark one month since he died.  To say this past month has been the hardest time of my life would be a vast understatement.  There really are no words to describe it.  I have never felt so entirely consumed with sadness.  The man I loved, more than words can describe, is gone.  He is gone.  He is gone.  He is gone.  Sometimes that can't even sink in.  And, at other times, it sinks in and pulls me down with it.

Making myself get out of bed in the morning.  Forcing myself to eat - even if the thought of food made me feel nauseous.  Wanting nothing more than to wrap up in a blanket, get in the fetal position, and sleep for as long as I could.  The thought of talking to anyone seemed daunting.  The thought of logging into my email, let alone responding to one, was inconceivable.

People say that time will help.  Well, it does.  People say time will heal.  Well, I'm still waiting for that.  People say that gaping hole in my heart will never go away.  Well, crap.

What I've learned is this:
-God is all consuming.
-God can pull me out of my darkest times and give me rest.
-Family means more than most anything.
-I love God now, more than ever.
-I am allowed to feel however I feel - and it's okay when that changes 10,000x a day.

Yesterday I responded to three emails.  THREE!  I've been working out.  I don't have to force myself to eat - it comes naturally most of the time.  I respond to most text messages within the same day of receiving them.  And I even met someone for coffee the other day.

These are huge victories for me.  I am proud of them.  It may seem small and insignificant, but that is what I will hold onto.  I will be proud of the progress I have made.  I'm going to take my time and be patient with myself.  I'm going to be okay with telling people I don't want to hang out - I'm not to that victory yet.  I'm going to let myself stay in my PJs all day if that's what I need.  And it's all okay.  

For now, all I need is:
and encouragement (letters always help).

Other than that, I just need God to hide me away:

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

December 15

It was Saturday, December 15th.

I woke up with this song in my head.  I laid on my bed as I listened to it over and over:

The day before, dad's hospice nurse said he has taken a major turn for the worst.  She said lots of things but the two sentence I remember her saying was, "....He has maybe a few days at best.....I'm sorry you have to lose your dad at such a young age..."

We cleaned the house that day.  Preparing for my two brothers and their wives to come in town the next morning.  Pips (dad) was sleeping until around 4pm.

When he woke up that afternoon we knew it wasn't good.  Mom called us into the living room where his portable bed was set up.  She said to us, "I know he is trying to say something but I don't know what he's saying."  There he was: eyes wide, mouth moving with silent clues, hands twitching.  He was trying to say something but no words were coming.  All we could hear was the pain and panic etched across his face.

Hospice was called and they said a nurse would be out there soon.  In the meantime we tried to use whatever intuition we had, along with our knowledge of what Pips liked, to make him comfortable.  Looking into those eyes.  Those eyes that so desperately wanted to talk to me.  Those eyes that I have known so well since the day I took my first breath.  Those eyes that could communicate so much.

The following few hours were the worst of my life.  We sat there holding his hand.  Crying.  Telling him everything is going to be okay.  "Don't be scared, Pips, it's gonna be okay."  Waiting for the nurse.  Calling his siblings, putting them on speaker phone, and listening to them say their tearful goodbye.  Crying.  FaceTiming my brothers that would be boarding a flight in a few hours.  Crying, pacing.  Holding his hand.  Trying to give him something...anything that he might need or want.

An eternity.  It truly felt like an eternity.

Finally the nurse came.  She said his pulse was so weak that she couldn't find it.  She shooed us out of the room so she and mom could change him and re-adjust the way he was laying.  When we came back in she went through a list of signs we could possibly see before he passed.  I drifted in and out of listening as I looked between her concerned face and Pips slow, irregular breathing.  "...I would say he has maybe a few hours left, maybe a day...you will see his breathing get irregular....he won't be able to swallow...give him this medicine under his tongue if this happens...you will hear a deep rattle in his throat..."

Upon leaving she told my mom it would be good if we spent time with him individually.  She said her quiet condolences and left.

Mom said we should take her advice.  All of us had already said what we wanted to say.  But we all agreed it wasn't a bad idea.  So Brady started.  He went in, talked, and came out.  Mom was next.  When she came out she said I should go in.

I sat next to him on his bed.  I held his hand the way I always did.  His hand was cold and clammy.  I talked to him the way we always would talk.  I told him how much I love him.  I talked to him about the things we used to do together.  I kissed his hand.  Kissed his forehead.  Then I told him I wanted to take a picture with him, even though I knew he probably wasn't wanting to.  Just a few pictures on my phone.  One smiling, one kissing his cheek.

I noticed his mouth needed to be wiped off, so I did what I usually did.  I grabbed a tissue, wiped it, and said, "There ya go.  All better."  And that was it.  His eyes got huge, he drew his last breath. And he was gone.

My heart started beating out of control.  I held my hand to his chest.  Waiting for a heart beat, waiting for it to raise and fall with each breath.  But there was nothing.  His eyes were no longer lit up.  Death seemed to cover his body.  And I knew it was no longer my dad laying there.

He was gone.  He was in heaven.  
He was in the glorious presence of The God Almighty.