There are so many expectations thrown at us with the new year. Resolutions, goals, wanting to do and be better. I'm at a place in my life right now that is constantly fluctuating between a surreal amazement at God's power, and then life becomes real and the enemy of doubt gets a foothold and everything that was so clear becomes a rabid, putrid mess.

I am not a stranger to the dark
"Hide away", they say
"'Cause we don't want your broken parts"
I've learned to be ashamed of all my scars
"Run away", they say
"No one'll love you as you are"

Ok, honest moment. I've dealt with chronic anxiety for years, and for years I've done everything I can to mask it. Few people would guess upon meeting me--friendly, over the top bubbly, apparently easy-going me--that I am often wrecked with some type of off the wall nerves, usually related to a very simple "problem" that to me is the biggest, most unconquerable thing in the world. I've traveled, dug into my Bible, prayed a whole lot, and ultimately tried to "escape" the constant fear that overtakes my life. Its a lot bigger and scarier than most people realize. "Anxiety" looks different for many people, and I've pinned mine in particular down to one thing: I don't like the feeling of uselessness. I've talked about waiting so much on my blog because it is truly the hardest concept in the world for me to grasp. An unknown future and the feeling of my world stopping while I wait for the next season drives me absolutely crazy. I know how big this world is and I want to do nothing more than be in it, and even more than that, be fulfilled in the world I've created. I guess in a very real sense I'm a control freak. I don't know how to settle down or be patient. I'm constantly looking for the next "thrill," and realizing that both disgust and humbles me.

But I won't let them break me down to dust
I know that there's a place for us
For we are glorious

But in recognizing the "problem" over and over and over again, I've continued to take the wrong approach in dealing with the constant feeling of "not being enough," being unfulfilled. Being, quite plainly. . . bored. Instead of taking anxiety by its big ugly horns and throwing it out the window or better yet, looking it in the face and refusing to let it define me, I've run away. I've ran and ran and ran in hopes of getting away from the clutches of the beast, and while it's fled from time to time, like a faithful old friend it comes creeping back, and each time it is more powerful, more gruesome.

When the sharpest words wanna cut me down
I'm gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out
I am brave, I am bruised
am who I'm meant to be, this is me

If my fear had a face, I think it would be parts cuddly and terrifying. Cuddly because let's get real, if we didn't find some type of solace or comfort within our fear, it wouldn't be there in the first place. The other half is a pure terror, a big black, engulfing mass that I seemingly can't control. The hilarious part of this confession is that I am a Christian. Well, God is a God of order and fear comes from the evil one, and perfect love (Jesus) casts out all fear. Does that mean Christians can't deal with fear and anxiety? Absolutely YES they can. And they do. Some of strongest people I know, love and look up to deal with chronic, invisible demons. If anything, there is a deep strength in the Christian with anxiety, because we know who our Redeemer is. Listen, without Christ, I have no idea how I'd get through most of the time! Whenever I'm going through a particularly hard time and despair surrounds me there is always hope. It doesn't always happen like this, but I woke up today with the distinct knowledge that I am being cared for. No, I'm not super happy that my car is broken, I'm not working fulltime (though I am so grateful for my little parttime job!) and I can't make a solid decision about a life-changing aspect of my life. That's why I'm always encouraging you guys to take the bull by the horns and leap, because I may very well be the worlds most indecisive person. It's super confusing because sometimes its like, what is the difference between my fear, what is actually happening, what could be happening, and reality? The cup of tea I'm drinking is real. The dishwashing rumbling behind me is real. The sun coming in through the window is real. So it the feeling of boredom as I look outside and realize there is still snow covering the ground and I am facing another day indoors, no closer to the end goal of moving out and getting my car fixed than I was yesterday.
 Look out 'cause here I come
And I'm marching on to the beat I drum
I'm not scared to be seen
I make no apologies, this is me

I'm hoping that through this post you can take a good hard look at the things that are keeping you down. Is it lack of money, education, purpose, a relationship? Are you surrounded by people, yet perpetually lonely? If you are anything like me, you are unintentionally looking for band-aids to "fix" your fears. New clothes, new adventures, new loves, new dreams (figurative, not necessarily applied to my own life).

 Another round of bullets hits my skin
Well, fire away 'cause today, I won't let the shame sink in
We are bursting through the barricades
And reaching for the sun
(We are warriors)
Yeah, that's what we've become

No one can change you or me. Only YOU can change YOU. Yes, Christ working in you can change you, but even His constant presence isn't always enough. Sometimes we see it and know it is there, and refuse to listen. Refuse to understand that everything really is for a season, and He is working for our good. FIERCE is another word of mine for 2018. No longer fear. FIERCE. Fierce because change is constantly happening, behind the scenes, when everything else feels stagnant. Fierce because even in the midst of fear there is a shining beacon of hope and His name is Jesus. Fierce because we are made in the image of Christ, and no good thing does He withhold from them who walk uprightly. Fierce because I am FEARFULLY and WONDERFULLY made. Fierce because there are more mountains to climb and more rivers to cross. Fierce because I am not defined by feelings or fear. Fierce because true repentance means turning away from fear and basking in the light of an ever-present King.

I am brave, I am bruised
I am who I'm meant to be, this is me!

Lyrics from the Greatest Showman, This is me


God bless us, everyone

Merry Christmas, Bloggy family! 

I have a few minutes on my hands as I wait for Christmas dinner--my mom's "famous" fried penne [we call it ziti, but its actually penne pasta,] cooked with tons of garlic, heavy cream, portabella mushrooms, oodles of Parmigiano Reggiano, and marsala wine. NOT Whole 30 approved, but it's Christmas and technically I'm done with the program. ;) So while it might seem a little odd to post on Christmas day, my mind is racing and tomorrow may just be the biggest day of my life, and sooo. . .I need to write and spread all the love and cheer!   

My heart is so very full. Its amazing to me, truly mindblowing, how quickly things can change. I was going through a "dark period" a couple of months ago. I may not have seemed like it based on my blog posts, but there was a general sense of discouragement. I went from a spring-summer full of adventure and impossible things becoming possible to a ho-hum life back home with a job I really didn't like, no social life, no car...you get the picture. Now, I'm a big believer that nothing is impossible, and I've proven that to myself over and over. HOWEVER, it doesn't mean that even the most positive-forward people don't become discouraged.

I started the Whole 30 program, and have lost a ton of weight and am at my fittest. If you've been following my Instagram stories (love that Insta life!) you know what I'm talking about. Getting my mind and body on track has been a great way to stay motivated during a "blah" moment of life. When not too long ago I would have been horrified to eat potatoes crisped up with clarified butter or fry an egg in a puddle of olive oil, I now embrace all my amazing healthy fats. . .and continue to lose weight and feel better!! Now that the program is complete I've made the decision to kickstart a continuing cycle. With the exception of the glorious dark-chocolate covered strawberry I ate last week and perhaps a rare treat here and there, (I had a couple peanut clusters yesterday. . .shhhh don't tell!) I will not be going back to sugary desserts, a lot of soy, dairy, or Starbucks drinks (waaahhhh! haha, not really. I barely miss it!) Except for today. Today I will eat gluten-free pasta and bath in the beauty of cheese and forbidden deliciousness. When I was in Thailand I ate a lot of rice and never felt like I was gaining weight or even bloated after a meal, so an occasional dish made with rice or quinoa I'm totally ok with. I'm continuing to crush out my pilates workouts, and I'd like to start lifting and rock climbing.

Do you ever have those moments where God is speaking to you with so much clarity, but people around you don't get it, don't see it, and don't support it? It can be a lonely place to be. That is where a huge amount of faith and confidence comes into play. This year has been a lot of jumping blinding into the direction of His calling, very much like Abraham in the desert, walking and not knowing where he was being led. That's been my life. ;) So many things. . .some of which I may be able to talk about more later, but one I can mention now. I quit my job at Starbucks. Now, I totally recognize that it seems reckless to just up and quit making money, but see that's the point. . .I wasn't making money. Not enough to get my car fix and eventually move back out of my parents home. I'd been feeling restless and discontent for a while, and I've learned not to overlook the signs. There is a fundamental difference between following your gut and following the prompting of the Spirit. I knew where the source of my restlessness lay, and I took action. It was scary, but I did it, and I am so, so glad I did! Within a few days, I was contacted by a family looking for a potential nanny. . .ACROSS THE STREET FROM WHERE I LIVE. What even. Things are still up in the air, but I have a total peace about it all.

Our times are in His hands. Its crazy, looking back on this year, how so many things have come full circle. I think I wrote a blog post with that title a couple of years ago. ;) But its true. If I would have gotten the job I applied for at a ranch in Colorado (not Wind River,) I wouldn't be going to Washington DC in for New Year's week. If I hadn't taken risks last year around this time, I wouldn't be meeting the people and making the friendships I have now. If I hadn't gone to Thailand, I would still be wondering if I am called to the mission field. Like a preacher said recently, we can only see through our human lens. . . what is directly in front of us. But God--He is ALWAYS working on something, even when things drag out for ages or seem utterly hopeless.

2018 is going to be a good year. I can feel it in my bones. There are so many unanswered questions, but they are GOOD questions, and they are full of surprise and joy. There will be hard times. . .every year brings its struggles, but I am so ready to embrace this new season. A friend told me once that she has done everything she's set out to do in life. That isn't an attitude of defeat or giving up. She had goals, and she met them. Now she is just happily swimming in God's ocean of grace and friendship. Whatever comes, she's ready. I think 2017 was that year for me. I did all the things. Things I could only have dreamed of, once upon a time. And I did them. That doesn't mean I'm totally contented or that I know exactly what I want to do with the rest of my life. There are so many opportunities. So many more places to discover, so many adventures to pursue. And Jesus, I am ready for whatever you give me. Be it a quiet life in the country with someone I love, or staying right here in this little house on a snowy Christmas day. This joy is so real and so genuine. Raw and honest. Basking in the love of my Savior and what a good, good Father He is. 


love and gelato

I don't know if I've ever been so devastated to put down a book as I was just now when I finished Love and Gelato. At least, I haven't been that affected by a work of fiction in a very, very long time. Its literally like a hug or a breezy spring day in Florence, gelato dripping down your fingers. It's falling in love overlooking one of the worlds more romantic cities. It's everything simple and innocent and cheesy and just perfect. This little gem sat on my sister's bookshelf for a long time before I finally decided to pick it up and read it. Oddly for me (who rushes through a good story and can't put it down until every last inch is devoured), there was something so slow and special about this one, I savored it. I didn't want to put it down but I also didn't want it to end, so I dragged it on and on (for almost two months now,) until this morning when it got kind of exciting and I had to know what happened. Its one of those young adult books that in theory is really kind of stupid, but the heart of the author seeps into her characters and gives it this simplistic charm that makes it officially one of the best books I've read. Love and Gelato. I honestly can't think of a better way to describe it than those two words.

Book aside, I have a ton of thoughts rolling through my head, and when that happens, I know I have to write. I did some handwritten stuff earlier, which was good, but with all the mushiness of this morning, plus some personal things I'm considering right now, I wanted to talk about a specific topic, love. 

Love is a weird thing. One day it just strolls into our lives, takes captive our hearts, and walks merrily on its way, creating joy and endless laughter and maybe a baby or two (even if its the furry variety.) WRONG. I mean, for some, probably most, it works that way. Then there is the brokenhearted side of things when you are an older single and everyone younger than you is married and starting families, and you're just sitting there with your soul shattered maybe a dozen times, wondering "is this really destiny?" 

I can't say strongly enough how much I hate the cliques that come out of a lot of married or dating peoples mouths when giving advice to someone still waiting for love. Things like "Oh just wait, Mr. Right is out there" or "There are plenty of fish in the sea." Or for someone who is in love, and perhaps is loved or a least liked back, and can't be with their person for whatever complicated reason. It rips the living heart of you, let me just say that. (been there ladies?) I'm choosing to look at it as a love-lorn Romeo and Juliet situations, but that's because I'm high on Florence and falling asleep under floating lanterns at the moment. ;)

Sometimes you just need a little bit of sap. Like a mushy book, a lame Hallmark film, or that song that makes you cry no matter what... .like Forever and Always by Parachute. CAN'T EVEN. Yeah, it's attractive to make men think you don't really care, that you love your independent single life, but in reality...we suffer. And that's ok. But the beautiful thing is, HE sees all our suffering, and HE CARES. Sometimes it doesn't seem like much, being loved by this God we can't even talk too. But He is the author of romance. Look at the history of the world, look at the Bible, for goodness sake! Every possible scenario can be found there, from handsome, glamorous heroes to adultery, pagan ritual, homosexuality, incest, witchcraft, war, peace, dens of lions. The Bible is literally the greatest novel of all time. It captures the human condition through the lives of sinful men...and women. Its painted in debauchery to tell the greatest love story of all time...one of hope, one of redemption..one of an all-seeing, all-loving, absolutely perfect, completely powerful savior. Our heavenly groom. The only groom who will ever know us from the inside out, who will always accept us, who cleanses us from our faults, who is a champion, a defender, a protector, a best friend.

I was having a conversation the other night, explaining what I want in a relationship, all the qualities I listed above, the need to feel valued. What they said was so simple, yet it kind of blew my mind..."you know, you just described Jesus."

Perfect love casts out all fear. Greater love has no man than this...that a man lay down his life for his friends. Hey listen, I'm afraid too. We all are. That need for companionship is rooted so deep in our hearts it aches with the need to love and to be loved. That's what we were created for. Some don't have that call, and its ok. Most, however, desire marriage and everything that comes with it. And no, I'm not afraid to mention sex. It's a natural desire and not something we should be ashamed of. I don't know when I've mentioned it last, maybe on my old blog, but I believe and know with my whole heart that that desire was put there by God. Just like my desire to go on the mission field as a kid. Maybe not indefinitely, but that one trip to Thailand soothed the ache to see if that was God's plan. It wasn't, at least not in the near future. But He knew what I needed because He put the need there. I wrote this in my Bible sometime back in July:

"I am sitting on a step at the orphanage in Thailand right now, Fountain of Hope. its been an exhausting few days, and this morning we had to say goodbye to the kids. I have an overall sense of discouragement. What am I here, God? But maybe I don't need to know yet. Maybe like one of my teammates reminded me--I'm just simply meant to follow and obey His call to be here. Maybe by the end, I will know...perhaps I never will. But I was called, and I am here. I love the portion of the song we sang today: "I give it all to you God, trusting that you'll make something beautiful out of me.""