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."" 


lets talk | Whole 30, skin care, and other tips

Hi. So I'm not entirely sure why I keep posting since it doesn't seem like anyone reads my blog anymore. :P THAT SAID, if you are reading this post, LEAVE A COMMENT and let me know... .or else I might give up blogging altogether. And yes, that's a threat. ;) Honestly, writing is such an emotional outlet for me I almost don't care. I'll never stop writing. I'm a word-nerd.

Ok, down to the nitty-gritty. I started the Whole 30 program four days ago. Now, before I continue, this was not a daunting or weird idea to me. They say everyone feels that way on the first day, and then you go through all these crazy phases like "Kill All The Things," etc. Its been easy for me (for the most part,) because last year around this time I went cold turkey and gave up EVERYTHING in my diet, started working out regularly, and dropped several lbs. Now, I didn't completely cut out sugar (I was still eating dark chocolate,) or cheese on my salads. Since then I've discovered that yes, the diagnosis from years ago was right, and I am pretty severely lactose intolerant. So I ditched dairy a couple months ago while still in Colorado.

So far the biggest challenge of Whole 30 is cooking. Not because I don't know how to cook--I simply don't have the time. I'm finding myself coming home from work STARVING but also dreading chopping all my veggies and turning on the stove. Minor obstacle. I'm a big believer in setting my mind to something and just doing it. Anyone is unstoppable with the right mindset and motivation. Anyone and I mean anyone, can get their food addictions under control, lose weight, and change their lifestyle. Dieting, as far as I'm concerned, is a cop-out. Change the way you look at food, and everything else, including mental clarity, dropping a pant size, etc, will come full circle. I guarantee it.

I felt my best when I was in Asia for a month this summer. Almost every meal was served family style and consisted of rice, meat (usually pork or chicken,) fish, vegetables, and fruit for dessert. Often there would be a small portion of rice accompanied by a variety of soups and stir-fry. Personally, I found it delicious, and unlike my teammates, I never got tired of rice. I had a ton of energy, my digestive issues disappeared, my skin was clear, I experienced little to no bloating, and aside from being overtired, (the result of the trip, not the food I was eating,) I had tremendous stamina and zero brain fog. Coming home I fell into a lot of bad eating habits all over again. Even though I have remained gluten and dairy free, I have consumed a ton of sugar (blaming Starbucks!) and began feeling sluggish, etc.

I'm not saying you need to begin eating only Asian-inspired food! But they really know what they're doing when it comes to a cleansing, detoxing, well-balanced diet. Obviously (for those who have done the program and know the rules,) I won't be eating any grains over the next 30 days, so rice is out. I think once I start implementing certain foods back into my diet that I'm going to try Thai cooking for myself! 

There are a few core things I've been doing on a daily basis to keep me feeling healthy and beautiful. Yes, beautiful. :) Good skin in a huge part of that for me. I have naturally acne-prone skin, and if any of you have followed my blog for a length of time, you know how badly I've struggled with it. Over the last few years I've conquered a lot of the problem, but occasionally I still encounter red patches or a breakout. I am NOT going to try to solve anyone's acne issue because each case is unique, but I'll talk a little about some of what's worked for me.

Lots and lots and lots of water. This is very basic, I know, but never underestimate the power of being well hydrated! I try to drink at least 8 cups a day (the amount you need will vary with your body weight,) and bought a huge bottle that holds that much. Adding fun, anti-inflammatory ingredients like slices of cucumber, lemon, or berries, keep it interesting.

Oolong tea. I mentioned this miracle tea in my last post, and seriously, I cannot sing its praises enough! Not only is it tasty (at least for coffee-deprived me,) but it is PACKED full of health benefits, including weight loss, heart health, brain function, an aid for acid reflux,  has a calming effect, and much, much more. It's been an awesome addition to my Whole 30 diet.

Pilates. More specifically for me, Blogilates with Cassey Ho. You can follow any workout regime that you'd like, but Blogailates has been really awesome for me. Not only can I do it at home (huge win in my book!) but Cassey's videos really challenge my body and her positive outlook encourages me to push myself harder. I feel like pilates gets a bad rap since it uses little to no equipment, but trust me, it is super effective, and you.will.SWEAT. I've been trying to work out at least 3-4 times a week since December, and with the exception of about 3 months of traveling and work over the summer, I've been successful.

Soul Scripts. So this is something I've discovered recently on Instagram, and honestly, I think I'm pretty late to the game. But this is a nice Christian resource  for daily inspiration and motivation. Sometimes it only takes a quote or simple thought to get the day started off right. "Just because you're not at your destination doesn't mean you're at a dead end. You're simply on divine middle ground." #soulscripts  

Pacifica. I promised I'd talk a little about skincare! My skin has endured a lot of changes over the years...acne, oiliness, dryness. While in Thailand it was nearly perfect. I also saw a huge difference in my hair's texture and body, which I attribute to the insane humanity. From there I went to the mountains of Colorado, which is extremely dry, and while I didn't experience any significant breakouts, by the time I got home my skin (especially in the T-zone area,) didn't know if it wanted to be oily or so dry it hurt! I started using the Pacifica brand--which is 100% vegan and cruelty-free--at the recommendation of a friend, and I'm so glad I did! I have tried three of their face cleanses with amazing results. They did end up being a bit drying but combined with Coconut Probiotic Water Rehab Cream, my skin is more glowing and even-toned than ever! Plus its pretty hard to pass up a reasonably priced vegan product. :)

That's all I have today, lovelies. If you want to continue seeing posts please leave me a comment, otherwise, I am considering shutting my blog down, which I really don't want to do. Cheers!


Set a Fire | 2017 in review

It feels like I just did one of these! And yes, I realize there are still a few months of 2017 left. But I set out on a very specific mission this summer, and I did all the things. So I think its acceptable to summarize it all now. Besides, something was telling me to write, and even though at first I wasn't sure what that meant, I followed my gut and here I am. ;)

"Set a Fire down in my soul, that I can't contain, that I can't control. I want more of You God. I want more of You God."

Late 2016 saw me back from a full season at Wind River ranch and moving into my precious little brick house in Kentucky. Just the step of moving out and gaining independence changed so much in the way I viewed...everything. It lasted nearly a year and was one of the most rewarding things I've ever done. Everything for a season. I learned all about living with roommates and sharing everything from fridge space to a car. I started my job at the Creation Museum, and though it wasn't the best fit for me long term, I gained an even bigger "extended family."   

Life in Kentucky was one of the happiest times I can think of. Around Christmas, I made my first online dating account and dabbled with long-distance relationships. HUGE learning curve. By my 26th birthday I started experiencing some of the worst jaw pain I've ever felt in my LIFE, and found out I needed all four wisdom teeth removed. This was another big leap into adulting--trying to juggle work with making dentist appointments, figuring out if I was still covered under my dad's health insurance, and ultimately depending on my ever-faithful-best-friend-and-roommate, (Sarah!) to get me to and from surgery. This was literally a week before my birthday, and though I've spent others without my family, this one was particularly lonely.

It took me almost two weeks to recover from my surgery, but that's probably because I had the teeth removed while fully awake. Sarah drove me 45 minutes to the appointment, which should have been my first clue that this ordeal was just beginning. As soon as I laid back in the chair and the nurse said, "this will just sting a little bit, then the numbing should start taking effect. . ."  I knew something was up. . .and by then it was too late to complain. Instead of going under, a giant man (who compensated for the discomfort he inflicted with his cool African accent,) stuck his giant hang into my mouth, twisting and cracking and putting so much pressure on my jaw I thought it was going to split. This was followed by a grueling, agonizing ride home complete with blubbering and being incapable of opening my mouth wide enough to drink anything. I will stop now before you ask why I had blood running through my nose and into the shower. . .

I had applied for my missions trip to Thailand a few months before, and donations were coming in very slowly. I also didn't have a plan for raising funds. From the start it was a huge faith-venture, and I solidly believed that if God wanted me there, He would find a way. Around this time my online relationship fell through, another scenario that really stretched my faith. I wouldn't change it for the world though. The only thing I regret is believing it could have worked out. Its almost funny now, because I see our incompatibility so clearly. After the shock I pushed myself even harder. I found out just how strong I am capable of being, and I became more confident and sure of who I am then ever before. I began to really enjoy my life. I was surrounded by the greatest network of people I could possibly imagine. I was working full time, learning how to be a good hostess, managing my time and budget, seeing movies on weeknights, going on spontaneous ice cream jaunts, hikes in the park, and working out almost every day. Oh yes, a word on that.

One of my big ventures of the winter was losing weight and gaining muscle. I'm still working on the last part, but a good workout routine has become a huge part of my life. It's really addicting. I changed my diet and dropped at least 15lbs. I felt better, looked better, conquered my food sensitivities, and gained stamina. I still love working out and have added a lot of walking and even occasionally running (though I honestly hate running, hence only occationally, ;) ) to my pilates routine.

In May I flew out to Colorado for Wind River's staff training week, a really daunting thing with my fast approaching mission trip deadline. The whole week I struggled with my desire to stay on at the ranch and knowing I needed to be back in Kentucky preparing to leave the country. After a lot of prayer and tears, I decided to finish my job at the museum and figure out why my passport application was being canceled. Oh yeah, that almost happened. You want to talk to me for a minute about panic? So while I was still at the ranch I received a letter from the Department of State telling me that if I didn't provide 5 documents that were 5 years old or older proving my identity, they wouldn't issue my passport. I was late when I applied, but knew it would arrive on time if expedited. Now I was being told that because of my recent transfer of residency to KY, I was as good as a terrorist to the US government. I had no legal identity.

Thus transpired the nail-biting routine of phone calls, emails, letters. I would find out some horrible development while at work, try not to panic through my shift, then rush home to spent hours trying to get through to the passport agency. Meanwhile, a dear friend of mine donated a huge box of jewelry to start my fundraising campaign. What I didn't gain from jewelry sales I made up through huge (and I mean huge) anonymous donations. Within a few short days of returning from Colorado, I exceeded my fundraising goal.

Even as I write I shake my head in awe and gratitude. Its one of those classic faith-stories when everything seems lost and then BAM! He knows every sparrow that falls. And in the moment, I was that sparrow. I will never be able to fully thank my sponsors (unless you choose to reveal yourselves, ;) ) but please, please know if you are reading this: you are my heroes. I am eternally grateful to each of you and can do nothing to express how honored I am! :)

It took close contact with my Congressmen's office back home in Ohio to finally make some headway with my passport. I had people praying like maniacs and I was in a constant state of frenzy, making phone calls and wondering how I'd repay my sponsors if things didn't pan out. Copies of my school and driving records were sent with an appeal to the Department of State. Then, with just over a week before the trip, I got a phone call from Congressmen Renacci's office: my passport had been approved and was being processed. I received it a couple of days later and melted into a puddle of joyful tears. Throughout it all, Jesus gave me a sense of peace that I still can't understand. I knew I was meant to go on that trip. At times I still puzzle over what the exact reasons are, but testimony to this story, sometimes we don't know all of the details until much, much later.

Needless to say, I spent the month of July in Thailand. Everything related to my journey is for another post, but I can say with confidence that I have learned this: 

  • Hot showers are a thing of value.
  • The number of "likes" you get on Instagram doesn't really matter.
  • We are spoiled in America.
  • The Body of Believers in this country is a gift; in Southeast Asia, there are only 1%  of Christians. 
  • Pig brains, giant frogs, live shrimp, and deep-fried crickets are a luxury.
  • Riding in the back of a truck with no seatbelt up winding mountain roads is the definition of amazing. 
  • Jet-lag sucks.
  • Elephants feel like rubber.
  • Learning to plant rice in a torrential downpour should be experienced by everyone. 
  • Justin Bieber is the world's boyfriend.
  • "Love" comes naturally to the Thai people--never before have I felt it so strongly

I was back in the States for a week before I returned once more to Wind River Ranch to finish up a whirlwind summer. If you've been keeping up with my posts you know that I am back home and was just recently hired as a barista at Starbucks. My prayer is to save enough $ to get my car fixed and move back out in the spring. What future adventures do I have planned, you might ask? Honestly, at this point, I'm done adventuring for a while. I've seen two continents (Europe and Asia,) learned basic Thai phrases, left my heart at multiple orphanages, experienced the trails and spiritual warfare of missionary life, moved out on my own, and now. . .now I think it's time to settle into a normal routine and maybe even get my own apartment. I hope the testimony of my mission trip journey proves to many that God is at the center of all we do. Even in the impossible. "I've seen you move, you move the mountains, and I believe I'll see you do it again." 
--Do It Again, Elevation Worship