on being in my 20s…

The other day I was leaving a part of Atlanta I’m unfamiliar with, so I pulled out my phone to help me get back to Gainesville. After opening my GPS app I clicked “home.”

In that moment a wave of comfort washed over me. I’ve lived in a place long enough that it’s saved in my GPS. It’s been saved there for a while, but for some reason the awareness of it hit me right then.

When I was in college I couldn’t wait to graduate, to get away from the desks and walls of my university and experience the world firsthand. Less than a month after walking across stage in my graduation gown and Chuck Taylors I was in the mountains of California, followed by the slums of India.

Then came Nashville, where I slept on a mattress on a floor and used Starbucks boxes as a dresser. My only piece of furniture was at $10 Salvation Army bookshelf.

I left Nashville for the World Race, ditching my mattress and Starbucks boxes for a backpack and sleeping pad. For almost a year we moved from country to country, from continent to continent.

When I came back from the World Race I applied for Teach for America, expecting to be in the same place for at least two years. But they rejected me, which opened up doors to Nicaragua, a stint in Georgia and squad leading through Central America + Eastern Europe. Oh and two weeks in Italy. (Thanks for that, TFA.)

I moved into an apartment the summer of 2012, four years after graduating college and galavanting around the world. I thought I would be there for a while, so I painted my room. A few weeks after the paint dried, we decided to move. An adorable house with a yellow door became available.

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This month marks 1.5 years since I moved in. My driver’s license has a permanent address – THIS address. I get magazines… they know where to come. My walls are painted and I have things drilled into the wall. I have a dresser. A dresser!

As much as I love traveling, I love having a place to call home. A place that remains consistent amidst the swirl of being in my 20s. One of my roommates might move out, but my antique chair isn’t going anywhere.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my 20s it’s that people come and go. I haven’t yet figured out the formula for knowing which relationships are going to stick, because a lot of times I think they will… and then they don’t. Sometimes I don’t know which relationships to fight for and which ones to let go. If anyone knows the answer please let me know. (Note: I know there’s no answer.) (But if there is one seriously let me know.)

They say our 20s are for figuring things out – that this is the time in our lives to grow up, fall down, make mistakes and stand back up again. Sometimes with our heads a little higher, sometimes with our hearts a little more broken.

Lately, life has been swirly. Two of my closest friends moved away in July and I’m starting to feel the repercussion of that loss. I was offered a new position at work, so I’m currently in transition, which brings a batch of mixed emotions (more on that later.) I was dating someone and it didn’t work out.

All of this hit me at the same time around a week ago. That was when I pulled out my GPS, tapped on home and felt a wave of relief wash over me.

This time these walls don’t confine me, they comfort me.

Right now I’m amidst change and growth and loss and hope, but I also have the steadfastness of a place I call home…

And that makes all the difference.

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This has gotta be the good life…

The other day I came back from the gym and  really wanted a smoothie… but we didn’t have any bananas. I was pretty heartbroken about it.

I texted my girl Carly and asked if she had any. To my delight, she was loaded. I threw my gym shoes back on and ran over to her apartment. During the 45 seconds it took me to run there (I’m not that fast, she just lives really close) I thought, I love my life. 

It felt like a TV moment – borrowing sugar or eggs or in my case, a banana, from the neighbor – except this was real life.

Last week a group of us trekked down to Florida for a vacation on Rainbow River. 9 people, 6 hours, 2 cars, 1 baby. Lots of stops along the way. Gas, food, breastfeeding… the usual.

We arrived on Sunday night and left Thursday morning. The week felt like a really good run of Friends episodes. (Except in our version only the married people were having sex.)

We made dinner almost every night – tacos, pizza, steak – and one time we went out for fish (slash gator nuggets.) Linda, our waitress, was a gem. She’s been working at Stumpknockers Restaurant for 17 years, bless her heart.

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eating around the dinner table

The earliest we ate dinner was 9pm. The last night (steak night) we didn’t start until after ten. We felt so French.

We always lingered around the table after eating – no one got up and started dishes right away. I loved it. Our conversations were lively. And odd. The first night we talked about wolf people and tree people (aka people with rare diseases that make them look like wolves and trees) and by the last night we were debating Nicholas Cage vs. Conan O’Brien. Somehow Carrot Top got involved.

In the afternoon we’d kayak. We saw otters, alligators, turtles and weird birds. The first time I went it rained, which made it more exciting. The second time I kayaked ten miles. My back and arms were DYING. But it was totally worth it. Especially since the next day we tubed… aka sat motionless in a tube and floated down the river for 2 hours. Bliss.

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(Greg did the graphics. And yes I’m sleeping.)

Our second day there it rained (translation: poured) most of the day, which was kind of a bummer… but I actually loved it. We stayed in our pjs and read books and made French toast at noon. There was no pressure to go anywhere or do anything. We were together, and that was all that mattered. (Also we had really good snacks.)

Vacation was fabulous on so many levels, but my favorite part was probably each morning. I was usually the first one up. I’d get out of bed and tip toe around the kitchen, making milky Earl Grey tea and buttery raisin toast. Then I’d go out to the back porch, sip on my tea and stare at this view…

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I mean seriously.

Eventually I’d get around to cracking open my diary, then my Bible, then Hemingway. As the morning went on other people would roll out of bed and join me. We didn’t really speak – just drank coffee and tea and read whatever it was we were reading (Picoult, Steinbeck, Steve Job’s biography…)

If only mornings could always be like that.

Thursday morning, the day we left, it rained. I think the heavens were sad we were leaving. After packing and cleaning and loading up the car, we took this picture.

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Then we piled into our cars and drove back to Georgia.

I don’t know where we’ll all be a year from now… some will move away, some will get married. I assume I’ll still be working at Adventures, living at the House with the Yellow Door, but only God really knows.

We’ll always have this vacation to remember.

In the meantime, you can find me borrowing bananas from down the street and loving life with this group of crazy people.

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life lately.

I went from family vacay in Michigan to a weeklong work event here in Gainesville to World Race Launch in Atlanta. Basically, life has not been normal.

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Exhibit A

Last week it all slowed down.

I have the oppportunity to work from home in the mornings, but I never do that. I like waking up and having somewhere to go. Also, I like separating work life from home life as much as possible.

Last week, however, I changed my mind.

Because everything had been so go-go-go I decided to work from home in the AM.

I. loved. it.

I still woke up, put on makeup, started work at 9. But instead of a desk I was on a couch… with tea by my side. And peace. Quiet.

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I would plow through emails & phone calls before taking a break for lunch. In the afternoons I went into the office for meetings. Then: gym class. Sweaty, fun, gym class.

When I came home I would eat dinner on the back deck. Sometimes by myself, sometimes a roommate or two would join me. Eating outside makes me feel like I live in California or something. (They always eat outside there. Or so it seems.)

View from my back deck

View from my back deck

At night I would read (currently making my way through The Book Thief… so, so good) and then watch 1/2 a movie in bed. Watching a whole movie in bed seems like such a splurge… especially on a work night. Also, I like having something to look forward to. So I watched half a movie a night and saved the rest for the next night (or, on weekends, I’ll watch the rest of it in the morning. Because watching movies in the morning feels wrong… I get a little rush from it.)

The Notebook. A Lot Like Love. Elizabethtown. The Brothers Bloom. Adventureland. Dan in Real Life. 

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A LOT LIKE LOVE

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Adventureland

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Sometimes when I go to bed I’m all “I wish I had a husband to fall asleep next to wah wahhh” but this past week – reading, watching movies, eating popcorn in bed – I was thrilled to be alone. As much as I want to get married, I also love me time. (Can I get an amen??)

Because I wasn’t rushing out the door in the morning, I ended up having some personal time at the beginning of the day (I usually take time at night.)

With this time, I made the choice to get back into journaling.

I’m typically an avid journal keeper (or diaries, as I call them), but I stopped writing at the beginning of March. I have 8 entries entries between March / April / May / June… and most of those entries are one sentence long.

I was sick of writing the same thing, of feeling the same thing… so I quit. I needed a break.

Fast forward to July 4 (the end of recent busyness.) I knew I couldn’t / shouldn’t avoid my feelings forever, so I decided to acknowledge them again – however small, insignificant, or petty they may be. (Hello again, old friends.)

Since then, I have written in my diary 8 days in a row. [Insert applause here.]

I write the details of the day before (“lazy morning. cinnamon rolls. 2 mile run. volleyball. lake. cookout. watching fireworks from the dock with my friends.” etc etc), and then I write “I feel”… distanced from this person, grateful for this or that, nervous about such-and-such, glad for this reason, wanderlust creeping up… and so on and so forth. Sometimes I have to coach myself to write down the feelings I’m embarrassed about, or the ones I don’t want to remember later. But I’ve found there is some kind of power in admitting these feelings.

After that I listen to God and write down what he says. Sometimes I don’t want to write anything down because it seems unoriginal – “I love you” – um, duhhhhhhh. But still, I put it on paper. I haven’t found any power in this yet but I’m believing that some will be released in time by me doing this. Listen, write, repeat… repeat… repeat… BAM!! (I’ll let you know how it goes :))

Throw in my brother visiting, boating on a Saturday and cigars+bonfire on Sunday and that’s what I’ve been up to as of late.

Bring on the next week!

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Lakeeee

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on friendship…

Friendship is born at that moment when one man says to another: “What! You too? I thought that no one but myself . . .”
(C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves)

I am a firm believer that some friendships have a spark, a chemistry, just as romantic relationships do. It can’t be explained – it just is. I’ve been around people I should have been great friends with – incredible people with similar interests, etc etc., but the spark wasn’t there. We got along fine enough and enjoyed each other’s company, but that was about it.

When I find that spark in friendship it feels like we’ve been friends for years… when in fact it’s only been weeks. Or even days.

Do you know what I’m talking about?

I hope you do.

Before I moved to Georgia, I was physically separated from these kind of friends, and I was lonely.

The plan was to live with a close friend when I came to GA, but two months before I moved down things fell through and my friend took a job in another state.

I was devastated.

I longed for friends, and on top of that I didn’t want to live with a stranger. I felt like a freshman in college again (…that was soooooooooooo seven years ago.)

But there I was, almost 25 years old, friendless, roommate-less. About to move to Georgia and terrified about it.

After a month of stressing, I decided to trust God.

Nothing happened.

And then, on May 9, 2011 – a few weeks before I moved to Georgia – I got a random Facebook message from this girl named Bethany Holland. I had seen her at a World Race training camp seven months prior, but we never met. Apparently she was moving to Gainesville to work with Adventures at the same time as me and needed a roommate. I quickly stalked her FB page, noticed she liked Michael Jackson, and knew right then we were a match made in heaven. I wrote in my diary,

I have a roommate. I.have.a.roommate. A spectacular roommate! Bethany Holland messaged me, saying she’s been praying for God to open doors for her living situation in Gainesville. She’s been praying for me – I’ve been praying for her – we’ve been praying for each other and we didn’t even know it! God knew this whole time.

And thus began our friendship.

We moved in knowing nothing about each other (besides the Michael Jackson thing), but after a couple kitchen table conversations I could tell we had that spark of friendship.

It’s been a wild ride ever since…

We’ve lived in two apartments and a house, been through breakups and bad hair cuts, gone on more airport runs and prayer walks than we can count. We’ve shared clothes and food and stories and pain.We’ve hurt each other, rooted for each other, fought with each other, forgiven each other.

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Bethany has seen me at my worst. She was there after my Lasik surgery, guiding me hand-in-hand from the car to my bed before taping those ugly goggles on my face. She didn’t even laugh.

She was there when I came back from my counselor and cried on her bed.

She was there when I had a bad dream in the middle of the night… I woke her up because I was scared, and she said I could wake her up if needed. I hardly knew her at that point but I believed she meant what she said. (She did.)

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I have learned so much from Bethany, and I think she’s learned a bit from me too. She’s more feminist because of me; I’m more generous because of her.

Bethany is someone who gives freely – her time, money, and listening ear. She has listenened to me say the same thing over and over again, pine for men who will never be, fumble over my words and has not once made me feel stupid in the process. On the contrary, she makes me feel loved… like what I’m saying is worth listening to.

One night a few months ago we were sitting on my bed as Bethany was processing something with me. She ended up telling me I’m a good listener, that I never judge people or something like that. I remember thinking, “Huh? I learned that from you.

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I have my fair share of favorite memories with Bethany – like the time I was leaving the gym sweaty, hungry and exhausted and she texted me asking if I wanted to go to Olive Garden because she had a gift card. Um, definitely?

There was the Saturday morning we stayed in our pjs, ate pancakes and watched Alive! Is Michael Jackson Really Dead? (followed by Michael Jackson music videos, of course.)

There was New Year’s Eve 2011… and New Year’s Eve 2013.

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There have been concerts (Laura Marling, Brandi Carlile, Joshua Radin, Ellie Goulding), flashmobs, late night Froyo runs, holidays, birthdays, lake days, volleyball Sundays and that time we went to Bermuda together (aka got a spray tan.)

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We have so many memories together – but what I’m going to miss the most are the in between moments.

Making spinach & feta scrambled eggs so many times we can’t even stand the taste two years later. Carpooling, trips to the grocery store. Praying for our husbands. Ordering takeout Chinese and watching a Redbox movie on a Friday night. Drinking tea and talking passionately around the kitchen table. Asking her if I should wear this belt or that one before going to work on Monday.

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After three years of living in Georgia, Bethany is spreading her wings and flying elswhere in life. She’ll be leading a group of World Racers around the globe before starting seminary in Pheonix.

She leaves tomorrow.

It all happened pretty fast, and I’m pretty excited for her. I encouraged her to make the jump.

But I’m grieving, of course. I started writing this post over a week ago and the first few nights I couldn’t write without tears sneaking down my cheeks. That’s why I knew I needed to write it. To help me feel.

I have been absolutely spoiled with rich relationships in life. I have friends in Gainesville and scattered across the country – California, Washington, Wisconsin, Texas, Florida, Ohio.

In the last three years, Bethany is the friend who has remained constant amidst change and travel and weddings and babies.

I know we’ll stay friends, but I also know it will be different. Memories and in between moments will be replaced with texts and emails – where there was skin there will now be screen.

I’m sad, nervous and hopeful.

When I look back on the goodness of God it gives me peace.

God brought Bethany into my life when I was scared and alone, and she stayed longer than I expected. That’s the thing about friends – you never really know how long they’re going to be next door.

I got three years with Bethany. And now we part ways.

In the words of A.A. Milne (Winnie-the-Pooh),

“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”

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I love you, Beth!

(…now go get ‘em!)

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family vacay.

Every summer my family travels to Lake Michigan for vacation. We’ve dabbled in different areas – New Buffalo, South Haven, Grand Haven. Lately we’ve landed on Grand Haven.

Sometimes I’m embarrassed when I tell people I’m going to Michigan for vacation. Because… it’s Michigan. (Cloudy. Not Colorado. 8 Mile. Need I say more??)

But when I’m there I remember how much I actually like it. The sand is soft, the sun isn’t too hot and there aren’t any sharks. My family rents a house within walking distance to town, which is lined with Mom and Pop shops.

Grand Haven feels low maintenance, which fits my family well. There are a lot of us, so high maintenance was never much of an option. Give us Pop-Tarts and board games and we’re good to go.

The day we arrived my 17-year-old brother, Paul, convinced me to watch Star Wars with him. Now I like Star Wars as much as the next person, but it’s been a while and I wanted to start from the beginning (aka A New Hope, because we all know that’s where it really began. Can I get an amen???)

But my brother wouldn’t budge, so we watched Return of the Jedi instead. (Ewoks! I want one!)

The next morning I ate Cap’n Crunch with these cuties:

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(That hair!!)

The rest of vacation looked like this: Insanity in the morning with my dad, beach in the afternoon, Froyo every night, walks around town or to the pier, board games (Monopoly, Wits and Wagers, Balderdash, Scattergories, Taboo.) Oh and we went to brunch once or twice. Noms.

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One more thing.

Every year, my dad makes the biggest sand castle on the beach. My family becomes a hit because of this. The little kids love it, the teenagers are speechless (or they cuss about how cool it is), the parents are jealous they didn’t do it themselves.

People take pictures. One guy even used it as a landmark when he was giving directions on the phone.

It’s kind of a big deal.

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Oh, but that was just day 1.

This is what he debuted the last day we were there…

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If you’ll notice, it actually has a face.

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That about sums it up. All in all, another fabulous vacation in Michigan.

Until next year…

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turning 28: bubble tea & other birthday adventures.

I moved to Gainesville a week after I turned 25 – it’s been home ever since. But I’ve never had a birthday here. Last year I was in Malaysia for work (hard life) and the year before I was in Ohio. Those were lovely birthdays, but since moving here I’ve wanted to celebrate my birthday with the people who are in my everyday life.

This year = jackpot.

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Before I go on, I need to clarify something. I’m not one of those people who declares a “birthday month,” nor a birthday week. I merely call dibs on my birthday… like they used to in the olden days. Call me old fashioned.

Since I knew I was having my birthday in Gainesville this year, I started dreaming about it months ago.

In the last few weeks I realized my expectations were too high and I would probably be let down. Like my first kiss – big expectations, disappointing results (another blog for another day.)

I’m happy to say this birthday exceeded my high expectations (cue “Everything is Awesome” song from The Lego Movie here.) How often does that happen??

It started with yoga at 8am. Note: I do not prefer working out in the morning – my body is creaky, like the Tin Man. I need oil (aka water. and breakfast. and a few hours to digest that breakfast) before I am ready to push myself physically. But the only time I can go to yoga is Friday mornings at 8. So I went.

This time, I wasn’t creaky. I was practically an Olympic gymnast. Happy birthday to me!

After yoga I picked up my friend Kate and we went to the Georgia Aquarium, aka the largest aquarium in the world. You get in fo freeeee on your birthday! I found myself ooing and ahhhing like a little kid. Dolphins! Otters! Penguins, oh my!

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Oh and I touched a stingray. That was gross. 

After the aquarium I drove a few minutes and picked up my dad on the side of a road in downtown Atlanta. He happened to be there for a conference (he lives in Ohio) and skipped one of the sessions to hang out with yours truly.

We went to a bubble tea shop (based on Kate’s recommendation and my love of bubble tea) and talked about casting out demons. Naturally.

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I dropped off my dad on the side of the road again and drove back to Gainesville with Kate. It poured on us for a few minutes – we prayed prayed prayed it wouldn’t rain during my outside dinner party. I’ve been praying all week (40-60% chance of rain booooo.)

We met my roommate Bethany at a hair salon in Gainesville – the salon was having a promotion for missionary-types during the month of May. Free haircut & style! We all went in to get our hair styled fancy for the dinner party. Felt like celebrities.

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We went to my house, where friends and roommates were preparing the dinner party I asked my girl Renee to plan. I told her I wanted it to be a surprise, so I hid in my bedroom while they finished the last minute touches.

I walked outside to THIS…

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For a second I was like… is this my wedding?

The rest of the evening was amazing. Good food, good company, NO RAIN!

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Instead of rain I was showered with presents that show how well people know me – nail polish, candle, tea, bath salt, sparkling water (my favorite kind), The Music Man circa 1962, more tea, books (The Alchemist and Love Illuminated), a gift certificate to my new favorite spa, and Flarp Noise Putty (makes farting noises.)

I felt so loved.

That night I fell asleep next to Kate (sleepover!) and woke up to a clean house because other people cleaned up. LOVE LANGUAGE FULFILLED.

My birthday ended, but the rest of the weekend continued to rock. We spent a lazy Saturday morning eating leftovers on the back deck in our pajamas. Then we changed into bathing suits and went to the lake. And so on and so forth.

ALL this being said…

I can only imagine what the rest of 28 has in store!

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seasons, seasons.

Two months ago my house looked like this:

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SPRING!!! But really, this picture doesn’t do justice to the explosion of life that has taken place around the house with the yellow door. It feels like a fairy tale every time I pull into my driveway (…is this real???)

Spring has snuck up not only on my house, but my heart as well.

November brought my first snowfall (in Buffalo, NY) and a season of brokenness. It felt like my skin had turned inside out as I began to dive into a deeper level of emotional healing.

I got off Facebook and signed up for counseling.

I stopped hanging out with people as much. While everyone was getting engaged or getting ready to have babies, I would get away to my room.

It was there I would spend sweet, sweet time with the Lord. On the floor.

When I came home from the World Race four years ago I was met with disappointment after disappointment. My spirit was so low – the floor seemed like the only place to meet with God (because I knew he was down there with me.) I would lie on my back or kneel with my forehead resting on the hard wood, praying, crying, waiting.

And so, just as I did four years ago – I spent the last few months meeting God on the floor.

Recently, however, I’ve been meeting with God in my bed. The floor doesn’t seem right anymore. My spirits are higher. Stronger.

It’s been a gradual progression. And I’m still in process. But on Thursday I made a spontaneous decision to get out of my room and go see a movie with two friends after work. On a school night!

New waves of life are pulsing through my veins.

A few months ago I looked like this:

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sad selfie after a cry sesh with my counselor

Now I’m all like this:

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(NOT ACTUALLY ME)

Spring is here and I can’t complain…

 

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