on life and stress and seeing a movie by myself…

I have lots to say, but I don’t even know where to begin. I’m home alone, which rarely happens, and I have a cup of earl grey tea by my side… which usually happens.

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Everything has been a little crazy lately. I’ve been going for two straight weeks with high school training camp. On Friday I was dealing with moldy shower curtains; today I was dealing with a participant who had an allergic reaction to peach juice. Last week we had a group of 18-year-olds stranded in Kenya. All in a day’s work.

On top of everything, my car was in the shop and I’m starting to look for a new place to live.

I’ve been trying to take care of myself, but my efforts have slowly dwindled. I’ve had one too many green tea lattes and I’m starting to feel like a hunchback. Because my back is where my stress likes to settle. Anyone else??

On Monday I had the afternoon and evening to do WHATEVER I WANTED. Originally I thought about meeting up with people who live in Atlanta, or tackling my personal to-to list (clean room, make doctor appointment, boring stuff like that), but I decided the best thing for me would be to have no plans. My life has been too planned lately – what I need is some spontaneity. It’s good for the soul.

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On the way to lunch I asked my friend Daniel if there were any good movies out. He said Me and Earl and the Dying Girl was supposed to be good. I had never heard of it, but I decided to go. Usually I watch trailers or read reviews or do some kind of background check before I see a movie, but in the spirit of spontaneity I decided to risk it and go completely uninformed. Call me crazy.

My phone wouldn’t load to show me movie times (first world probs), so I drove by the theater like a creeper to find out what time it was playing. I had a few hours to kill before the next showing, so of course I went to Target and Starbucks. My happy places. (Me and every other girl my age.)

Like I said, I’m burnt out on green tea lattes (though if you offer to bring me one I won’t say no), so I was going to order the cheapest thing on the menu just so I could sit in Starbucks. The problem is coffee is the cheapest. I don’t drink coffee so I don’t even know how to order it. Like… do I just say, “I’ll have a black coffee”? Do I pick a flavor? I really don’t know how it works, so I paid 20 cents more for a sweet tea and my sanity.

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Not posed…

After scribbling in my diary and reading a prayer by Flannery O’Connor, I went back to the theater. I snuck in my sweet tea and an airline blanket and made myself at home. There were two people a few rows behind me, I think, but besides that the theater was empty. I originally thought about inviting my roommate Miles, but decided a date with myself was the way to go.

As soon as the movie started I could tell I was going to like it. And boy, did I like it.

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The dying girl is on the left and Earl is on the right..

The dialogue was witty, the characters were relatable and the story was beautiful. I laughed, I cried. I stayed through the end of the credits, until the lights came on and the cleanup guy stood behind me with a broom. I was kind of embarrassed because I had been crying, but I could tell he was nice. We chatted about the movie and I told him he needed to see it ASAP.

I came home and took my 1-year-old roommate, Aisli, for a walk. I wondered how many people thought I was her mother. I thought about how I’m going to be a cool mom one day… like Amy Poehler in Mean Girls.

Then I ate frozen, organic vegetable lasagna that I baked in the oven instead of the microwave. I was really proud of myself for that (it takes like 300 times longer, okay?)

I hung out with my roommates (and other guests) and eventually went to bed. I didn’t set my alarm, which always makes me feel rebellious. I figured I’d wake up at 9 or 10.

I woke up at 11:48.

That surprised me… and worried me. It showed me I’m more exhausted than I realize. For months I have thought, “it will get better in August.” Which is true… it will. But I don’t think quoting that to myself is going to get me through July. Hopefully I’ll figure something out this week. (First step = MASSAGE.)

While I do that, you should do yourself a favor and see Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by yourself. It’s the best way to go.

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Til next time…

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lessons learned since being promoted…

Nearly a year ago I was promoted. I typically avoid using that word (promoted) because who cares. I’m using it in this post because there is a higher level of responsibility and a wider range of working with people that comes with a promotion.

I remember my boss telling me that my ‘peripheral vision’ was going to be opened up in this new position. I didn’t know exactly what he meant, but now I do. Some things shocked me.

When I was a squad mentor, I had a lot of control over all the moving parts. I could pretty easily navigate the outcome or experience I was aiming toward (with the help of a good team, of course.)

As a program director, I’ve found I can only control so much (though some disagree with this idea.) Many of the moving parts are run by other people, and they are much more complicated.

I’ve been through a fair amount of stretching and growing the last year – emotionally, spiritually and professionally. I’ve had more bad days than good. But it’s all been worth it for the lessons I’ve learned along the way…

Humility comes from leaving something you’re good at for something that is over your head.

Sometimes it’s not about me and what makes me feel good – sometimes it’s just about the kingdom and what God wants to use me for. This is also humbling. 

Being stretched and uncomfortable can either make me A) brokenhearted and dependent on God or B) hard-hearted and numb. The choice is up to me. (Note: the former has more tears.)

Failing [frequently] has given me more grace for other people when they mess up.

People make mistakes all the time.

Even if I can do something well, it’s worth empowering other people and letting them mess up. Everything will be okay in the end. (That one came from my former boss, Steve.)

Some people play the blame game, others just try to fix the problem. 

When I’m really stressed I keep working, but internally I shut down and want to quit. 

My response to immense stress is crying and exercising (though not at the same time.) Also: green tea frappes. 

Everyone can tell when I’m stressed / not functioning at my best. (Aka the curse of being someone who is happy most of the time.) If I can conjure up the energy, it’s worth it to put on a fake face. 

Managing a large amount of details drains me. I can do it, but it slowly kills me.

I was made to lead people.

I developed Tiffany (the person who reports to me) informally, even though my intent was to do so officially. She learned by observing me, by the way I live and talk and ask questions. Leadership is truly about example.

Many people are willing to help. I just need to ask.

When people serve in a way that is inconvenient for them, it challenges me to do the same. Servant-hearted people are truly the backbone to Christ and his love. (Note to self: the next time someone needs a ride to/from the airport, do it.)

I can do more than I think I can.

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I’m curious, what have you learned since being in whatever job/role you’re in?

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29 and oh-so fine.

I turned 29 a few days ago.

When I turned 25 I decided I was going to embrace aging. Instead of complaining about it I would celebrate it.

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That worked out well for 25, 26, 27 and 28… but a few weeks before turning 29 I was like OMG. 29 is practically 30. I started thinking about wrinkles. And cats. And how young 20’s-somethings will scrunch their nose and think, “she’s thirty?” when they find out. Just like I used to do.

28 felt sexy… 29 sounded scary.

But then I realized a few things. 1) My friends are aging with me – aka nobody is getting any younger! 2) I’m still me. 29 doesn’t make me any less cool. Nothing can stop that!

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So 29 it was. But how would I celebrate?

Last year I had an epic birthday. I was worried this year wouldn’t compare – especially since I had to work most of the day (it was a Saturday but I had training camp.)

Thankfully, I had the night off.

At first I thought about doing a small-ish dinner party, similar to what I did last year. Or did I want a big birthday blowout?

Birthday blowout, hands down.

I asked my girl Kelly (pictured above) to plan it for me. And then I shamelessly put flyers all over the office… on bathroom doors, in bathroom stalls, the usual. There was a Facebook invite as well as an update in our Gainesville Facebook group.

The day of my birthday one of my friends jokingly posted the following:

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Har har.

Before I jump to the party, I need to tell you how my day started!

I woke up and opened my door to this…

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…is that not the best way to start off your birthday? My roommate Brian was the mastermind.

THEN I walked outside to this…

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My friend / coworker Tiffany did this one. (Shoutout to Katelyn for the photo!)

Needless to say, there was confetti falling out of my hair / shirt / shorts the rest of the day.

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The morning consisted of Tiffany asking me to be a bridesmaid in her wedding! Followed by breakfast at a local restaurant on the square.

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Goat cheese veggie omelette? Yes pleaseeeee.

After breakfast Tiffany and I trained our trip leaders from 9-5. We had a picnic lunch – the weather was perfect!

Before dropping me off at my house, Tiff treated me to a green tea frappe. My favorite.

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Kelly and her party planning team came over to get the house ready for the evening festivities. Ribbon! Flowers! Sparklers! Snacks!

I got ready (dress, hair, makeup, etc) – Kate curled my hair while my roommate Miles cooked me steak.

Then: THE PARTY.

I love people. Especially people I know… even if only a little bit.

I love people from different groups coming together.

So many people came together at my party!

My heart was so full.

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It was a night of food and music and friends. Oh and everyone dressed up. Just the way I like it.

My goal was to stay up til 1am… I ended up crashing at 12:30. Hey, I’m 29 now. Need mah sleep.

The funny thing is this: most people thought I was turning 30! I received so many cards that said something about 3o and new decades and yadda yadda yadda. Even one of my closer friends was like, “so how does it feel to be 30 now?” (Jeremy Cearbaugh cough cough.)

Not sure where people got that crazy idea. When I turn 30 I’m going to throw more than just a party. (Destination birthday, anyone?)

In the meantime, 29 is where it’s at. Yes, I’m single. No, I don’t know where I’m living come September. Sure, things are up in the air with relationships and work.

However. 

I’m alive and loved. What more can a girl ask for?

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photo cred: johnfrank.

 

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Confessions of a traveler….

I’m sitting in the Qatar airport and I’m FREEZING. Seriously, why do airports always have to be so cold? I’m wearing a hoody and yoga pants and socks. IT’S NOT ENOUGH. I should have brought my down comforter.

I have a sleep mask around my forehead (like a gangsta) and I’m surrounded by a dozen women in hijabs. Sometimes we smile at each other.

I landed at 5pm Qatar time, 10am Atlanta time. My biggest dilemma was trying to decide if I should eat breakfast or dinner. I wandered around the food court, too tired to make a decision. Instead I ate a Lara bar and Cheddar Bunnies (kinda like Cheez-Its… but they’re bunnies. And made with organic wheat flour, so obvs they’re good for you.)

When I was dropped off at the Atlanta airport over 24 hours ago, I felt like a sexy traveler, ready to take on the world. 2 flights and 24 hours later, my hair is a mess, my makeup is rubbed off and my ankles are triple the size they usually are.

Cankles, they’re a serious problem.

The first thing I did when I connected to WiFi here in Qatar was order a pair of compression socks. They’re being shipped to my house, aka they won’t help me at all on this trip… but I couldn’t just stare at my fat ankles and do nothing. They hurt!!

I have 7 1/2 more hours before my next flight… and I’ve already been here for five. I’m too cold to sleep. I’m too tired to read or work. My computer is dying. I already ate half the bag of Cheddar Bunnies.

My only options are to do yoga in the corner and maybe some pushups to warm myself up. Not sure what to do about the cankles besides cry about ’em.

Here’s the thing – travel is amazing. And I’m blessed to have it as part of my lifestyle. But everyone needs to know about the in between moments. If I posted a selfie at the airport 24 hours ago people would’ve been like, “aw. she has a plane ticket and passport in hand. that’s so fun!” If I posted one right now people would be like GAHHHHHH MAKE IT STOP. Sometimes travel is sexy, sometimes it’s ugly. Right now I’m cold and bored and tired and hungry for breakfast or dinner, I still don’t know.

That’s all I have to say about that. It’s time to do some pushups…

Over and out.

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an honest update.

It’s Sunday night – clothes are in the dryer, food for the week is in the fridge, room is mostly clean. Candle is lit and Brandi Carlile is singing to me.

Lately life has been full of sunny days. Warrior Dash, Ultimate Frisbee, sand volleyball, Braves games. Outdoor weddings and birthday parties. Frozen yogurt.

All I want is to be outside… all the time. It makes me feel like a kid during summer. Carefree and alive.

I’m on the tail end of a very overwhelming 7 months – the worst of which were January, February and March. I came to the very end of myself in every way. Work, relationships, etc. I’ve been through seasons of grief, depression, disappointment, loneliness, and brokenness… but none of them compare to this season. All I can say about this season is I came to the end of myself.

Everything felt out of control. All I could do was show up… and then cry about it later. Like most people, I don’t like crying in public. I go to movies by myself so I can be alone and cry. Welp, when you come to the end of yourself you just don’t care anymore.

One day at the end of March I called Betsy (my friend/family/mentor/hero) from the Target parking lot and sobbed to her for an hour. Then I went into Target. Naturally.

Also that week I cried in a restaurant. And Kroger.

Here’s the thing about coming to the end of yourself: you don’t have any energy to pretend things are different than what they are. You’re just trying to not drown. Pride and performance (aka your friends who help make you look better than you actually are) ditch you, leaving you vulnerable and exposed. You’re a hot mess and people know it.

I was really proud my boss had never seen me cry. Then I cried in his office… twice. I also called him crying after work one day. He saw me cry at other times as well. Basically, the joke’s on me now.

It’s humbling, coming to the end of yourself. But it’s also exciting. You know when they thought the world was flat, but later discovered it kept going? That’s how I felt during these months. I was discovering things about myself I didn’t know existed. I stumbled upon uncharted territories.

When I cried to Betsy in the Target parking lot she told me it sounded like a shift was going to happen soon. I agreed with her. There was so much pressure, so much friction in my life that something had to change, give way, be born.

Two weeks later, something shifted. I didn’t do anything. God causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. Learning that, and allowing him to have his way in my life is one of the most mature ideas I’ve accepted in my faith. God does what he wants. I don’t always understand (most of the time I don’t), but I will always align with Him.

The last 4 weeks have been the calm after the storm. Or in my case, the fun after the storm.

I have a lot to process from the season I just came out of, and there is still a lot of uncertainty in many areas of my life, but I no longer feel like I’m drowning. Instead of being taken out by the waves, I’m playing in them.

I’m expectant for the future, the summer, the coming season. I have a feeling it’s only going to get better.

Until next time…

(that one time I was in Costa Rica...)

(that one time I was in Costa Rica…)

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bungee jumping for god.

I’ve never been interested in bungee jumping. I don’t like heights or the idea of dangling upside down… call me crazy.

I’d rather sit on the couch and read a Jane Austen novel.

Yet less than two weeks ago I found myself on the top of this bridge, ready to jump.

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Let me explain.

Lately I’ve been in a fragile state. God has been bringing me into some new territory with him, some new depths, and it’s left me feeling quite vulnerable. When taking me into deeper places of intimacy God usually requires a broken heart, or so I’ve learned.

I’m not talking about boys. My heart has been broken over so many other things.

The last few weeks I was traveling all around the world for work. On March 5th I woke up in a hostel in Zambia and wrote the following in my diary:

God, what are you going to do with my broken heart? It’s breaking breaking breaking. I suppose these newfound cracks will make room for more of your love. But right now I don’t feel that. Five years ago my heart was breaking over giving up that one boy, and now it’s breaking again over what you’re calling me into. More trust in you. 

In that moment, I didn’t trust myself to hear God’s voice (because my feelings were so involved), but I was so desperate that I went for it anyway and wrote down what I thought he was saying.

What followed was possibly the longest and most intimate prose The Lord has ever said to me (or at least that I’ve written down.) My face was drenched with tears and there was so much snot I had to go to the bathroom for toilet paper.

He said so many things, one of them being about how I am in the middle right now, and the middle is always messy. But it’s not the end. There is light at the end of the tunnel, whether I see it or not. “I will not leave you in the middle of the storm,” he said to me. “I will take you through it, hand in hand.”

Ever since God asked me to give up that boy 5 years ago, I’ve followed Him to the left or to the right. Many times with a broken heart and a ton of fear, because I’d rather go the other way. But I will always follow, because we are one and I don’t want to be torn in half.

I’m a big believer in demonstrating in the physical what’s going on in the spiritual, so a week before this tearful morning in Zambia I started thinking about bungee jumping, because I knew it was going to be an option while I was there.

Bungee jumping: the ultimate leap of faith.

The thought terrified me. But if I was living out of a place of risk, faith and trust in spiritual, I should be able to do it in the physical too.

On that day, March 5, I was still kind of back and forth about it until I found out the bungee jump took place on the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe… aka the middle of two places.

Sign me up.

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Zambia on the left, Zimbabwe on the right…

I told God I was doing this to prove my trust in him.

He said that’s cute… but actually that’s not what this bungee jump is about. You’re not going to prove yourself to me, I’m going to prove myself to you.

That brought me a lot of peace.

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I believe in order to do difficult things in life you need to go somewhere else in your mind. You can’t focus on your fear or the obstacle in front of you or else you’ll freak out or freeze (at least if you’re anything like me.)

I was doing a pretty good job of staying somewhere else in my mind, but after being on top of that bridge for a few minutes I started to feel my heart pound.

Deep breath.

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With my feet tied together and a heart full of fear hope, I hopped to the edge of the bridge. My toes dangled 365 feet in the air. The view was stunning. I couldn’t believe this was happening.

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They counted down: 5, 4, 3, 2, 1…

Tapping into that somewhere else spot in my mind, I bent my knees and flung myself off the bridge toward the rushing water below me.

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(Yes, those are bath towels wrapped around my feet…)

As soon as I jumped I remember feeling surprised because my view was super shaky, like I was on one of those Universal Studio rides that makes you feel like you’re in a spaceship flying around the world (or whatever) but actually you’re just strapped to a seat and the screen in front of you is doing all the work.

Except this time there was no screen.

The second feeling I experienced was a complete lack of control. I was falling, bouncing back up and falling again. It was terrifying but mostly freeing. I couldn’t do anything but enjoy the ride… and the view (it wasn’t as shaky anymore.) It was even more beautiful than from the top of the bridge. I was in the view now.

I hung upside down for a minute or two, taking deep breaths and staring at the beauty around me.

There was a rainbow.

A rainbow. 

I had already seen a few rainbows that day, but I knew this one was mine. It was a declaration of God’s promise to me: I will not leave you in the middle of the storm. I will take you through it, hand in hand. 

He was proving himself to me indeed.

A man came down and helped me back up to the bridge. I came up on the Zimbabwe side and had to walk back over to the Zambia side. While I was walking from the end of one country to the beginning of another, I thought I might burst into tears. This time not from fear and heartbreak, but from pride and accomplishment.

I was so proud of myself.

I can only imagine how proud God is of me.

For the next few days all I could think about was my bungee jump. I would watch the video of me jumping and feel that same rush of fear, excitement and adrenaline like I was doing it all over again.

Now, less than two weeks removed from my leap of faith, I am starting to see glimpses of the light at the end of the tunnel. My broken heart hurts less.

He will always catch me when I fall.

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P.S. Not sure why he didn’t catch this girl when she jumped off the same bridge… but at least she was saved from the crocodiles!

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god, work, cheesecake… all the things.

It’s been a crazy last few weeks.

A week ago work was overwhelming drowning me – I couldn’t keep up. I sat on the couch in my living room and asked my roommates for prayer. As they prayed tears dripped down my cheeks.

With each passing day work became manageable again. Praise the Lawrd, because Training Camp started on Thursday.

It was a good camp. Long days.

This morning 60 participants + 14 leaders took off to the nations. I came home and took a bath.

Then I crawled into bed and spent some time with the Lord. He’s been so sweet to me lately. He’s used people all around me to take care of me. Hannah, Bethany and Talia had a care package waiting for me when I came home last night – InStyle magazine, Starbucks gift card and fancy ice cream. What more could a girl ask for?

When I found out I needed to get a forgotten passport to the airport this afternoon, Hannah drove two and a half hours so I could stay back and rest (aka take my bath.)

Tonight Carly took me out to dinner. Bread, pasta, cheesecake… we were so full we practically had to crawl to the car.

And this is just the last 24 hours.

Sometimes I forget how incredible people are. Really, truly incredible.

God is doing some things in my life right now. He’s stirring and shaking and waking me up. It’s not always pretty and it’s not always comfortable. But I know I’m going to be okay.

A week ago I was on the couch with wet cheeks and a heavy heart. Tonight I’m in bed with a full belly and a sigh of relief, ready to take on the rest of this week…

Bring it on.

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