on being 30 and falling in love for the first time:

Every year around this time I write a post on what it’s like being whatever age I am and single (26, 27, 28, 29). This year I bring you a post about what it’s like being 30 and in love.

Slow. Clap.

For 29 years I couldn’t imagine being in a relationship. It was always this far off, foreign concept. I liked boys, dated boys, kissed boys (…not always in that order) but never jumped in enough to develop a long-term relationship. I was fiercely protective of my heart and had incredibly high standards.

At the end of March, two months before my 30th birthday, Justin asked me out. I was surprised because we had unsuccessfully dated before (see previous post.)

I said yes, unaware of the journey in front of me.

It didn’t take long for me to discover I was riddled with fear. Worse case scenario meant finding myself heartbroken, unable to get out of bed, eating only Wendy’s. (Aka Lorelai in season 5 of Gilmore Girls.)

I knew I needed to risk my heart on the line, but how much of my heart, and at what pace? Where was the formula?

Somewhere along the way, between April and September, my heart fell into Justin’s hands.

It was the Saturday we went blueberry picking. It was late June, humid enough that my clothes were soaked with sweat despite it being 9am. He picked most of the blueberries. When we kissed it was sweaty and gross. Eventually I went and stood in the shade because I was so hot. He was supposed to take me home so I could clean the house for my birthday party that night, but instead we spent the day running errands and making out in the car, the AC blasting.

It was a month later when we were on the red couch, navigating a difficult situation. Turns out I was in the wrong. I falsely accused him because of a misunderstanding, yet he didn’t throw a punch back. He listened, he cried, he kissed me. I’ll never forget that feeling of my heart dropping in my ribcage and my chest warming my body. Falling in love is an actual feeling.

It was the countless hours he listened to me verbally process. The book he gave me for my birthday. Trips to the airport. Flowers left in my room. That time he picked me for his cornhole partner, even though I’m no good. It was him sitting on my bed, reading scripture or The New York Times to help distract me from the panic I faced.

It was him saying “I love you” for six months with no return.

I didn’t realize my heart had slipped out of my control until October when I was in Ecuador on a bus from Mindo to Quito. I was typing out a note to him on my phone (to email later) when I found myself writing, “Do you know what you’re holding? My heart is dangling between your fingers…”

I was afraid for most of our relationship, and that slowed me down, but I never let fear stop me completely. I just inched into the water instead of cannonballing. I’m sure I could have handled things more smoothly, more maturely, but as my married friend Holli says, “When it comes to this stuff we all act like 6th graders.” (Can I get an amen??)

Falling in love with Justin is a love story between me and him, but even more than that I consider it a love story between me and God. More than trusting Justin with my heart, I had to trust God with it. I wanted God to tell me what to do (or what would happen), but He didn’t. He gently guided me with wisdom, but the moves were always mine to make.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about love, it’s that it plays out differently for everyone. As much as I wanted a rulebook, or a formula, it doesn’t exist.

In December, on the same red couch where my heart first dropped, I said those three words for the first time.

I love you.

anas24

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thoughts on dating & pornography: part 2

Written from the point of view of Justin, my boyfriend! 

I first “met” Hope right after I got home from the World Race in June 2013. I came down to Georgia for an event at Adventures where she was the emcee. I don’t remember much but I do remember she made a couple of inappropriate jokes on stage. Our first interaction happened four months later as we were on a team together, training a squad to launch on the World Race. I thought she was funny, attractive and down to earth. She probably thought I was quiet, reserved and Asian. I chalked it just hormones and attraction since I was preparing to leave the country for five months.

Fast forward 8 months later: June 2014. I had returned from my five month stint on the field and was back down in Georgia for a wedding. Later that night, I stopped by a friend’s house to drop off a few things. Her house happened to be Hope’s house. There Hope was, squeezing shampoo into travel sized bottles and gathering ziplock bags to put her miscellaneous items in. We ended up talking for over an hour – Pride and Prejudice, her gingivitis, squad leading, travel. Something jittery had grown inside of me.

I left the next day for North Carolina and a month later I was back in Georgia to once again, train another World Race squad. This time I was heading out for 11 months (I know right?) Hope had somehow managed to secure herself in my thoughts over the last month and I couldn’t shake her out of my head.  We had texted here and there, me telling her of my Pride and Prejudice progress, her about her gingivitis (hubba hubba) but in my opinion, it hadn’t amount to much of anything.

That week in Georgia, my coleader said matter of factly, You should ask her out on a date. And that Thursday, I called her up and did exactly that. Much to my surprise (and nerves), she said yes and on a cloudy Saturday morning, we were off to lunch. I was nervous and spoke too little. She (apparently) had food falling out of her mouth and (definitely) talked a lot. It didn’t matter. I was swooning.

I went back to North Carolina; a month passed before I was back in Georgia. It was a Tuesday, our fourth date. We had finished a walk around the park. The warm summer air kept us outside, sitting on her front porch (I think looking up videos of streakers – her idea), when she suddenly turned to me and asked, “When was the last time you looked at pornography?” Talk about rainbows and butterflies.

“Sooo we’re going there. Uhhhhh – I don’t remember exactly but it’s been in the last couple of months.”

“Hmmm. Okay.”

We went back to watching streaker videos.

I slept soundly that night, my conscience soothed by my openness and vulnerability. The next day, I found out the wheels had been turning in her head all night. Hope explained her standard – she wouldn’t date anyone who had looked at pornography within the last year.

This was a serious setback in our otherwise whimsical and romantic relationship. Up until this point, we had stayed in touch when we were apart and went on dates when I was in Georgia. We were still in the ‘get to know you’ phase (aka you’re cute but I don’t know anything about you). Our conversations suddenly turned more serious about this checkered past I had. I assured her that I hadn’t yet found victory but I believed there would be a time I found freedom. It just wasn’t here yet.

Three days before I flew out for that 11 month trip, she ended things. Yes, it was the length of time but it was also because of the pornography. I left on a plane, teary eyed and with a hurting heart.

The first couple of months on the field were difficult to say the least. Leading my squad was a welcomed distraction. A year porn free wasn’t impossible but it definitely seemed daunting. There were few to no men in my life that had successfully overcome such a hurdle in their own walk for any significant period of time, let alone indefinitely. What if I’ll always struggle with this? constantly surfaced my thoughts.

For the longest time, I didn’t understand. Or rather I couldn’t bring myself to understand Hope’s rationale. It’s not like I wanted to look at pornography or that I was embracing it or giving up and resigning to it. Pornography was a shameful thing I had worked hard to overcome. I just hadn’t… yet. And a year was a freaking long time. Wouldn’t 6 or 8 months be enough? Wasn’t there grace? Instead it felt judgmental and I felt slighted, unheard, unhelped and left to figure out things in my own turmoil. If she liked me enough wouldn’t she walk alongside of me?

All these thoughts poured through my mind.

It wasn’t a huge struggle on the field, just here and there. But every ‘here’ and every ‘there’ was a reset – back to square one. It’s a difficult thing to find yourself in the same position a dozen, fifty, a hundred times. Starting over can be viewed as a blank slate but in this case, starting over perpetuated the uncertainty of ever moving beyond.

But one day, I stopped starting over and continued moving forward. There wasn’t a black and white ‘aha’ moment, even though I wished and tried for one many times. One of the biggest transitions happened when I began to reassess my mindset. The idea of a perpetual struggle with pornography had burrowed its way into my thoughts. I began to reason it out: If I believe I will always struggle with pornography, that means what Jesus did on the cross is null – that Jesus is less than pornography. And I know Jesus isn’t less than.

Yes, my freedom was a stroke of grace. It was also a choice. That choice turned itself into an everyday decision that soon became 5 months of freedom under my belt by the time I came off the field.

Along the way a lot of people asked me if I was doing this for Hope or if I was doing it for God. I know now the answer was ‘both’ and even more than that – it was for myself. But during those questions, I had to wade through thoughts of ‘impure motives’. Was my fight for freedom from pornography actually… selfish? In the end, I accepted that the answer is multilayered and put the nagging thoughts to rest. On this side of things, it’s quite easy to see the answers and reasons are never ‘either or’ but really are ‘both and more’.

The remaining seven months were messy with Hope – me still wanting a relationship, her still saying no, both of us being hurt. But in March 2016, on that 12 month mark, hanging on to just a thread of hope, I asked her out.

She said yes and we’ve been dating for the last 10 months.

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Let me say something. Pornography is slow poison and a deceitful beast. It promises all the pleasures and in return, gives you emptiness. It’s by all rights and definitions, addictive. It creates a false and degrading reality of women, sex and relationships. It sets you up for failure. It gives you a jaded lens to look through. It’s one dimensional as you miss out on the joys of emotional, spiritual and intellectual connection within a true relationship.

These are thoughts and conclusions from my own process and experience. But there are hundreds of articles that back these ideas up (and they’re not Buzzfeed articles either). Here’s one explaining how it literally rewires pathways in your brain, reducing decision making and giving way to more compulsivity and impulsivity. Scientifically, your brain looks no different if you’re engaging with porn or doing drugs. 

A lot of people disagreed with Hope’s conviction for a year of freedom from someone she’s dating. I’m included in that group of people. Regardless of what I thought was ‘fair,’ I wanted Hope and I wanted to be free in my own right, so I fought. Only along the journey, even before we started dating, did more understanding come. It’s true that sin affects more than just yourself, even when sin looks like yourself alone in a dark room. What stains in the dark is still evident in the light.

The Lord slowly unraveled my knot of ignorance and allowed me a glimpse of how much this grieved Lord’s heart and Hope’s heart, how pornography had shaped my field of vision and my thinking, how it distorted my perception with women. I remember sitting at my parents’ dining room table weeping because I could feel the sorrow weighing on my heart. 

I believe the best thing for both of us was her standard. Yes it is my struggle but it definitely affects the person I’m dating, especially as our hearts grow closer together. For me personally, I didn’t need more grace – I needed a higher and holier calling. Hope didn’t welcome that kind of baggage in a relationship because she was protecting her heart.

Here’s some food for thought: If we agree the effects of pornography are similar to drugs, then we must also agree the consequences of pornography are similar to drugs. Would you date a current alcoholic? Or gambler? Or drug addict?

It’s been almost two years since I’ve engaged with pornography. Let me tell you it hasn’t exactly been easy street either. The devil still prowls around like roaring lion looking for a time to devour me. Temptation dangles in front of me. Truthfully, I’ve come close more than once. But it’s like night and day from years ago to now. Rolland Baker says, ‘Doesn’t it feel great to wake up with a clean conscience?’ It’s true – there’s such an ease and lightness to life I almost forgot was there.

Vulnerability and openness are key. They not only limit shame’s ability to thrive and grow but they also create more accountability and give you more power over your life. The light will snuff out the darkness. There IS freedom from pornography.

Because Jesus isn’t less than.

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thoughts on dating & pornography:

It was the summer of 2014 and a boy asked me to lunch. Lunch turned into late night phone calls and romantic emails. He lived in another state, but there were flowers waiting for me when I came back from a trip to Peru.

For the first time in my life I found myself open to giving someone a shot. A few weeks in I wrote, “I don’t know what I think about this boy. We can talk on the phone for hours, and I actually kind of enjoy it.”

He intrigued me and I wanted to know more.

Nearly a month after our lunch date, he came to visit. I was worried it would be weird. I also wondered if he would kiss me.

He took me to a baseball game. I was tired, he was quiet. We both thought the other person was bored. We talked about it on the drive home and realized we actually both enjoyed our time, we just had a trouble reading each other.

The next day we went to the movies. I put my head on his shoulder; he held my hand. I could barely focus on the movie because of the butterflies in my stomach.

We went for walks and talked for hours.

One night we sat on my porch when I asked him a question that changed everything.

I asked about his history with porn.

He was honest about his story, including the part where he looked at porn two months earlier.

The next morning I called my mentor and told her what happened. “I’m so angry at him!” I said and burst into tears. I also was angry at myself for being so surprised. I believed that because he was a responsible person, porn would be a thing of the past for him. I was shocked to discover I was wrong.

He didn’t know it at the time, but I had made a commitment to not from date anyone who had looked at porn in the last year of his life. Porn wasn’t something I wanted to bring into marriage, which meant I didn’t want to begin a relationship with someone who was still struggling with it. The reasons?

Research has found that after men are exposed to pornography, they rate themselves as less in love with their partner than men who didn’t see any porn.

The more pornography a person consumes the harder it becomes for them to be aroused by a real person or a real relationship.

Research has found that marriages in which one person has a porn problem or sexual compulsion are often plagued by less intimacy and sensitivity, as well as more anxiety, secrecy, isolation, and dysfunction in the relationship.

A study of the most popular porn videos found that nine scenes out of 10 showed women being verbally or physically abused, yet the female victims almost always responded with either pleasure or appeared to be neutral. 

The more porn a person looks at, the more severe the damage to their brain becomes and the more difficult it is to break free.

Porn fuels the demand for sex trafficking.

(Read more here.)

That night we went for a walk by the lake. The air was thick, I was nervous. We sat down under a gazebo and I brought the porn discussion back up, letting him know about my commitment to not start a relationship with someone who currently struggles with pornography.

“So what does this mean?” he asked.

“I… I don’t know. I’ve never run into this before.”

According to my conviction, I should cut it off. But my heart was already involved. I was torn. I told him I wouldn’t make a decision in that moment.

The next night he kissed me. “So many sensations,” I wrote. “I was nervous and excited and felt alive all over.”

He left the following morning. I was worried kissing overshadowed the concerns I had about porn, so I wrote him an email letting him know how I felt:

…I’m worried I care more about this than you do, I’m worried it will always be in the back of my mind (do I ask you if you’ve looked at it recently, or wait until you tell me? Will I always be wondering?) I’m worried if I continue to bring it up we will both grow to resent each other. I like you and I want to kiss you again, but I must be honest with you about where I am / what I’m thinking.

He responded with a long email and ended it by saying, “I’m thankful you are a person who doesn’t stand for something to avoid hard and uncomfortable conversations. I like you and, while this isn’t exactly what I imagined, I’m grateful to be able to walk through this with you.”

We saw each other again a few weeks later. We kissed in the rain and lay in the street like they do in The Notebook.

All the while I couldn’t shake my conviction. Hesitation surrounded my heart like a cloud.

We sat in my car, the sticky air nearly suffocating us, when I ended it. He was leaving for a year, so that was part of it. It was also the porn.

10 months passed.

He emailed me in June, asking if he could take me on a date in August when he was back in town. I said yes, and we started emailing back and forth. At one point I wrote, “With you, I’m curious. And hesitant. We haven’t seen each other in almost a year. I don’t know where you stand with porn right now. That’s not exactly a conversation starter. But it’s still a standard I have.”

In August he walked in my front door while I was painting my fingernails. It was such a normal moment after not seeing each other for a year. We walked to get ice cream. I got winded and had to stop to catch my breath. He offered me water. We sat on a bench at the ice cream place and I told him about how messed up I was after a hard year.

We hung out the next two nights. On that third night we sat on a couch. I was tired and said I needed to go to bed. But I didn’t move. Finally he asked, slightly annoyed, “can I kiss you already?” And then he did.

The next day we sat on my bed and I asked him where he stood with porn. March had been the last time. 5 months earlier.

Again, I was surprised.

Again, I burst into tears.

Again, my heart was torn.

Because I was so emotional (aka sobbing) I decided to hold off making a decision. We stayed in limbo for a few weeks, before I finally, painfully, cut if off.

Then he moved here.

It was awkward. We avoided each other.

Four months later (January 2016) he asked me out. It still hadn’t been a year since he last looked at porn. I was confused, calling mentors and friends and begging for their advice. The idea of saying no to him gave me anxiety, but I didn’t want that to be reason I said yes.

I didn’t know it at the time, but the commitment I made was actually a vow before God. Which is why I couldn’t break it.

In the end, I told him no.

More awkwardness.

March rolled around — the year mark since he last looked at porn. I felt my heart change. The veil of confusion and cloudiness began to lift. I was surprised by the way I felt and wondered if I should let him know. I was cautious, however, about opening the door because of the mess behind us.

The last Sunday in March he stopped by, which was unusual. We chatted in the kitchen for a few hours before he said, “Will you go on a date with me?”

I couldn’t believe he asked.

“Sure,” I said.

He couldn’t believe I said yes.

We’ve been dating ever since.

I felt compelled to write about this for because I think porn needs to be talked about more, especially when people date. Also to show that freedom is possible!

I know women look at porn too, but overall I believe it’s a bigger struggle for men. I personally only know one man who has never looked at porn. (If there are more of you out there, AWESOME.)

Pornography is layered with shame, secrets, lust, longing, loneliness, fear, fantasy, lack of intimacy, insecurity, aggression, submission, objectification, violence, and abuse (almost always toward women.) To overlook or ignore this conversation is a huge miss in building a relationship… especially one headed toward marriage.

I don’t think everyone needs to hold my standard of waiting a year to date someone, but I do think woman need to know what they’re worth and men need to rise to the challenge.

Men, I encourage you to bring up your history with porn or your current struggles with the woman you’re dating. Yes, it will be awkward. But you can do this!

Women, I encourage you to ask the man you’re dating about his history with porn (and share your own story if you have one.) Make sure your heart is in a good place to extend compassion and grace.

Some questions to consider:

How did you become exposed to porn?
How old were you when you started looking at porn?

When was the last time you looked at porn?
Do you tell anyone when you look at porn? Who?
Do you know what your triggers are? What about the root issue?
What steps have you taken to overcome this addiction?
Do you believe freedom is possible?

One counselor I know says you should ask about the kind of porn your significant other has looked at. (I’ve asked him this!)

I think it’s wise to invite an older, healthy married couple into this conversation if necessary. Every person and every story is different, so they can help you navigate whatever your specific situation may be.

No, there’s no rule book for this. When is the right time to talk about this? First date? Second? (Joking…) I’m sure the answer is different for everyone. I wanted to have the conversation before I fell for someone, more toward the beginning of a relationship. It was around a month in when I asked.

In March it will be two years since Justin has looked at porn. I am proud of him for overcoming this addiction and continuing to walk in freedom. He did it for himself. He did it for me. This is a huge deal, and makes me feel safe. He isn’t free from temptation, however; he still has to resist. I asked him to write about his side of this journey, so you can expect that in my next post!

In the meantime, I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Feel free to leave a comment with any insight or questions you may have… no shaming please!

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2016: a goodbye letter

Dear 2016,

When we met I was wearing a black dress; my heart full of expectation for what you had in store. I was over 2015 and ready for a new year. Later that day I dyed my hair purple. I wanted to signify change; I wanted to enter our relationship with style.

My hair came out pink. It looked cool… but I wanted purple. It took three attempts and too many hours to get the purple I had in mind.

I realize now I should have taken that as a sign.

Maybe my expectations were too high, maybe I put too much pressure on you. I wanted you to be fun and easy and make up for all the ways 2015 failed me.

But you also failed me.

2015 was hard because I carried too much weight and responsibility; you were hard because I suffered wounds and rejection.

2015 crushed me from the outside, you crushed me from the inside. Feeling forgotten will do that to a person.

I said it last year and I’ll say it again: only you and God will understand what I’ve been through.

You were there in early February when I was making a grilled cheese sandwich. It was cold and dark outside and I looked at the skillet and started crying. Afraid I was losing it, I grabbed my phone and texted my mentor, Rozy.

“Do you think it’s possible for someone to be really close with God but still feel lonely?”

Her response? “Yes, of course that can be true.”

On those cold days when I was alone, I cooked soup, wrote, read books, cried. People I thought would be there for me weren’t. I was in transition and it hurt.

Instead of dating to find love, I was more interested in dating to find friends.

“She seems fun…”

“I feel like we have a lot in common…”

“Oh my gosh she texted me!!”

Were all things I thought or said out loud (the last one actually being said while on a date.)

In March you whisked me away to Nepal and wowed me with the mountains. I felt small. My problems felt small. I wanted to remember that ‘small’ feeling when I was back in Gainesville and everything felt big and scary and against me. I got those mountains tattooed on my arm.

The mountains didn’t help five months later when the ache of rejection remained. I wondered if I was destined to feel that way forever… and should I try antidepressants?

In the end, grieving and forgiveness are the meds that worked. I found freedom in September and was finally able to fully let go of what once was, which helped me fully embrace the season I was in and the people in front of me. I only wish it hadn’t taken me so long.

It’s interesting writing about this now, a few months later, because the pain feels so removed from who I am even though it consumed me for so long.

At times I resented you, 2016, but in the end you came through. I felt mixed emotions when the clock struck midnight two days ago. You weren’t all bad.

You took me to London for my 30th birthday. I entered 30 alone, in a hostel, with an attitude of ‘bring it on.’ I saw Les Misérables at night and was moved to tears. The next day I took a train to Edinburgh, where I sat in the coffee shop where J.K. Rowling started writing Harry Potter. The inspiration in the air intoxicated me.

You brought me love. Crazy, stupid, love. It wasn’t what I expected. It was hard. And messy. And passionate. We would fight and cry and kiss and make up. It didn’t look like any other dating relationship around me, so I was confused about whether or not we were meant to be. I wanted a rulebook. Or a formula. I didn’t even know I was in love – someone else had to tell me. “You’re in love with him,” Rozy said. “What?!” I responded. “How can I be in love and not know it?”

Turns out that is possible.

You gave me girlfriends. Quite possibly my deepest desire this year. Some friendships took a little while to form, others came as a surprise. In February, when I was lonely and crying over grilled cheese, God said, “Don’t fear about friendships – they will come. They will be deep. You will be surprised.” (exact quote from my journal).

Turns out he was right.

You gave me strength. You knocked me down time and time again, but each time I stood back up on shaky legs I was stronger than before. I fought loneliness, rejection, darkness, depression, and doubt, at times wanting to scream to Satan “YOU WIN, I give up, I can’t… I’ll just lay here and you can stomp all over me.” I wanted God to comfort me, to save me. He didn’t. Instead he would say, firmly, “Get up.” Again? I asked. Get up again, only to be knocked down the next time? “Get up,” he repeated. “You need to learn how to defend yourself.” I knew it was because he loved me.

A few months ago I wouldn’t have said this… but thank you, 2016. Thank you for the things you gave me. At first all I thought you were doing was take-take-taking from me, but now I know you were trying to give me something the whole time. I’m sorry it took me so long to catch on.

I will do my best to take the things you’ve given me – the friendships, the lessons, the love – and nurture them as I enter 2017.

Goodbye, 2016…

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Love,
Hope

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2016: a year in lists

I’m one of those people who remembers the oddest things that no one recalls, but can’t remember most of my life beyond the high or low moments. Because of that I try to keep lists… otherwise did it happen? Exactly. (I can only imagine when I’m 80…)

Here’s a snapshot of some things from 2016!

Concerts:
Rend Collective – Atlanta
Hillsong United – Atlanta
John Mark McMillan/Mat Kearney/Needtobreathe – Red Rocks, Colorado
Ingrid Michaelson – Atlanta

Books:
Sounds Like Me: My Life So Far in Song by Sara Bareilles (Audible)
On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King (Audible)
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
Sacred Rhythms by Ruth Barton
Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer
The Paris Wife by Paula McLain
Crash the Chatterbox by Steven Furtick
Present over Perfect by Shauna Niequist
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
The Supernatural Power of a Transformed Mind by Bill Johnson

Started but didn’t finish:

Necessary Endings by Dr. Henry Cloud
Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership by Ruth Barton (Audible)
The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway (I’m 1/4 the way though… it’s more than 600 pages!)
My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem (going on the 2017 list of books I read…)

Movies seen in a theater:
Captain America: Civil War
Finding Dory
Me Before You
The Shallows
The Edge of Seventeen
Rouge One: A Star Wars Story
Passengers
Moana

States visited:
Ohio (Columbus)
Colorado (Denver, Golden, Estes Park)
Utah (Moab)
Florida (Pensacola)
North Carolina (Asheville, High Point, Matthews)

Countries visited:
Malaysia (4th time)
Nepal (1st time!!)
South Africa (3rd time)
England (1st!)
Scotland (1st!)
Ecuador (3rd time)
Nicaragua (3rd time)

**once again, I visited more countries than states!

Cool things (in chronological order):
Ran the Savage Race
Became CPR certified (3rd time? 4th?)
Got into indoor rock climbing (conquered a 5.8)
Trekked the Mardi Hamal trail in the Himalayas (made it to 14,600-ish feet)
Got my second tattoo
Dyed my hair blonde(er)
Got a boyfriend
Turned 30
Saw Les Misérables in London (life.changed.)
Started using Instagram (I know, I know…)
Stood as the maid of honor in my sister’s wedding
Got a car from this decade
Loped/galloped on a horse (nearly peed my pants)
Hiked to Chasm Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park (nearly 12,000 ft)
Hiked through Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, and Dead Horse State Park in Utah
Went zip lining in Ecuador
Got 3rd place in a blog contest

…also, I think this was the first year I didn’t purchase a CD. So, there’s that.

Bring on 2017!

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P.S. would love to hear what books you’ve read, movies you’ve seen, places you’ve visited, etc etc…

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It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year…

Welp, I did it again. Said yes too much. Moved too fast. I thought I could handle it all (the work, the fun) because in the moment it felt so right. Work hard, play hard, drink more caffeine. Just keep swimming.

My lifelong struggle. Remembering my rhythms. Remembering I’m human. I have limits.

I felt it a few days ago. That spread thin feeling. My body and soul let me know when they’ve had enough. They protest until I slow down and take care of myself. Thank God.

I’m slowing down. Letting myself sleep. Saying no. Cracking open my journal. Being kind to myself even though I failed… again. Allowing space for God’s grace.

I’m grateful for the gift I have to work from home (aka my parent’s house in Ohio) during the holiday season. “For the next week and a half it’s just family, a few friends, and the couch,” I wrote in my journal earlier today.

Time to reset.

Time to write.

To reflect on what God did in 2016…

And get ready for 2017.

Who’s with me?

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on depression and grief and acceptance:

At the end of August I wrote a post about the spiritual/emotional hole I felt in my heart. Many people resonated. Some didn’t, and wondered if I was depressed. At first I felt defensive like HOW COULD YOU EVEN THINK THAT, but then I was like “they are probably right.” And that’s okay.

I fully believe seasonal/situational depression is part of the human experience. Life is hard. If someone has made it to their mid-20s without experiencing a stint of depression, I have many questions that include but are not limited to: were you raised on the same planet?

As my friend Jolie recently wrote on her blog:

“Life is hard. For everyone. I don’t care if you’re the richest person alive, single, married, childless, with seven kids, working, unemployed, I don’t care. Human existence is full of a lot of pain. It’s just how it is. It’s full of good things, too, but our struggling, our suffering, is universal. Are there degrees of suffering? Absolutely. Are there more important sufferings happening than my mental gymnastics in relation to my worth in society as a woman? You bet ya. Does that mean any degree of internal struggle I feel doesn’t actually exist? I don’t think so.”

By the beginning of September I accepted that I was depressed, and the next day God revealed to me that I was actually in grief. So I looked up the 5 stages of grief. Low and behold, the 4th stage of grief is depression. So yes, I was depressed, but more than that I was stuck in grief and didn’t even know it. With this newfound awareness I was able to move onto stage 5 of grief: acceptance.

It took me less than 10 days.

(It took 11 months to go through the first 4 stages… but who’s counting??)

Since then I can’t help but wonder: how many people are stuck in grief and don’t know it? How many people are in denial, or angry, or wishing they could change things (bargaining) instead of moving through these stages toward acceptance?

We usually link grief with death of a loved one, which of course is accurate. But grief can be linked to so much more. I believe there is a level of grief that comes with any change we go through in life. The bigger the change, the more grief we experience. Change happens in jobs, friendships, marital status, location, etc. We gain something in change, but we also lose something along the way. Sometimes we choose change and sometimes change happens to us whether we want it or not.

I’ve known this. I learned this concept many years ago at my own WR Training Camp. But somewhere along the way I forgot or got tunnel vision.

So this is a reminder to myself, and perhaps to you, that it’s important to grieve the changing season of life. And that it’s OKAY to be depressed sometimes. You aren’t weird. You’re human.

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