Twenty Two

Everyone usually sings Taylor Swift's song when they turn 22. While I love to sing and dance to that song, the "go-against-the-crowd", "dare-to-be-different" version of me thinks of another song. (This song came out in 2011, TS's came out in 2012.. so it's the OG, just sayin.) It's hard to find if you've never heard it before, but when I was 16, my favorite high school band released a series of three singles after a few members left the band. One of the songs was called 'Hello Cold World.' The lyric that always caught my attention was in the first verse, "22 is, like, the worst idea that I have ever had. It's too much pain, it's too much freedom, what should I do with this?" 

22 sounded sooooo old to 16 year old me. 22 is how old my mom was when she had me. It's crazy to think that if I were her, 22 years ago, I'd be on the verge of having a baby. (Thank the Lord I know full well that I should not have a baby for a looonnnnnngggg time.) Funnily enough, now, 22 sounds soooo young to me. Because it is. And while it's true that I am happy free confused and lonely at the same time, it sort of feels like too much pain and too much freedom. 

Pain that has made a home in my heart for the past 6 months, freedom that has made a home in my heart since the day I started following Christ. If I didn't have this everlasting peace and joy from Jesus, I'm not sure how I would have made it to 22. It's been hell, to put it lightly. But because of Him, I've still got so much hope. Because He IS hope. The hope of glory. The hope for something greater beyond what we're limited to seeing in our current situations, especially if it's pain.

I had no idea the second half of being 21 would turn into what it did, but if I'm being honest, I'm so glad it's gone. And so glad I never have to be 21 ever again. I passed a dang kidney stone, y'all. 21 year old's are not supposed to pass kidney stones. Really no one should, but someone my age especially shouldn't. I learned from the resident tending to me at the Vanderbilt ER, that kidney stones occur when our body is deficient in something, or not producing enough of something. Which made sense to me, because for the 5, almost 6 days leading up to my trip to the hospital, I hadn't eaten a single thing. For almost a week straight. I couldn't seem to get anything down due to how much pain my heart was experiencing then. 

I've found nothing but new revelations of God's love and plans for me since then, and my relationship with Him has never felt more crucial or real, but the pain is still there. I'm just much more used to it being in my daily life now than I was back then.

I'd like to say I've found some resolution to permanently erase it, but I haven't yet. Sometimes I'll trick myself into thinking that I finally have, because days, even WEEKS will go by where I'm blissfully blind to hurt and can only see how much joy there is in all that I have to look forward to, but then something will trigger the pain that hasn't escaped me, and I'll feel sad again. But the truth is that it's okay to not be okay all the time. It's okay to give your heart the time that it needs until it's finally put back together again.

Something encouraging, are lyrics from another song by the same band, that say, "just let the pain remind you, heart's can heal." It's much easier said than done, but it's something to hold onto. Thank God for music. Music is there for you when people aren't. Music makes sense when the things around you don't. Music puts how you feel into words when you can't. 

In the beginning of my heartbreak, I asked God to place His people on my heart that were supposed to be in my life, in a significant way. Turns out, He had an ARMY of warrior women in mind. Most of them were already my really good friends, but all of the sudden, He started drawing parallel's to the hurt I was going through with theirs and they became the thing I cared about far more than my silly broken heart. I can't begin to properly depict how deep and wide the love I have for these ladies has grown, but it has. Some of them, it's laughable that we should be as good of friends as we are, because we're linked to the same guys of our pasts, in some sort of way, but my favorite thing about God is that He always gives you immeasurably more than you can ask for or imagine. Even in relationships with girls, where, after first meeting them, you never would have expected they'd one day become your best friends, one day become the people who will hold you up when you can't stand on your own. They're all angels, and they all know exactly who they are. 

A few months into my heart break, I asked God to send as many confirmations as it takes to reveal whether or not my heart is in the right place; ask and you shall receive, y'all. What's cool is that He always sends confirmations in threes (like the trinity). Whether it be a stranger coming up to me and saying something that was undeniably from God, in something I was reading in my bible or on a blog post or in a book, in a song, in the messages spoken at my church, or God's voice Himself during my time in the secret place with Him; He always sends them at the time I most need to hear from Him. And again, always in threes. He did all sorts of things to remind me that my heart has been in the right place through this whole process. He showed me how, in spite of my pain, I've chased after Him and what He has for me. Even if it means dying to my dreams, even if it means dying to wanting them to come true. 

In spite of all this pain, I am certain that every day, God is taking me to the place where He can show me all He has, where He can show me that He is all I need. At least 3 nights a week, my nights end in me on my knees, saying out loud, that if I have God and NOTHING else, I have everything. If I'm being honest, I'm speaking this over myself more than I'm confessing it to God, because He already knows that's the truth, but how easy it is for me to forget it myself. I recently started re-reading one of my favorite books, "The Wild Truth," written by Chris McCandless' sister (from Into the Wild, another favorite, if you wanted to know) and she recalls, even at such a young age, her brother telling her something that hit home for me (while he was referring to a family member that passed away, I like to read it as if he's referring to God;) "It's not about the THINGS he gave us, it's about the memories. You can't touch those with your hands. Everything you can touch with your hands is just STUFF." Crazy to think that even people are just as fading as "stuff" in our lives. 

The truth is that pain is a part of life. The truth is that God gives purpose to our pain, when we let Him use it to draw us closer to Him. The truth is that He wants to give us the desires of our heart, but more than that, He wants to be the desire of our heart. He's a good Father. He holds us, therefore He doesn't withhold from us. 

I'm sure 22 won't be "the worst idea I have ever had," but I'm certain it will be just as challenging as 21. The thing is, God remains the same, even when we don't. We get older, we forget things, we change our minds, we win sometimes and we lose sometimes. But God remains the same. He's constant, He's unwavering. He is love. He is peace. He is safety. He is joy. He's everlasting. He's the only thing I know that will keep me from totally falling apart when I walk through what feels like fire. 
The thing I'm certain of, though, is that years from now when I look back at 22, I'll be able to see all that God was doing, I'll be able to see where He was in the midst of the good bad and the ugly. Because He is always there.

All in all, this post wasn't meant to be depressing or negative, just meant to be real, to share where I'm at as a 22 year old. (so young!!!) I'm sure everything will be all right if I just keep dancing (like I'm 22 oo oo) and filling my "why?" with worship. He is so good, you guys.

That's it. If you made it to the end of this post, bless you. If you didn't, bless you.

Happy Anniversary

Two years. It's hard for me to wrap my mind around that. Some days, it feels like I've lived here two decades. Surely this is from the mind-boggling amount of things I've had to walk through and overcome. If I had to sum up this year in one word, it would probably be lesson. It feels like all I've done this year is learn lessons. Most of them the hard way. But all of them necessary. The main lesson I learned, or rather, what I was reminded of, is that God truly does call us from glory to glory. This time last year, when I wrote about my first year in Nashville, I was a completely different person. What's terrifying and thrilling, is that I will probably be saying that for the rest of my life. 
Last August I had just moved into my house (which I am now in the process of moving out of) and I was blindly optimistic and content with where my life was. I had zero cares, aside from my friends and my relationship with God. Which is fine, but like everything else, that couldn't last forever. God always finds the exactly right way to wake us up, to make us aware, to draw us closer to Him. 

The truth will inevitably, inescapably, always reveal itself. This year for me, that meant finding out that people don't always turn out to be who you thought they were. Sometimes, they turn out to be the opposite. It meant finding out that people you thought were your best friends, would rather abandon you than fight for your friendship. Meant finding out that people will go to extreme lengths to tear down your identity by taking the dreams you used to share with them and essentially, tell you that they'll never happen, or tell you you're crazy for believing they ever could. 

Without going further into the detail of anything (because it's exhausting) I'll say once again, glory to glory. Had I never been forced to take a step back and recognize the manipulation and the hurt that went on in one of my friendships, disguised as comfort and love, I wouldn't be where I am today. When that friendship exploded then disappeared, I was able to breathe. I was able to find out who I really am. Able to discover who my true friends were all along. And I have the BEST, most incredible, most talented, most beautiful friends! Sometimes it's overwhelming to think that I wouldn't know them the way I know them now, had I not lost who I thought was my best friend. 
I did walk through a season of loneliness. It wasn't horrible, though. I spent my time in my secret place with the Father. He revealed the heart of himself in ways He never had before. A few days after I lost my friend, I was in my shower, crying out to Him, because it felt like something in me was missing, felt like I wasn't whole anymore. I begged Him to send someone I could trust to be my friend. Someone to ask me how I'm doing throughout the day. Someone kind. Ask and you shall receive. 
Three days later, I met someone who changed my life. He (and everyone else) knows exactly who he is. We met when he was visiting Nashville, waiting to get accepted into a school in California, hung out for maybe 5 hours, and then he left town. I was pretty sure I would never see him again, but I was wrong. A few days after he left town, I got home from church late on a Tuesday night, and I was watching tv and eating dinner when he messaged me on Facebook (LOL). My heart was beating out of my chest, y'all. He was so cool and so cute. We talked for the next three months until he eventually ended up backing out of going to school in California, and moving to Nashville instead. 

Without going further into the detail of everything (because it's exhausting), I'll say once again, glory to glory. It's so funny how we will ask God for something and when He gives us exactly that, we decide to take it and turn it into something else. I see now that I asked for a friend, and that's exactly what I got. Someone I can trust. Someone to ask me how I'm doing throughout the day. Someone kind. Even though my feelings for him grew much deeper than friendship, and even when those feelings made me go all sorts of haywire, he remained my friend. He's still my friend. He's the exact opposite of the friend I lost before I met him, because he doesn't call me crazy and then leave. In spite of all that he and I went through because of how strong my feelings were for him, I'm amazed that I didn't lose him. But it just shows the character of who he is. What's crazier to me is how much more God revealed of Himself and of me in all the time my focus was on this man (which it is not anymore, just to be clear). 
A few months after he moved here, this thing started happening, where strangers, people I knew semi-well, people I had known for years, etc, would all go out of their way to tell me that I am beautiful. And in a way that was so intentional and so genuine, I honestly didn't know what to do when anyone would tell me this. At one point, it was happening at least six times a day; this lasted for weeks. It was overwhelming and I couldn't figure out why. I didn't know if it was because I didn't believe that I was beautiful or what, but God was clearly trying to tell me that I was. That I am. 
I lost my make-up bag shortly after. I don't care if I sound out of my mind; I am 110% confident that God stole it. Or at least that He’s hiding it. The day after it went missing, I was on my knees at the alter of my church during worship, in my secret place with God, and I asked Him what He was trying to tell me by sending all these people my way to tell me I'm beautiful. I heard Him, clear as day, tell me, "you know your worth, but you don't see your worth." I lost it, y'all. Because it was so true. I thought about what that meant for days that followed, and I came to revelation; it parallels the Israelites and the promise land. They knew that the promise land was there all along, but because they stayed in their own way of thinking and were unwilling to change from the way things had always been, they never got to see it. I was sort of panic stricken. I remember begging God to please not let me get to the end of my life, still knowing my worth but never seeing it. Because if you ask me, there's no point in having one without the other. What's the point of knowing something is there if you never get to see it? I have been asking God to show me what "seeing" my worth looks like ever since, and He's still revealing it to me now. 

On top of revealing what real beauty is, God is revealing what real love is. Back in May, it hit me that I had no idea what love is. So many of us don't. We look for love to fill this emptiness inside of us, but we're actually the ones fueling the emptiness. We're the ones making the emptiness grow deeper and deeper, because we look for anything that can fill it. Anything that might make us forget that they emptiness is there, in all the wrong places. And because it's not real love, we end up feeling more empty than we did before. We fill the void with infatuation, with lust, with desire, with comfort, with daydreams, even with relationships with people we don't actually love, but we're so convinced that those things are love, and so convinced that the emptiness is no longer there. But it keeps growing deeper and deeper because we never let God come and fill that emptiness. I know this isn’t anything we haven’t heard before, but I’m telling you, when God reveals His truth to you in your time alone with Him, it impacts you so much more than hearing secondhand revelation from someone else. 

After I realized this, I saw how much of my time I’ve wasted, by always looking for love in every single place but the arms of the Father. He’s reaching out in front of us, begging to heal our brokenness, begging to be desired in the way we desire (what we think is) love. Wasted might not be the right word, but had I realized that I’m only defeating myself by wanting this kind of love that I haven’t really ever experienced, when all along God has been right in front of me, laying down His life just to be able to hold my heart. 
When He holds my heart, I overflow. I’m never empty. He shows me how much I am capable of, how much I am worth. He’s a gentlemen. He never says ‘I told you so.’ I remember crying, thinking, “how could I have let all this time pass when what I’ve been searching for has been right in front of me, there whenever I wanted it, all along?” And sweet Jesus kept saying, “sweet heart, it’s all right. Why are you being so hard on yourself?” This is the kind of God we serve. He is love. 

This year, I traveled to Chicago, Rosemary Beach, the Smokey Mountains, Portland, Seattle, Gulf Shores, California, Kansas City and of course back to Wichita. I watched an unholy amount of shows on Netflix (Grey’s Anatomy, Parks + Rec, Friends, two seasons of the Bachelor.. I’m unashamed.) I got re-baptized and my life was changed.

I’ve learned the power of prophesying the goodness of God. The power of declaring that Heaven come to earth. I’ve learned how quick the enemy is to attack us by making us second guess our authority, as soon as we understand that we have it. I’ve learned that God’s favorite thing about me is that I’m beloved, even though I have no idea how beloved I am. I’ve learned how important it is to me that whoever I end up with notices me, long before I ever notice him. I’ve learned the power of forgiveness.

I’ve also been reminded that my dreams are more important to God than they are to me. I’ve been reminded of the dreams that I’ve let slip away. In high school, my focus was only ever on music and Nashville. I was constantly daydreaming of living in Nashville half of the time and on a tour bus the other. I had nothing distracting me. No desire but to play music forever. I miss that girl. The girl who didn’t need anything else. I miss when music was enough. 
As I begin year 3 (WHAT?) of living in Nash, I plan to focus on music again. I’ve spent so much time dreaming of things that I have no control over, but I have control over this. I have a lot to say, in lyrics. I’m ready to take chances again. I’m ready to be doing something different. 

I think so often we let the unknown and the unseen be something that’s scary. But I am choosing to be excited above anything else, about the fact that God holds my future. And I know that it gets better. He is a good father.

He really does call us from glory to glory. I can’t wait to find out who I become during year 3. 
- p.s. one of my best friends, Annalise, took these photos of me shortly after my make-up bag went missing. I adore her. 

Pacific Northwest

A few weeks ago my best friend and I had the privilege of going to Portland and Seattle. Before I get to all the details of that, I have to take a minute to brag on the big man upstairs for how it all worked out that I was able to go.

I am the worst procrastinator I know, so naturally, I put off buying my plane tickets for way too long. Partly because I was waiting to hear back from Aleah on whether or not her mom was able to get me a discount on flights, (she works for American Airlines) and partly because I had been working really hard on saving my money for the last few months, and I wasn't too crazy about having to drop close to $500 for these tickets. So I told God that He was going to have to provide a way for me to be able to go, if I was supposed to go. I told Him that half of $500 would be ideal/doable for me. That was how much I was willing to pay.

It came to be close to two and a half weeks before we were supposed to leave for the trip, and I was talking to God about it, and since it was so close to time to leave, I figured I should go ahead and let Aleah know that I probably couldn't go. (Which, again, I did have the money for it, but I really didn't want to touch my savings.) But He told me, just wait, trust me. And I was still waiting to hear if Aleah's mom could get me some sort of discount. So I waited. But time was ticking.

The exact same day, only hours later, I received a text from Aleah while I was at work, letting me know that her mom's discount couldn't apply to me since I wasn't a family member. And I thought, "Well, crap. Looks like I'm not going." But before I could respond, she sent me another text saying that if I was okay with it, her mom could put me on the standby passenger list, and I would only have to pay for the taxes that would have been on a regular ticket. And I said, "oh how much would that be?" She told me it would be $236, roundtrip. 

Honestly, I just laughed. Because of course. It only makes sense that when God tells us to trust Him, He provides. He is a good Father. He doesn't tease us and He isn't cruel. He wants to do kind things for us, because He is kind. And I ended up only paying $200 flat, so that's cool.

We made it to Portland! Honestly, I'm still not sure what I thought about it. It was definitely a very cool city, with interesting character. Several people we met told us that most people usually prefer one city over the other when it comes to Seattle and Portland. It's not that I didn't like Portland, I did, I loved it! But Seattle definitely won my heart. It very much felt like it's own city, isolated from the rest of the world, and it was so unique. Portland kind of felt like Chicago (which is not a bad thing). Seattle felt like Seattle. 

The coffee in both places was wonderful. While I didn't take photos of every place we went to, I did take quite a few! Some places we went to that I didn't get photos of were the Ace Hotel/Stumptown, Powell's bookstore, and we also checked out Imogene + Willie. 

One of our first stops was Heart coffee in Portland. It was so gorgeous inside!
We walked to Blue Star Donuts for breakfast after. Voodoo donuts was on our list, but we didn't go for some reason! Our friends, Maddie + Joe, told us we had to try Pip's before we left, and thank God we did. They serve donut holes in different flavors, each of them made fresh upon ordering them. They had a nutella + sea salt donut that was the taste of heaven. *side note: the price listed on anything in Portland is exactly what you pay, and it's pretty wonderful.*
*most beautiful couple award* Maddie + Joe in their studio downtown. They were kind enough to let us stay with them in their cute, newlywed apartment. I adore them.
No explanation needed here, am I right?
One place at the top of Aleah's list (of places to visit) was called 'Workshop.' It was the cutest boutique I think I've ever been to! I think, overall, I took more photos at their store than I did of the rest of Portland. It was just so cute!
Friday morning, our sweet friend Rachel and her friend Aaron drove from Seattle to pick us up and take us to Cannon Beach and Astoria, home of the Goonies! Both places have been on my bucket list for a very long time. It was surreal, taking it all in, that I was finally there. I loved being there the most. It didn't feel real.
Rachel trying to be all touchy and cute, and me pretending I'm not uncomfortable. (which is basically our friendship all the time)
"Beautiful things don't ask for attention."
Street 14 Coffee in Astoria, Oregon
The coffee shop was attached to a hotel lobby. Aaron was lounging and the light was gorgeous, so.
We snuck down beneath the town's pier. The ladder that lead below was halfway broken and mildly scary.
*iPhone photo, but it's too cute to not post*
The town was full of adorable coastal homes. I want to live in one, I think.
Supposedly, the owner of the Goonies house is not pleased when people try to approach the house. Our friend Joe told us that when he visited last fall, the owner had no problem letting him explore around the house, but the talk of the town was that once the movie's 30th anniversary happened (scary that it came out that long ago) the owner dealt with thousands of visitor's a day. I can understand how frustrating and annoying that would be. All though, I must say, you bought the Goonie house.. so.

We went to Oddfellows Cafe for brunch, and it was delicious. The atmosphere was really beautiful, too. It felt like we went back in time to a speakeasy. But it was brunch. 
Snoqualmie Falls, 40 minutes outside of town. It was breathtaking.
I didn't get as many photos of Seattle as I probably should have, but I loved being present and taking in the city. I need to go back soon, please.
The funny thing about flying standby is that you are not guaranteed a seat, therefore, being stuck in the airport all day, waiting for a flight that ISN'T full, is a very real possibility. 18 hours, folks. Yes, it is laughable, but 18 hours. 

I wouldn't change a thing.