09 August 2017

Year Three

Lately I've fallen in love with plants. Each season I'm in, I fall in love with something different. Like the first year I was here, I couldn't stop buying candles. Then last year, I couldn't stop buying crop tops. And this year, I couldn't seem to stop buying plants. A few weeks ago, Sierra and I were at our favorite shop in Nash. I was looking for a pot to put my new snake plant in (I named him Severus Snape) and I found one that I thought was cute but decided not to get it because it was bigger than the plant itself. Sierra told me, though, that plants grow to the size of their container. Now, days later, I've discovered something; plants are alive, living things, and so are humans. I've thought about how one simple similarity between the two, makes her statement true for both things. They grow to the size of their container.
This year I grew, and I mean really grew. But for a large portion, I only grew to the confinement of what I kept myself contained in. I have sat here for weeks trying to type out a summary of my third year living in Nashville. But it's a tricky thing to do when new revelations of God's love and blueprint for my life occur every single day. I don't know if this post is going to capture what I've learned or what's in my heart in the way I hope it will, but I am praying that it does. I will preface with saying that this is the most vulnerable post I've ever written. And I have the courage to let the world read it because of who God has grown me into in the last 12 months. God bless you if you make it all the way to the end (except I'm not even apologizing for how long this is). Ok, here we go ....

Not too long after I made my blog post about year two of living in Nashville, my life changed in just about every aspect. Summer came to an end, I had just moved into a new house with two of the best gals in town, and my best friend told me he had feelings for me. And I told him I had feelings for him too. Suddenly, our story felt like it was finally approaching the place it was always supposed to be. And it was like a dream... Except for the one tiny setback, that he was moving to San Diego.

We started dating anyways. He really was my best friend, when it comes down to it. The best friend I’ve ever had. He made me feel seen and understood. He shared his heart with me and got me to share mine with him. Even after he was gone, he still pursued me, far better than I could have ever dreamed.

He asked me to meet him in St. Louis a few weeks after he left. When we met, we walked to a restaurant and over dinner, he asked me to be his girlfriend. I couldn't believe it. I felt so honored to be his girl. I felt honored when he called me his girl. I was on a cloud. Even when I drove back to Nashville, I was only smiling. Only singing love songs. Only in love.  

We didn't last, however. Rather than getting into all the intimate details of my pain in the months that followed, I'll just say that it wasn’t good. As I mentioned in my blog post back in March, I passed a kidney stone because I couldn’t eat for 5 days. I cried myself to sleep every night for the four ending months of 2016. I wasn’t able to look men who were kind to me in the eyes. I couldn’t cope with any of it.
Something I've learned, is that being heartbroken, being in pain, or even suffering from loss, are all things that we were never meant to experience. We were created to be made whole in Him. God never intended for us to feel empty, abandoned, unimportant, like we've lost something or something has been taken from us. That's why it hurts so bad. But another thing I've learned is that when we're hurting, we're vulnerable. And when we're vulnerable we have no guard. And having no guard means there is nothing shielding us from the Father. While it's an ironic dynamic, I somehow grew closer to the Father in my hurt. Because instead of running from my pain, I chose to chase after healing from it. And because of that, God loved me back to life.
In January, I was talking about my heartache with my friend, Ben, and he told me that I wouldn't be okay again until I gave God all of me, not just some of me. Until I allow Him to take me to the place where I surrender everything that I want, every dream I hold onto, and sing that it is well with my soul. Because in that place, even if none of my dreams ever come true, God is enough for me.

As a result of that,  I realized something; when I try to heal from something or break something off or let something go, in my own strength, I am basically prolonging the breakthrough or the peace that I'm looking for. But in the exact moment that I surrender trying to do everything myself or in my own control, God healsredeemsfrees. He releases exactly what we need, instantly. In a single moment with Him. It just takes surrender. My pastor has given a great example of how she used to try and do everything on her own, in her own strength. She compared herself to a hamster stuck on a hamster wheel, running and working herself to death, doing the same thing over and over. Going no where. 

I couldn't agree with that picture more. That's exactly what I've felt like any time I've tried to overcome my trials in my own strength. In the past if I've seen a hamster run on a wheel, at first it's entertaining, right? But after a while, I get tired of watching. I sit back and think, "are you done yet?" I think God asks the same thing. "Are you done yet?" I think He's tired of watching us exhaust ourselves by running in circles. If we would just be still for a moment, and understand that it's not in what we can do. It's not in what we want, not in the dreams we hold, not in the thing we lost that we wish we could have back. That thing that we're running so hard to find? That thing we seek so desperately? I don't think we'll find it running on a hamster wheel. We'll find it in Him. And because I believe that we were never meant to suffer loss or pain or heartbreak, I think it only makes sense that we were never supposed to be the ones who fix our broken hearts. We're far too fragile. But what if our heartbreak goes hand in hand with our break through?
I've only ever been used to people leaving. It's been my normal. It's been fact. And my relationship with this man coming to an end, left an entryway for the enemy to throw a deeply buried fear of mine in my face, that am the reason people leave. Honestly, there were a few moments where I couldn't help but believe that was the truth. And while it wasn't fun to carry around, it made me realize how insecure I have probably always felt, but never realized until getting my heart broken. It was the worst kind of pain I've ever experienced. My pain confined my breakthrough for so long. I couldn't grow past that confinement. Really, if you think about it, while it's more than okay to have plants indoors (and I should know), those plants won't ever grow into all they could, because of their containers. When I think of a person stuck inside something that, often times someone else put them in, it makes me sad. Because what about the growth we don't get to experience when we allow ourselves to stay there? What about the freedom we miss out on that exists beyond the containers we stay in?

I eventually grew tired of constantly being defeated by my hurt. Tired of the enemy throwing more and then more things in my face to keep me convinced that I was no longer wanted, no longer worthy. But, oh, if we would only remember that the very thing God says we are, the very thing He calls us to, the very thing He has in store for us, are the very things the enemy will use against us, by combatting, distorting, or perverting truth; by keeping us feeling small, keeping us looking at things through the eyes of being in lack, instead of through the eyes of having plenty. And if everything the enemy says is a lie, and if a lie is the opposite of the truth, that must mean that if he tells me I'm not wanted or worthy ... then I am wanted. I AM worthy.
While my confidence in myself was growing at the time I was still with this man, it was never indefinite. Never sure or steadfast. After we broke up, it didn't plummet, but it definitely didn't grow any more than it had. It was as if loving and learning who I am hit a wall. For the longest time, I used to think that fair, pale skin with dark hair (or, vampire) looked the best on me. Which is hilarious, because, for those that didn't know already, I'm one eighth black (my dad is one fourth, his dad was half, etc). Yes, most of my nationality is white, but my hair (butt) and skin are not. My mother is white, blonde, incredibly tan, and incredibly fit because she's a runner. She always has been. I never saw a resemblance between us for all of my life. I used to wait to go outside until evening time during summers because I wanted to keep my skin pale and keep my hair from getting lighter. And I hated tan lines (could any of that be more ridiculous?). I used to hide behind wearing all black to hide my weight, if I'm being real. I hated to wear color, or anything that might draw attention to me. I hated wearing pink. I feel like that version of me was someone trying to figure out who they really are, or trying to meet up to the criteria I had created in my head of what constitutes as "beautiful" or "cool." But it wasn't me at all. Because so much has changed in me. 

I stopped letting my pain keep me from growing into, who I am now certain God has always destined for me to become. Of course, He calls us from glory to glory, so I'll always be growing, but how remarkable, to now be on the outside of my "container," and as a result of that, be so in awe of and in love with who God has grown me into. Because I'm in awe of and in love with who He is. Knowing whose you are is when you know who you are.

I started running, really running, around my neighborhood, back in June. I've jogged here and there since high school, but now, I'm talking several miles, six days a week. The more I ran, the easier I found it to be (duh) and the longer I was able to run for (DUH). My maximum time was usually about 25 minutes. One night in July, however, I was coming up on about half an hour and I realized how not tired I was. I thought, maybe I can run a little longer. And I asked God if I should keep going. And He asked me, "who are you running for?" I can't properly explain the significance of that question, but it was kind of a slap in the face, in the best way. It helped me recognize the motives of my heart for the last 10 months. I got wrecked a little bit in the middle of my run, but I kept going. And He whispered so gently, but so clearly, "if you run for Me, you'll be amazed at what you are capable of." Come on! It was such a simple, yet precious moment between me and Him, I couldn't stop smiling, while I was still running! I just said "OK," and then ran for an HOUR after that. I'm not kidding when I say that I was not tired at all. The only reason I stopped was because our neighborhood is notorious for nighttime skunks, and my knees started to feel like they might fall off. 

Now here I am; I have golden hair and tan skin. I spend as much time as I can in the sun, embracing my tan lines, embracing how dark I get. I'm the smallest I've ever been. I wear pink now! I love to run. My day gets thrown off if I don't. I look in the mirror and I see my mother; and humbly, I love what I see. I see the truest version of myself I've ever been. I don't say this with a heart of arrogance, but with a heart of confidence and humility; because of who I've become, outwardly and inwardly, I think I'm pretty awesome. And I'm my own worst critic! I figure that if I can see my worth, after everything that's happened, then surely someone else will too someday. Isn't it just like God to take a situation that led to me believing I was unwanted and unworthy, to show me that I am.
Sometimes, I think God has more than just our dreams in store for us. I think it's what He wants to do through us on the journey to seeing those dreams become a reality. I think who He grows us into along the way, might be more significant than the end result. Because it's the trials and triumphs along the way that get us there. That I am certain of. And I am certain of Him. And that has enabled and equipped me to become certain of myself. I stopped letting myself be defeated by all the hurt that felt truly inescapable, but instead made a choice to no longer be contained by my heartache. Which was all from the devil. He wanted to keep me broken, keep me from seeing that God wanted to renew and restore and redeem my identity. But his tactics are outdated and OVERused. He's not creative. He's not doing anything new. HE is the one running on a damn hamster wheel (sorry mom). In fact, he's a RAT. Sewer scum. Now, I dare him to attack me, dare him to try to make me second guess my worth or what my Maker says about me. Because I will not be shaken.
In the months following my heartbreak, God sent an army of friends to my rescue. In sharing my heart with them, they shared their hearts with me. And isn't it funny how God places certain people in our lives at a specific time that allows us to draw parallels to the things we face separately, so we might overcome them together. Even though it was the toughest year yet, God did immeasurably more, redeeming what felt like it was destroyed, by sending me all these friends who hear my heart and love it instead of ridicule it. My relationships with them have become the most important part of my life. All of them are so dear to my heart. Aleah, my sister Regan, Sierra, Becca, Anna, Micaiah, Annalise, Danielle, Anne, Cecilia, Hannah, Fran, Karly, Morgan; I'm writing your names for the world to see because you should be honored for what loving, genuine friends you are.

A few days after our break-up, I had a vision with Holy Spirit at my church during a moment of worship. I closed my eyes and I was in the desert of Judah. I could see that my hair was up in a bun (the way it always is) and I was wearing a crop top and black tights rolled at my ankles (the way I always am). At first I was all alone, but then a hooded figure, or apparition appeared in all black, but it wasn't scary. It was Holy Spirit. He was familiar, He was warm. And He held out His hand for me, and I grabbed it. Then all of the sudden we were up in the air, flying. And I looked back down to where I had been standing, and there he was, the man I loved. My (now ex) boyfriend. But the further we went up in the air, the more dim he grew, and then I could no longer see him. When I looked back up at Holy Spirit, all of the sudden my hair fell from it's pony tail and it grew so fast, past my back, and it looked beautiful; like, Blake Lively beautiful, except it was still black girl hair. And then my clothes changed into the most beautiful ivory, chiffon gown I'd ever seen, long and flowy as we still flew. And then a crown appeared on my head, and suddenly, I saw someone who knew who she was. Someone strong, ready to defeat the things that would try to defeat her. Someone beautiful. When we finally landed on the ground of wherever He took me to, we started dancing. He spun me all around, and then went to dip me over his knee, head first, the way the guy always dips the girl in all the romantic movies, and I lifted my outer leg up in the air so fast that my shoe flew off behind us, and we started laughing so hard we couldn't stop. It was like I was with my best friend. I know that might sound foreign or crazy, or even un-relatable, but please just hear this: in that moment, I forgot about what I thought I wanted, forgot about the man I loved, because I was so enamored and in awe of being with the Lord, of being loved by the Lord. I had more than enough. I could only see God and who He was transforming me into, and I forgot about everything else.

That's exactly where I am now. God brought me to the desert, just me and Him, and I let it go. I let Him take me, wherever He wants. I recently watched an incredible message from Elevation Church, called the Power of Provision (seriously, watch it) and at one point, the pastor references and summarizes Malachi 3, where God says to His people, "if you will release what's in your hand, I will release what's in my heart." That slayed me to heaven and back. It's that simple. If my heart wasn't going to get broken in this way, by this specific person, God would have still led me here, one way or another. I released this from my hands and God released what I know He has always had for me; to realize my identity, to put my hope in Him, to only need Him. 
It's taken a heart shift, drawing a line in the sand and me making a choice of whether I want to stand on the side of defeat or the side of victory. But I can say confidently, I am victorious. Ben was right; I made it here, to this place where God is enough, and I'm finally ok again. Because look what God has done! Now I can look back on my relationship with this man and smile. Now, I don't look at what we were through the lens of heartache, but instead, appreciation. It doesn't feel heavy anymore, like a huge, dramatic loss or an injustice or a total disaster just because it didn't end the way I thought it was supposed to. I look back on it and it feels young, and beautiful and wistful, and I appreciate it. Because it was love. For me, it was love.

I used to think I'd be mad if I ever admitted that, out loud (this counts as out loud, right?), for the world to hear. But what is there to be afraid of? The truth? I don't think I'm going to reach the end of my life and regret being honest. Especially about something that meant so much to me. Everyone already knows it anyways. I loved him. And even though I let us go, so much of me always will. In fact (in the words of Mat Kearney), I think I fell in love with him the first night I met him, when my spirit caught on fire. I have no fear admitting it, and I only appreciate it now, because it was worth it. To learn that I could feel that much for someone, to believe in someone that much. And to now be so confident in the person I've become, I can't help but think it was worth it, can't help but appreciate it. I never would have believed I'd get to a place of saying this (and meaning it) but I appreciate getting my heart broken too. I'm not discounting how hard or painful it was, because those feelings were just as real as the love I had for him, but that's all it was; heartbreak. And it took me here. Where my Maker is enough. Where I have no fear of what may come at me. No fear of loss. No fear of future heartbreak. No fear of ending up alone, no fear of not being good enough, of people leaving, of being the reason people leave. It's all gone. God took it in an instant.

At this point, I'm not sure that I'll ever hear from him again, and that is ok. Back in April, Sierra asked me if there was one thing I'd want this man to know, what would it be? The answer came so easily. I'd want him to know that I still believe in the man he is, in the man he will become. No matter our outcome, my constant prayer in the last (almost) two years of knowing him has been nothing but declaring and speaking into existence the man I know he is, and who he will become. And I believe in this man because I believe in God and all He is capable of.

I've never been more confident in myself. Never been more certain that God only has good. And walking into year four (WHAT?!?!) with a new determination of holding my dreams loosely and trusting God with them more than I trust myself with them, I can't help but believe that this year will surely be the absolute best yet. I really feel that it will be. I can't wait to find out what happens. Can't wait to see where God takes me between now and next August 9th. I think He's taking all of us twenty-somethings to a place where we can love (again) without holding back, where we can dream with everything we have (thank you Martina McBride). Where everything that was once complicated becomes simple. Where we love fearlessly, where we love with certainty.

Hopefully, my vulnerability and honesty will be seen as something brave instead of something sad; courageous instead of humiliating. Hopefully, if anyone takes anything from what I've shared, it might be that God will heal, God will revive, God will hold us, better than anyone on this earth ever will. And hopefully what I walked through this year won't be criticized or become insignificant just because what happened between me and this man was so short-lived. While that is true, I don't think time can determine whether something is real love or not.

"There is no safe investment. To love at all is to be vulnerable." - C S Lewis

I want to live in a world where it's not crazy to believe in love, even if we have every reason not to. A world where being vulnerable is something to celebrate, instead of something to be ashamed of. A world where we don't need proof or reason to put hope into something, even if circumstances make it seem like it will never happen. A world where we encourage someone's strengths, instead of ridicule them for their weaknesses. A world where we're defined by the best parts of us, rather than the worst. A world where love isn't measured by time or age or logic or even feelings, but by certainty.

***special thanks to Leen, my best friend from middle school, high school, everything (who lives in Nash now, too!) for taking these photos***

05 March 2017

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.

09 August 2016

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. 

11 April 2016

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.
Irony + Happiness. * BLOG DESIGN BY Labinastudio.