peace, love, and having a mind of your own

i refuse to look at life through the lens of tradition.
i refuse to believe everything i am told.
i refuse to live a life that doesn't promote peace, love, and having a mind of your own.

26 October 2011

the burning ones.

i wonder if God cheered when Kerouac wrote On the Road. i know, this is a cliche quote and it has been since high school, but read it again...

"[...] the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars[...]"

i wonder if God read that and said, me too.

i mean, he loves every single one of us. but don't you think he gets excited when he sees someone light up and take advantage of all the freedom, the weightlessness, the ecstasy that he has to offer?

mad to live. 
fully alive,
that God promises
we can experience.
mad to be saved. 
free from
that holds us back,
that destroys our souls.
burning ones
who trust with abandon
and live without fear,
lives that will
bore us to our graves.

doesn't that sound better than being a watery Christian? or is it just me?

19 June 2011

a video for the dads.

my boss asked me to make a video for Father's Day. so i asked a bunch of people, "what's one thing you really appreciate[d] about your dad?"

guess what the most common answer was?

"he's always there for me."

dads, if you only ever do one thing for your children, just be around. your role is irreplaceable in a person's life. your kids probably aren't aware of how successful or popular or athletic you are. they don't care about your job or your hobbies or your friends if those things take you away from them. just be there. know your kids. love your kids. it will mean the world to them.

i am lucky enough to have a dad that stuck around.
he likes to hang out with me.
he tells me about old cars and music.
he likes cool movies.
he reminds me that i'm beautiful.
he also tells me he likes my hair better "natural" ha. what does he know about girl hair? ;)
and the older i get, the more i realize how much like my daddy i am.

thanks for being there, dad.
i love you!

12 June 2011

for the gentlemen: how to get a girl in 3 steps.

notice that i didn't say three "easy" steps. we're talking about a girl who's really worth it here. and nothing worthwhile will ever just be handed to you, there's this thing called fighting for what you want. if you're only interested in a one-night-stand with a slutbag, please go to your nearest trashy bar and don't bother reading this. [and stay-the-hell away from my friends.] [and also, maybe, try and figure out why you're chasing after ass instead of love, 'cause that's a problem.]

you need to know that i am not a sugar-coater or a fan of pretentious bullsh. [<-- yeah i just made that word up.] i pretty much say exactly what i'm thinking, and sometimes it comes off as harsh. just so we're clear, this is not coming out of a place of anger or frustration. no recent experiences have fueled this post. but if you can't handle the truth, you may need to leave.

without further ado, i present three simple-but-not-easy steps to having a much better chance at scoring a sexy, smart, awesome lady.

1. don't make her the star of your show.
what? girls don't want to be the center of your universe? NO. have your own life. have goals and hobbies and friends and skills. have an interesting existence that someone might want to be a part of. she doesn't want to be your adventure, she wants to be taken on your adventure. 

this is the #1 boyfriend skill* you must acquire: having a personality. we don't want a man who has spent so much time trying to find someone to be with that he hasn't figured out who he wants to be. figure out what you're passionate about, and start doing it. have good stories to tell about cool things you've done. [examples: traveling, near-death experiences, and decent literature that you've actually read.] learn everything you can about being a better man. become the person that you want to be, not what you think anyone else wants.

*other boyfriend skills include being funny & nice, taking showers, and not spending all day playing video games.

2. be honest.
don't ever trick a girl into going on a date with you. don't ask her if she wants to "hang out," unless you really mean just as friends. if it's a date you want, use the word date. it's okay if you want to hang out just as friends before you decide to ask her on a date, just be clear which category you're going for. i can't stress this enough. guys these days are so good at being vague, and it makes a lady feel quite manipulated when she finds out his intentions were not what she thought.

learn how to give a compliment. don't beat around the bush with vague text-flirting and smiley faces on her facebook photos. that's cute, but not as a substitute for the real thing. bring flowers to her front door. look her in the eyes and tell her she's absolutely gorgeous, or whatever it is that you're actually thinking about her. then, if it's my door, don't bring flowers to it, because it's what i told you to do. do something you thought of yourself. [although flowers to the door is seriously always good. haven't you seen Big Fish?]

being honest requires taking responsibility for your feelings and intentions. it involves risk, and yes, that's scary. but if you're not willing to own your feelings, then we're wondering, in what other ways are you copping out? man up and risk the rejection of getting shot down.

3. don't whine.
so let's say you've asked out the girl of your dreams, and she shot you down.* now what? are you gonna cry in front of her and beg her to change her mind and tell her your life is incomplete without her? nothing will make her run away faster. clearly, you haven't proven yourself worthy of her time, and i guarantee crying about it is not going to help. *note: this also applies to when she breaks up with you.

re-evaluate your approach. go home and work on your boyfriend skills [see step #1] and come back when you have something better to offer her. maybe you just need to work on your presentation. if you feel you've already presented her a genuine offering of everything you will ever be able to give her, and she still ain't havin' it, then, my friend, it's time to move on. don't waste your life agonizing over a girl who will never be into you. she obviously doesn't know a good thing when she sees one.

like i said, these steps are gonna take some effort. but a gentleman is okay with working hard. he pursues his dreams with tenacity, and fights for what he believes in. he is brave enough to say what he means, and humble enough to admit when he is wrong. he is genuinely kind and knows the art of sincerity. he wins with humility and loses with grace. a gentleman's worth is not found in a woman, and he won't look for it there.

to peace, love, and gentlemen.

02 June 2011

i’m complaining because i’m too rich.

i drive a car that's older than i am, talk on a hand-me-down cell phone, and i'm getting a need-based federal grant to go to school this fall. by the standards of california living, i feel poor.

the truth is, though, i have too much stuff. i’m sick of looking at it, thinking about it, cleaning it, moving it, updating it, arranging it, protecting it, losing interest in it, and replacing it with more stuff.

i believe that there are enough resources for everyone in the world to have what they need, but not enough for anyone to have excess unless somebody goes without. and those that have excess are not the lucky ones.

i’ve had all kinds of stuff, and it never made me happy. i’ve had all kinds of money, and i was selfish with it, and i always wanted more money. i’ve dined at a table where thousands of dollars of food and liquor were prepared for a total of eight people. you know how i felt? suffocated. [besides, do you know how many children could have survived on our breakfast? maybe all 24,000 that died that day.]

i’ve also lived out of a backbpack for eleven months. i’ve put everything i owned into the trunk of a car. i’ve given 36 pairs of shoes and 80% of my wardrobe to goodwill, and you know how i felt then? free.

i think that by cluttering my physical life with objects and property, i miss the intangible fortune of the spiritual life. i have traded pure Love and wild Freedom for new shoes and electronics.

besides, Jesus totally said it wasn’t cool to be rich.

time to de-clutter. here are the questions i am asking of my possessions: is it necessary? will i use it all the time? is it beautiful enough to look at every day? if not, i’m getting rid of it.

goodbye, bottom drawer of clothes that i “might wear someday.”
goodbye, spare anything.
goodbye, books i haven’t bothered to finish.
goodbye, random objects that remind me of good times. i’ll keep the memories without the random stuff, thanks.

comment if you think i’m crazy.

This is day 3 of #Trust30, prompted by this:
It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude. - Emerson

31 May 2011

today, start living the life you love.

stop whatever you are doing right this minute. make no excuses, just pause, clear your mind, and ask yourself this very important question.

am i living the life i love?

ask yourself if there is a deep reservoir of joy in your soul that you may draw from at anytime. because, trust me, the reservoir is there. the question is, what’s in it?

ask- and be honest when you attempt to answer- if anyone knows the real you. or is there a rift between your exterior and the silent, suffocating beast within? if all of our bodies disappeared, would anyone’s soul recognize yours?

the things you do every day, do they bring you fulfillment? your job, free time, and the education you’re currently earning- in or outside of a school- are they it? do you ever feel that you’re wasting your time? or that your life is missing some essential ingredient?

this is your life. you only get one of them. you will only be twenty-four years, one month, and three days old once and dammit, you’ve got to get this right.

if something is wrong, you must fix it. do not walk away from this screen until you have taken an active step in improving your situation.

call the person that hurt you and tell them you love them, because it’s more important to be loved than to be right.

sell every possession that you don’t absolutely love or need, and do something amazing with your money. go to Europe. check something off your bucket list. better yet, find someone who is really in need and give it all to them.

get a job you don’t hate. until then, find something positive about your current job and meditate on how lucky you are that you get to do it. i heard a story once about two guys who were building a cathedral. one called himself a brick-layer and the other a cathedral-builder. they both had the same job. be a cathedral builder.

go for a walk, leave your cell phone at home, and don’t come back until your heart is at peace.

and remember, this is a journey. you will never achieve perfection, but each day will bring you either closer or further away from the real thing, the life you are meant to live. choose closer. this is your life, and it matters.

We are afraid of truth, afraid of fortune, afraid of death, and afraid of each other. Our age yields no great and perfect persons.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

11 May 2011

there's gonna be a showdown.

On Easter Sunday, you just don't expect to have a gun pointed at you. Right? You expect pastel dresses and chocolate bunnies. And perhaps a sermon about the resurrected King, if you're the church-going sort. [Side-note. I usually avoid church on Easter, as well as the entire month of December. Something about the all the decoration and festivity just really takes away from the sincerity of the Jesus that I imagine...]

Anyway, back to my Easter/gun story. So I'm polishing off a typical 4-hour coffee date with my good friend Kailee, at our usual rendezvous: the Starbucks near my house. It's about 10:30pm and the employees are dragging the patio tables in and closing up shop. This is the time Kailee and I go outside and have cigarettes before parting ways.

So we're standing by her car, smoking and talking and loitering, when this 20-something gangster looking kid with a hood over his head comes around the corner of the parking lot and starts walking directly towards us. Since there's nothing in our direction except us, we both decide it would be a good idea to get in the car. Apparently he was walking really fast, because by the time Kailee got her car unlocked, Baby Gangster was a foot away from me, with his Glock pointed at my stomach, saying,

"Gimme your bag, bitch, before I shoot you."

Now I should note that he sounded exactly the way I would imagine someone saying it in a dumb movie. Like he was trying to make his voice extra scary. Naturally, this made me think he was joking. Because who would do that in real life? So the thoughts running through my head in the half a second between him demanding my bag, and me responding were as follows:

That's a really nice looking gun. Is that real? How old is this kid? Is he serious right now?I feel like I'm being punked. Like, any second he's gonna start laughing and give me a hug, and be like "Remember me, from high school?"

So of course I turn to him and say, "Is this a joke?"

He informs me [still in his scary-deep voice] that no, this is in fact very serious, and he will shoot me if I don't hand over my beloved vintage carpet-bag immediately.


I've always wondered what I would do in this situation. I always imagined I would do something he wasn't expecting. Like turn slowly to look him dead in the eye and ask in a serious tone, "Is it really worth it, man?" [Because, has there ever been anything in a woman's purse that was worth more than, potentially, her life? I think not.]

Or stand my ground and confidently announce that I'm not afraid of him or his gun, because I fear only God.

I mean, I do, right? It's silly to be afraid of this guy. No matter the scenario, all I do is win. Let's say God protects me and I walk away unharmed... I'll be glad I didn't waste my time worrying. But what if I get shot and don't die? I'll have a badass story to tell and probably become a stronger person because of it. Worst-case-scenario, I get killed. Big deal. Everybody dies.

So clearly, I've got this all figured out. I'm brave. I'll just trust God and refuse to be intimidated or give into fear. Mm-hmm.

It's a lot easier to think like this when you're not looking past the barrel of a gun to a kid thinking he's The Man With The Master Plan. Sure, when everything's normal, I can say I don't fear death or any man, but when that statement is tested...?


I close my eyes. I'm too scared to look him in the face. I throw my bag on the ground in front of him, somehow get into the car, and hold my breath as he leans over me to take Kailee's purse and cell phone, then orders us to drive away before he shoots us.

The rest of the story is pretty basic: went home, called the cops, couldn't stop nervous-giggling because that's what I do in situations where most people would cry, and eventually went to bed scared shitless that this creep with my house key and driver's license in his possession was going to come and kill me in my sleep.

So that's the story of the Easter Showdown: Fear of God versus Fear of Man. This time, Man takes it. But I'm glad it happened that way... nothing is ever perfect the first time I do it.

06 May 2011

crabgrass & oak trees review.

okay, honesty time. a friend asked me to review a book, which i was really excited about, because i love reading, and the idea of a free book sounded great. so a few weeks later i get this book in the mail...

crabgrass & oak trees. i looked at it and thought, oh crap. i'm gonna hate this book and then i'm gonna have to give it a bad review because i hate lying, and then i'm gonna feel terrible for giving it a bad review. 

the back cover asks the question "is the church  more like crabgrass or an oak tree?" well i don't give a shit. these guys are comparing something as ancient and widespread and complicated as the church [as in the entire worldwide collection of christians] to a type of grass or tree? not gonna work. they'll stretch the truth to make their metaphor fit. and besides, it sounds boring.

regardless, i started reading... and it wasn't bad. in fact, i kinda liked it. and by the second chapter i had actually cried real tears. it's not easy to make me cry, but some of the stories in this book are just ridiculous. stories of extreme generosity, movements of God, and community as a real experience, not just a "nice idea." because that's what the church is, just a community of people with similar beliefs, who are learning what it looks like to be there for each other.

as someone who grew up hating church, walked away from God, and now by some miraculous sequence of events works at a church, the topic is pretty relevant to me. i've spent a lot of time trying to avoid, fix, figure out, or discover my place in this mysterious organism called the church.

last year while on the world race, i learned a spectacular lot about community, and it's become something that i hold at a high value. community is a powerful concept, with the potential to break or heal people, to exploit or provide for others, to flatten personalities or draw them out. sometimes all at once. the stories in crabgrass conjured up memories from my own experiences of living in community, and laid bare the hopes i had buried of what my community could have been. 

so, who should read this book? anyone who considers themselves part of a [Jesus-following] church. and anyone interested in what a beautiful community looks like. 

who shouldn't read it? literary snobs; people who care more about presentation than content. i admit, i didn't love the crabgrass metaphors. i really just rushed through each one to get to the next good story. and the style of writing was less than fascinating. 

on the basis of aesthetics, no thank you, crabgrass. but the message? pure. brilliant. genuine.

22 April 2011

you can make a dead man scream.

sometimes i fall and it takes me a good month to get back up.
and when i get up, it’s usually really high, like top-of-the-world status.
and when i fall again, it’s depths-of-hell status. [or at least that’s how it feels.]

last night, i ate 3 pieces of pizza, followed by a yogurt, some applesauce, and half a pear. then my parents invited me to go the gym with them, and i declined. not exactly ideal for my current health goals. i felt so guilty about my little binge that i decided to go out and buy a pack of cigarettes. you know, just to put a cherry on top.

normally when i find myself at this point [ready to fall of the wagon and go on an all-out bender including eating and drinking whatever i want, chain-smoking, and avoiding the gym and God at all costs], i jump wholeheartedly into the abyss, and skydive my way into a cycle of guilt and unhealthy decisions.

recently i decided to read through my journal. the one i've been keeping since the beginning of this year. we’re only four and a half months in, and ive noticed this is a trend. a few weeks of the aforementioned guilt-cycle followed by periods of spiritual, physical and emotional health, where i strive after holiness, pray every morning, do yoga and get at least 20 minutes of vitamin D-producing sunshine a day.

maybe i need medication. [nope, not going that way.] maybe i just need to try harder. maybe i need to move to a new city, make new friends, find a new hobby, join a new church. maybe i need to give up and resign myself to the rollercoaster life.

or… maybe i just need to forgive myself and move on.

this morning in my blog-browsing i stumbled upon a post called “never let a bad day turn into two.” basically, the idea is, we all mess up and go on little vice-binges, and the next day we have a choice. do we continue to let the previous day’s mistakes lead us on a path of self-annihilation, or do we press delete and start again?

this morning, i am pressing delete and starting again. i am rejecting guilt over last night’s mistakes, forgiving myself for being imperfect, and starting fresh.

coincidentally, today is Good Friday. the day we commemorate Jesus taking all our shit to hell for us and saying we don’t have to worry about it anymore. i’ve called myself a Christ-follower for a while now, but ive continued to carry my own garbage bag and i’ve been smelling the rotting mistakes of my past for too long. i’ve put grace and guilt in the same sentence like they were best friends, but the truth is, they cannot co-exist. you can carry only one or the other.

coincidentally times two, it’s also Earth Day, and i’m going to start composting. the great thing about composting is, you take your scraps and food-waste that you would normally throw away, and instead of putting them in a landfill, you make soil out of them. soil, which you can then use to grow flowers and tomatoes and other great plants. it’s amazing!

now, to tie it all in with a very cheesy metaphor… if you put your trash [mistakes, guilt, binges, etc.] in the landfill of your own memory, they just sit there and rot and stink and take up space in your mind. but if you give them to Jesus, he’s like a compost bin, where he takes your crap and turns it into something awesome. as the word o’ the Lord says, he makes all things work out for the good of those who love him. all things, including all those times you royally screwed yourself. he says he makes em into this good soil where you can grow a healthy and beautiful life.

so, i invite you to join me this morning, in “pressing delete” on your guilt, starting fresh, and enjoying this beautiful Good Earth Friday.

peace, love, and composting.

12 April 2011

unexcused absence.

hello world. i don't know how you've survived the last three-and-a-half weeks without me, but somehow you did it. the good news is, i'm back.

long story short, i spent some time in Nashville and Atlanta visiting old friends, and intentionally left the laptop at home in order to improve the quality of my face time with those dear ones. this silly blog is far less important than real live relationships, yeah?

friends i haven't seen in YEARS <3

so the trip was eventful; mostly in an amazing way. last minute road trips, coffee shop conversations, song-writing, dive bars, arrests [not so amazing, but made for a good story], new tattoos, hammocks, bike rides, and one very passionate musical performance -complete with a climactic showdown- to end the adventure with a BANG. it was perfect.

in other news, i've started a new job doing design and communications work for a church. it's a pretty sweet gig. i get my own office, i can wear jeans and play on my Macbook all day, and i have some really cool co-workers, including my extraordinary mother, whose birthday is today. check out this cake i made her.

her favorite: yellow cake with fluffy whipped chocolate frosting.

you're worth every layer, mom ;-)

made from scratch with organic/healthy substitutions.

in case you can't tell, i'm really proud of my cake. i've never made anything from scratch, and it turned out ridiculously tasty and perfect, so let me have my moment, okay?


if you're into reading, i just received a complimentary copy of Crabgrass and Oaktrees by Jonathan Almanzar and Aaron Havens. the deal is i'm gonna be reviewing it on my blog once i've read it. if you know me, you know i don't often do things the typical way, so expect a thought-provoking, honest evaluation of this up-and-coming book. i don't even wanna call it a "book review" because it's not gonna be boring like in 6th grade when you turned in an MLA-formatted cliff-notes rip-off for every book you were supposed to have read.

for your viewing pleasure

one more thing. i've been mildly obsessed with this song ever since i heard it on .o hallelujah.'s blog about a month ago. i find myself singing it to my dog when i'm home alone, and as you can imagine, my voice sounds exactly like the female version of his: folky and soulful and shaky in all the right places. enjoy the lyrics, especially if life's cruel demands and fool's gold have crushed your little soul, too.

peace, love, and 9-layer birthday cakes!

18 March 2011

you'd be amazed how easy it's been to sleepwalk.

i remember when life was simple. when i didn't have to make any tough decisions, except which awesome bathing suit to wear and how many scoops of sand to pile onto my leg.

i was looking at this picture a minute ago thinking, "why was i doing that?" when it hit me. there wasn't a why. i didn't need an explanation for everything i did. there must have been something satisfying about putting sand on my leg, and that was all the reason i needed.

i've spent too much time doing things i think i should be doing, rather than what i want to do. we've all been told since the first day of pre-school to listen to the teacher, the boss, or the TV. we were instructed to follow the path set before us, ignore our instinct, silence our spirit, and stay in line. left. right. left.

we don't know where we're going, but they say one day we'll get there. it feels a lot like sleepwalking to me. we're zombies, dead to the glorious intuition that was meant to inspire us and steer us toward our destiny.  left. right. left.

sure, they give us choices. rich or poor. chicken or steak. heaven or hell. left. right. left.

they tell us we need 40 hours a week at jobs we don't love. we need to see mediocre movies. we need iphones and happy meals and cadillacs. left. right. left.

i disagree. i need prayer and yoga and sunbathing. i need to spend quality time with the people i love, and to make the world a little better than i found it. i need live music and laughter and travel.

i don't want to be in line. i don't want what the advertisers are selling, and i'm sick of listening to their pitches. nobody can define my success. i don't want "the man," or my education, or my church to tell me what steps to take to become the next version of me. nobody can guide me better than my gut.

all these opinions i let into my life, they're drowning out the one wise and important voice that actually knows what i need. it's a gentle voice. [two actually.] it's a conversation between me and God. it says left. left. straight. sidestep. u-turn. climb. jump. fly. that's right.

are you happy in line? or do you want to fly with me?

let's reevaluate the stuff we fill our lives with. listen to our guts. simplify. redefine a worthwhile pursuit. let's do things we enjoy, because if we're not enjoying our lives, we're certainly not making the world a better place. Howard agrees.

"Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive."                                                         -Howard Thurman 

08 March 2011

what church is/not for.

this is what church is for.
last week, i told you about my anxiety issues. i wasn't sleeping, eating, or thinking normally. i couldn't pray it out of me. i couldn't even focus my mind enough to pray, period.
i cried about it in front of my small church of 15 that meets every Monday.
when i couldn't do anything but struggle and cry, they sat me down, prayed, hugged, and spoke life.

i emailed some other people that i know care about me. i told them the same thing. i can't pray, please do it for me.
i got emails, texts, blog comments and phone calls.

and the anxiety began to lift.
i'm not "all better now" [nothing is that easy] but i can definitely see that God has given me exactly what i needed in the last week or so, to get to a better place.
i'm praying again.
i can smile and laugh.
my thoughts are working better.

this is what the church is for.
when you're out of everything and can't even get yourself to Jesus, they'll carry you to him. they'll cut a hole in the roof if they can't get you through the front door.

this is not what church is for.
i recently learned that one of the girls in my little church is transgender.  to clarify: she was born with female anatomy but her thoughts, emotions and sense of identity have always been more masculine. in her words, she feels like a little boy that hasn't hit puberty yet, and she wants to become a man, but her body won't let her. we all knew she was gay, but it wasn't until recently that we learned there was more to it than just liking girls.

i'll be honest, my first thought was "no." just no. i was confused, bewildered, and had a lot of questions. i felt like i was supposed to have answers, and if there was one answer i was comfortable with, it was no.

somewhere inside me, though, i knew "no" was wrong. i knew it was a reaction of fear. i'm afraid because this is unknown territory; i don't have the answers; i'm not an expert on God's thoughts about transgenders. i'm afraid. i recoil.

thankfully, that inner voice spoke up before i had the chance to act on my fear. i kept my mouth shut and just listened. i didn't know the right thing to say, so i didn't speak.

some of the people in our church are upset. they've spoken their resounding "no." they've declared this situation unacceptable and made it clear that she is not welcome in their ideal church. she didn't come last Monday night.

this is not what church is for.
it's not a debate over right and wrong, where we tell people we think they're messed up. Jesus didn't say "everyone will know you follow God if you make sure no one in your church ever sins."
he said, "your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples."

church should be a place where our love draws people closer to truth, not a place where our judgments push people away from God.  
and sometimes, it's best to keep our mouths shut until we're sure of the message we want to send.

so with that, Shawnee, i support you.
that's all. just support and prayer, and the hope that whatever your life-journey looks like, you're daily being drawn closer to truth and love.

26 February 2011

the gentle hum of anxiety.

maybe it's not such a gentle hum. maybe it's more of a panic-alarm somewhere inside me that's slowly getting louder and keeping me from a good nights sleep, keeping me up at 3am reading On the Road -again- and wondering if God has forgotten about me because I've been sitting at home anxious for three months and this is way too long to be stuck in one place and when the hell is God going to tell me what to do??
[deep breath]
I've been trying to write a blog for eleven days and honestly I can't get anything out. I'm too busy sitting around the house in my tie-dye pants, eating apple slices and having imaginary conversations in my head because there's no one to talk to. [Because I'm ignoring my phone calls.]
It's like I'm in a weird cloudy dream.
I make these great to-do lists at night and ignore them the next day. I feign enthusiasm the best I can, but it probably comes off as nothing more than a casual awareness of whatever is going on around me.

Clearly something is wrong.
I'm freaking the hell out and not trusting God.

Tonight I had the terrible idea of reading all my old blogs to remind myself how lame my life is compared to last February when I was jumping off waterfalls in Australia and hanging out with Albert, who has the most amazing laugh in the world.
Terrible idea.
Actually, though, something good came of reading these old blogs. One year ago, I posted about faith. [The opposite of anxiety.] The blog was centered around Dustin Kensrue's Consider the Ravens.

I thought I understood this idea last year when I wrote about it, but apparently I've forgotten everything I learned about trusting God. Here's what I wrote, a year ago:
[2010] Faith and anxiety do not coexist. If I say I'm trusting God, I can't worry, I can't be afraid of the future, I can't try and manipulate situations because I don't see results fast enough.
[2011] Okay, but like, I've been home for three months now, God must have forgotten about me because I still have no idea what I'm supposed to do. Time is flying by, I'm almost twenty-four, and I don't have jack to show for it.
[2010] I know that God has more planned for me than I could ever plan for myself. The fact that he hasn't yet let me in on these plans shouldn't worry me. It should excite me because that means it's probably beyond my imagination!
[2011] I want to throw a slushie in her face. Who does she think she is, all jolly and optimistic? I bet she didn't know God's plan was for me to sit here, paralyzed by indecision, unable to discern his voice from all the other madness in my head.
[2010] When it comes down to it, my purpose in life is to be everything that God created me to be. Without carrying around my anxiety and fear, I'm free to explore, laugh, appreciate, challenge, discover, love.
[2011] Maybe I have something to learn from 2010-me. Maybe my stupid anxiety is keeping me from believing God when he says, "Wait, I have something good coming up for you." Maybe Dustin is right... how can we ever be great until we're free?

Let me digress, for a moment, into a different train of thought.

I've been praying [a lot] about what it means to be fully myself. Like, what was God thinking when he made me? Last night I thought about the word individuality: the distinguishing quality or characteristic of a person. What makes me an individual? As I was picturing it in my head it split up into two words:
indivi + duality   
I know "indivi" is not a word but it made me think of "indivisible."
in-di-vis-i-ble [adj.] incapable of being divided or separated.
...and duality...
du-al-i-ty [noun] the quality of being twofold; having two natures.
So according to this bizarre definition that materialized on the videotape of my mind in the pre-dawn hours, I am only authentically me when I consider the indivisible duality that constitutes who I am: the two clashing entangled natures within me.
I am a part of God. He has endowed me with certain characteristics of himself, and Me-without-God is false.

So maybe I've been suppressing the God-part of me. When I'm anxious about my future and scared that I'll still be sitting on my parents couch in ten years wearing the same pants and reading the same books and not doing shit with my life, I am obviously not acknowledging the divine holy mysterious brilliance of my nature. Instead, I'm ignoring God and thinking I can figure things out on my own- which of course I can't- and getting stressed every time I lie to myself.

So, why all this self-sabotage?
Because trusting God is hard when you're surrounded by people who are convinced they don't need him.

I miss the communal, exotic, multi-cultural, heartbreaking reality that I lived last year. As I move forward it's hard to get excited about regular life, things like resting, and working a 9-to-5, and putting things into machines to get cleaned, and taking them out to put them away again. Everything seems trivial.

I know that if I expect God to come and save my sorry ass from this trite existence, I need to start seeing that he is bigger than me. 

God, I need you so much bigger.

15 February 2011

confession: my mom was my valentine.

It's true. Yesterday my mom and I got massages, had coffee, went shopping, and then joined dad for dinner and a movie. And did I feel like a lame-ass because I didn't have a guy bringing me red roses and chocolate? Nope. I wasn't the least bit disappointed to have my parents as Valentines.

If you're one of those people who hates-on Valentine's day when  you don't have a hot date, I've got news for you.... you're a downer. And you're still single. Whether by choice or luck, this is the boat you're in, so quit pissing on everyone else's parade and talk with me for a minute.

Let's think about your last relationship. Why did it end? Were you bored with each other? Did you feel like you weren't living up to your full potential? Was it compromised? Unsatisfying? Was your ex a selfish dirtbag? Were you a selfish dirtbag, and the relationship made you aware of it? Whatever it was, there's a reason you're not together anymore. Side note: if you gave your heart away and got it back destroyed beyond comprehension, I am sincerely sorry. But there's still a reason you're not together.

I have a confession: I used to be a serial-dater. It started with my first boyfriend at 17, and shortly thereafter I became addicted to being in relationships. I loved being loved, so much that I even got married when I was 18. The marriage ended after three years [which is a long story I won't get into today] and I resolved take that as an opportunity to relish my singleness and let my free-spirit fly.

Yeah, that lasted about 2 weeks. I had a sequence of short term almost-boyfriends before settling into another serious relationship just a few months after my divorce was finalized. When that romance had run its course, I again pledged my independence. I knew I needed freedom, and discovery, and time for myself. But the next weekend I met a real charmer who I just had to keep texting and calling and kissing. And when the thrill of that one died, I started going out with a hottie from work.

Through this process, I grew increasingly more aware of a subtle suspicion about myself: I was co-dependent. I couldn't be single for longer than a week or I started to doubt my self-worth, attractiveness, and likelihood of someday being kick-ass wife with a trophy husband. I had to prove to myself that I could win the affection of whoever I wanted. So I did. Over and over again. I lived for the excitement of a new crush, of hearing what a babe I was, of sweet texts and notes and fun dates and kisses and hand-holds. But I got bored with each guy as quickly as I decided I liked him. I knew none of them were right. And more importantly, I knew I was fooling myself to think I had it goin' on, because something inside of me was always screaming, "Who are you?"

And it killed me that I didn't know the answer.

In October of '09 I signed up for this crazy/amazing spiritual journey, the World Race. It's 11 countries in 11 months of volunteer work and adventures, and I signed up just in time to leave in January. One of the requirements of the trip was that you had to put your dating life on hold for the duration of the 11-months. They wanted us to be completely free of infatuations and relationship-drama so that we could focus wholeheartedly on God and service for that season of our lives.

When I heard about this, I almost called the whole thing off. The idea of being single for a whole eleven months was too much to handle. I thrived off male attention and affection. And besides that, I can't stand rules. I passionately dislike being confined. The World Race is easy-going about a lot of issues, but they believe so relentlessly in their dating policy that, however unpopular, they stick to their guns. I admire them for it. And my instincts told me they were right.

So I got a passport and a backpack and got ready to leave in 9 weeks. Does that mean I stopped going out with my smokin' hot co-worker? Nope. [Don't tell!] I kept seeing him until a few days before I jetted of to New Zealand with the Race. I still wasn't ready to break up with my co-dependency.

My travels afforded me an abundance of time to get to know myself, and illuminated some unsettling truths about my past. For the first time ever, I slowed down long enough to process my marriage, why it ended, and how I felt about it. I had never cried about it. In fact, there were tons of things I'd never stopped to do. Always ready to jump into a new relationship, I rarely thought about any past ones. I never even thought about what I wanted, or didn't want, in a boyfriend. I was easily charmed by a handsome face and a great sense of humor, and all else was thrown to the wind. I would eventually find myself disappointed, wanting someone more challenging, or adventurous, or intellectual, or honest, or just.... different. But these feelings were never given the light of day before I was falling in like with someone else. I desperately needed to give myself time to process and acknowledge what I was learning.

Now I don't have anything against dating. It's a valuable learning experience, and some of us don't figure out who we are and what we want unless we can try on different options and see which one fits. But for every not-quite-right relationship, there should be a time of reflection and evaluation.

So if you found yourself without a valentine yesterday, lucky you. You didn't have to buy into the commercialization, or spend your evening in a crowded restaurant with a stressed out server who ignored your empty wine glass. Don't panic, you'll find your sweetheart someday. Use this time to ask yourself why you're so upset about being single. If it helps, reflect on all your dirtbag exes and why you couldn't stand them. Then use that to figure out what it is you're looking for, so you'll recognize it when it comes along. And don't settle for anything else!

Now go on, free spirit! Get out there and LOVE.

11 February 2011

“I’m f-*king awesome!!”

Sometimes you just have to scream that to yourself in the car on a mid-February night when you’re in the midst of a serious case of the WTF-am-I-doing-with-my-life-s… or at least I do. That was my state of affairs last night as I drove home from the gym. I was congratulating myself on being, um, awesome… because I had exercised my muscles instead of loitering at home perusing the Internet between trips to the fridge.

You see, normally, I’m all about getting down on myself. I finish doing something and then tell myself, I could have done more, I could have done it better, I could have worked harder, etc. etc. Last night was no exception, and while vacating the smelly sweatbox where I’d just spent the last 2 hours, I dispatched my standard round of criticism: condemning myself because I only accomplished half of what was on my to-do list that day, agonizing that if I could just get to the gym more often I would sleep better and feel better and not be depressed ever, and blah blah blah... and that’s when it hit me. I’m such a nag! No wonder I don’t get anything done, if afterwards I just make myself feel like crap about how much I didn’t accomplish.

It was one of those striking revelations that immediately produced change. So the next thing I know I’m sashaying into my car, getting all pumped up about how I’m gonna change my attitude, finding the loudest song I can blast through the stereo, and screaming like a nut-job. I think it went something like this:



I’m f-*king AWESOMMMME!!!!


I sure hope I didn’t scare anybody in the parking lot.

Actually I don’t care if I did scare people, I felt phenomenal afterward! You should try it sometime. Maybe you could omit the F word if that’s not your thing, but roaring your awesomeness is absolutely necessary. In fact, I am challenging you to do this.

I want you to think of some positive affirmations to say [or scream] out loud to yourself, declaring your value and acknowledging your own accomplishments. You must say them out loud; there’s power in your voice. If you don’t want everyone thinking you’re a creeper for talking to yourself, you could do this while blow-drying your hair, vacuuming, or some other obnoxiously loud activity. Find whatever works for you, just do it.

Here are some more declarations I think are just fabulous. Feel free to use these as a jumping off point until you come up with your own.

I am a goddess, not a doormat.

[All you gentleman readers should stick with something manly. Try "I'm a warrior" or something... This one is for the ladies, but don't worry, you can participate in the rest.]

Picasso said,

“For me there are only two types of women: goddesses and doormats.”

I am so sick of women bending over backwards for the approval of men. Ladies, approve of yourselves first! Then find a man who appreciates your God-given exquisiteness. Do you realize that you were made to resemble and be like the highest power that exists? [That would be God, ya’ll.] The big man himself spent time and effort and thought creating you, ever so artfully, exactly the way you are. You're a piece of Him. And there are no bad pieces of God, he’s alllll goodness. So you’re beautiful. Start acting like it.

I am outrageously loved.

It doesn’t matter what you do, you can never earn or un-earn God’s love. He loves you because he loves you, not because of who you are, but because that’s who he is. God IS love. He can’t even help it. In spite of your circumstances, the catastrophic state of the world, and perhaps your own cynicism, you need to believe this: he loves you. Your belief in this statement will be evidence of its truth. Believe it. Be loved.

Nothing can defeat me, because God is on my side.

God is fighting for you, he wants you to be a winner, and he is ready to blow your mind to shrapnel with the wild, ridiculous things he can do for you… if you let him. Seriously, it’s absurd how much God loves us and wants our lives to be amazing. And it’s equally absurd how often we allow ourselves to become overwhelmed, unhappy, discouraged or unsatisfied with life. If that's you [and you're with me], stop being such a pussy! God is on your side, stand up and fight with him! Don't let life get you down. Know that you’re un-freaking-stoppable!!

I have permission to _____________.

... stop faking it and express the way I'm really feeling.

... care less about pleasing everyone, and say “no” when I need to.

... have great days and bad days.

... both shamelessly succeed and flamboyantly fail.

... change my mind a million times or until I get it right. Even about important things.

You know what? It's called being human. Give yourself and everyone around you permission to be honest, to mess up, to learn from their mistakes, and to do great things.

Wherever I am, that’s where the party is.

Stop thinking you’re missing out on anything. You’re not. All you have is right here, right now, so you better start working with it. If your life isn’t a party, start planning one! Seriously, what are you waiting for? You aren’t promised a tomorrow, so do whatever it takes to enjoy your todays! Figure out what you’re passionate about. Have a fantastic adventure. Change the world. Help someone out. Start living large, right now. [I’m not talking MTV Cribs large, I’m talking Ephesians 3: 20 large.] As C.S. Lewis put it,

“In the present alone, all duty, all grace, all knowledge and all pleasure dwell.”

Understand that your life is for enjoying, and don't waste another second wishing you were at someone else's party. Yours is where it's at.

I don’t know about you, but I feel f*-king spectacular! What are your favorite things to tell yourself when you need a boost?? Let’s hear em!

30 January 2011

love before truth. it goes in that order.

stuff i found in my journal from Africa. a revamp of an old blog [mom, you might not want to read this one. don't say you weren't warned.]

“Vice Rag”
by A.A. Bondy

Sweet sweet cocaine, won’t you be all mine?
My heart’ll pound, my hands’ll shake, I’m doin’ mighty fine.
Sweet sweet heroin, won’t you be all mine?
I don’t wanna feel a thing, want nothin’ on my mind.
Sweet sweet whiskey, won’t you be all mine?
If you were to fill the ocean I would drink it dry.
Sweet sweet devil, won’t you be all mine?
Set this tired land aflame, it ain’t worth a dime.
Sweet sweet Jesus, won’t you be all mine?
If you take my sinner’s hand we’ll walk down the line.

I love this song. I can relate. How often have I tried every possible outlet before turning to the beauty of God to satiate me? How often, even after deciding that Jesus delights me more than any vice, have I tried to fill myself with other things? Maybe not whiskey so much anymore. Maybe not drugs. Maybe I’ve never intentionally called the devil sweet, but I’ve tasted him.

Saturday 17 July 2010
Isebania, Kenya

I don’t want to look at anything through the lens of "Christianity." I want to look objectively. I want to love objectively. I don’t ever want to forget where I came from, and the potential I have to revisit that dark place and live there again. I don’t want a Christian vocabulary. I don't want the Christian label. I don’t want a posse that consists of only the redeemed and righteous. I don’t want a life alienated from the old me.

The old me is making sweet love to the world. The old me is too busy filling up on every delightful hedonistic pleasure she can get her hands on, to hear the still small voice, the persistent knock of genuine contentment. I want to be there for her. I want to buy her a beer. I want to stand where she can see me, I'll even be the little piece of dirt on the ground that reflects God’s glory if she won’t look up to see Him for herself.

I recognize that I still have the potential to be the old me. It was not by my own righteousness or self-control that I have become what I am. [Which is: a work in progress. But a much more hopeful, confident and peaceful work in progress than ever before.] 

That’s why I still listen to Biggie sing about getting rich and high and f­_[edit]_d real good. That’s why I still ache for a cigarette some days, the way she craves forgiveness and God’s grace. If I don’t show her Jesus, how will she see him? If I don’t love her first, how will she hear the truth?
[Romans 10:14-15]

Saturday 24 July 2010
Isebania, Kenya

From the furious longing of God, by Brennan Manning:

“Jesus came not only for those who skip morning meditations, but also for real sinners, thieves, adulterers, and terrorists, for those caught up in squalid choices and failed dreams.” (p.35)

“The God I’ve come to know by sheer grace, the Jesus I met in the grounds of my own self, has furiously loved me regardless of my state- grace or disgrace. And why? For his love is never, never, never based on our performance, never conditioned by our moods- of elation or depression. The furious love of God knows no shadow of alteration or change. It is reliable. And always tender.” (p. 37)

Saturday 31 July 2010
Jinja, Uganda

Today was amazing!
1. White water rafting the freaking Nile.

2. Mike.

Mike was my raft guide. One of the first things he said today was, “Oh you’re missionaries, I’ll try to keep my language clean.” To which I replied, "Don't bother, I won't." I knew right then it was going to be a good day. I did my worst missionary impression, had some real conversations with Mike, and had a fun day rafting.

Tonight I sat with Mike at the bar. I got on his level. We talked for three hours, drank a few [me]/ several [Mike] beers, and he even shared a few of his cigarettes with me. His opening line was, “I’ll just never be a Christian. It’s okay for you, but I know I could never do it.”

We talked about the Bible. He didn't think the Bible was something you could talk about over beer and cigarettes. We explored the idea of grace, and how he did not think he deserved to be forgiven for his lifestyle, nor did he want to change. We discussed his vending-machine god, who he only prays to when he goes into a big rapid and asks to be kept alive. Together we contemplated God’s love, and how he has never recognized it in his life.

Three hours later, Mike finished our conversation with a simple promise: that he would genuinely ask God to unveil love into his life. 

Favorite day.

25 January 2011

another crazy idea.

This is what’s going on in my heart right now. It doesn’t make any sense, and to be honest, the last thing I want to do is post all my ridiculous thoughts into a blog for everyone I know to roll their eyes at.

So, for as long as I can remember I have wanted to do music.  Write songs. Create. Sing. Play an instrument. And for as long as I can remember I have been too scared to put myself out there and learn how to do any of those things! I’ve made excuses and claimed to be talent-less and watched other [braver] people carry away my dream.

A little over a year ago I gave my life to Jesus [best decision I’ve ever made] and since then have been captivated with the idea of worship. My favorite thing in the whole world to do is worship God through music. If I could do that every day for the rest of my life, I would be a happy girl. It frustrated me to no end that I had to depend on other people to bring music into my day for me to experience God in that way. I began praying that I could learn to sing and play guitar so that I could worship any time and place I wanted. But still, I was too afraid to work for this dream. If I failed, I would be crushed.

So, two months ago when I got home from the World Race, one of the girls in my small group gave me a guitar. She said, “Take this and learn, give it back whenever you’re done with it.” Timidly, I took it home and began working on chord progressions and figuring out how to play songs. Much to my surprise, I can actually pull it off. I can play songs. ME! Playing songs! On a guitar!

Now don’t get too excited, I’m not that good yet, but I am going to pursue this dream. I am going to learn everything I can about how to worship the Lord through music. And I thought you all should know.

By the way, everything in me is like, “Don’t post this blog! Everyone will laugh at you! You can’t be a musician! That’s silly!” Which is exactly why I need to publicly express that I recognize this to be a lie from the devil himself, and I’m- publicly- laughing in his face.

20 January 2011

confessions: i’m jealous.

I know we’re not supposed to be jealous, but sometimes I am. I get jealous of the prettiest or most outgoing girls I know: I covet their effortless conversations, their girly laughter, their elegant glossy hair.

I’m often envious of people with exceptional musical talent. Like my brother. He’s so flippin’ brilliant at guitar, isn’t this stuff supposed to run in the family? It’s not fair!

And I’ve definitely found myself envying my more “privileged” friends, when I’ve had to decline invitations to go out and spend money, and sometimes maybe, um, sat home feeling left out and later hated on their facebook albums. [Whoops, did I just admit that to the world?]

So now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, I have a bigger confession. One that might actually make you question my sanity. Are you ready? Here it is…

More often than not, I envy the other crowd: the people who have never known what it’s like to have a disposable income, who grew up in a culture where “just enough” is the most they’ve ever had, but God always provided in his own way. Or the humble souls who realize they have nothing of value to offer God, but offer themselves anyway and are extraordinarily blessed because of it. Or the ones whose faith has caused them suffering, harassment, or imprisonment, and through it they find incredible joy and peace because the presence of God is with them so abundantly. Like what I recently read in The Heavenly Man

“Christians who are in prison for the sake of the Lord are not the ones who are suffering. When people hear my testimony they often say, ‘You must have had a terrible time when you were in prison.’ I respond, ‘What are you talking about? I was with Jesus and had overwhelming joy and peace in his intimate presence.’ The people who really suffer are those who never experience God’s presence.”

When I read about experiences of persecution like Brother Yun’s, I get butterflies in my stomach. Little, jealous, warrior butterflies.

There’s really nothing I can offer at this point to reinstate any faith in my common sense, good judgment, or sanity- is there? I realize this is not normal. I understand that most of our lives are spent trying to avoid discomfort, suffering, poverty, and humility. In fact, our culture spends much of our time trying to distance ourselves from the very things that Jesus calls blessings. Read Matthew 5.

You are blessed if you are “poor in sprit,” or realize your need for Him. Consider yourself blessed when you mourn. [Who wants to mourn??] He blesses the “gentle and lowly,” the very characteristics I dislike in myself and wish to exchange for a loud and outgoing personality. And you are blessed if you are persecuted for your faith. Blessed.

So I guess I’m just envious of the folks who have no choice in the matter. They are handed a life of poverty, mourning, humility, or discrimination; and therefore automatically blessed. I know this because I’ve seen it. I’ve slept as a guest in an African hut with no toilet or shower, and I was more blessed there than I ever have been staying in a five-star suite in Vegas. I’ve been overwhelmed by extravagant love through a gypsy orphan who wrapped herself around my waist and hung from my arms for an entire afternoon. She spoke love more clearly to me without knowing a single word of English, than any ballad or bouquet of roses could ever convey.

Photo Courtesy of Katie Swan

See, the Bible clearly says that if we want to follow Jesus, we must “put aside our selfish ambition, shoulder our cross daily” and give up our lives if we wish to find “true life.” [Luke 9:23-27] Basically, Jesus himself says, if you want to call yourself mine, you must wake up every morning ready to give up everything and go on a death-march. And here in sunny southern California, surrounded by affluence and beauty, that’s not an easy choice to make. I’m not there yet; I don’t even know what that looks like here! 

...Besides, I’m still trying to decide whether I want Starbucks or Coffee Bean. One thing at a time.

18 January 2011

How did you spend your MLK day?

That Martin Luther King, Jr. guy? He said some pretty provocative things. Sure, he articulated plenty of “nice” things that were easy to swallow, too. He talked a lot about choosing love over hate, which is always a nice thing to smile at until the next time some idiot cuts you off on the freeway. However, I particularly enjoy the hard-to-swallow, challenging truths this man spoke. If it makes me re-evaluate my life and choices, it’s worth listening to. So in case your Facebook page wasn’t bursting with MLK quotes yesterday, let’s have a look at one of my favorites.

“If a man hasn't discovered something that he will die for, he isn't fit to live.”

Well, have you discovered something you would die for? Before you go thanking your lucky stars that you just got to spend a whole Monday playing Kinect Dance Central in your undies [or however you choose to liberate yourself on a day off], think about that.

When I first read it, I thought maybe Martin was suggesting we kill off every selfish narcissist who doesn’t care about anyone else enough to give up his own lame life for a worthy cause. But the more I thought about it, and reasoned that Marty wasn’t into killing people, I determined he was probably talking about the quality of life we live.

I think he was just saying, “Life is short. Don’t fill it with meaningless crap.”

The book of Ecclesiastes focuses on finding the meaning of life. The Teacher starts it off by saying that “everything is meaningless.” He goes on to explore wisdom, pleasure, foolishness, hard work, power, wealth, injustice, companionship, the limits of human wisdom, wickedness and righteousness, and death. One of the sad truths he writes about is the futility of pleasure.

“After much thought, I decided to cheer myself with wine. While still seeking wisdom, I clutched at foolishness. In this way, I hoped to experience the only happiness most people find during their brief life in this world.”

[Eccl. 2:3]

I see this attitude in people. I see that people give thought to what they want their lives to be about, only to give up, hit the bar, and dive into the crowded pool of insignificance lined with clowns laughing their way to a drowning.

You don’t have to be a martyr or a saint in order to be deemed “fit to live.” You just need to evaluate what you are living for. Is it something that you find so worthwhile, that you would want to be defined by it? Have it as your title? Spend priceless time and energy working for it? And, if the opportunity arose, die for it?

Towards the end of Ecclesiastes, as the Teacher is getting ready to give his final conclusion on the point of life, he says this.

“Young man, it is wonderful to be young! Enjoy every minute of it. Do everything you want to do; take it all in. But remember that you must give an account to God for everything that you do. So banish grief and pain, but remember that youth, with a whole life before it, still faces the threat of meaninglessness.”

[Eccl. 12: 9-10, NLT]

So how ‘bout it? Found anything worthwhile to live for yet?