Thursday, January 21, 2016

For the Days When I Feel Small

Some days it feels like the list of things that I know for sure is dwindling. But one thing, I know to still be true is this:
the language I use toward myself
I would never dare utter to a friend. 

And this was demonstrated to me last night, when a friend shared with me a way that she wants to show up and be courageous in the world and my immediate response was: "Go for it! Always. All the time." Because she's beautiful and wonderful and perfect and why shouldn't she go for her dreams?

But me? I'm different.
I'm a mess and I'm broken and I'm lost and I can't be trusted and...on and on and on.

The things I believe for the people I love the most are so much different than the things I believe for myself. I've felt this lately: dilly-dallying about my purpose, knowing a direction I want to move, but being terrified about how to get there, stalling for time, wasting time. It's as if everyone else has beautiful and unique talents to share with this world, but I'm different. I'm the exception to that rule.

And so, while it takes the last 1/8 of a tank of courage I have left within me this morning, it's time for the first "Dear Child" pep-talk of the year 2016--directed at me--as if I were a friend. Because I so desperately need to be my own friend right now:

Dear Child,

I see you.
I see you.
I see you waking in the morning and wishing you were somewhere else.
I see you puzzling over the 67 thoughts that cross your mind before 7:20am.
I see you navigating this world with a fundamental sense that there is no hope for you.

And it breaks my heart.
Because I'm not sure where you got this idea.
This notion that it's "too late" for you.
That you are so far behind all of your peers.
That everyone else has life figured out except for you.
That you're the only person on planet Earth living with their parents.
That you are the exception to the rule.
That you are undeserving of a meaningful and fulfilling life.

I'm not sure where you got this bullshit, but it's bullshit.
And I'm here to break it down for you: You will be stuck in this cycle of self-doubt and self-deprecation as long as you choose to be.

I know this sounds a little harsh from your Truth-speaking Mother of the Universe, but hang in there, okay? I'm not saying that you need to suck it up. I'm not saying that this is easy. I'm just letting you know that no one and no thing will pull you out of this thick, soggy mud pile. You HAVE to take small, daily steps to believe in hope again. Because I can't do that for you.

You have to decide every morning when you wake and every evening when you go to bed that while the prospects seem slim and you're lonely and you're lost, that you have not EARNED the right to be hopeless. The cards are NOT stacked against you. The Universe is NOT hostile to your efforts. You have far more blessings than curses and until those truths are reversed, you have EVERY reason to be hopeful.

You are not stranded on a concrete median between two lanes of dangerous, highway traffic.
You are standing in an empty cathedral with nothing but space, clarity, and room to breathe.
Trust me.

And so now, don't get on Facebook.
Don't get lost in an Internet vortex that will inevitably suck you dry.
Don't wander into another list of to-dos.
Take a deep breath.
Make some tea.
Read some fiction.
Do the things that have always vibrated with self-nourishing truth.

Take. Care. Of. Yourself.

And then, after your heart has slowed its frenetic pace, do the next best thing.
Maybe that's unloading the dishwasher.
Maybe that's spending 15 minutes (set a timer) looking at graduate schools.
But take this one moment at a time.

Because you need not have the answers to every question on this random Thursday morning in January. You wouldn't expect that of your dearest friends and it is downright unfair--cruel, even--to expect that of yourself.

Do the next best thing.
Repeat as necessary.
Read often.


Monday, January 18, 2016

Holiday Update: "See You Again" video

Who has time for holiday newsletters and cards?
Not this family.

So, please enjoy this music video/holiday update from our heart to yours:

Saturday, January 9, 2016

And So Instead...

When you go to a foreign country, you expect disorder.
You expect chaos.
You expect nothing to go as planned.

When we went to Korea (in August 2013), we went with the expectation that we would be out of our comfort zone, we didn't expect to be knowledgable or understood. We didn't expect to know the language or understand the culture. We didn't have many expectations at all, in fact. Because we knew that in such a new and foreign environment, we would need to be flexible and adaptable. We would need to be open to whatever came our way as a means of survival.

All packed and ready to fly to Korea

When you come home, you expect familiarity.
You expect sameness.
You expect things to be comfortable.

This has not been true for me. This has not been easier, this has been harder. This has not been familiar, this has been foreign.The Universe did not respond to MY expectations about how this should go coming back to America. And lately, I've kinda been stomping my feet around about how life has "let me down" and this is just too hard. But the problem isn't the situation in front of me, it's in my expectations.

All packed and ready to leave Korea

I've said it before and I'll say it again: expectations are tricky.
And...Re-evaluating our expectations is one of the hardest things we will do in our lives.
Or maybe it's THE hardest thing!
(I'll work on that hypothesis and get back to you)

We carry with us all kinds of expectations in life.
Expectations that...
-we will be happy
-we will graduate college
-we will get a job
-we will get married
-we will travel
-when we are ____ years-old, we will _______
-everyone we love will live long and happy lives
-there will be more sunny days than rainy ones

And living a life based on expectations leads to a lot of disappointment, because life doesn't really care about your expectations for how you thought this would go. Life will be what it will be.

But some of the most interesting and resilient people I know are those who practice the art of continually and whole-heartedly re-evaluating their expectations on a daily basis. Taking an open stance to life instead of a defensive one (and expectations are a defense, aren't they?).

This looks like:
-planning a lovely picnic, but it rained, and so instead, they ate soggy sandwiches and made-out in the back of the car all afternoon.

-hoping for a big promotion at work, but it didn't happen, and so instead they reached out to their manager and opened up a dialogue about what they can do to get it next time.

-entering into a marriage with the hope that they would have kids, but found out that they couldn't, and so instead they found a way to add life and vitality and meaning to their story in other beautiful ways.

The formula looks like this:
hope + reality = "and so instead..."

At my best, I am perpetually adjusting with humor and grace to this crazy thing called life.
At my worst, I find myself often chronically thinking, "This is not how I thought this would go."

I never expected that at 28 years-old I'd be married, jobless, directionless, and living with my parents in the hometown I never planned to return to. Ever.

And if I stay here, holding my expectations close to me like a warm blanket, I'll never move. Because we all gain some comfort in having expectations and thinking that somehow the Universe will play along if we just wish hard enough.

But it rarely does.

And so instead...I'm finding the backpack I took off 3 months ago and I'm putting it back on.

Not because we are going to move anywhere soon.
Not because we need to galavant to another country or anything.
But because I want to remain open to whatever God has in-store for us next.

And the best stance I can possibly take in this life--regardless of where I stand physically--is to be open to any and all of it. Even when I'm "home" now in Colorado, my ability to be flexible and adaptable is just as important here in America as it was in Korea.

On to the next great adventure: Colorado.

Friday, January 1, 2016

The Books I Read in 2015

If there's any resolution I find completely worthy of my time it is this:
a continued devotion to learning. 

And so, reading has become a new and surprisingly rewarding part of my life. I didn't know I enjoyed reading so much until recently. I feel like mine is a common story of spending the first 18-24 years of your life in school (where reading was required) and then, finding out you actually like reading when you get to choose your next book.

In 2015, I vowed to read 20 books and read 44. Woot!

It may seem a bit presumptuous to assume that anyone cares what I read this past year, but I hope that if you're looking for your next book, we can help each other out.

Here's what I read this past year:

The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as 
Literally as Possible 
by A.J. Jacobs

A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose
by Eckhart Tolle

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire 
by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince 
by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix 
by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
by J.K. Rowling

Notes from the Internet Apocalypse
by Wayne Gladstone

The Culture Code: An Ingenious Way to Understand Why People Around 
the World Live and Buy as They Do
by Cloture Rapaille

The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom
by Miguel Ruiz

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life
by Anne Lamott

Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community
by Robert D. Putnam

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
by C.S. Lewis

Prince Caspian
by C.S. Lewis

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader 
by C.S. Lewis

The Silver Chair
by C.S. Lewis

The Horse and His Boy
by C.S. Lewis

The Magician's Nephew
by C.S. Lewis

The Last Battle
by C.S. Lewis

Letters from a Skeptic: A Son Wrestles with His Father's Questions about 
by Gregory A. Boyd

On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness (The Wingfeather Saga)
by Andrew Peterson

North! or Be Eaten (The Wingfeather Saga)
by Andrew Peterson

The Monster in the Hollows (The Wingfeather Saga)
by Andrew Peterson

The Warden and the Wolf King (The Wingfeather Saga)
by Andrew Peterson

A Year of Biblical Womanhood
by Rachel Held Evans

The Kill Order
by James Dashner

The Maze Runner
by James Dashner

The Scorch Trials
by James Dashner

The Death Cure 
by James Dashner

by Veronica Roth

Four: A Divergent Story Collection
by Veronica Roth

by Veronica Roth

by Veronica Roth

The Icarus Deception: How High Will You Fly? 
by Seth Godin

What is the What
by Dave Eggers

The Help 
by Kathryn Stockett

I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban
by Malala Yousafzai

Yes Please
by Amy Poehler

Inside the Kingdom: My Life in Saudi Arabia
by Carmen Bin Laden

The Great Divorce 
by C.S. Lewis

A Year with Hafiz: Daily Contemplations
by Hafiz

I grew up thinking that fiction was kind of a waste of time.  I was wrong. Most of my reading this year came from beautiful, intriguing, thoughtful works of fiction that--frankly--rocked my world. In order by favorite fictional series:

-Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
   Hands-down amazing. Where have I been? Now nearly everything I do or say
   deserves a Harry Potter reference.

-Divergent by Veronica Roth
   A pretty close second. I loved Tris. I fell in love with her quiet power.

-The Wingfeather Saga by Andrew Peterson
   Andrew Peterson may disagree, but I put his series above C.S. Lewis'
   Chronicles of Narnia because I so loved the characters that carried me
   through the book.

-The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
   Obviously a classic series for a reason. An intriguing story I will not
   soon forget.

-The Maze Runner by James Dashner
   My least favorite series, but still a fascinating "what if" kind of story that
   has a lot of action.

The most fascinating book I read this year:

-The Culture Code: An Ingenious Way to Understand Why People Around 
the World Live and Buy as They Do
by Cloture Rapaille

   I am fascinated by culture. How we are different. How we are the same. Why we are the way we are. This was the book for me. This guy has studied and identified specific characteristics of what "speaks to" different cultures around the world. For example, the way you market a Jeep after World War II in America is different than the way you market it in France. In America, the imagery of horses fit well into our middle-class, working-man imagery. However, the French saw America as a liberator after World War II and so they sold tons of Jeeps to French citizens who were inspired by the militarily-focused advertising. Whoa.

My number one recommendation this year (is actually two-fold):


   I recommend these books specifically based on our political climate in America. There is a lot of tension right now between the U.S. and the Middle East mostly--I propose--because we don't know enough about each other. We are operating on a great deal of fear when we make assumptions about what it means to be Muslim person without even having a single Muslim friend to reference. This is the closest I have to Muslims friends and they've taught me a lot. Both of these women invited me into two deeply person stories about Malala Yousafzai in Pakistan and Carmen Bin Laden (the sister-in-law of Osama Bin Laden) in Saudi Arabia. Both of them helped me to see the world a little more clearly. And I'm grateful.

So, in 2016 I'm going for 45 books.

If you've got any of your own favorite books to share, do tell!