Stand.

I honestly don’t even know how to put what I feel into words. My heart hurts, so much, for my black brothers and sisters, for our nation. I don’t pretend to know what it’s like to be black in America, because I’m a privileged white girl and I’ll never understand – but I will stand up for you and with you!

#BlackLivesMatter

I refuse to sit by and simply “feel bad” for the tragic death of yet another innocent black man. Sitting on the sidelines and feeling bad doesn’t do anything, it doesn’t change anything. We have to stand up and speak out, even if it’s uncomfortable and scary – because you know what? Being black in America is uncomfortable and scary every day for some people. My life is easy, I have what I need, I’m not afraid, I trust that if I’m pulled over by the cops I’ll be fine – I’ve never feared for my life at the hands of those who are supposed to protect us. I’ve never feared for my life in general, and that alone is privilege

I don’t know what to say, I don’t understand how you feel, I don’t know what to do to help, but I promise that I will stand by you and fight with you until you no longer have to live in fear. Fear has no home here, you are loved.

Anti-racism Resources:

https://docs.google.com/document/u/0/d/1BRlF2_zhNe86SGgHa6-VlBO-QgirITwCTugSfKie5Fs/mobilebasic?fbclid=IwAR2Ch0qfKOnXgBeCTWRnusSGyZMnRIU_8FIXdjmGAr1pDril_17-TYNI56w

Quarantine book review (so far)

I’ve been trying to spend more time reading during quarantine than watching Netflix, and so far I’ve been pretty successful with that. I know that I haven’t been blogging much these last couple of weeks, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and internal work which has totally occupied my mind. I’m going to try to blog more regularly again. But also, I give myself grace for needing a break and I honor that.

Anyway, I thought I’d share with you what’s been on my bookshelf these past few months – so here is what I’ve read so far:

It’s Not Supposed To Be This Way – Lisa Terkeurst

This was my first quarantine read, I chose it because the message of the book is how to embrace life and find strength even when unexpected things in life happen and we are faced with disappointments. The book encourages Christian’s to recognize the challenges in life as opportunities for growth and see it as God’s way of preparing us for bigger and better things in the future.

I read the book quickly, but was hoping for more than I found, to be honest. Over all, I liked the ideas presented, but did not find it as encouraging as I had hoped, based on the many reviews that I read. I do believe that through the trials and hard times in life there is often a lot of opportunity for growth, if we are willing to view it in that wa. I wish that the book was more uplifting – but it certainly did have good points to make as well. I’m glad that I read it, but it wasn’t my favorite.

Daring Greatly – Brene Brown

The premise of this book is that there is a lot of beauty in vulnerability. Confidence, courage and vulnerablity add a lot of depth and joy to our lives, these attributes allow us to create real connections. Brene talks about how rich life can become when we give up our ‘never enough’ attitude and allow ourselves to be vulnerable and real with one another.

I’m a Brene fan; I admire her social work skills and her honesty. I enjoyed this book, I feel like I got a lot out of it – I’ve been really trying to be more in touch with my feelings and more vulnerable in general (as you can tell by some of my bog posts). I personally struggle to get out of my head and the ‘never enough’ mindset. I always feel like I should do and be more, but I’m trying to really love myself for where I am and who I am right now. I would certainly suggest checking Brene out, especially if you’re needing some scholarly written encouragement.

Choose Wonder Over Worry – Amber Rae

An uplifting book about choosing excitement and a positive outlook in life, instead of getting bogged down by fear and doubt. It’s written in an engaging and empowering way. This book pushes you to chase your dreams and live life to the fullest.

I found this book randomly at a bookstore right before the pandemic really hit. It was nestled in between books written by Rachel Hollis & Glendon Doyle, whom I adore, so I thought I’d give it a try. I liked the book, but didn’t find the ideas to be very original or mind blowing. I kept hoping for some truth bomb or awesome quote, but it didn’t really come… I did find it uplifting and encouraging though. I think that my 18 year old self would have geeked out over it, but after reading many other self-help/empowering books, it was just fine.

Following Jesus – Henri Nouwen

This book talks about how to find and follow Jesus even in times of great anxiety and fear. It helps us slow down, listen, and be intentional by providing thoughtful spiritual direction, understanding and compassion. Henri shares his struggles and how he worked through them with God to come to a place of greater peace. It is honest, insightful and eloquently written.

I’m a big Nouwen fan, so I was excited to read this book. I really appreciated his approach and willingness to talk about anxiety and vulnerability. I’ve been struggling with anxiety more than usual lately, as many of us probably are in this uncertain time, so I found solace in knowing that even this super holy person struggled. I felt relief and a renewed desire to follow Jesus after reading this book, I’d recommend it, for sure.

Searching For Sunday – Rachel Held Evans

A personal story of growing up in the church, losing faith in the church, then coming back to church. Church is so much more than sitting in a building on Sunday morning and saying the right thing, being a Christ follower is a constant commitment and journey. Rachel is honest, vulnerable, wise and full of grace. I think that this book could be very helpful to many Christians – especially those who have been hurt by/in the church.

A lovely friend suggested this book, and man am I glad that she did. This book is one of the best and most relevant books that I’ve read in a long time. Rachel speaks with immense wisdom and strength. She addresses very deep and heavy topics in a way that welcomes rather than alienates. I’ve been struggling with ‘church’ lately, and found a lot of comfort and peace in this book. It helped me really understand some of my own struggles and work through some difficult things that have been on my heart. 10/10 would recommend.

Attached – Amir Levine & Rachel Heller

This book is based on Bowbly’s Attachment Theory, but looks at it through the lens of adult relationships and interactions. The psychological perspective provides concrete examples and scenarios to help us better understand ourselves and our loved ones.

Many of these concepts were not new to me, but they really helped my self-understanding. I like knowing the cause and effect of things, and this book helped me to identify some of my own behavioral and emotional patterns and the possible reasons for them. I love learning and figuring things out. This book gave me a LOT of hope. I’m thankful that it was suggested reading.

Untamed – Glennon Doyle

Empowerment, liberation, strength, courage, honesty, vulnerability, success, failure, life, love… This book has it all. Glennon shares experiences, lessons and stories. Some describe her book as the ‘wake up all’ we need to get off our booty and start making change and living life without fear.

Glennon is one of my role models, I so admire her. She is fiercely herself and encourages each of us to be who we truly are. I follow her blogs and books faithfully and I am always impressed with her writing. Her last book was called Love Warrior and that was my favorite that she has written so far. She helped me understand parts of myself that had never before made sense. I will always always recommend Glennon’s books!

Currently reading:

Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking On Water, And Loving The Bible Again – Rachel Held Evans

(Daily Devotionals)
You Are The Beloved – Henri Nouwen

The Rule of Benedict: A Spirituality for the 21st Century – Joan Chittister

Next in line to read:

The Book of Joy – Dalai Lama & Desmond Tutu

When Things Fall Apart
– Pena Chodron

Dare to Lead
– Brene Brown

Here’s to learning new things, reading lots of books and fearlessly sharing our own stories.

P.S. If you have any book recommendations, please send them my way!

Peace & Patience

Kayaking has become one of my favorite things to do lately. There is little in life more peaceful than being alone on the lake, especially as the sun is setting.

After work today I was feeling pretty wound up (not in a bad way, just in a lot-of-energy way), so I decided to throw my boat in the car and head up to the reservoir for a little kayaking. I did a lot of paddling tonight and it was fun! I found this little cove with a stream, so I went as far up as I could then rode back without paddling – it was almost like a lazy river.

As I was paddling I listened to a great audiobook and took in the beauty of the nature around me. There were two really pretty loons floating close by, the bright green budding trees made beautiful reflections in the water, and the sunlight was warm and comforting.

I love how small I feel, sitting in my little kayak in the middle of a huge lake! It reminds me how big the world is, and how I’m only one little piece of the huge beautiful puzzle.

“Adopt the peace of nature: her secret is patience.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

This quote stood out to me today, I like the idea that the secret of nature is patience. I for one, have been feeling quite impatient lately. Things right now in life seem to be almost moving in slow motion. Most of the time I love the slower pace of life, but sometimes it annoys me too.

But what if that is one of the lessons that this stage of life is trying to teach me? To be more patient. As the often-thrown-around quote says, good things come to those who wait. While I mostly believe that, it is still easier said than done.

Being patient and waiting is hard, but I do believe that everything happens in God’s time. I think that during this period of waiting, we should use the time to better ourselves! Practice extra self-care and grace, learn something new, spend more time outside — whatever your soul needs.

One day quarantine and this long period of waiting will be behind us, but until then, let’s try to be patient and breathe in the peace of nature.

Be your own reason to smile.

I came across this quote as I was pointlessly scrolling Pinterest late last night, as I often do. I usually get stuck looking at cool tattoo ideas, but last night I was reading a lot of really good quotes. Some were long and profound, they made me really think – then there were short little statements like this one, that meant the most.

I believe that from a really young age we’re taught that we need someone else in order to be happy. All of the Disney princess movies have this girl who is sad & desperate until she meets her Prince Charming, in school we often connect with our friends by talking about people we’re interested in, and in life we look at couples and assume that they’re happy because they have each other.

But why can’t we be happy alone?

I know that for me, it has taken quite some time to be comfortable alone; going grocery shopping, out to eat & sitting by myself, even just walking around my community. But I’m good now. I like being alone, though I’d be lying to say that I never want a partner. However, I’m happy to wait for that and excited for the time that I have now, by myself.

Being alone is kind of awesome! There is a lot of freedom in it. And as this quote says, you can be your own reason to smile. Maybe it’s because you finally got the rap lyrics right to that song you’ve been trying to master, you officially tie-dyed every light colored article of fabric in your home, you re-learned an old piano piece, you’re basically Gordon Ramsay in the kitchen (after making one successful meal), or something super simple like you woke up to snuggly puppies…. Maybe that’s just me!

Your happiness should not be defined by someone else, you define your own happiness.

Again, that’s easier said than done. We’re taught to look to others for approval and affirmation. We let the world define us and tell us how to think and live, far too much. As a Jesus follower, I listen to his teachings that we should be in the world but not of the world. To me that means that I can trust that my worth is far more than what the fashion industry says, or what I read on Facebook, or anything really! If I am living with honesty, integrity and leading with love – that’s what matters.

Another thing that’s really great about being your own reason to smile, is that you’re already content without anyone else – so that when someone great does come along they only add to your joy! I think that it is a really mature approach to interactions, friendships, relationships, and love. Because if we lean on someone else and depend on them to make us happy, without any of our own effort, we will always be disappointed, because we are all human. As The Doughnut Man taught me: Life without Jesus is like a doughnut, because there’s a hole in the middle of your heart. Same goes for our own happiness, there is a void that only we can fill.

So let’s give this a try – let’s be our own reason to smile & to be happy!

For me, here’s to oversized hoodies, nature, not wearing make up, Pinteresting for tattoo ideas, socks & sandals, loud music, dogs, family & friends, Chipotle, blogging, learning ridiculous TikTok dances, drinking too much coffee, Nextflixing, and finding joy in the little things.

Now what is it that makes you smile, my friends?

Trust.

Yesterday I talked about fragility, so today I want to talk more about trust. Trusting others and trusting ourselves.

Since apparently I’m now in the business of sharing my soul with the internet, I figure I’ll keep on that roll. I’m finding that blogging is an exercise in trust for me. It’s interesting to me that my posts that I feel are the most scattered and crappy are the ones that folks seem to connect with – maybe because they’re more realistic and because they show that we don’t always have it together, or maybe it’s because I’m starting to be less afraid to write about hard things and experiences – many of which I believe are universal and shared.

I admit, I got really stuck in my head last week in regard to writing blogs posts, because I had the realization that people are actually reading them… which is what I wanted, but it’s also scary! When I post my blogs on facebook that means that I’m offering my thoughts, words and heart to my friends, colleagues, old pastors, professors from college, people that I grew up with, old bosses, people who I know have different opinions than me, family, mentors, friends of friends, people that I hardly know and people that I hope to know better. It’s a little terrifying to be honest.

I had serious writers block and considered stopping my blog all together. But why? I started this blog to share myself with you all – hopes/fears/dreams/experiences/memories/thoughts/concerns/meanderings – all of it! And the responses that I’ve received have been mostly positive. But it comes down to fear of failure and how much I can trust myself to speak my truth. Almost more importantly than that though, how much I trust you to hold what I say.

In general, I’m a pretty trusting person. I give everyone the benefit of the doubt and actively try to assume positive intent. I trust people to keep their word, keep their promises and keep my confidence. When my trust is broken though, it is extremely hard to regain completely. I believe in forgiveness, 100%, but I don’t and can’t usually forget. As I’ve said before, I remember the details – even those that I wish to let go of.

So how is it that I’m finding it in me to trust you with my blogs and some of my deepest thoughts? Faith, I guess. I’ve been feeling like writing a blog is something that I wanted to do for a few years now, but I always worried about the response to it – but I’m not worried anymore. I’m finally at a place in life in which your opinions of me don’t define me or really matter; what matters is how I live and how I feel about myself. I also trust that some day I might speak light into someone else’s darkness, I really want my words to be hopeful and encouraging and to make you feel less alone.

I feel like in the last couple of years I’ve really learned how to trust, respect and love myself more. I still struggle sometimes, of course! But over all I’m pretty happy with the person that I am becoming. There is always room to grow, learn and develop, but I feel like I’m on the right paths.

There are some strategies that I really lean on in regard to self-trust and self-worth. One that is most important is keeping my word to myself. In the past I have been easily persuaded to give up what I want for what you want, because I’m a chronic people pleaser. But I’ve been finding that the more honest I am with myself and what I want and need, the happier and healthier I feel. Boundaries are also really important. Knowing what I am comfortable with, in any relationship or interaction, is crucial. After my divorce I think I let a lot of my boundaries slide because my self-worth was nearly non-existent, but I again value my time and love myself. I recognize that I have some pretty high standards and strong boundaries that I will never again waiver from.

Having goals is a way that I hold myself accountable too, and as you’ve seen in past posts I take goals seriously. Two goals that really help me are: making time for myself every day to read, write, journal & exercise and taking time with God. They seem simple, but when I stop doing those things everyday I feel it and my life shows it.

I’m incredibly thankful for this group of women that I connected with about two years ago through the Miracle Morning community (or as my coworker calls it – the book cult!). They have faithfully checked in every day with encouragement, affirmation and support. We have been there for each other through really hard times in life, and we push each other to make time daily for self-care & God. My accountability ladies make all the difference some days.

And going on with this theme of God time, I’ve come to really appreciate my daily prayers, devotionals and journaling again. I’ve always been a faith-filled person, even during darker times, but last year I completely stopped engaging in these faith practices… They somehow stopped mattering to me and I just quit. I’ve shared a little bit about my struggle with church and the church community after divorce, but I’ve never really shared how deeply the experiences that I had affected and hurt me (more on that a different day!). I never ever questioned God, because I have no doubt that She is real – but I certainly did pull away. I became a lot less intentional about my faith, but I’m once again, all in!

I heard this great analogy once, I have no idea where or who said it, but it was talking about how our relationships with God really are like relationships with other people. Say God is like a Mother to you – there have been times in my life when I talk to my mom every single day, multiple times a day. I tell her everything, respect her wisdom and experience and love her with all of my heart. Then there have also been times in which I’ve only talked with her once a week, or when I went months without spending any time with her at all – but I still loved her with all of my heart. God is like that too, my love for Her is unwavering – but at different points of life, my attention, focus and time spent with Her has varied. Relationships of all types have natural ebbs and flows, however, true love (of any kind) always finds its way back together.

My relationship with God has been like this; last year we were still close but we didn’t chat everyday, now we do and I feel Her presence with me constantly. With the presence also comes great Joy and a sense of connectedness.

Connection is another thing that motivates me to keep writing. Not just to connect with the internet world of people I may or may not know, but to connect with myself. I find that it’s easier for me to express myself in writing than speaking, unless I’m super comfortable. So honestly, this is self-care for me – so thank you for being a part of it!

So here is what I’ll leave you with today: trust yourself. You know you better than anyone else in the entire world. Do what feels right to you, trust your gut, don’t worry what other people might say or think. Make time for self-care and make time to connect with whatever/whomever brings you joy, peace & life.

Peace, my friends.

Fragility

Yesterday my friend showed me a shirt that she bought with the quote by RBG that says “not fragile like a flower, but a bomb”. Though I’m totally a pacifist and certainly am not in favor of bombs, I like the quote. It shows that fragile isn’t necessarily a bad thing or a sign of weakness.

I’ll be honest, I’ve often felt in myself that being vulnerable and showing my fragile side made me weak. I still feel that way honestly, though I wish I didn’t. I want to be comfortable feeling my feelings and talking more openly about them. Though it’s certainly a work in progress…

The fact that I really struggle to talk about and experience “negative” emotions makes me feel a little hypocritical at times – because a lot of the work of being a social worker is helping others identify/process/experience their feelings…

Yet, I’ve never been big on expressing my own. I literally cry like once a year because it makes me feel so uncomfortable (I laugh until I cry quite frequently though, as many of you know). I honestly don’t feel like I have been comfortable sharing every part of myself with anyone in years – because the last time I truly trusted someone with my whole self, I was betrayed.

It’s scary to trust! I remember a quote that says something like, “love is giving someone the power to destroy you and trusting them not to”. And I truly want that kind of love. But I’ll be completely honest, it is extremely hard and scary to even try to let your guard down And fully trust after being hurt. However, I feel like that’s exactly what I need to do in order to learn to really love and allow myself to be loved again.

“After all this time I’ve come to find my souls fragility, cause you’ve rectified my frailty by your strength”. This song, The Way You Are, by The Afters has been stuck in my head for the last few days and I’ve really been thinking about what the lyrics might mean.

God’s strength rectifies my frailty, makes it better… but maybe also continues to allow fragility to exist… it isn’t a bad thing all the time. Being fragile makes room for other people to step in, to sit with us – it allows room for intimacy and love.

No one can be strong all the time, no matter how hard we try.

I must say, I have my strong act down pretty well. I rarely show how I’m feeling (you only see my ‘happy’); I try to handle everything with grace and to speak kindly even when it’s not being returned. People often comment on my ability to remain ‘cool’ in tense situations. I present well in this way.

But what they don’t see is my racing mind and heart. I feel things very deeply, I take empathy to the extreme at times. I get really anxious and I have a hard time sleeping because I worry about everything…. But that’s not the ‘me’ that I let people see, that’s my hidden self.

So if I constantly try to hide that part of myself, why am I talking about it on my public blog?

That’s a good question that I don’t really know the answer to. But as I said initially when I started this blog; I believe in authenticity – if I’m not being real, than I shouldn’t’t even talk.

One thing that really bothers me about being the ‘strong’ one, is that when I do break down a little or show any sort of emotion – it really freaks people out. I feel like people magnify what I say/do, because they’re not used to seeing anything other than happy & strong from me.

When that happens it makes me feel, even more so, like I need to keep my struggles to myself, because people can’t handle me. I’m thankful for the great friends/family/coworkers I have who can handle that part of me – because I do have a few safe people who I can truly talk to, without any judgement or worry.

Having a safe person to talk about everything with is probably one of the things that I most miss about marriage. But I totally trust God’s plans and know that the future will be good and full of love! Maybe a real, good marriage someday – who knows!

I truly believe that we grow, learn and love best when we are real about our struggles and experiences. So maybe being fragile & vulnerable is actually what makes us the strongest! There is something really empowering about that idea to me. I feel like this blog post is a little bit disjointed, but that’s okay – because I think that this is just the start of a thought and the first step in processing the concept of fragility… so as Arnold Schwarzenegger said, “I’ll be back…”

So, be kind to yourself. Feel the feels, know that it’s ok to not always be ok, reach out when you need support, love and let people love you.

Renewal.

This morning’s prayer was focused on Psalm 51, and the verse that most stood out to me was verse 10, “create in me a clean heart O God & renew a right spirit within me” (probably because I immediately started singing a song about the verse, and the song has been stuck in my head all day!).

I feel like every day I need to ask God to clean out the crud of my heart. Every. Single. Day I fall short and make mistakes, but I am always forgiven and can start anew. I’ve been quite intentional about praying and journaling more since quarantine started and I’ve certainly noticed the impact that has had.

This verse especially stands out to me because I feel like God has really been working to make my life new and happier. After my separation, life got really dark for me for awhile. Everything changed so fast and I felt completely alone and my life felt out of control. I stopped caring about things that once mattered and made some questionable choices, but then I remembered the love of God and again decided that I wanted to live a beautiful and holy life, and God cleaned my heart up!

I certainly don’t want it to sound like when I asked God for help everything changed and fixed itself right away, because everything has a season and a takes work & time. But I can certainly say that when we choose to live for Christ, our lives are significantly improved and happier.

This verse also makes me think about how past experiences, traumas, fears, etc. can really impact and influence our lives and the choices that we make. The last year of my marriage and the time between separation and divorce was really bad and a lot of really hurtful things were said and done. I admit, when you experience really difficult things like that, it’s extremely hard to give them to God and really move forward.

I’m finally excited to move forward again. I really do trust that God knows what is best for me and what I need, I haven’t really trusted that for awhile but I certainly do again and that gives me such a sense of peace… and joy!

One thing that the coronavirus has really taught me is that I don’t have control, nor do I need it. God is in control. My plans don’t matter and planning doesn’t much matter in general. I love knowing what to expect, but I’m finding that the most joy comes from the surprises and unexpected things in life!

I honestly think that the unexpected joys in life are a big part of spiritual renewal for me these days. It’s the letters that show up in the mail when I’m having a bad day, the unexpected visits when I’m feeling lonely and disconnected, the phone calls that come at the perfect moment, the hugs after long periods of distancing, the texts of excitement and joy – those are some of the most life-giving things for me in this period of life.

I also find that reading and devotionals are really life-giving and renewing lately, which isn’t always the case for me. My devotionals just seem to say what I need to hear lately and I find that extremely encouraging.

On this happy weird day in May, I woke up and looked outside to see snow agin. Even that somehow related to the Bible verse this morning about God creating a clean heart and renewing our spirits. Snow is so pure and clean and beautiful when it falls, and the unexpectedness of it today was somehow renewing and life giving – even though it killed a lot of the pretty flowers that are coming! But the plants too, will be renewed and will bloom again.

My prayer for all of you is that you find renewal and joy. Plan less, allow yourself to be surprised, find joy in the little things, and love.

Peace.

Love lead me on.

I love music, it’s always playing in my home and more often than not I’m singing along, maybe dancing too – that depends on the day. Fun fact: I taught my dogs the command “dance”, they’re pretty good at it! Lucy is a better partner, but Brook sure knows how to get her groove thang on!

Music always meets me where I’m at, there’s a song for every kind of emotion, feeling and experience. I love that no matter what I’m going through music is always there to provide comfort, hope, connection, passion and understanding.

My taste in music is extremely broad. If I put my iTunes on shuffle you’d quickly notice that! I go from rap to Christian music, to punk rock, add in a little broadway and disney, go back to emo then over to classical and hymns, a hint of country here and there, then some pop. There isn’t a lot of music that I don’t like – but bluegrass and techno are my least favorite.

So for this blog post I’m going to share some of my go-to songs during this COVID pandemic time (only read on if you promise not to judge me!). You’ll notice the range of emotions that the songs connect with… and that I maybe still listen to all of the same music that I did in middle school! Anyway – I enjoy it, so that’s what matters 🙂

Until the World – The Afters
Memories – Maroon 5
Tell Your Heart to Beat Again – Danny Gokey
Better Place – Rachel Platten
Behind the Scenes – Francesca Battisteli
I Miss You – Blink 182
Broken (beautiful) – Chris Sligh
Fix you – Coldplay
Disappearing – Hello Kelly
Car Radio – Twenty One Pilots 
Hold My Heart – Tenth Avenue North
American Idiot – Green Day 
Love Lead Me On – The Afters
No Time for Tears – Hello Kelly
Oh Child – Nevertheless
Forward Motion – Relient K
Make You Feel My Love – Adele
Numb – Linkin Park 
Trust In You – Lauren Daigle
Thunder – Boy Like Girls
Only Hope – Mandy Moore
You’re Gunna Go Far, Kid – The Offspring 
Always – Blink 182
Ocean Eyes – Billie Eilish
Hesitate – Steve Moakler
All The Rowboats – Regina Spektor
One Fine Wire – Colbie Calliat

So there’s a little look inside my head and heart.

I hope that you, too, are finding comfort in music during this covid quarantining time. I think that I would be going crazy without it! I’ll leave you with these song lyrics:

There’s a million different ways to go only God can know where I will call my home. Love lead me on, where no one else has gone. Faith keep me strong, Love lead me on. – The Afters

#monks

Anyone who knows me well, knows that my family likes to hang out with monks at a monastery. My dad has been going to the Weston Priory since he was a young man and my mom shortly thereafter. I’ve been going since I was in the womb, and at least every summer since, for the Feast of St. Benedict celebration. It’s always a lot of fun! There is a beautiful worship service, then picnic lunches and line dancing. I look forward to it every year!

Side note: I never realized what a weird family vacation going to VT to camp and visit the monastery was until college when everyone was talking about their family beach or disney trips and I was talking about Catholic monks (when I’m not even Catholic!). But my family loves it; we are weird, we have fun & life is so good.

The priory holds many fond memories for me and I honestly feel like it is the most peaceful place in the world. It is a place where I can go and always feel safe, no matter what is happening in life around me. There is a beautiful lake up there on the mountain with huge bull frogs, when I was little I’d always try to catch them and play in the water. The simplicity and beauty of the buildings, chapel, barn, and scenery is stunning. So are the gardens, they cultivate so much life in their community.

The monastery has been my favorite place to attend church for the last couple of years too. The messages and music are more beautiful than words can even describe, there is a sense of holiness and peace there that is unmatched. I’ve been searching for a church to call home for two years now and still haven’t found what I am looking for in the sense of a faith community, so I’m incredibly thankful to be close enough to go hang with the monks on Sunday mornings.

I could tell stories and memories about the priory for a long time, but I’ll move along…

The monks are Catholic and their way of life is based on The Rule of Benedict. My parents are oblates and a part of the community of the priory, so they have been reading and meditating on the Rule daily. They gave me the book for Christmas quite a few years ago, but I had honestly never looked at it. But this weekend my dad told me that the reading cycle is starting again, so I decided I’d join them this go-round.

I’ve only been reading and meditating on it for a few days, but I already find so much value. The teachings are very simply stated, but profound. I love the communal and social approach. It is not about me, it’s about us.

As you all certainly know, my values are very important to me. Last year I found a T shirt that sums them up pretty well: Coffee, Dogs, Books & Social Justice. Honestly, social justice and promoting equal rights for all individuals is what matters to me the most, hence the career choice of social work. My faith fits in with these beliefs directly, as my values seem to with the Rule.

I know that some Christians cringe when I talk about my interpretations of the Bible, because I do not necessarily take everything at face value or believe that everything literally happened. I also can’t back up all of my values with exact scriptures and numbers. I refuse to take stories or scriptures out of context to support every belief and value that I hold; I am ok with not having references at this point. I believe that the Bible is to be used as a guide and resource for Christian life, I believe that Jesus is the greatest and purest example of God’s love, and that love is the core of my faith beliefs.

Many of my values are based on Jesus, but I feel that I also have a set of values based on my social work perspective and understanding of life. I remember a time in college that I was forced to really examine my belief system – because my social work values and the Christian values that I grew up with were not directly aligning. That made me uncomfortable, but it was crucial for my growth.

I’ll be honest, there are still situations that I face in which my value systems conflict, however I feel a lot more comfortable now, in navigating those situations. It’s pretty simple actually, it always comes down to showing love and walking with people on their journey – because that’s what it is, their journey, not mine. I make choices for my life, and my client’s make choices for theirs. I would be an absolutely ineffective social worker if I tried to impose my value system on those with whom I work. I am there to be a supporter, to lead by example and to lead with love.

We all have so much to teach each other about life from our own understandings, beliefs, values and experiences. I absolutely love having deep theological and sociological discussions. I like being challenged and having to really examine ideas and thoughts. So let’s talk! I am excited to continue reading the Rule of Benedict and learning more.

Here’s to continual growth. Here’s to love. And here’s to tacos – because it’s Cinco de Mayo and tacos are bae.

Feisty with a side of… empowerment!?

Sometimes I annoy myself with how un-empowered I feel and act. Today I had an interaction with a man from a water company who came to my house, and initially I let him talk to me like I was an idiot. I did not stand up for myself or my knowledge at all. The only time I felt like he even half respected me was when I talked about what “we” had done when “we” bought the house…

Even though “I” am the one who pays attention to what needs to be done when, who pays for all of the bills, who does literally everything alone! Yet, I didn’t feel respected until I talked about the (past and long dead) “we”. He kept referring to my “Daddy” too (assuming that I live with my parents), asking me if he had told me any information about the location of the buried tank and water pipes (which I know… because it’s my house…). When he found out that I live alone he then switched up his game and began complimenting my shirt instead. I’m not stupid; you don’t like my shirt dude. I’m wearing a T shirt that’s too big, from high school, gross looking, and certainly not worth complimenting, trust me. Before he left I made it a point to stand up for myself, but his statements were already made and I was already annoyed.

I’m sure he’s a nice enough guy and probably did not think anything of the interaction. But you best believe I’m fired up about it. I cannot even tell you how many times I’m treated differently because I’m a female or because I look so young, especially when it comes to homeowner stuff. Believe it or not, I’m quite capable and I believe that I deserve the same amount of respect that I give to anyone else (crazy, I know!).

Another thing that makes me mad (mostly at myself) about staying silent is that I know it comes from years of being with my ex. I learned to not have a voice and taught myself to be quiet. I’m naturally a quiet person, but I also feel that I have a lot to offer and share – but when we were together I rarely spoke up at all. I never wanted to rock the boat with him, I wanted to keep things as calm as possible, as much as possible. I would do or not do, almost anything to keep him content.

I’m thinking about him more today than I usually do, because two years ago today I found out what was really going on and I decided that I was done. I remember details and dates and pictures in my head really clearly, which is both a blessing and a curse. So this morning, when I woke up and looked at my calendar I recalled memories and thoughts that I do not usually entertain.

Thinking about him and our past relationship usually leaves me feeling pretty bad about myself, even though I have no reason to. It just scares me so much that I lost who I truly am when I was with him, and I think that it happened slowly over time, but it still happened. I’m still learning and remembering who I am and who I want to be…

Ok, now that’s I’ve gotten that out of my system, I should talk about what being empowered means to me. It’s pretty simple actually, being empowered means that I say yes to myself and no to things that do not promote the kind of life I want to live & the kind of person that I want to be. 

Here are some things that help me to feel empowered:

  • Grace
  • Trusting myself
  • Saying “no” when I want to, without regret or guilt
  • Speaking my truth
  • Trusting others
  • Embracing all aspects of life
  • Being proud of accomplishments
  • Being a woman
  • Speaking up
  • Standing out
  • Seeking joy
  • Being who I want to be
  • Exercising and feeling strong
  • Being true to who I am
  • Strong women
  • Loving men
  • Traveling
  • Sharing my story
  • Lifting others
  • Loving God openly
  • My social work education
  • Being willing to try new things, failing at times
  • Taking the first step
  • Being happy in my body
  • Exploring the world
  • Being in nature
  • Trying to live without fear
  • Feeling emotions
  • Loving Fully

I believe that empowerment and self-love go hand in hand. So that is my goal. Love God, Love self, Love others.

Thanks for reading, I know that this is not as eloquently stated as my posts usually are. But it’s how I feel today.

Peace.

Solitude = Space

So devotionals – they’re a thing.

I’ll be honest, I go through phases where I’m super committed to reading devotionals daily, and then I go entire weeks/months/years without reading them at all. Well this spring I’ve been committed to reading “You are the beloved” by Henri Nouwen with a friend. Almost every day it seems like the devotions are exactly what I need to hear. God uses Henri’s words to speak to me. This book has been helping me think through situations and concerns that have been on my heart, process life and even this pandemic – which is hard to make sense of.

The other day the reading was called “Solitude Creates Space for God”. The premise of this reflection was that often in the loneliest places and times in life we experience God the most profoundly. It references Jesus praying in solitude and how near the spirit of God was to him, and how we too can have this type of experience if we’re willing to look for God in times of loneliness.

I can certainly relate to this,  life is so lonely right now. Even as an introvert the lack of human contact is starting to wear on me. Sometimes it makes me wish that I had someone with me in this social distancing time. But I totally trust Gods plan and I believe that she brings people into our lives when they’re supposed to be there. When I think about this reflection and the idea that being lonely is creating space for God – maybe in reality that is just what I need in this time. Since I am alone, I do have more time to be still. In this stillness I have time to really process and learn. Already, in these last two months of intentional social distancing, I’ve found a lot of healing and peace. I’ll be honest though, I also watched ALL of Gossip Girl (121 hours to be exact! If you’re judging me, pretend I didn’t admit to that). I don’t want to give any false illusions that I’m using all of my time well!

Last week was exhausting and I felt completely drained by the time the weekend rolled around, so I tried to do a lot of intentional self-care. On Sunday I decided that I needed to get out of the house, so I packed up my kayak and left. I went to the reservoir and I have to say, that’s the closest to God that I’ve felt in years. I was alone on the lake and kayaking back in this tiny cove area when I saw a little otter swimming around. I sat in the stillness and just watched it swim and play, then I saw a huge bird (I have no idea what kind, I don’t know my birds), and a loon started signing from the other end of the lake. I felt completely at peace in those moments. I felt held in that space, even though I was absolutely alone. Like Henri said, it’s often in times of solitude that God is most present.

I am trying to be more intentional with my time and living a simpler life. The business of the world really takes its toll. Being on the computer all of the time is hard, listening to the news is hard, even reading about the tiger king on Facebook is hard! It’s constant information overload. But you know what is not hard? Making tea and sitting outside, taking walks, going on country drives, writing, singing… The simple things in life are what bring the most joy – so I’m trying to make more time for them, more quiet time for God. 

So what it comes down to is this: I feel lonely, but I also feel at peace with the loneliness. I feel close to God and I feel alive.

If you’re interested in checking out Henri’s book, here is the link : https://books.google.com/books/about/You_Are_the_Beloved.html?id=kBIcDgAAQBAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=kp_read_button 🙂

Life is beautiful

“Living and dying, laughing and crying, if we have the whole world or have nothing… I know there are long nights, but we’ll make it, with every sunrise comes a new light and all of the things that make us feel like we have it all, all of the times that make us realize we have it all. Life is beautiful.” – The Afters

When the song Life is Beautiful came up on my Pandora station as I was getting ready this morning, it really stood out to me. The Afters have always been one of my favorite bands, from the time that I was a little girl. Their music has been relatable at every stage of my life so far and it has always provided me with a sense of comfort.

Today, I head this song differently than I have in the past, through the lens of the current pandemic. Living and dying, laughing and crying – every day when we turn on the news or look at social media, we see new stories of sadness… and happiness, but more sadness these days. COVID is close to home now, people we know have been affected by it, maybe even died from it. Life is incredibly discouraging! I know that lately I’ve really been feeling the weight of the pandemic more than I had. All along I’ve been trying to be optimistic and what not, but it’s certainly wearing on me. I’m so ready for it to be over, but know that it is not going to be for a while.

I find that the weight of it hits me when I’m not expecting it… I was just on a zoom meeting this afternoon (I live on zoom these days!) and we were talking about potentially losing our staff and coworkers to COVID, and planning for what we will do if/when that happens to commentate their lives. I usually stay pretty strong and don’t let my emotions get in the way of thinking, but it really hit me today that I actually might lose people who are close to me, due to this virus. I know that’s true but I don’t usually allow myself to go there, because the thoughts are incredibly upsetting. But today during that meeting, I felt it like a gut punch.

Thinking about losing our loved ones is not fun, but it is realistic. One day we will all die. I know that I talk about death a lot more frequently and bluntly than most people, but that’s part of how I deal with working in hospice care. I think that being realistic about my mortality helps me live my life to the fullest every day. But thinking about losing my friends and family is not easy; the meeting today made me do that. I’ll be honest, I do worry about my grandparents and elderly loved ones especially during this time. I know that the virus could take them if they were exposed. But I refuse to live in fear about that, because I can’t control it anyway. And I believe that life after death is better than life on earth is now, that gives me hope.

It’s uncomfortable to feel out of control, but in reality we are out of control, completely. We still don’t understand COVID19, we don’t know when it’s going to over, how to treat it or when vaccines will be created to stop the spread…. We don’t know how much longer lock downs will be in place, or what will happen when restrictions are lifted – we don’t know much of anything, honestly! And that is so scary…

One of the lovely folks that I work with keeps talking about the idea of delayed gratification, meaning that we’re willing to let go of what we want now, knowing and trusting that if we wait we will receive something even better. This is so hard, but it’s exactly what we’re doing in this time of social distancing and isolation. We are giving up going out and doing the things that we want to do (like going on taco dates, playing sports, going to concerts, shopping etc.) knowing that we are saving lives by being home and doing our part to flatten the Corona-curve. We trust that by doing this and giving up some of the little things that we want, we will be able to return to some sort of “normal” more quickly. We all have plans and things that we want to do, but with delayed gratification we can believe that if we wait, better things will come. I trust this, but it is still hard!

The line in this song that says I know there are long nights, but we’ll make it also hits home. It feels like every night is longer. Every day I wake up exhausted, find some energy during the day (mostly thanks to coffee) to do work, then by the end of work I’m exhausted again. I haven’t slept well in months, because I have so much on my mind. I know that many folks feel the same way. I often talk with my social workers about this and I’m thankful for the strong team that I work with, because we are all supporting one another through this time. But nights do seem to be hard for almost all of us.

At night we’re forced to give up our distractions and to sit alone with our thoughts until sleep takes us. I try to think of happy things before bed, but my mind usually goes to darker places honestly. It’s hard not to think about COVID and the fact that life as we knew it is gone, at least for now. Anxiety is very present in these moments, and it always reminds me that I’m alone.

The song continues with statements of hope though, which I love. With every sunrise comes a new light… Life is beautiful. It’s true, after ever dark nights there is a new morning. I think about how we’re in a dark time right now, but life is still blooming all around us. Spring is coming, there is hope.

This past weekend I spent a lot of time outside and my spirit was renewed by the promises of spring. Trees are starting to bloom, the grass is growing greener, the water is getting warmer, and the daffodils are blooming! Life is hard right now, but we know that it will get better.

I look forward to the day that we can once again spend time together is person, and all the hugs!!

So this post is kind of depressing, but so is life right now. But I have faith and hope for the future, and I still believe that Life is Beautiful!

Managing expectations

If you’ve been around me lately, you’ve probably heard me use this phrase. I don’t even really know where it came from, but I do know that it has helped me a lot during this pandemic.

I’m trying to manage my expectations with myself, with others, and just in general!

I put an insane amount of pressure on myself, in everything that I do. I want to do things well and efficiently. But in this time of pandemic, it is hard to always stay motivated and productive. I’m trying to give myself some extra grace when I’m not always on point. 

At the start of this pandemic, maybe 7 weeks ago now, I decided that I was going to focus more on self-care, productivity and having good routines. I wanted to exercise every day, eat healthy, walk the dogs daily, journal, reorganize my entire house, read, do art, blog a lot, learn to play the guitar, etc. But that’s nuts! Our lives literally just changed completely in the matter of 2 months – and I wanted to just pretend everything was fine and even increase my productivity and accomplishments.

Yeah, no. That’s not working. 

Yes, I am doing a lot of self-care and I’m doing a little bit of everything I mentioned (besides the guitar), because I have to in order to stay sane. There is so much fear and sadness around us all the time; really heavy emotions that are exhausting to deal with. It’s unrealistic to think that I’m going to accomplish a lot when we’re all literally just trying to survive right now!

As a social worker, I often have folks sharing really deep and heavy experiences/thoughts/emotions with me. I support a lot of people at work and in general, which I absolutely love doing. I’m incredibly thankful that people trust me enough to share their souls with me. But I admit it does get heavy for me to carry too. I’ve found that I need to be even gentler with myself in these times, so that I can be in a good enough place to be a helpful support. As my old professor Jane said, if you do not care for yourself you will not be able to care effectively for others.

I have been actively trying to engage in self-care, but what I’m noticing is that it looks different day to day. Some days I eat healthy all day, exercise, walk the dogs, do some reading, journal, maybe do a little cleaning…. But other days I eat Oreos for breakfast, live in my sweats, and binge watch Tiktok videos and Netflix. Both days are fine, both kinds of self-care are fine! I’m really just trying to listen to what I need and honor that, in this time.

Then it comes to managing my expectations with others. I keep having to remind myself that we’re all going through really difficult times, and we’re processing and handling things differently and the best way that we can. Giving people grace is so important, because emotions are running high and we’re all riding the struggle bus right now. So in this time it’s even more important to show love, forgiveness and gratitude for the wonderful people in our lives.

So here’s to us, friends. We will get through this together. Let’s lean on each other, give grace and show love. And look for moments of joy – because life is still so so good!

The beauty of dreams

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”   – Eleanor Roosevelt


The beauty of dreams… If we’re talking nighttime dreams, I can assure you that my dreams are rarely beautiful. Especially in times of stress (like we live in right now) when I’m dreaming about creepy snakes and horrible things a lot, thankfully I only remember my dreams occasionally! Bad dreams certainly help my prayer life though, they remind me that filling my head with love, affirmation & gratitude before bed is more important than watching murder documentaries until midnight (I still sometimes do that too!)…

Dreams for the future are a prettier and happier story though. But what are my dreams?

My dreams have changed a lot in the last few years. If you had asked 20 year-old me what her dreams were, they wouldn’t align with my current dreams much at all! One way that my dreams have evolved over time is that they are no longer all focused on things or accomplishments, but rather feelings and experiences too.

I’ve always been a “5 year plan” kind of person, from the time I was in high school – maybe even before that. I always knew what I would accomplish and the time frame in which I would do so. I am thankful that I processed so much in this way, because it did get me to where I am right now; doing the work that I love in the beautiful mountains of Vermont with my doggos.

I admit, when I finished grad school then achieved my social work licensure, I did have a momentary freak out – because I had completed my 5 year plan early and there was not another big goal on my list. For someone who is always striving and working toward something, that is terrifying! I like having a plan and I like feeling in control of my life.

Control is a funny thing too, because in reality we have no control! We never know what the day will bring – it could be that today is my last day and I have no idea. Life can change in a moment, which only motivates me to life to the fullest even more!

Every year on January first I make a list of my goals and dreams for the coming year. Then on New Year’s Eve, I review the list and check off everything that I did! This is a practice that I picked up in college and have been doing ever since. I love it because it helps me remember, be thankful and consider what else I want to do in the coming year. I write big and small goals, some never change year to year and some evolve throughout the year. As I mentioned, I’ve noticed that the past few years I’ve shifted my thinking to incorporate more experiences and emotions than I had previously, when my lists were almost always about getting, achieving and having.

I realize that I still haven’t answered my originally posed question – what are my dreams – so let me try… *Side note, I like the word goal more than I like the word dream… dream seems like something that’s unattainable, but goals feel like they can actually happen. So here are my goal/dreams:

  • JOY – I want to be authentically joyful. I want to appreciate the world around me; hike, fish, kayak and camp more. Spend more time outside in the hammock taking in nature, walking my dogs. Laughing more, having more fun!
  • LOVE – invest in healthy and loving relationships. Reach out to friends more, send more letters, make more phone calls, be there for others and allow them to be there for me. Love intentionally and love without fear.
  • SELF-CARE – read, write, exercise, put myself first without guilt, and say “no” to plans when I don’t want to go. Regularly do art. Speak kindly to myself and practice self-love.
  • FAITH – find community and contentment. Look for Jesus in others, journal, sing and pray more. Do what feels right for me and what brings me closest to God.

I have other random dreams too, and my goal list for the year is a lot longer than this – but I think you get the gist.

It is good to think about dreams, I’m a big contemplator and spending time silently thinking about things is what I do best. It gives me a sense of peace and excitement. I’m looking forward to life, to what is coming – even though I don’t totally know what that even is! I trust God’s plan for my life, I know that she will lead me to the people that I’m supposed to be with, the places that I am supposed to go and the things that I am supposed to do.

So let me finish this post by asking, what are your dreams?

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