two thoughts.

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Preface: I am not a musician, however I am a “stomp-your-feet-and-sing-along-because-you-can” kind of person. If you need a harmony to back you up, let me know. Keeping that in mind, this is not about to be an album review but rather more of a late night commentary on the present state I’m in.

Joseph sang at my favorite college dive bar a few years back and since the moment they stepped on stage I was hooked. These sisters have a sound that is beyond this world. Their melodies don’t make you greedy for their talent, but they leave you thankful for the gift it is to stand and listen and join with them in a special moment of experiencing something only they can do. I’ll continue to fangirl about them for as long as they keep making music – which is for a long time, I hope!

Have you ever listened to a song that is so applicable to your life at the moment that you had to stop everything you’re doing just to hear it? Well Joseph recently released a new record and today as I streamed it on my car ride home I had to pull over and stop to listen to their song “Honest”.  There’s a line that says:

There’s always two thoughts one after the other – I’m alone, no you’re not. I’m alone no you’re not. – Honest, Joseph

After a full year of waiting, I packed up my bags and moved to a new city. A familiar city, but a new one nonetheless. There are few times in my life where I have been so certain that where I am is exactly where I am meant to be, which is exciting! But these two thoughts keep coming: I’m alone, no you’re not. I’m alone no you’re not.

Every twenty-something has probably experienced these two thoughts at some point. We’re saturated with various social medias and technology that’s forcing us to be connected to everyone all the time, and yet we still go home and sleep alone at the end of the day. We walk through life filtered to prove to the world that we’re okay, even if we’re scared out of our freaking minds because we don’t know what the hell we’re doing or how to even get “home” without using Google Maps. It gets old, you get tired, and the two thoughts come – I’m alone, no you’re not.

I think a shift in a person’s life can lead them through this series of unpacking the boxes of what they have known. Moving is more than just physical, there’s a mental processing period where you have to marry where you’ve been with where you are. Some things you bring with you make sense and they stick almost immediately. But some things feel uncomfortable in the new space even though you were once so sure of them.  You begin to doubt what was once true.

Change unwraps truth.

I’m alone, no you’re not. I don’t think we as humans would ever seek truth if we never experience doubt. That’s the whole point isn’t it? The experience of doubt is just the beginning of a greater desire to know what is true.

It’s true that you as a person are alone. No one has been in your brain and experienced life exactly the way you have. There is only one you. This is fact: I’m alone.

No you’re not. But I am not alone ever ever ever. My community might look different than what I’ve experienced and I can’t wander into my roommates’ room for a glass of wine and a ukulele jam session after a long day, but I’m not alone. There’s a million people around me experiencing similar things and trying to do their best, too. I’ve got a phone full of people to call who are each experiencing their own “alone”.

The two thoughts aren’t a contradiction between doubt and truth, but it’s big truth anthem given from two perspectives.

I used to be scared of my big doubts and worries because I thought they would somehow undo what I had built my life around. Now I’m seeing that this process of unpacking doubt is leading me into deeper truth as a whole. It’s a long to-do list of ripping tape off of boxes and unraveling, but ultimately the new space will start to feel more like home again.

I’m alone, no you’re not.

The two thoughts keep coming and it’s quite beautiful and messy all at once. So now that you’ve read my vague and ambiguous thoughts, go check out I’m Alone, No You’re Not from Joseph and be reminded that we’re all one tribe trying to find our way back Home.

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the key to resilience

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“When Life hands you lemons, make lemonade!”

Why is Life giving me lemons? It’s February and lemonade doesn’t make sense, making that saying null. Sometimes I want to throw those lemons right back at Life. Life, take back your lemons, I don’t want them! You can’t even do much with lemons anyway!

Then Life is all “No take-backs!” and I’m stuck with these freaking lemons.

This season has been a doozy for me. Nothing particularly heartbreaking or life-altering has happened, but little things that didn’t go the way I wanted them to have been piling up and eating my insides. It’s easy to let this spill over into 90% of conversations I have:

“I just need to vent for a second.”

At every little defeat I have been throwing myself a pity party and I wanted everyone else to join in with me. I’m all for lending a listening ear, but I received an attitude check the other day when I was “venting” to a friend. I realized that I was not speaking life-giving words. My heart was bitter, my joy was diminished, and I didn’t feel any better after my vent-sesh because nothing was actually different. All of this whining left a gross aftertaste in my mouth, which usually means I should start praying.

And get my hands on some Orbit.

My generation has this stigma where everyone is allowed to whine about their life on social media if any part of it is not what the world told us we should expect. Humor is sarcastic and opinions are critical instead of constructive. All of this hostility is not becoming of us, Millennials. We look like a bunch of Pig Pens from the Peanuts walking around with a dusty cloud of negativity that infects everything we touch. Posting on social media about how much your day sucks over mine doesn’t change the situation we’re in, it just makes us look grimy.

Whether I vent to a friend or on social media, asking others to validate my problems is just another form of complaining.

And complainers are annoying. We all know them, too – they’re the people where when you ask “How are you?” they  respond with everything going wrong in their life. Complainers are joy-suckers. They magnify their own life’s little tragedies over seeking joy in ALL circumstances. It’s selfish, really. Complaining isn’t something we were made to do, and yet we default to it so easily whenever things go wrong.

This doesn’t mean that we are not allowed to feel sad or frustrated by life’s circumstances. I also think it’s important for healthy, honest sharing to happen within communities about where people are at spiritually – and that might include some parts that aren’t all shiny and happy. But there is a way to still be resilient by recognizing that things don’t always go the way we want them to and still choosing to walk forward.

Resilience has much less to do with my feelings and much more to do with my choices. Resilience is choosing joy, despite circumstance.

Choosing joy in a sucky circumstance is simple: you create it.

God is a fixer. A redeemer. A healer. A re-arranger of sorts. God is making – it’s a process, people! – ALL things new.

Creating is the exact opposite of complaining. When someone creates, they are proactively not being ok with the present state of things and have chosen to change it into something different. Creating ushers in newness and wipes away the grimy layer of negativity, defeat, and even apathy about the way things currently are. When I create, I feel satisfied and full because that’s what I am made to do: to make and fill and subdue this earth.

You don’t have to be an artist or a musician to create. You can enjoy the process of making anything – whether that’s writing a poem, arranging flowers, coding something fun, forging a new trail on a run, or cooking really bomb enchiladas. Exercising your creative muscle is less about the outcome and more about the healing process of making something new out of what you have now.

For the past two weeks, every time I felt that little swell of “woe is me” rising up, I chose differently. I cooked a meal. I tried a new hair style. I lettered a verse for a friend. I learned a new dance and sang a new song and I haven’t once felt like moping, even on the especially gray days.

It’s hard to throw a pity party when you’re in the process of creating something different. So next time if Life hands me lemons, I could whine about how annoying they are and how I can’t even do much with lemons… or I could squeeze the crap out of them make something useful. If I don’t have sugar for lemonade, the least I could do is make a salad dressing.

 

go to Alaska & feel really small.

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I read once that great writers have daily writing rituals. They write in the same spot, at the same time, with the same cup of coffee in their favorite mug and are able to create deliberate and meaningful stories.

I’m writing this blog post from airport rocking chairs, airplanes, and charter busses. It is not stationary. It is not methodical or disciplined. But it is on purpose. So I’ll sit here and frantically thumb (I would say pen, but that’s not the reality of typing 1200 words on your iPhone) out what I think needs to be said before it disappears.


I used to hate feeling small.

All throughout elementary school, all I ever wanted was to be in the second row of the bleachers for school picture day. But every year I was always the third shortest in my class and my dreams of being in the second row were postponed until the next growth spurt. Being small meant I was seen as cute instead of capable. It was a constant fight to be seen, heard, and taken seriously. Maybe that’s because I was a girl rather than just small and often passed over, but that’s a whole different conversation. Basically, I have spent the majority of my life trying to never be small, because being small is scary. It meant I didn’t have power or safety or control.

Now, the word small takes on a different connotation. It means beautiful, desirable, and feminine. There’s a different kind of frustration wrapped up in the word because this kind of small is so darn relative. One day, average Emily will feel quite small and dainty and wanted. The next day, average Emily will feel like a clunky, repulsive giant who drags her knuckles and bumps into every corner in her living room. Real graceful, I know.

I don’t think I’m the only woman who struggles with desiring to be “small” in our culture. So many women I know expend countless hours of time and energy making themselves smaller in an effort to feel beautiful. I could go on and on about women’s equality (one of my absolute favorite topics) in the home, in the church, and in the workplace but I’ll just end this discussion of the word small with this thought:

Women have tried for many years to gain the same respect and opportunities as men and yet we still feel we have to diminish ourselves – whether that is physically or with what types of words we use and say.

We are still under the stigma to be small, and I don’t like it.

I hated the word small, and then I visited a place where the only logical feeling that made sense was “small”.

Juneau, Alaska is described as America’s most beautiful capital city, and that’s being modest. All throughout university I had friends travel here for the summer to drive tour busses or fish, each one of them raving about Juneau’s amazing views but me never fully believing them. People tend to embellish. Recently, I had a friend move to Juneau and we always joked about how I should take a mini-vacation away sometime. I guess this just shows that I have no shame in accepting these kinds of offers, but I bought myself a ticket and flew out to Alaska shortly afterward. I mean, who goes to Alaska in November? This gal! I could pretend that I went because I wanted to find answers or whatever, but really I went because I love traveling, I missed my friend, and I wanted to see snow.

I did need a weekend away though. One if the reasons I left is because Bellingham started to feel small, and we all know how much I despise that feeling. It felt constricting and it made me sad that it’s so cold and there’s no snow. So I bought a plane ticket.

The minute the plane landed my breath was taken away. If Juneau is beautiful in the summer, imagine how stunning this little town nestled in the mountains is with snow falling. My heart exploded from the beauty and grace that surrounded me. It was the most gorgeous image of solitude and so I did what any introvert would do – I cozied up in my friend’s apartment with a book and I fell asleep shortly after, content to just sit and stare out the window until I fell asleep.

I pretty much did this all weekend and it was the best.

God knows what we need. A few days later, we needed the sun to come out and glory! It did. Those mountains were practically begging us to spend time with them and this PNW girl was not complaining about it.

On Sunday during a break in the weather we hopped in the car and took off to discover. Everything was beautiful and clean and wild. Juneau is full of colors – bright turquoise and soft purples and sturdy browns. I had no words for Mendenhall glacier or the little island-shine we visited, only squeals of delight and the occasional “Oh my gosh just look at it!”

Being surrounded by the grandeur of Juneau’s mountains made me feel small again, but this was a new kind of small. I had only experienced a fraction of this kind of smallness before, often in solitary places when I pray. This sense of smallness was safe and seen. It was as if only God knew exactly where I was at that point in time. That kind of seclusion helped me silence the loud opinions this world chokes me with and to hear the small voice of Truth. That kind of small put me in right relation with a God whose majesty goes far beyond Alaskan mountains. It was gentle and humble and good.

For so long I fought smallness because it felt vulnerable and weak. I came at life on the offense, arms swinging in a desperate attempt to be bigger and be seen saying “Look at what I can do! Look at what I can achieve despite my smallness! Don’t I have worth? Am I valuable yet?”

God kneeled down to me in those mountains in an intimate, unseen, small moment and told me to stand down. To put my blazing guns away and stop letting the world name me anything else than what He already established at the beginning. God looked at me and called me “Beloved”.

“Here is My servant, whom I have chosen, My beloved, in whom My soul delights.” // Matthew 12:18

So now here I am, sitting small on a charter bus repeating my name to myself over and over until it sounds true – Beloved, Beloved, Beloved. Now I’m forever searching for the places that make me feel small.

hurry up and wait.

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One of my favorite jobs in college was working on my university’s catering team as a server for one summer. Not only did my coworkers rock, but in catering you got to go to all of the fancy alumni parties off campus and when those fancy alumni parties were over you got to eat the leftover fancy food. For a cheap college student, this translated into lunch for the next week which was a miracle in and of itself.

Serving teaches you a lot. For example, it’s true that the best test of a good judge of character is how well the person treats their wait staff. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, here’s a starting point: 1) tip them well, 2) call them by their name, and 3) be a kind person. Seriously, if you want to know if you’re dating a keeper, take them out to dinner and see if they are nice to their waiter/waitress. You can thank me later.

Other things I learned catering/serving are how to work on a team, the importance of making friends in your workplace – shoutout to the cooks who would sneak me snacks when I worked weird hours and had been starving since 7am – and how to be humble, gracious, and smile even though your feet are killing you. All essential life skills.

One of the sayings we used to encompass what we did on the catering team was “Hurry up and wait.” It means exactly what it says: hustle to get all of your preparation for the next thing done but don’t do anything too hastily, because Table 7 is still working on their appetizer and you don’t want to ruin their experience by rushing them.

Right now, I’m hurrying up and waiting.

Life post-grad speeds up and slows down all at once. I graduated in June 2015, I blinked, and Christmas decorations are being put up in the supermarkets. Time seems to be moving at an exponential rate with every year gone by (cue Keith Urban here). Life doesn’t move at 3-month or 4-year intervals anymore, and routine can make the days seem less like an adventure. There hasn’t been much change in my life since June, when normally by September there would be a completely different daily routine for me to navigate. For a change-junkie like myself, this was really rough to adjust to.

I believe that if you don’t like where you are, then you should change it (just another example of my change addiction). I once chopped off 9-inches off my hair just because I didn’t like where my life was headed and I somehow felt like this would fix it, but that’s a good story for another time.

Feeling stagnant and lame made me crave newness. I didn’t know what that meant, but I just felt in my heart of hearts that I should seek a new season whatever that may be.

And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” And then he said to me, “Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true.” // Revelation 21:5

I’m hurrying up because I know that God’s promises are true. The things that He has coming for me – a hope and a future – seem so near, like they’re right around the corner I just can’t touch them yet. It feels like there are so many preparations that need to get done before those things happen.

There is hurry in my life because I know that time moves faster and faster every day and I have a glimpse of what is to come. My natural tendency is to work work work until all of the details are figured out, but that’s not how God works. God works patiently and meticulously, not knowing the exact steps but knowing where He’s going. He is painfully patient and waits for me to catch on. So I will wait, too.

I know that has been promised to me will come faster than I ever anticipated and I want to be grateful for where God has me today. He has me here in my little college town, living with the best roommates a gal could ask for, and is telling me to just breathe for a bit. Rushing to the next season only takes away from experiencing the moments happening right now. Rest is such a gift and even though this season seems stagnant, there are so many things to be thankful for and find peace in.

Patience is hard for me, but I’m learning to stop and hold on to the “now” rather than trying to see the “almost”.

here’s to the dreamers.

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It is common knowledge that if you want to get better at something, you should do that something more often. It’s the whole “10,o00 Hours” theory. The funny thing about most things is that the more often you do it, the better you become at it.

Unless we’re talking about eating kale, because the more kale I eat the less I like that stuff.

I have enjoyed writing for as long as I can remember. Journals were my constant companion growing up and I wrote about everything from pre-teen crushes to the deep, philosophical thoughts a suburban middle child can have at the ripe age of fourteen. The first time I realized I was actually addicted to writing was in the seventh grade. Our teacher assigned my class to write a suspenseful short story that was required to be *gasp* 5 PAGES LONG, double-spaced of course. My story was about a middle school mystery where the suspect used a laser pointer to strike fear into the hero of our tale as he solved the crimes committed and tried to impress his best friend that was a girl (definitely different than a girlfriend) in hopes that she would “like him back”. It was 17-pages long and had chapters.

I’ve also always liked words because they make the impossible possible. Words strung together create stories and stories make people dream. That’s why I like writing so much: it makes me shed my comfortable layers of reason and allow me to dream a little.

Now that I’m older, slightly wiser, and college-educated I am very much aware that an excellent short story can have character development, struggle, redemption and conclusion well within a 5-page limit. But something happened during those beginning years of growing up: instead of writing every day I would write when it was convenient. I quickly dismissed my English professors when they told me to consider majoring in Literature or Creative Writing because it was impractical. What do you do with that?

Later I would learn that 90% of the time, your major doesn’t matter in the “real world” and if I spent half of the energy I used discovering my major, I could’ve ran a marathon. Or two. Or knit a blanket or done something useful.

I never fully quit writing, to this day I still keep a journal, but I let it take a backseat to more logical uses of free time for an undergrad student – such as learning how to cook a meal without noodles or binge watching Netflix until I forgot about that one assignment due tomorrow. The older I became, the more I traded dreaming for practicality. It felt like there wasn’t a space for my lofty goals among the daily stressors of passing classes, maintaining healthy relationships and ultimately trying to become a stably employed adult in the world. There were plenty of people I could talk to about my career. There were very few people who seemed to care about cultivating my dreams with me.

All of this brings us to now: post-graduate, working full-time, living my life in a perfectly “normal” way that left me feeling comfortable and unsatisfied all at once. That is until I woke up one day this summer and decided that I was going to do something that challenges me because I never want to wake up 10 years later, look back and say, “What just happened?”

It makes me uncomfortable to publish my thoughts for the world to see and judge, especially with the amount of run-on sentences I’m prone to use and the slang that’s likely to emerge over time as I get used to writing like this. It makes me nervous to think that maybe only one person besides me will ever read this or that what I’m experiencing no one else may relate with or care to read about. It’s scary to be vulnerable enough to write down the things that actually matter, but it’s a good kind of scary. It’s the kind of scary I want my story to be about.

This blog exists because I want to develop my dreaming muscle. My desire to create, to make, and to inspire hope through publishing my thoughts is what powered this blog. My hope is that it will encourage just one person to see their story as something worth living well and will create a space where you feel like you belong, Dreamer.  So here’s to the Dreamers: this is for you.