Thursday, December 29, 2016

Wendy and Rey: A love story.

"In the flush of love's light, we dare be brave and suddenly we see that love costs all we are, and will ever be. Yet is it only love which sets us free."

Love is scary. It's portrayed as this big boisterous monster that swoops into your heart unexpectedly and makes you fall head over heels for someone. It's described as the naked child with the bag full of arrows shooting the first person his eyes land on and his stupid arrows can reach.

We grow up with these images of love in magazines, television shows and movies and it all seems so easy and so unbelievable. They make love look so doable but also so unsustainable, it happens all at once and then the movie is over but you don't see what happens next.

What happens when the little quirks that they loved become the small things that they're starting to hate? What happens when their core values don't match? What happens when they get into another argument about the same old thing and their tempers get the best of them? What happens when the magic wears off?

I don't see a lot of movies that portray those things. Films that get to the heart of life and not only show you the bells and whistles but also the thorns and spurs. I didn't learn the ABC's of lasting love from movies but I did learn it from my parents.

It wasn't until recently that I became aware of all of the lessons that I've learned about love from watching my parents choose to love each other everyday of my entire life. My parents have been married for 36 years and I've been lucky enough to be an eye witness for 27 of those lovely years.

If I use my parents as my main example I can tell you that love is so much more than just an hour long movie or a lifetime special. Love is choosing to quit your job and live off of one income to home school seven children and make sure that they have the best education possible. Love is having patience and being intentional about being kind and using thoughtful language even after working long exhausting days.

Love is a choice. Love is choosing, after 36 years, to still go on adventures and to still do the things that made you fall in love in the first place. The real thing, the 'we've been married for 50 years' kind of love, does not just happen with the flick of cupid's wrist. Real love takes work, it takes effort, it requires that you die to yourself and put the well being and needs of that other person before your own and that they do the same for you.

The stories that I see in movies and on TV pale in comparison to the romance, commitment and love that I've seen my whole life in my parent's relationship.

I used to think that I didn't know what love was. I thought that I would be scared when I found it and that being in love meant that I had to lose pieces of myself. None of that is true. I know what love is. I know love because I've been surrounded by it my entire life. I know love because God goes out of his way to saturate me in his daily. I know love.

So whenever I get to that point in my relationship where all of my daily decisions lead me to falling in love, I'll know what to do. I won't run, like I always thought I would but rather I'll continue to make choices that nourish and build our love. I'll embody the patience of my father and the thoughtfulness of my mother and create a life that teaches my children what a real and authentic love story looks like.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Single women, society and social media.

Last week, on December 16th I got the most likes I've ever gotten on a post, 407  to be exact. I changed my status from single to in a relationship and it seemed like everyone I know took notice.

Social media and I have quite the strange relationship. It's one of my favorite things because of the way that it gives me access to my friends and family that are scattered all over the globe as well as to ideas and concepts from people that I may never meet.

I love posting pictures on Instagram and posting blog updates and life updates on Facebook and reading the updates of my friends and family. It's cool to be able to update a bunch of people at once about what's going on, especially when you don't have time to call or text all of them individually. What I don't love is the way that it can be used as an avenue for hate and discord and how it has the ability to give us a false sense of community and connection.

This week I found myself waist deep in some feelings that I didn't really expect to have. This year I've been so excited to post about different things that are going on in my life. In March I got a new job with Goodwill and I've been loving every minute of it. I moved into an adorable little carriage house in a suburb of Denver and started adulting hardcore. I helped plant a church in Denver in September and it's been one of the most enriching and out of my comfort zone experiences of my life so far.

None of that got anywhere close to the attention or likes that Patrick and I's relationship update got and that kind of made me feel a little weird.

I've talked to a few people about this, my dad, Patrick and a few of my coworkers and it's so interesting the value that is put on a female getting into a relationship, getting married or having children. When so many people commented on my relationship status, I was excited but it also made me feel like none of my other accomplishments compared to this one.

Am I reading too much into this? Or is there a real issue with society and the way that we view and value the accomplishments of single women?

I loved being single. I was happy, fulfilled, content and so driven. I didn't start living when I got into a relationship, it has definitely added to my happiness and I hope that it will for years to come but it didn't create it.

I'm not annoyed that so many people reached out when I started dating Patrick, believe me I totally get it, but it did force me to reflect on a few things.

As I write this, I realize that I'm guilty of everything that I'm blogging about. I've called and congratulated friends about engagements and baby announcements and sometimes have only liked or even over looked posts about graduations, or new jobs or life ventures. I haven't always been the feminist and supportive friend that I've hoped to see in the world and for that I feel bad.

So I'm sorry if you're a female and my friend and I haven't congratulated you on all of the milestones that you've reached in life. If I didn't reach out after you bought your own house, finished graduate school, paid off your student loans or did something that was truly amazing I apologize.

You're more than your relationship status, that's apart of your story but it's not your ENTIRE story.

So yes, I am in a relationship. I'm beyond excited about Patrick and the potential that I see in what we have. I'm more than open to talk and share about the relationship and I'm also really excited to talk about everything else going on in my life.

This post isn't meant to condemn anyone. If you reached out to me recently about what's going on in my life, please know that I appreciate you. What this is meant to do is to just be a space where I can be open and authentic about what I'm feeling and how recently in the midst of a really happy moment I found myself feeling strange.

So there you go, those are my thoughts for this week. They're not so pretty this time, a little rough around the edges but they're real and I hope that's good enough.

Until next time! Xoxo.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

The freedom of childhood.

When I was a little girl I remember that right before a big storm, when the sky was dark and the flood gates were moments away from opening my mom would present us with a proposition.

She would challenge us to try and run across the yard to the fence and back before the rain started. As silly as it sounds whenever the chance presented itself we would always say yes. Sometimes she would run with us and other times she would stand on the back porch and laugh as we tried to touch the fence and get back to the house.

I used to really miss those days. Days where I was just a kid, waiting to grow up. The days where I would feel so free running through the grass as the sky got dark and the rain got closer. I felt so alive in those moments.

Moments where all we cared about, my siblings and I, was making my mom laugh and reaching the fence and then the house before the rain reached us. Sometimes we were successful and we'd barrel into the house one after another, out of breath but full on joy.

We had less worries back then. We didn't care so much about messing up our clothes or pulling out our phones so that we could put it on snapchat or about feeling or looking stupid. We would just run.

The reason I say that I used to miss those days is because I recently realized that the freedom of being a child does not have to be lost in adulthood. Children are free, in my opinion because they're trusting, they see the best in people and the situations they're placed in. Children don't search for faults but rather search for opportunities to love.

 When I was a kid and my mom told us to run through the grass, right before the craziness of a storm, we didn't stop and ask her what her intentions were. It never crossed our minds that we could get hurt running or that she might lock us out of the house or make fun of us for doing something so silly. We were kids and she was our mom, we trusted her, no questions asked.

I'm not saying that as adults we need to be 100% free and trusting of every situation and person that comes our way. I'm saying that if someone tells you that they're not going anywhere, that they care about you, that they want to invest in you, believe them.

Give them a chance to show you that if they send you out into the yard, with the impending storm only moments away, that they won't shut the door as you race back.

Relationships are tricky. They are tricky all by themselves without any additional baggage or weirdness but when we add fear to the mix, when we add the skepticism that adulthood often brings we make things even more difficult.

I wonder how our relationships, my relationships, would be different if we entered them with childlike faith, childlike trust, childlike love.

Jesus says to his disciples in Matthew 18, that unless they were to change and become like little children they would never enter into the kingdom of heaven. I've spent a lot of time thinking about that scripture and what I can say for certain is that I know that Jesus wasn't telling them to go backwards in their development or to start dressing like kids.

I think that Jesus was presenting them with a very clear and tangible example of living a life without fear. A life that is free to love, to be loved, to trust and to have faith...the life of a child.

How would you love differently if you did so without any fear? Don't just skim by that question, I want you to really think about it. What would be different in your life if you loved without any concern of rejection or humiliation but rather an openness to the possibilities that life had to offer you.

I'm still setting my intentions for the new year but something that's very high on my list is opening my heart and my life up to the love that I deserve. So often I shy away from things that are real. I tend to settle for the mediocrity of average relationships and that's not something I'm willing to do anymore. I'm not willing to miss what's real for the comfort and safety of the superficial.

So continuing with the theme of preparing for the life that we want in 2017, I say  to the grave with fear. Lets put fear to death and embrace the freedom and the hope that comes from loving like a child.

"There is an endless possibility for God to create a world within us, a world transformed through the bravery of perfect love."

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Vision and Goals

On December 28th of 2015 I grabbed my journal went into my room and wrote out my vision and my goals for 2016. In the past, time and time again, year after year I had written out my new years resolution and they would only last for about a month or two at the most.

I would come up with these lists and be super excited about them for a few weeks and then before the holiday cheer had gotten a chance to wear off, my resolutions were a thing of the past. I know I'm not alone in this, I read a statistic the other day that said only 8% of Americans are successful at achieving and sticking to their New Years resolutions.

So I decided that I didn't want to do resolutions anymore but the idea of setting goals and creating a vision for my life each year was something that I was very attracted to. So that's what I did.

I went into my room and took a good long look at my life. Where did I see myself in twelve months? What kind of life did I want? What kind of people did I want in my life? How did I want to look in a year? How was my spiritual life doing and did I want to improve it?

All of those questions led to me coming up with 5 areas of my life that I wanted to improve. The areas that I identified were faith, relationships, finances, fitness and outreach. So I developed goals that fit each of those areas and wrote them down in my journal. I didn't just write things like "improve my physical fitness" instead I wrote "develop a routine of exercising 5 times a week and plan my meals and workouts at the beginning of the week." That's just one line from my fitness goal but as you can see it was specific and clear it wasn't general and undefined.

I wrote out steps for how I would achieve each goal and I didn't wait until January first to start. As soon as I closed my notebook the vision that I created for my life began. To stay on track I set up a biweekly reminder in my phone that would help me to remember to go back to my goals and see if I was on track and if not how I could get back to that.

I would be a big fat liar if I said that I was always diligent about doing these biweekly check-ins. Sometimes weeks would go by where I didn't take a moment to sit down and read over my goals and check my progress. Since it was new, I had to train myself to stay on track and to be consistent and intentional about the life I wanted and the type of person I wanted to be.

Today I looked back at my vision and the goals I set for this year and I've  achieved all of them except for one. One of them I made bigger than myself, knowing that it was a stretch but wanting to try it anyway. I might not have been fully successful but if I wouldn't have written it down and attempted it I wouldn't be as far as I am today.

I'm sharing all of this with you today to say that you don't have to wait until the first of the year to change your life. You can start today. Today you can take a moment to sit down and come up with five or less areas of your life that you would like to see improvement in. Five areas of your life where you can be intentional and diligent about putting in the work and turning those weak spots into strengths.

I haven't started working on my vision and goals for 2017 yet but after reading over my 2016 goals and seeing how well I did I'm beyond excited to do it.

I strongly encourage you to consider taking the steps to making your life exactly the way that you want it to be. If you're unhappy, you don't have to stay that way. If you lack financial responsibility, today is a great day to set your mind on working on that. If you don't like the person you see in the mirror, right now is the time to change that.

If you're not sure where to start or if you just need some support please don't hesitate to reach out to me in the comments section and I'll do what I can to help. You're one decision away from starting a journey that could potentially change the course of your life. The moment is now, what are you waiting for?

Until next time. Xoxo.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

A Christlike grace.

The other day after getting to work, I went outside to get some coffee and when I walked past my car I realized that something was different. There was a scratch on the back left side and the light lens was cracked. I sat there for quite a while confused about what had happened and eventually I reached the conclusion that someone had hit my car while I was home for vacation.

I spent a large part of my morning calling shops in the area trying to find the best place that I could go to get it fixed. I wasn't angry but I was very annoyed that I had to pay for something that I didn't do.

I now needed to take time out of my work day and make phone calls and adjust my monthly budget in order to factor in this unexpected work on my car. Work that needed to be done because of someone else's negligence.  This person's lack of responsibility for their actions resulted in me feeling inconvenienced and like I was being punished for what some random idiot did. 

Most people don't like being blamed or punished for something that they didn't do. If a little kid gets in trouble for a spill that their sibling created they'll scream and cry out about the injustice. As adults we're the same way. We complain, get annoyed and are so bothered when we have to clean up the mess that someone else created. Why am I the one that has to suffer when I didn't even do anything wrong? 

Today I was thinking about my situation and how unfair it all is and then my mind suddenly went to the cross. II Corinthians 5:21 says "For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him."

My perfect and blameless savior became sin for me. Christ knew not sin but he decide to become it and pay the price for it so that I could be made righteous in him. 

I am so humbled by that truth. Humbled and embarrassed actually. Embarrassed that a person like myself, someone that has lied, has taken what doesn't belong to them and has lived the farthest thing from a perfect life could be so upset about paying the price for someone else. 

Christ died on the cross for me. He died for me and he died for you. Christ died for people that would never believe in him. People who will always argue his existence, curse his name and persecute those who love him. He died for the liars, the cheaters, the murderers, the racists, the pedophiles, the lost, the dirty and the marginalized. 

The perfect one, the one who knew no sin, laid down his life so that I could have the chance to find mine. 

Living a life that models the behavior and example that Christ set is a constant struggle for me. I have to die to myself daily. I have to constantly check myself and call myself out on my selfish and 'woe is me' behavior that in no way portrays the image of the father. 

Often when I'm writing I feel like I want to not only present an issue and discuss it but also at the end I want to provide a solution. Today, I have no solutions for you. If I'm being completely transparent and honest I'm sitting here still convicted about my feelings and the only thing that's giving me peace is knowing the sacrifice that Christ made for me. 

I am so blessed. Scratched car, cracked light lens and all...I am tremendously blessed by the sacrifice and the grace of the cross. May I be the type of person that extends that type of grace to those around me. The type of grace that forgives those who will never apologize and pays the price for a debt that I do not owe. The type of grace that though blameless is willing to wear the blame for another. 

The type of grace that models his sacrifice. A Christlike grace.   

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving

The longer I work in the Public school system, with under served youth from so many diverse and often hard to imagine backgrounds the more grateful I become for the opportunity to always go home.

Next week, for the holidays I'll be spending the whole week with my family and I am so looking forward to it. There's something so comforting in knowing that no matter how far I go that I'm always welcome home. That's a feeling that I don't take for granted because I know that not everyone gets to feel that way.

As humans we all long for community, for a home. I believe that we all have within us a desire to be welcomed by others, to have a place where we can let down all of our walls and just be.

I don't know if you know what it's like to feel lost or alone, like you don't belong anywhere or don't have a place to call home. I've never had those feelings myself but I've seen them, I've seen them in the eyes of students. Young people that are too young to know the feeling of rejection from the people that they call family.

I've never felt it but I've seen it and seeing it and being around it makes me hurt to my heart. It makes me value the home and the community that I have but it also makes me want to create that everywhere I go. I want to learn how to make the students that I interact with and the people that I meet feel safe, feel like they have a community and most importantly feel at home.

As I count down the days to Thanksgiving I can't help but to audibly acknowledge my blessings and all of the things that I'm grateful for. I'm grateful for my parents and the safe haven that they've always created in our home. I'm grateful for my siblings and how we always advocate for and support each other. I'm grateful for my church community, that they're not just people that I interact with on Sunday's but people I do life with.

I'm grateful for my friends and how they are continually putting up with my craziness. I'm grateful for the gifts and the talents that the Lord has blessed me with and how I've been able to use them to glorify his kingdom.

 Right now, more than anything, I'm beyond grateful for my job and the way that it exposes me to situations that I had never seen before. Situations that show me how to have a little more compassion, a little more patience, a little more empathy.

I struggle sometimes with putting myself in other people's shoes and allowing myself to settle into their skin, to see the world from their perspective. Sometimes I'm so deep in my own life that I forget to look up and take in what's going on around me.

 As I get ready to spend an awesome week at home I can't help but to see all of those that aren't sure of where or with who they'll spend the holiday. My favorite holiday, the one where I'm surrounded by so much love and laughter is for others a day where they're reminded of how alone they feel.

How can those of us that know what it's like to have a home and a community make ourselves available to be a source of love for those that are lacking it? I don't know all of the answers but I do know that love is the starting point. I wasn't there when my parents first decided to start a life together and to build a home but I think that love was the main component. So if we're sincere in our intentions and we love others, maybe just maybe, they'll feel like they belong...maybe with us they'll feel like they have a home.

Happy thanksgiving everyone. May you be surrounded by love this holiday season and may that fuel you to love others.


Thursday, November 10, 2016

Someone who cares.

"Dear Nicole, Thanks for coming to our school and taking your time to teach us about your career. The moment I heard you, a spark came up. The way you talked about what you did made me realize how much I'd want to be like you. Someone who has passion and loves their job. I want to be like you. Someone who cares."

In 2011, when I traveled as a student in Up with People there was a word that we used quite often. A seemingly normal word developed and grew into something that defined my semester abroad and the years that followed. 

After we'd have meetings or huddles, right before we'd start a new project or tackle a new challenge we would break on the word 'Burn'. Burn was more than just  a word, it was a declaration, it was a call to action. Burn was a reminder to always be the spark that lights the flame, to always empower. 

During my student semester abroad I would pump myself up on difficult days by saying the word burn and trying to implement it into my day. I remember one day in particular, I had to do an educational workshop in a difficult class. The students didn't seem very engaged and not at all excited that we were there. I thought to myself if I can inspire these young adults, if I can allow my passion to bleed onto their lives then I'll be doing something right, I'll be burning. 

I walked into that class with a fire burning in my eyes and passion roaring in my chest. I gave them everything I had and when I left I felt like there was a heat on my back from the excitement and the energy that was left in the class. For the first time in my life, I felt like I had made a real difference, like I had changed the atmosphere of the room instead of it changing me. 

I started this post with a letter that I got from a student that I met a few weeks ago. In October I spoke on a career panel at a high school in Denver; my topic was education and I spoke about the different jobs I've had and how they fit into the field of education. I spent a majority of my time on the panel laughing with the students and telling them about all of the times that I changed my mind about what I wanted to do with my life. Each rotation ended with me telling them about how broad and exciting the education field is and how it has changed my life. I burned so bright that day.

I grew up never wanting to be a teacher, never wanting to work in education. I wanted to change the world, I wanted my name to be written down in books and for everyone to always remember me. As I got older, as I was changed by education and educators I realized that the way to change the world, the way to make a real impact is through education. 

It's through my career in education that I was able to travel all over the world. It was through education that I was given the chance to speak in front of classrooms on 4 different continents and share my opinions and encourage conversation among youth. It's through education that I get the chance to work with students all over Denver, helping them to see their worth and the possibilities that their future holds. 

Reading that letter from that student kind of made me have an 'I can't believe this is my life' moment. I can't believe that I've grown up to become the person that I am today. Someone that loves young adults and fights for their dreams, someone that a student meets for 15 minutes and knows right away that I care about them. Someone that burns in every aspect of their life. 

I hope that you've found your passion in life. I hope it roars inside of your chest and you use it everyday to make a difference. I hope when you meet people that they look into your eyes and know that you're not just floating through life but rather you're on a mission, you're walking in your purpose. 

I hope that you burn. I hope you burn so bright that you ignite every single being that you come in contact with. I hope one day, you get a letter from a person that you met for only a few moments. A letter that tells you how you've changed their life. I hope you change the world. 

"The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn."

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Portland and me.

For my birthday this year, I decided to take a trip and it ended up being so much more than just a vacation. My goal was adventure, laughter and time in a new place surrounded by people that didn't know my name. I wanted to be immersed in greenery and create poems whilst getting lost in all that Portland had to offer me.

When the plane landed in Portland and it hit me what I was doing, traveling in a brand new city all alone, I couldn't stop smiling. I was grinning like a five year old at everyone who looked my way and that feeling of excitement and joy stayed with me the entire trip.

Portland is irrefutably beautiful. The scenery is healthy and inviting and the people are busy but kind. There's a sense of hustle and bustle in the city of Portland and in the demeanor's of the people quickly passing by. Though they seemed to be in a hurry, I was comforted by the fact that anytime I smiled in someone's direction, I was met with kind eyes and a returned smile.

I celebrated my 25th birthday in Mexico and to be funny my friends decided to trick me and pretend like they didn't remember what day it was. I knew that it was just a joke and that at some point I would be overwhelmed with presents and so much love but for a moment I felt so alone. I thought to myself that I hoped I'd never have to spend my birthday by myself, surrounded by people that didn't know what a special day it was.

On my 27th birthday I wore all of my favorite things, with the most important thing being my roommates Minnesota Twins hat. I put my umbrella and scarf in my backpack, along with my journal and headed over to a local spot to have brunch. I ordered two eggs, potatoes and a biscuit and I ate alone while reading 'Bossy Pants' by Tina Fey, it was exactly how I envisioned starting my birthday. Alone but far from lonely.

I was comforted by the fact that no one around me knew how special of a day I was about to have and humbled by the thought that maybe everyone else would be celebrating special moments as well. I walked around with a smile on my face and what felt like a secret in my heart. There I was, only a few hours into being 27 and it was already my most exciting birthday yet.

Growing up a twin, my birthday was never just for me. Even though it was annoying in the early years I grew to love it as I got older. I looked forward to that day and spent it being reminded that from the womb I had a partner in crime, someone to venture through this journey of life with. As the years passed and decisions took us in different directions we spent our birthdays together less and less. I can't remember the last time my brother and I entered into a new year while living in the same city. My brother will always be my twin and we'll always share a birthday but this year, for some reason, I felt like October 26 was mine, made just for me.

Portland was the sentence that ended this most recent chapter in my life. It reminded me of who I've been, who I am and who I want to be. It confronted old insecurities and doubts and reminded me of the hope that's so deeply embedded in my blood and the strength beating in my chest. I've never liked myself more. never been more content with my life, never felt more connected to the lives ebbing and flowing around my own. 

If you're responsibility free and have the money and the time, I strongly encourage you to take a trip by yourself. Go to a city that you've never been to before, stay somewhere cool, bring a journal, talk to strangers and immerse yourself completely in your own company.

It took me turning 27 and traveling to a random tree filled city to be reminded of the peace and joy that the Lord has placed within my heart. 26 was an amazing age filled with excitement, transition, love and so much happiness but 27 will be better. 27, is already better.

Thanks for keeping up with me. Until next time friends. Xoxo. 

Thursday, October 20, 2016

From 26 year old me, to you.

The longer I live the more I learn about life, love and these beautiful creatures called humans that inhabit this earth. The longer I live, the more I learn about myself and where all of my mannerisms and behaviors come from.

Today, I want to share with you three random life things that I think are valuable. Things that I strive to keep in mind when flowing through this wild experience. All of these things were taught to me by people that I not only love very much but more importantly, that I respect and look up to. Check em out, put them in your volt if you think that they're valuable and feel free to leave them right here if you don't.

1. The power of a name.
One of the sweetest sounds to a person's ears is the sound of their own name. There is so much power in remembering someones name when you meet them and using it in conversation. When I have a waiter/ waitress I always make sure to ask their name and use it during the time that they're serving our table. When I call a customer service line, I do my best to remember their name and to thank them by name at the end of the call. Learning and using someone's name not only brightens their day and reminds them of their value, but it also empowers you to listen more than you talk and to ask more questions than you answer.

2. Treat the CEO the same way as the janitor.
I've mentioned this before in my blog but our worth and our value is not found in what job we do and what positions we hold. We are loved by the Father and he sent his son to die for every single one of us. Now, most people won't tell you this, but if you live as if everyone is important, as if we're all on the same playing field and treat everyone with care and respect you'll have so much favor in this world. So whether they own the company or they clean it, aim to treat them with as much kindness and respect as you can.

3. Listen more than you speak.
We live in a time where social media gives everyone a platform to express how they feel about every topic under the sun. Whether they're sharing their thoughts on politics or oppression or the latest celebrity scandal everyone feels the need to be heard. How many of us are taking the time to listen? I've been listening to a lot of speakers and preachers lately and the biggest trend I've noticed is a call for their congregations to aim to understand before being understood. To strive to be the type of person that takes the time to listen to the pain, anger and heartache of another before sharing your views. To be courteous enough to lend an ear before sharing a post. How many problems in this world would be solved by us taking the time to listen rather than taking advantage of every moment we have to speak?

In less than a week I'm going to be turning 27. I will be spending my birthday in Portland, Oregon exploring a new city by myself and I am beyond excited for my trip. As I phase into this new year of life I pray that I'm the type of person that doesn't just share my opinion, but values and listens to the opinions of others.

Thank you checking this post out and for supporting me on this blogging journey. The next time you hear from me, I won't be 26 anymore and what a glorious day that will be.

Until next time friends! Xoxo.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

The right to speak.

"You will continue to suffer if you have an emotional reaction to everything that is said to you. True power is sitting back and observing everything with logic; true power is restraint. If words control you that means everyone else can control you; breathe and allow things to pass."

Growing up the things that people would say to me would come in one ear, float around my heart and pull up a chair to stay forever. I was so easily moved by the words that my siblings would throw my way that even when they were kidding around, odds are that I would end up crying.

Years of experience, going to college, traveling the's all toughened me up a bit. I'm not as sensitive as I used to be. Words don't just fly by me but they definitely don't take root in my soul like they used to.

With that being said, lately, I've found the sensitivity and the knee jerk reaction to respond harshly or be easily angered trying to creep it's way back into my life.

When it comes to subjects that I'm very  passionate about like the Black Lives Matter movement, my faith/ the church community and our current political situation my patience has started to run so thin. I've struggled in engaging in conversations with people who have differing opinions and find myself mentally shutting down when I start to hear comments and views that I think are ignorant.

Saturday I went for an almost two hour walk in my neighborhood by myself. I went to my favorite coffee shop, got a large cup of coffee to go and just started walking. I laughed, I sang, I spent time with God and towards the end I felt like the Father was challenging my opinions and views and the way I express them.

I felt a soft nudge on my heart encouraging me to not only develop an opinion, but also develop a confidence. A confidence that allows me to engage in conversation with someone and still be passionate as well as open to the possibility that I may be wrong about some things. An openness that allows me to grow in my beliefs while still being grounded in my values.

If I'm being completely honest I think that sometimes when people disagree with me it makes me feel like my opinion and my views are wrong. There are times when I'm having a discussion, especially with men, where I feel like I need to provide irrefutable proof for every single view that I have and that I need to do it at rapid speed. If I can't express what I believe, in ten seconds or less, with facts and data to back it up than I must not have a foundation for my opinion.

Those feelings stem not only from insecurity but also from the subtle influence of a culture of oppression and the silencing/discrediting of women. They stem from the idea that I need to know everything about a topic before I can openly express my opinion about it and that's not true at all. The mindset that your opinion can't ever change about a certain topic and if it does then you probably didn't believe in it in the first place is so deeply flawed.

We as humans are not stagnant beings. If our minds never change about a topic it's because we're choosing to stay in that place. Life is all about growing, learning and developing and one of the ways that we do that is through conversations with people that make us feel safe enough to be wrong and supported enough to learn.

It's in those spaces that we develop the confidence needed to hold our own and not be rattled when surrounded by the angry, hurtful and often aggressive views that are thrown our way.

I'm only a few weeks away from turning 27 and as I approach that awesome day I do so with the resolve to become more open minded, loving and grounded in my convictions. I want others to feel safe to share their views and opinions with me, even if I disagree with them and I want to be able to have that same experience.

More than anything, I want to be firmly rooted and confident in who I am in Christ. Whether someone agrees with me, calls my opinion stupid, thinks that I don't have the right to speak up...whatever. None of that changes my identity and that should be validation enough.

Whether I'm writing my blog or boldly standing up for something I believe in, I feel so blessed to be able to use the beautiful voice that God gave me to exercise my right to speak.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

A Better Way to Pray.

About a month or so ago my older brother tagged me in a post on Facebook. It was on the page of a well-known Pastor based in Colorado Springs and it was reaching out to bloggers and writers to give them the opportunity to review one of his books before it's re-release.

I thought to myself "what the heck, it's worth a shot," emailed them a link to my blog and my Facebook and waited for a response. A few days later I got an email telling me that they had reviewed my content and believed that it aligned well with their mission and message and that attached I would find a copy of the book.

The book is called A Better Way to Pray and it's written by preacher and author Andrew Wommack. I was introduced to Andrew Wommack and his teachings years ago by my father and I've followed his work ever since.

I'm really excited to share my thoughts about the content of this book but also to share with you some things that I took from it that I think are beneficial.

Let me just start by saying that if you've never heard Andrew Wommack preach or read one of his books before, he has a very distinct tone. His words, though filled with love, are quite direct. He doesn't hold back with his use of exclamation points and he words things in a way that makes sure that the message is always very clear.

I often found myself laughing out loud while reading this book because I could hear his voice jumping out from the pages and I couldn't help but to giggle.

With that being said the message within the pages, though at times convicting, is truly life changing. While taking notes I found that there were so many things that stood out to me that to try and write about them all would take up too much space. So instead I decide to point out three keys thoughts that really stuck with me from the book and last but certainly not least how the book has affected my prayer life.

1. The importance of thanks.

Whatever we focus on is magnified. If we focus on our issues, they grow bigger but if we focus on our gratitude it becomes the biggest thing in our lives. Prayer is a time where we can lavish God with our thanks and gratitude towards him.

Does God needs to hear us say thank you? No, not necessarily but when we spend time thanking God for what he's done for us and acknowledge our many blessings our problems become so small in comparison. Chapter 5 entitled Make a prayer sandwich emphasizes the importance of starting and ending our prayers with praise and thanksgiving. It's through that process that we magnify God and all that he's done for us instead of magnifying our problems.

When we begin our prayer time by expressing our gratitude by the time we get to our requests we're not only reminded of how small they are but more importantly how BIG God is. I encourage you to spend  the first five minutes of your prayer time thanking and praising God. I think that you'll be pleasantly surprised by the outcome.

2. The primary purpose of prayer.

The primary purpose of prayer is not receiving from God, yes that is A purpose but not THE purpose. Prayer is a time of fellowship, intimacy and relationship with Christ. God knows every single thing that we need in this life. The Lord knows that we need to eat and make money and provide for our families, he knows these things. When we come to him constantly making requests, he's not upset but we're missing the true blessing that comes from prayer.

Prayer is a time for us to commune with God. It's a time for us to share our lives with him, to laugh, to cry, to simply invite him into the most intimate parts of our souls. This book reminded me that God is not just some magical genie waiting to grant our wishes. Rather he's a father, waiting to be invited into the lives and hearts of his children. A Better Way to Pray emphasizes the fact that God wants us to talk to him not only about our problems and our concerns but also about the things that make us come alive.

God wants to be our closest friend and most intimate relationship and prayer is a time for us to build that dynamic with him. I invite you to explore the beautiful relationship that you can have with Christ by spending your prayer time getting to know him rather than just getting things from him.

3. Loving God is all that matters.

We were CREATED for intimacy with Christ. It's almost to simple to grasp but it's the truth,we were solely created for the purpose of loving and being loved by him.

Of course, when you love someone, you desire to do their will and to do the things that make them happy but if all we ever did on this earth was love God, he wouldn't be upset with us. Through this book I was reminded that God is love and everything that he does and everything that he calls us to do comes down to that same thing. It is and will always be about loving God with all that we have.

God sent his son to die on the cross for our sins so that we could spend our days in fellowship with the king. When we realize that Jesus is not our escape route but rather our invitation to community, we are then able to enter into a life filled with love and a relationship with our best friend, Jesus Christ.

Ways that my prayer life has changed.

After reading this book, I realized that the majority of my prayer life and my relationship with Christ has been spent seeking things instead of just basking in his love. I realized that though I claim 'Christian' as the most important title to my name that I rarely take God at his word believing that he'll do what he says he's going to do. I realized that though I'm willing to walk away from relationships for my 'beliefs' that I don't even truly know the God that I'm claiming to have devoted my life to.

I didn't walk away from this book feeling condemned or bad about myself but rather I walked away from it feeling like I was about to embark on a life changing journey. I finished this book and I honestly felt so much freedom. This book equipped me with the tools, the confidence and the knowledge of who God is to be able to pray in a way that's not only effective but also a way that edifies and glorifies God.

Now the adventure starts to make this not just knowledge floating around in my head but rather something that I believe and know to be true in my heart.

I know that this post was EXTREMELY long but this book has truly given me a new thirst for God and who he is. It's made me realize that in John 10:10 when it says that Christ came that we may have life and have it more abundantly that it involves so much MORE than what I've experienced with him so far.

For those of you who are interested in checking out this book, I have an extra copy and would love to send it to one of you! Comment your name and email address below and in a few days I'll randomly pick a name and send that lucky person a copy!

Until next time friends.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

The authentic artist.

In my life I've found so much freedom and inspiration from writers and artists who have been able to portray their authentic selves through their craft. People who put it all on the line, every disappointment, every single moment of success, it was all out there for everyone to see.

Those people changed the way that I pursued and consumed media. I no longer sought after a superficial and empty reality but rather I craved authenticity. I had a seemingly unquenchable thirst for a moment in the presence of something that was sincere.

The word authentic is defined by good ole Google as meaning "Of undisputed origin; genuine." Growing up my artistic interests and obsessions could all be easily summed up by that word. They were musicians, dancers and painters that all chose to be themselves in a world that told them that someone else was better.

I was home-schooled for all of my K-12 years and although I wasn't particularly fond of it at the time, I now see that it played a huge part in the type of person that I am today. I didn't grow up in an environment where I was constantly struggling with peer pressure and being bombarded with over-sexualized media and crude language. I grew up being teased only by my siblings and never really having anyone make fun of me for the things I liked.

I was raised in an environment that allowed me to have the space and security I needed to figure out who I was.

Recently, I've struggled with being open and truly authentic on this blog. At times I hold back my thoughts, focus too much on what certain people might think and even worry so much about views that I start to write posts that are just eye catching instead of thoughtful.

I've been thinking a lot about why I started blogging in the first place and that train of thought took me back to my youth and the experiences that guided my life. I did not start this blog with the purpose and intention that lots of people would read it. I started this blog because I wanted it to be a space where I could leave it all on the field.

A place where I could pour out my ideas, my dreams, my ambitions. I wanted and still want this to be a place where readers can come and find a human not a robot trying to fit the mold of the modern day writer.

I'm constantly tempted to adapt and change in order to be more popular. Just last week I was looking through my blog  history and looking at the posts that have gotten the most views. I was trying to find a trend so that I could continue writing about those topics so that I could continue to get that volume of views and shares. I was actively feeding into the practice of writing for numbers.

I realize now that those posts didn't get 100's of views because I was writing with an agenda but rather because I wasn't. People shared them and wrote to me about them because they could see my heart in the words and could hear my voice in it's tone.

I started 'Give the grave only bones' because of my love for authenticity and the way that it has inspired and directed my life. If that spirit is lost or is pushed to the side, this whole thing something that I love and enjoy doing so much, will simply become a chore. A task that becomes exhausting and eventually too much work to continue.

My unique upbringing and the art that I consumed during it has paved the way for me to live a life that is my own. A life that is genuine, sincere, vulnerable and most importantly authentic.

I pray that God continues to give me a heart that is tender to the things of this world that are real. The things that beat to a different drum and shine with colors anew. Things that remind me that to try and be a copy is to reject the gift that comes with originality.

God could have easily made us all the same. He could have given us all the same skin color and personalities and fingerprints, but he didn't. He didn't do that because he sees the value in diversity and the beauty of our differences.

I wasn't created to fit a mold. I was created to thrive and to share my unique perspective with the world. I feel so blessed to be able to share my thoughts and ideas in this space every single week. The people who read this have been so supportive and loving with their kind words and comments and I'm so grateful for that.

I'm the culprit in this current dilemma. I'm the one that put pressure on myself and let the thoughts and lies of conformity take root in my heart. That all stops today. Authenticity can be scary but compared to the other options it's truly the only route, as an artist, that I'm allowing myself to take.

"Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance." -Brene Brown.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

The heart of life.

Four years ago, I was sitting on a bus with my friend from Sweden. We were about two months into our semester traveling the world and he had just found out that his grandmother had passed away.

Not only was he away from his family but he was on another continent, didn't have a working phone and had to utilize emails and Facebook to stay up to date. To say that he was upset would be an understatement.

We sat together on the bus and talked for what seemed like forever. We really didn't spend much time talking about the death of his grandmother but rather we talked about her life. He couldn't stop smiling as he shared with me his memories of her and how glad he was to have had her in his life. Right before the bus stopped and we arrived in our new city we listened to a song together. Although I wasn't the one facing a loss, I couldn't help but to cry.

The song was 'Heart of life' by John Mayer and if you've never heard it, I think it's definitely worth listening to. I don't even know why I'm writing about this because it's not the blog that I planned but this morning I woke up with this story on my mind and this song on my heart, so I feel like I should share.

The first line of the chorus is what impacted me so deeply, it says 'Pain throws your heart to the ground, love turns the whole thing around." I think that John Mayer, though at times politically incorrect and wild, was maybe on to something.

I think that we could expand on that line and say that so many things can seemingly grab our hearts and be careless with them, right? Yes, pain throws your heart to the ground but that pain could be caused by our friends, a relationship, our parents, ourselves...the cause of that pain always changes. But love...well love, I truly believe, turns the whole thing around.

I have a hard time focusing on the love when I'm in the midst of pain. As optimistic and silver lining type as I am, when it comes to matters of the heart I'm easily derailed. I'm often quite numb to things that are emotionally too painful or sad and it's because I choose to be that way. When I actually feel it all...when I allow it to hit me like a ton bricks I'm usually pretty undone.

So to wake up thinking about that day and my friend smiling and having so much joy in spite of his pain, I'm reminded of the power of love. Love does not say that there will never be pain, that you will never have hard days but rather that it will be with you in the midst of it.

Love is making the tough decision, even though it may be painful because you know it's the right thing to do. Love is choosing to open yourself up to the possibilities of life. Love is choosing to not be numb with someone... even though you were with everyone else. Love is allowing yourself to bask in the memories of the good times even when you're facing the end.

I think that for this next season of my life God is really encouraging me to not have a heart that is numb and easily derailed but rather to allow him to give me one that is steady.

 The word steady is defined as being "firmly fixed, supported, or balanced; not shaking or moving." What a powerful definition. Now the song on my lips is 'Steady Heart' by Steffany Gretzinger and particularly the line that says "I can't see what's in front of me. Still I will trust you." The chorus goes on to say "Steady heart that keeps on going, steady love that keeps on holding, lead me on."

The Lord often speaks to me through songs and art and today is no exception. I think that what he's leading me to with these songs is that for too long I've had a heart that was rocky and easily moved. But if I allow myself to trust him, even when I can not see, he'll give me a heart that's firmly fixed and supported.

A heart that is steady.

"Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord." | 1 Corinthians 15:58

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Here's to 'Happily ever after.'

"When the time comes for me to fall in love, I hope I love the way I learned to ride a bike. Scared but reckless."

I've idolized love and marriage my entire life. I've thought of it as the ultimate goal, the place where every wrong would be turned right, every tear would have meaning, every sad day would be washed away. I would dream about the dress, walking down the aisle with my dad, my mom crying in the front row..for as long as I can remember all I've ever wanted was to get married.

As I sit here writing this I think it's so insane that so many little girls are raised with marriage in the forefront of their minds. Not necessarily because their parents beat them over the head with the idea but rather because culture and media does. I was raised watching Disney movies and other films that didn't have swearing or sex scenes but almost all ended with a girl meeting some wonderful guy and falling in love and most importantly living happily ever after.

Since I was little I've associated marriage with living happily ever after and who doesn't want living happy to be their goal?

Man, was I way off.

This year I had the honor and the privilege of attending four weddings. It was so cool to see some of my closest friends vow forever to each other in front of their family, their friends and in front of God. I cried, I wore bridesmaid dresses, I danced until my feet were killing me but not once did I think "I wish that was me."

My views on marriage and love have changed so much this year. It has gone from being something that I was striving for and arranging my life in order to get to, to instead being something that's now on the back burner.

Falling in love and getting married will never complete me. It won't. Not today. Not tomorrow. Not next week. Once I learned that undeniable truth, I was able to dive head first into the things that truly bring me peace, completion and so much happiness.

This weekend while I was watching my college roommate get married I was so happy for her. I was genuinely filled to the brim with happiness because I knew that there wasn't even a hint of jealousy in me. It wasn't there because I'm no longer living in this world as half of a person searching for the other parts of me.

I talked to my best friend, who just got married in March, about this topic and she gave me an interesting perspective. She affirmed my feelings that the idea of being incomplete is a turn off but then said that instead of that person completing you think of it as them complimenting you, which I loved.

She also reminded me that God works through the people in our lives and believes that he uses our friends and spouses to help us where we're weak and to build us up where we may be torn down. Just like he used her and this conversation to help me see how marriage is not completion but it's definitely a partnership and an opportunity for two people to grow not only as individuals but together.

The Lord has been working in my heart so much this year and has been pouring his love over me in such a mighty way that it reminds me of how it's impossible for anyone on this earth to love me more than him. I think that the person that I am now could actually be in a healthy and life giving relationship because I'm able to love others from a place of completion compared to scarcity.

So here's to allowing our forever person to compliment us instead of asking them to take on the daunting and assigned to God task of completing us. Here's to happily ever after.

Until next time. Xoxo.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

The Denver dreamer.

The morning sun shines bright through my window
I'm awake
I can breathe
I'm alive.

The pain of the night before
seems faint and almost unreal
I can't seem to remember
what the tears were for
what the sadness was about.

As I sit up
wipe my eyes
and take a deep breath
the warmth of a new day envelops me.

It's hard to believe but I'm okay
I'm whole
I'm complete
I'm bursting at the seams with love and light.

With this new horizon comes the joy
the hope
the excitement
for the potential that each new day holds

With yesterdays end
comes the promise of today's start
and it's there that I set my eyes
it's there that I place my hope
it's there that I leave the sadness and expectantly embrace the joy.

I'm letting go and it's in that release
that I'm free.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Give the grave only bones: The inspiration.

In 2013 I read a poem that changed my life. In 2014, after a year of thinking about it, I got a line from that poem tattooed on my right arm. In 2015 after some thought and lots of prayer I decided to start a new blog with the line that changed it all as the title.

I realized today that though I've alluded to it, I've never shared the text that was the catalyst for so much change in my life. I hope that this poem resonates with you the way that it did and still does with me. Give the grave only more than just a poem, or a blog, or even a tattoo it's a lifestyle, it's a choice to leave it all on the field every single day. It's the mission statement of my life. Enjoy.

"If at the end of my life, the only thing I've accomplished is a comfortable life, than my days have been wasted.

If at the end of my life, the only thing that I've fought for is my own name, than my days have been wasted.

If at the end of my life, the only thing I've cared about is my own care, than my days have been wasted.

If at the end of my life, the only thing I've stood up for is my own reputation, than my days have been wasted.

If at the end of my life, the only thing I've traded is works for rewards, than my days have been wasted.

May we not go to the grave quietly.

May we not make refuse of the gifts we've been given.

May we never chase the shiny in place of the holy, the trend instead of the truth, the immediate instead of the eternal.

Arrive empty to the grave, having given all you were given, stewarded all you were tasked.

Give the grave only bones."

Until next time friends. Xoxo.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

We deserve more.

In May I wrote a blog that I never posted. I wrote about a guy that I met and how meeting him made me feel. Yesterday I read it and I decided that since this year I wanted to be more vulnerable maybe it would be a good idea for me to post it.

I read through my words and I was taken back to the day I met him. All the feelings came rushing back, the laughter, the emotions, the moments that I never wanted to end. The blog was filled with lovely words that I 100% meant at the time, words that expressed how highly I thought of him and how alive I felt being in his presence.

Yeah, I read that yesterday and I was feeling like it would be a great idea to post it and to let people see into that experience but then I changed my mind and here's why.

I can count on one hand the encounters I've had with what I would have called at one time "very special" people. Encounters that made me feel like the prettiest, smartest, most interesting and most loved girl in the room. Moments that I romanticized and let play over in my head as things that I would hope would one day turn into a relationship or my 'day one' with my forever person and it never happened.

All of those moments ended, just as soon as they began. They ended because those men, those guys, as dynamic as they were, were not that into me. I could take those moments whether they ended with an embrace, a kiss, or an exchange of numbers and say that it was a life changing moment but if they never called, never tried to make those moments last, were those feelings even mutual?

I was thinking about those people and those moments yesterday and I realized that I was so lost in the potential of what those encounters COULD have been that I refused to come to terms with the reality of what they actually were. They weren't anything. They were moments in time that left me feeling a certain way but they involved no follow through, no commitment, no sense of security...they were nothing.

Now, don't get me wrong I think that I've learned a lot from those days/moments/encounters and they have affected who I am as a person. I think that all of the confusion, the tears, the nights awake have merged together and become a piece of the puzzle of who I am. With that being said, to learn is to change and where the change has manifested in my life is in the truth that if someone isn't investing in you, taking time to know you, working for your heart...they're not your forever person.

A really wise person once said "We accept the love we think we deserve," and I think that's so true. Even if it makes you feel alive and sets a fire in your heart, why settle for a flame that's only going to last for a night when you can invest in an ember that will roar and blaze for life. I'm sure it sounds like I'm discrediting these people that I've met and the moments that we've shared but really what I'm doing is calling a spade a spade.

The love that I deserve is a love that isn't left to chance. A love that is considered an investment by both parties, a love that is pursued, a love that we're both committed to, a love that doesn't get up and just walk away.  A love that stays.

Wherever you are in life, whether you're knee deep in a relationship that isn't healthy for you or just getting your fingers wet with something new, I hope that you know what you deserve. I hope that you look in the mirror every morning and you see your worth and you see the truth of how beautiful you are. If you don't see that, I hope that you take a break from dating and relationships to discover your worth and to write it on every square inch of your heart.

We, my dear friend, accept the love we think we deserve and it's time that we start thinking and believing that we deserve more.

Until next time. XO.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Lessons and lessons and lessons.

Things I've learned in the last month...

1. Vulnerability is key to starting, building and sustaining healthy relationships.

I struggle with being vulnerable. It's so easy to write out my feelings and thoughts on my blog and then kind of walk away from it. People read it and they might even comment but we're not having a face to face conversation so it's easy to be removed from the things that I'm saying and what they're learning about me. Brene Brown, a researcher and a story teller, has a fantastic Ted talk about vulnerability and I highly recommend it. I watched it and it put words to what was going on in my heart, learning to be vulnerable is freaking difficult but it's key in building healthy relationships and that's what I want.

2. When you learn you change and if you haven't changed than you haven't learned.

I've kissed a lot of frogs in my life and despite my desire to find better it wasn't until recently that I learned that you'll never find a prince in a swamp. I had a conversation with one of my dear friends the other day and we talked about women and our standards. I know so many people who settle for less than they deserve in relationships and romantic encounters and I was definitely one of those people, until I wasn't. I learned that lust is very different than love, if they'll lie for you they'll lie to you, a kiss is not a commitment and if they want to play games, hand them a controller not your heart. This is especially for my beautiful, talented, intelligent and queen lady friends: if they're not calling you, not wanting to spend time with you, not introducing you to their friends, not taking you on REAL dates, not praying for you, than they're not worth your time. When you know better you do better, it's time to do better.

3. Even the smallest acts of courage can be inspirational.

The other day I had someone tell me that they thought I was brave and when I asked why they mentioned a series of small moments that I didn't think anyone noticed. Moments where I stepped out of my comfort zone to participate in an event or accomplish a small goal and unbeknownst to me someone was watching and they were inspired. So I guess this lesson was two fold in the way that it showed me that people can be inspired by the little things and also it reminded me that everything counts. You have no idea how your today can affect someones tomorrow, so give it your all kid!

I could go on and on but I think three lessons is enough for today. This month has really impacted me and it's not for any reason in particular but rather it's all the small moments and encounters, all of the encouragement to do and to be better, all of the thoughtful choices that led to a month of so much growth. Life is fun, so much fun, but a year ago I made the decision to be more than just happy, but to be intentional about my journey and it's made all the difference.

Until next time friends. XO

Friday, August 12, 2016

Noordaleen...the light of religion.

On Tuesday, I met a young man from Iraq named Noor.

Before I could even sit down and speak with him I was moved by his presence. His laugh reached my ears from across the room and I found myself smiling simply because of his amazing energy. He seemed so happy, like his burdens were light and his hope and aspirations for the future were high.

 I asked him what the meaning behind his name was and he told me that it meant light. He went on to explain that his full name is Noordaleen and that it means the light that comes from religion. He made sure to explain that it didn't just mean the light that comes from the Muslim religion but rather all religions.

Does that name affect you as much as it affected me?

The light that comes from all religion. What a powerful and strong name.

In the age that we live in you often hear about the dangers of religion. You hear about terrorist attacks, funeral protests, hateful politicians and more but you rarely hear about someone talking about the light. The light that comes from someone believing in something bigger than themselves.

I really struggle with the word religion, if I'm being completely honest. I'm always the first person to tell someone that I'm a Christian but I'm not religious. That I believe in a relationship with Christ that involves the deepest parts of who I am as a person. But the questions that I find myself pondering right now are, is relationship the rejection of religion? Or is relationship the expansion of religion?

Perspective is a tricky thing but depending on how we use it, it can either cast a dark shadow on religion or brighten it and make it easier to understand. It's difficult for me to even write this but when I think about religion the same way I think about faith and Noor, I realize that religion is not the absence of light.

Religion is the belief and worship of God or gods. Relationship to me takes that a step further by adding the reverence, love, devotion and service to God. Religion I think can be the first steps but it's through relationship that we get a view of the full staircase.

Jesus says in John 8:12 that he is the light of the world. So when I spoke to Noor and he told me that his name meant light I was overwhelmed by the love of Christ and how he reveals himself in the people around us.

The Lord has been working so heavily in my life in regards to my quick judgments of others. One of those judgments has definitely been related to other belief systems. Before I get misunderstood let me say that I do believe that God's word is truth and that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. With that being said I don't think that closed minds win hearts and the Lord is teaching me how to guard my mind with truth whilst being open to the opinions and thoughts of others.

This year, I've been very intentional about deepening my relationship with the father. Through the deepening of that relationship I feel very strongly right now that the Lord is guiding me to unpack the baggage that I have in regards to religion and to explore the root of it.What a journey that will be.

I wonder if Noor's parents realized what they were doing when they gave him such a thought provoking and hope filled name. Noordaleen, the light that comes from religion.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Tragedy and joy... the balancing act.

Yesterday I logged on to Facebook and the first thing that I saw was a true testament to one of life's many realities. There were two different posts, one right after the other from my friends and they both told seemingly similar yet extremely different stories.

One post was made by a friend expressing his exhaustion and deep anguish after burying his father and the other, a collage of photos and smiles, was a post celebrating a father's birthday. Two posts, back to back, both describing emotions towards a father, but they couldn't be more different. One was saturated in joy and happiness while the other truly embodied the sadness that comes from the loss of a loved one.

This extreme contrast led me to a few moments of reflection about the fact that with every moment of pure joy and love that is experienced, someone somewhere, is in pain. How is it possible that these two contrasting emotions are weaved into our lives so seamlessly.

Why does there have to be any sadness? Can't there just be joy?

Yes, maybe those are optimistic and maybe even naive questions to ask but haven't you ever had the same thoughts? Haven't you looked at a picture and reminisced about an event wishing that you could relive it over and over for the rest of your life? I think that it's human to see something like one person celebrating their dad's birthday and the other mourning their dad's passing and being moved emotionally by it. Moved to the point where you start asking questions and seeking answers for why things happen the way that they do.

Why can't there just be joy?

Well, honestly I don't know the answer to that question. I don't know the answer to a lot of questions. What I do know is that I've felt the pain of loss and I've also felt the warmth of joy. I know what it's like to cry and cry until your body can't do anything else except sleep.

 Life will tell anyone who takes the time to look that with every moment of joy there is undoubtedly moments and glimmers of pain.

With that being said I think that it would be a shame to go through life dreading the irrefutable end. It would be a waste of life to spend this time running from the death that will eventually find us all. Wouldn't it?

In a few months I'll be the one posting about my wonderful father on his birthday and one day, years and years from now, I'll be speaking about him in the past tense.

I'm not sure where I'm going with this or even what I'm feeling right now but what's coming to my head in this moment is that life is a balancing act. It's an act of living in the present and building a life that is filled with love and joy. It's about leaving a legacy and it's also about what comes next. It's about knowing that this, every thing we see around us and all that we touch, doesn't last forever.

It's knowing that in one second someone you know may be mourning a loss while the other is rejoicing in celebration over another year of a life.

What interesting and ever changing lives we all lead.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

St. Mary's Glacier.

I wrote this last Saturday at 5:45am as I sat on a rock at St. Mary's Glacier. At the time I was feeling so much and I didn't know how to put it into words until I saw the view, until I felt the wind, until I got wrapped in the silence. Here's what I wrote, unedited and fresh. Know that if you feel too much or even if you don't feel may just need an unadulterated view, a pen and some paper to get to the heart of things.

- Sometime all it takes to get away from the evil and darkness of this world, is to climb a mountain and allow God to show you how loved you are. A place where the grass is so green that is could almost swallow you whole. A place where the silence is so rich that it pierces through the noise in your life and demands peace. Solitude.

I'm starting to find that it's in the solitude that we find comfort. It's in the secret place that we're found. That's where he meets us. Right there in the heart of where the darkness meets the light, I've come to find that's often where I meet God.

It's when the darkness breaks and dawn appears and the sun begins to creep it's way over the horizon that we're reminded that the sadness, the pain, it never lasts. When all of the hurt is gone and the tears have dried, what remains is his love. His glory. His truth.

The Lord says, in the end of Matthew, that he will never leave us nor will he ever forsake us until the end of age. It's in the darkness that we must remind ourselves of that truth and it's in the sunlight that we finally see it.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

In this skin..

In this skin
I'm comfortable
But I can't help but to feel
like this place
this body
this world is not my home.

This skin
in which I reside
at times feels guarded
yet I'm open and inviting
safe and loving
this skin isn't me...
I'll keep the color but the labels...
those I don't want anymore.

This skin
is brown and glowing
beautiful and pure
yet some in this world says it's unattractive
out of place
I don't agree
but that's okay...

I don't belong here.

This skin that I'm in
it holds me together
it captures my beating heart
and consumes my emotions
yet I want to break free
I want love to fiercely pour out of me
yet it's confined
by this skin that I'm not so sure
if I should want anymore

This skin that I'm in
that seemingly defines whether I live my life
fighting stigmas or wadding in privilege
this skin it's beautiful
it's pure
it's soft like satin
it's brown

This skin in all of its perfections
and imperfections
is not my identity
it's not my cross to bear
it's not a target on my back
it's not yours to categorize or define

This skin that I'm in
it's mine
and whether you burn it all down
or nail me to a tree
what you destroy
is nothing compared to what the father has saved
the beauty that he's created in me.

This skin
in which I reside
though frail
is redeemed
and though fleeting
houses a soul that will live on.

This skin that I'm in
this beautiful
brown sugar
dark chocolate
color of the earth
skin that coats me
is unapologetic
it's forgiven
it's encouraged
it's bold.

It's not a trail to be blazed
it is not a campaign
it is not a curse
it is not ugly
it is not a mistake
it is not yours...

This skin
that I find myself in
it's beautiful
it's intentional
it's loved
it's mine

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Fear, the gym and box jumps.

Have you ever been in a situation where you were faced with something that made you so nervous and made your heart beat so fast that it seemed like it was impossible? Something that you'd seen others accomplish, time and time again but for some reason when you even though about attempting it, it just seemed too scary?

Well, that pretty much sums up my relationship with certain moves, machines and exercises at the gym.

I am being completely sincere when I say that the only time I try something new at the gym is when I'm either convinced that it's impossible to look stupid doing it OR when I'm by myself and I'm sure that no one can see me.

I don't know where it came from but for as long as I've been going to the gym I've always gotten really nervous, almost anxious even, at the idea of doing something wrong and a stranger correcting me or laughing at me. The thought of someone coming up to me in a crowded gym and telling me that my form is off, makes me want to work out at 3am when I'm guaranteed to be alone.

I know, it sounds absolutely ridiculous.What I'm getting at with this confession is that there are things that I've been wanting to do but the fear of being corrected or looking silly kept me from even trying them, that is...until the other day.

I went to the gym a few days ago and I don't know what was in the air or in my smoothie that morning but I was in such a euphoric place. I felt happy and at peace and not really too aware of the people around me. I started my leg workout and before I knew it I found myself in front of the space that I always avoided, the box jumps.

Box jumps are a very interesting concept and I won't get into all the details of the benefits and dangers of them but I will tell you that I'm beyond intrigued by them. Box jumps mixed with fear and anxiety are, how can I put this plainly, a sick mind game. Standing in front of this box, that reached about mid way between my knees and my hip, my heart started to beat fast and my hands started to shake.

 "What's going on?" I thought to myself, I've seen people shorter than myself do box jumps more times than I can count and I've never seen them fall, never. I thought to myself, "If they can do it, then so can I," but when I went to jump my feet didn't come off the ground.

I literally swung my arms to jump and instead of lifting off of the ground I was seemingly cemented to the floor by fear. The thought of falling, that someone might laugh at me, or that I might hurt myself ran circles in my head and literally kept both of my feet on the ground.

Fear is crippling. Fear snatches dreams, laughs at goals and does nothing but put limitations on us. Fear and box jumps, I found the other day, don't mix at all. Rather, these two things without question, clash 100% of the time.

I am happy to say that I finally got up the nerve and courage to do one and then another and eventually a whole series of box jumps but not without giving myself a serious talk first. When I jumped the first time I remember standing on the top of the box and feeling a sense of accomplishment but more than that, feeling extremely silly. I couldn't believe that for so long I let fear keep me from even attempting to do something that I now actually really enjoy.

Box jumps won't kill you but your fear might.

I've never met anyone that gave fear the credit for their accomplishments and success. Fear won't take you steps closer to your goals, fear won't heal wounds or rebuild communities, fear won't save lives. Fear kills. Fear destroys. Fear is a stop sign.

When I left the gym that night my mind went on an exploring spree looking at all the areas of my life where fear stopped me from going after something I really wanted. Whether it was doing box jumps, going on a new adventure or talking to someone that I thought  was really cute, I would be lying if I didn't admit that many opportunities have passed me by because I was afraid. Well, not anymore.

What fears are holding you back from accomplishing something great? I challenge you today to have courage and to be brave enough to jump and I promise you that regardless of the outcome you'll be glad that you did.

II Timothy 1:7 - God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

The option to look away...

There are a lot of horrible things going on in our world. Police brutality, terrorist attacks, women being raped...the list goes on. But if we're being completely honest with each other, we're not all affected by these horrific acts and because of that, we don't all have to care. 

When you have the privilege of being the most guarded gender, nationality, orientation and race, you also have the privilege of being able to look away. You have the option to ignore tragedies because they so often fall miles away from your doorstep. 

It is a privilege to grow up seeing yourself represented in television shows and the movies that you see on weekends. It's a privilege to grow up reading about and seeing presidents, legislators and congress people who look like you. It is a privilege to grow up having your history told in class every single day compared to once a year for a month. 

We ALL have privilege, but some of us have more than others. 

I think as a generation we so often argue and debate. With that being said I rarely see us coming together to collaborate on solutions to bring about restoration. There has to be more restoration. 

I'm saying all of this to get to the point "That with great power comes great responsibility." Yes, I did just quote Spider man but only because those words ring so true. For those with extreme amounts of privilege and great power, how much blood will be on yours hands when you die? How many wars did you sign off on? How many rapists did you simply give a slap on the wrist? How many times did you look away when someone who looks different than you was attacked or treated like they didn't matter? 

It's so easy to choose to look away, to choose to simply not join the conversation but it takes real courage to decide to be more than just a bystander. It takes courage to use your influence and privilege to make a difference rather than to just serve your needs and desires. 

It is a privilege and not a right that I have a blog that people read. I count it as a privilege that I'm able to share my opinions, feelings and beliefs in such a cool way. Today, I choose to use this platform to say that we as a generation, as humans, as a world need to do more. Enough with the social media, celebrity and image's time to stand up and make a different in a way that matters, a way that will improve this world for our children and grandchildren. 

I'm not living in fear, turmoil or anguish but I'm also not living with my eyes and ears shut to the pains of our world. Pains that are affecting people who look just like the person that I see in the mirror every single day. 

We all have privilege but we don't all have the option to look away. 

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Love. love. love.

This weekend one of my dearest friends is getting married and I'm in the wedding. This is the second wedding that I'm in this year and the second of four weddings that I'm going to in 2016. So here's a quote about love that I read on November 27th of 2012 and I've loved it ever since.

I have to keep this brief because I have a plane to catch so that I can support my girl but first I'll leave you with this. When I think of marriage I think of a lot of things and this is one of them. Enjoy.

"How foolish is it to think that we only love with our hearts. The heart is just an organ with a job to do, a quota to fill. When I love, I don't want to love with a blood pumping machine. I want to love with every inch of my body.

I will love you with my knees and my fingertips, with my elbows and my collarbones. With my freckles and my knuckles, my wrinkles and my scars.

And I will love you with all of the spaces in between."


Thursday, June 23, 2016

The impatience of faith.

Last week when my parents were in town I was in a store with my mom and I was beyond annoyed that my dad was taking forever to pick out a hat. So there I was, huffing and puffing around and just getting more and more frustrated and when I told my mom how annoyed I was, she looked at me and laughed and said "Nikki, you really need to learn to have some patience."

When she said that I started laughing too, half because I just think that she's the funniest person in the universe and the other half was because I knew that she was right. Sometimes, I have a really hard time being patient with people.

Times where I struggle being patient: when I'm hot, when I'm hungry, when I'm tired, when I'm trying to stick to a schedule, when I'm trying to make others stick to a schedule get the point.

When I was in the store that day with my parents I was impatient because I was trying to take them to Red Rocks and in my mind it was imperative that we got their quickly. I was impatient and rushing them because I had their best "tourist interests" at heart, or at least that's what I told myself.

But the real question is, what's the rush?

Was Red Rocks going anywhere? Did we have an important dinner that we had to get to after? Why couldn't I just relax and have some patience?

Those are all questions I mulled over for a while after my mom's comment. I didn't feel condemned by what she said but rather convicted and here's what I've come up with so far.

My impatience at times lies very heavily in the fact that I don't know how to deal with not being in control. I so much enjoy being in the driver's seat, literally and figuratively. I avoid uncertainty, I plan ahead, I don't ask for advice often and I enjoy spontaneity most when I'm the driving force of it.

However, the more I reflect, I realize that this is not how I want to continue to be.

As I'm growing in my faith my biggest road block lately has been my resistance and apprehension about giving God permission to guide my life. It's so hard for me to imagine waking up each day and asking anyone what I should do or how I should act throughout the day, even God. The reason why is because I struggle with trusting that God will take me to heights higher than where I can take myself.

Trust is not something that I've mastered and honestly until recently it wasn't at all something that I was even open too but now.... well now I am and it's making all the difference.

The other day I met with my church family and we talked about this together. I shared how I was feeling and after the meeting I cried with one of my dear friends about this and she spoke so much life and truth into my heart. You see, this walk with Christ is all about faith.

That might seem like a simple truth but when you put it into practice and aim to walk it out everyday, this faith thing is more than just going to church. Faith is believing that God will always have a better plan for us than we have for ourselves. Faith is the daily decision to follow a Savior that you can't see. Faith is telling yourself that even if you can't feel a difference or see an improvement that God is surely at work in your life.

Faith is more than just a weekly church service, it's a seven days a week, rain or shine, life or death resolve to follow Christ.

For me, faith is about letting go of control. This faith journey is centered around accepting Christ and trusting that God will never and I truly mean never ask us to go where his grace can't sustain us.

Romans 15:13 says "I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit."

I don't know where God is going to ask me to go in this life, but today I make a decision to trust him and to be an obedient passenger on this road trip of life.

This week I invite you to explore your life. Take some time these next few days to reflect on where you've been, who you've met and where you're going. Most importantly, if you will, I encourage you to explore where you can have less control and invite more trust into your life.

"Never be afraid to trust an unknown future, to a known God." Corrie ten Boom.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Denver, Colorado...year one.

A year ago today my whole world changed. I carefully packed my entire life into two suitcases, a backpack and a carry on and hoped on a plane to move from Pennsylvania to Denver.

At the time I genuinely had no idea what the future held for me. I  knew that I had a place to live and a job but the rest...well the rest I was hoping to figure out as soon as possible.

In the twelve months that I've been in this city I've lived at three different addresses, changed careers, bought a car, cried too many times, laughed till I peed and so much more. This year was unexpected, predictable, terrifying and exciting all at the same time and as I look back on it, it's hard for me to believe that I came out on the other side better than I started.

So right now, in this space, I just want to take a moment to reflect on this past year and how I've been impacted and forever changed by this city.

One of the first things I learned when I moved to Denver is that it's not impossible for things that you're excited about to turn into things that terrify you. My first night here, I laid in my bed on the phone with my best friend and cried for what seemed like hours. Unlike all the other times when I left home, this one felt permanent, less flexible and like I was forever leaving all of my family and friends behind. Very dramatic, I know.

I couldn't understand how I could be so sad about being there when just hours earlier I was beyond excited and ready for the adventure. My friend told me to give it more than 12 hours, to take it one day at a time and to know that I could always go home to my family. That night, as I drifted off to sleep on my tear soaked pillow I was comforted by the truth that sometimes new adventures can be daunting and that's okay.

Another thing that I've learned this year is that in order to build strong, healthy and life giving relationships you have to be willing to abandon your comfort zone. The first few months of living in Denver I was so lonely and disconnected from the city. Besides going to church on the weekend by myself I was not open to saying "yes" to new situations at all. Fear of the new and unknown left me feeling, for the first time in years, like I only had one true friend.

Thankfully, that one friend was someone who really pushed me to meet new people and to step out of my comfort zone and it made all the difference. Now, I not only have a community of diverse, passionate and talented people around me but I'm a more dynamic and well rounded human. It was by making myself uncomfortable and putting myself in awkward situations that I was able to meet people that pour into my life in so many ways and help me to be a better person. You'll never reach your full potential with people and relationships without jumping outside of what feels safe and trusting that the net that's supposed to catch you, will do just that.

Last but not least I learned that with each dark transition comes a sunny and bright horizon. It might seem cliche or corny to say but my darkest moments in Denver can't compare to the joy that I've found here.

Denver's magic far outweighs it's nightmares. It's a city where you'll meet people from all over the country and even the world. People that have made the same decision as you, people who have uprooted their entire lives to chase a dream, a job opportunity and even love. It's a city of music and art, of love and loss, of mountains and deserts. It's a place that's big enough to get lost in but also small enough to be found and it's with ease and excitement that I can say that for me, it's a place I call home.

You don't have to move to a new city or change your entire lifestyle to find yourself but for me, that's exactly how it happened. Whether you're in transition, feeling a little lost or simply searching for purpose in an ever changing world, know that with time all storms are calmed.

So cheers to Denver for embracing me, another east coast transplant, into it's lovely terrain. After one year of being on it's soil, Denver is deeply rooted in me. I'm connected, I'm invested, I'm here.