Saturday, July 21, 2018

Food, Freckles, Fun

I spent last weekend in the islands, The Bahama Islands, to be precise. Two of my best friends from college and I went on a three day cruise out of Orlando. It's what I wanted to do for my 30th birthday, but it got delayed a little due to scheduling.

I took an early afternoon flight out of Phoenix and arrived in Orlando late. (Thanks, four hour flight plus a three hour time difference.) It took my forever to get to the hotel due to trouble finding the shuttle, but I made it. Being greeted by these two was spectacular. It was late, but we proceeded to girl talk late into the night/early morning. I laughed so hard I spit the water I was drinking all over myself. These two are some of the few that really understand me and know me enough to get me to my silly state.

We departed for the ship mid-morning. Uber and Lyft are the way to go. My friend gets credit for reservations, but we had nice cars and nice drivers and the price was very reasonable!

We got to the ship in time for lunch and then toured the boat. This boat wasn't as nice as the last one (no sauna or steam room), but it worked. We weren't on the boat that much anyway.

Food on the boat is pretty spectacular. There are options of the main dining room or the buffet for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We went with the main dining room for all three meals, but dinner was definitely the best. You can pick your appetizer, entree, and dessert each night, but here's a sampling of what I had:


Spectacular salmon

Tasty duck

Roasted lamb

And plenty of snacks spread throughout

I climbed the rock wall the first morning. It took me three tries since I am pretty weak because of my hand stuff, but I did it!

Then we got off the boat and went for a walk in Nassau, Bahamas. We wanted to see Atlantis resort, but underestimated the distance and exertion of the walk. When we got there, it cost an arm and a leg to see anything. Oh well. We still had the experience.

The next day was all day at CoCo Cay, Royal Caribbean's private island. It was paradise! I waded, went for a walk, and just laid on the beach since being wet is not really my thing. I had some time to actually rest and think, which was awesome.

I wore sunscreen and reapplied, but I still got a little sunburned. I also got a lot more freckles. Oh well, a minor sunburn is a small price to pay for all the fun we had. And I like my freckles.

The most trouble we got into was stamping our own passports. We really didn't get into trouble, either. We just used the stamp sitting on the desk in the empty room and didn't tell on ourselves when the clerk came back.

I had so much fun, and though life has hit me square in the face now that I'm back on land, I wouldn't trade this experience for anything. I am so thankful for the time I spent and so thankful for friends who agreed to go with me. We dubbed this vacation the start of our cruise club, so hopefully they'll be a next time.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

My Journal, (Not) My Best Friend

"Journal? I thought that was the name of your boyfriend," my coworker said after I shared my list of anger coping skills. My coworker likes to tease my about being single, so I had to laugh. But on a more serious note, the interaction made me think about journaling and its role in my life.

I started journaling after a particularly difficult first semester of college. It was my solution to my disconnection from my life, to my lack of honesty about how much I was struggling. I committed to journaling once a week at that point, and slowly, journaling evolved to an every day practice. I started writing down lessons learned in my daily devotions. When the Spirit convicted me about lack of gratitude, writing in my journal became a practice in thanksgiving. Then I started jotting down prayer requests and quotes and thoughts. I wrote in full sentences for awhile. I wrote neatly for a while. Now my journal is filled with jots and tittles and dashes and sketches and everything else. I often find food and chocolate smears in my journal. Basically, my journal is a mess, because my life is a mess. But I think the mess of my journal keeps me grounded.

I don't journal as much as I used to. I primarily journal when I read my Bible in the morning, when I get home from work, and before I start winding down for the night. I used to take my journal to work and write while I snacked before bed, but I found that those practices could keep me stuck in my head and stimulate overthinking, so I quit them.

I have saved my journals from the last nine or so years of life, but I've yet to flip back through many of them. I'm not sure I want to, and I'm not sure I want anyone else to, either. My journals are my way of sorting out life, of purging the good and the bad. I do mince a few words for fear that others will read, but basically, my journals are raw. They're a reflection of the real me, good, bad, and ugly, really ugly.

Journaling is a valuable practice in my life, but in no way does it fully meet my needs for processing and connection. I still need people and community. I need people to help me reflect and process and see things in a new light. I need community to love me and encourage me and pray for me and support me. I need people to remind me that I'm not the center of the universe and that my thoughts don't run the world. 

Journaling is a valuable practice for me, but let's be clear. My journal is not my best friend (or my boyfriend!). I'm human and no inanimate object can take the place of my need for other people.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Summer in Arizona

Summer is my favorite season. Why? There's sun and heat and hiking and good eats and so much more. I've written plenty of serious posts lately, so I thought I'd use today to give you a taste of what it's like to summer in Arizona.

Fire. Be fire-wise in Arizona, but also be forewarned that fires are part of our lives. They serve their purpose in clearing out death and decay, but they are also very dangerous. This fire was close to our home, but thankfully got put out quickly.

The rodeo.

And the rodeo parade. We have the World's Oldest Rodeo in Prescott, and going to it each year is a major tradition in my family.

Hiking. The lakes are low, but they are still beautiful.

Concerts. No, I'm not a King and Country roadie, but I have seen them twice this year.


And sunsets. Days are long and hot here in the summer, but the mornings and evenings make it all worth it.

Cantaloupe. A refreshing treat on hot days.

And cookouts. Because why cook inside when you can leave the heat outdoors?

Fourth of July. We had no fireworks this year due to the drought, but I had my own two candles to celebrate year two in Arizona.

Monsoons look like they're starting to come. They aren't my favorite, but we do need the moisture.

Summers in Arizona are no doubt kind of crazy, but that's the way things go. There's a reason I call my Instagram My Arizona Adventure! Life is an adventure, and I'm thankful for it.

Monday, July 9, 2018

I Can't Do This.

I work in the helping profession. You'd think I'd know how to love people. Nope! God has been impressing on me lately the fact that I don't really know how to love people, or at least love them well.

The problem, you see, is that I've been trying to love people out of my own power. I've been trying to love people because I'm a good person, because loving is what I'm supposed to do. And it's not working. In and of myself, I don't have enough love for the world. I don't have enough love for myself for crying out loud! And that's where the problem lies. 

I read a quote on Pinterest recently that said "Embracing God's love is the key to loving others." As much as I preach self care and self compassion and self love, I often lack it for myself. That's because I'm not resting in God's love and in who He says I am. I am out being busy, trying to do the right things, trying to earn God's favor, trying to justify Jesus saving me, even if I know that's impossible. I've got it all backwards.

I can't love on my own. I can't live on my own. I can only love and live because the Holy Spirit of Christ indwells me with the love of the Father. I have zero power. God has absolute power.

Perhaps I've been so tired lately because I've been trying to regenerate myself, to do in my own mind and heart and soul what only Christ can do. I've been focusing on doing love instead of being filled with Love. It's not working.

God, let me find myself in your love. You love me perfectly and completely. You gave your only Son for me! Fill the empty vessel of this life you created in me with your love. Let your love in me flow out to others for your honor and glory. I can't do this. You can.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Filling the Time

Work has been crazily slow lately. Like I logged less than an hour overtime two weeks ago and got to take an unplanned day off last week. I've been trying to figure out what to do with my life in the meantime.

I usually fill my life with work, work, work. I love what I do, but it's not all of me. I have friends and family and church and maybe even some hobbies. But far too often I forget and neglect all of these. And in some ways, I'm afraid to indulge in real, authentic living, because I fear getting attached to it and then getting crazy busy again.

Crazy busy in an armor, so I'm trying not to overfill my life in this time of respite. Maybe God is trying to do some new things in my life. So I'm trying to live life a little and fill my life with some of the good things I've been lacking like community and relationships and rest. 

God's Word says, "He has made everything beautiful in its time" (Ecc 3:11a, New International Version). Hard as this season of my life has been, I think I'm beginning to see this truth played out. Praise be to Him.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Arizona: Year Two

I've made it two years, y'all. I've gotten a few funny looks lately when I've expressed my excitement about the anniversary of my move to Arizona, and that's okay. They don't get it. These past two years have wrecked me, in good ways, but in hard ways.

Work: If you had told me in grad school that I'd spending close to fifty hours a week helping kids, I would have said you were crazy. I fought against my elementary school internship placement. I asked the community clinic to only give me teenagers and adults. I didn't take the play therapy training classes offered to me. And now I have a birth to five year-old case load. You'll find me outside throwing a football more than you'll find me in an office. I'm now taking play therapy and sand tray classes. And I'm growing to love what I do. Go figure.

Church: I came home to Arizona partly because my family belonged to a strong church. And it's fallen apart. The brokenness of the people that make up the church has become apparent and though we are pursuing healing, it is messy. We are currently without a pastor and our body has decreased to about a third of the size. But we're still together and the Word is being preached. Thanks be to God.

Family: I planned to live with my parents only long enough to set up my own independent life, but here I am two years later still living at home. It's been hard, but good. I have found a lot of healing in relating to my parents as adults. I've been forced to let some of my perfectionism go and recognize that relationship matters more than having a perfect house or an ideal life. If God ever sees fit for me to get married and have a family of my own, this has been good training.

Worship team: I sang in choir growing up and never thought I'd sing on stage. But I've found community in worship team and you'll find me on the platform a few times a month singing, but for God's glory and not my own.

Car: I thought I knew what I wanted and fought against Dad's suggestions. But I drove the car I liked and it wasn't what I thought. Now I'm back to Dad's suggestions. In fact, I am supposed to get that new car Dad suggested today. My dad is a smart man.

Community: I've expected community to come to me, but I'm learning that I've got to go to it. Relationships aren't one sided. I've met a lot of cool people here, but it takes a lot of intentional effort to connect. Connecting means being honest and vulnerable and belonging to myself above all else. It's hard work.

Health: My health struggles have reminded me that I am human and not invincible. Though I am thankful that my conditions are not fatal, they are frustrating. Dystonia is yet another way that God is sanding off my rough edges. I didn't choose it, but God has allowed it into my life for some reason.

I still have goals in life, but I'm trying to hold them loosely. As God takes what I have known and breaks it all apart, He reveals His bigger and grander and more beautiful plan. And You, my God are greater still.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Embracing Fear

I have an issue with fear. And I've let it run my life for far too long. As a perfectionist, I've often missed opportunities because I was afraid to try something and fail. As a fearful person, I've made mountains out of molehill issues to the point that I've been paralyzed. And I've run away and hidden because I was afraid way more times than I want to count.

But God's Word says, "For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind" (2 Tim 1:7 New Kings James Version). God has been impressing this idea on me through a variety of means. My best friends keep telling me to stop overthinking and just live. I hear songs like, "Fear, He Is a Liar" by Zach Williams or "All In" by Matthew West. The latter song says,

I don't know that I'm "all in," but I do know that God is teaching me to be less fearful. For me that looks like saying what I really think, rather than debating about whether or not to share. It means picking up the phone and making the call rather than putting it off. It means initiating a conversation rather than expecting the other person to do it. It means branching out and trying some new things. It means failing sometimes and being okay with it.

I suppose that I'll always struggle with fear, but as I face fear, it gains less power. As I embrace fear instead of running from it, I embrace God and His plans for my life. For it is God who says, "Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand" (Isa 41:10, New International Version). With God at my side, I'm saying, "Fear won't win."