One Way Conversations

I was listening to some songs by Hollyn the other day. One of them was “Can’t Live Without You” which I think is really catchy. Part of it says, “Distance got me wonderin’ where You are right now. One-way conversations got me worn down. Pouring out my heart wish You would speak a sound.” (The “you” is God.)

It hit me that the emotion conveyed in this song is that we’re talking and God’s not listening, at least we feel like he isn’t. Sometimes that’s how it feels. We feel like God doesn’t hear us because he hasn’t answered how we want him to answer.

This time it hit me that sometimes that one way conversation is God talking and us not listening. It’s frustrating when you’re in a conversation where someone talks about themself and then ends the conversation before you even get to share anything. I know that sometimes I do that to God. I talk and talk. I tell him all about how I feel, what I see, and what I want. In those times, I don’t pause to listen to how God feels (both about me and my situation), what God sees, or what God wants.

I need to remember that my conversations with God are two sided. I am invited to tell him what I’m thinking, feeling, and processing. But I also have a responsibility to leave space for him to speak to me about those things. If only one of us is listening and only one of us is talking, it’s not going to be the best relationship it could be.

Fully Go

I think I’ve only picked a word of the year twice before. In 2017 it was dreams. I wanted to remind myself to dream big and go for things outside of my normal reach. It was a great year that did bring some amazing dreams to life.

Last year, I chose the phrase fearless flourishing. I wanted to be brave and to grow in all the ways God asked me to grow. The main thing that concentrating on that phrase birthed in my life was this blog.

I feel like my unofficial word for this past fall was abide. It’s my friend Kendra’s word for 2019. (www.kendranicole.net) It mainly stuck out to me in all the places I saw John 15 this year. I’ve heard sermons about it, heard songs about it, and seen it pop up time and time again. It’s neat how God has been teaching Kendra and teaching me with this same word. It’s been fun to talk about it with each other.

For 2019, there are two words that have been popping up as I prayed about and considered what to choose. One is go and the other is fully. I feel like I get inspired a lot by songs and unsurprisingly I have a song in mind for each one.

The song for “fully” is Known by Tauren Wells. I feel like that for sure was an anthem for me this past year and is still living in my heart.

Part of it says:

“I’m fully known and love by You

You won’t let go no matter what I do

And it’s not one or the other

It’s hard truth and ridiculous grade

To be known fully known and loved by You

I’m fully known and love by You”

 

Fully means entirely or wholly. I want to live life fully. I want to be fully present. That means things like:

-interacting more in real life than on my phone

-trying new things even if they are scary or I could get hurt (emotionally speaking)

-having hard conversations to get to better places relationally

-thinking about the current thing in front of me not the past or the future

-acting as fully myself and not holding back (Sometimes that looks like a whole ton of fast talking when I am excited about something. I’m sorry if it’s ever a tidal wave of words.)

The second word is go. The song that goes with it for me is “If You Say Go” by Blanca. Here are the words.

I’m standing on the edge of the ledge

So afraid of falling

Unsure, insecure, how could I

Be the one You’re calling

But I can hear Your voice

I know You’ve brought me here

And I will make the choice

To believe and not fear

 

If You say go, I’m not gonna wait

If You say move, I won’t hesitate

Wherever it is that You’re taking me to

I’m gonna trust in You

If You say go

 

Every thought, every goal, every dream

Can’t compare to Your plans

So every breath, every need, everything

God, it’s all in Your hands

I can hear Your voice

I know You’ve brought me here

And I will make the choice

To believe and not fear

 

If You say go, I’m not gonna wait

If You say move, I won’t hesitate

Wherever it is that You’re taking me to

I’m gonna trust in You

If You say go

 

You’re before me, behind me

Everywhere You’re with me

I know I’m never, never alone

So wherever You lead me

God, that’s where I’m gonna be

If You say go

If You say go, I’m not gonna wait

If You say move, I won’t hesitate

Wherever it is that You’re taking me to

I’m gonna trust in You

If You say go

On December 17th, my blog was about some passages that are about God calling and sending people in the Bible. That goes well with this idea of “go” because first you say, “Here am I” and then you actually go and do something.

I want to be someone who goes right away when God says the word. I want to be looking for chances to do that. I want to give God an open invitation to send me, not a conditional one.

I kept praying about thinking about those words. I feel like I understand how to carry out the “fully” part, but I’m not sure what the “go” part will look like. I’m realizing that’s ok. I don’t need to know what the future “go” will mean to prepare my heart to be ready for it when it comes. I don’t know if “go” will be anything big or new. There’s always the possibility it could be a move, a new job, or another big life change. But it could just as easily be a million small ways that God asks me to move.

After writing this, I read a quote from Embraced by Lysa TerKeurst that I think goes will with that idea. “That little act of obedience somehow unplugged my spiritual ears. Not that we can’t hear God otherwise. But hearing Him clearly? I think that might require my soul to acknowledge what all my rushing causes me to miss.”

I don’t want to miss any of the going that God asks me to do, but first I need to make sure I can hear it.

Back to my word of the year…I’m not indecisive, but I’m deciding to choose two words again because I think they go well with each other and go well with my last few words. This year’s phrase is… fully go. I started two years ago with the word dreams.  It was me recognizing that I had some and trying to live them out. Last year, it continued with fearless flourishing. It was taking those dreams and bravely starting to carry them out. This year, I will keep growing in that same vein to fully go by taking the dreams, bravery, and implementation of the last two years and putting them to work full force this year wherever they take me.

At church, we started the year with our fifth and sixth graders by giving them a rock and asking them to pick a word to focus on for the year and write on their rock. We talked about how in the Old Testament God had the people choose rocks and make monuments to remember important events. Over 100 of us have a rock that contains our word, in my case words, on it. Mine is going to live in my car for now because I use it multiple times each day. I want to remember what God has done in me up to this point and do all that he wants me to do from here on out.

What comes to mind for you? What word can God use to change you this year?

 

A Year in Books

A Year in Books

I’ve been a big reader since I was a kid. Since I’ve been a teacher, my reading has slowed down as I’ve chosen non-reading hobbies in my off work time. I decided last year to intentionally make time to read this year.

I started the year doing a reading challenge with two friends. I wanted to push myself out of my normal pattern of reading. So we chose this one by Modern Mrs. Darcy. I knew I could at least read 12 books this year.

reading-challenge-2018-01

I also made it a personal goal to read 50 total books for the year. I don’t read evenly spaced out, but I figured I could read nearly a book a week during the year. I found some fun new authors and read a couple series from start to finish. I had some encouragement from someone who pushed me to read 52 to finish off the one a week average. With that encouragement and support, I ended up reading 55. You’ll see another “book” more like a workbook thrown in at the end but not reflected in my total.

I used Goodreads to keep track of my books and marked others I am interested in reading but haven’t gotten to yet.

Haunted

Of this set, I read 4 in my normal zone-the ones from Mary Higgins Clark and James Patterson. The Screwtape Letters was one I’ve always heard about and wanted to read. I didn’t know the premise of the book so I had to stop a chapter in to get my bearing by reading a quick summary. After that, it clicked, and I really enjoyed reading this fictional exchange between two devils about how to get people to doubt God. Another inspiring book was Idol Eyes by Mandisa. She is one of my all time favorite contestants from American Idol. It was heartbreaking to read about some struggles she has gone through, but she’s come out of them with an even more beautiful relationship with God. I also started the Percy Jackson series that I’ve been wanting to read for the last 4 years since my 3rd grade students were obsessed with them. A Man Called Ove made me want to cry as it expressed a man who was resisting love but couldn’t resist forever.

17th Suspect

Here is more James Patterson. 😉 I was inspired by The Dream of You and Everybody Always, two books I heard about on the That Sounds Fun podcast. Everybody Always is about loving people, even and especially, the most difficult ones. The cover of the book is the fingerprints of a group of witch doctors that Bob is teaching in Uganda. He realized they needed to learn to read so he set up a program for them. Two of the books are by Melinda Leigh who I discovered this year and read back to back.                                                                             Battle of Labyrinth

This collage contains my least favorite book of the year and two of my favorites. I did not enjoy The Boys of My Youth. This one was for the category a book of poetry, a play, or an essay collection. I originally picked to read the play An Ideal Husband by Oscar Wilde. I loved reading The Importance of Being Earnest in high school. I remember doing a group video project on it and filming it at my house complete with my group and I in fake mustaches. I tried a few times to get into An Ideal Husband and just didn’t have the patience or interest to read it. So I decided to go for a collection of essays since I’m not super into poetry. I looked up lists of recommended collections. I read reviews and summaries as I narrowed it down. The Boys of My Youth had great reviews so I even paid money to download it instead of finding a free option. It wasn’t anything like I pictured, and it seemed like the writer must have been high while writing it. Maybe other people were high while reading it. Who knows, but I would not recommend it.

One of my favorite books was The Cellar by Katherine Lo. She was my high school English teacher. She was probably my favorite teacher of all my high school years, and she knew me the best because I would always get there early and chat with her before class about all kinds of things, including Gilmore Girls. I hadn’t seen her at all since I graduated, but I have read a few articles about her that popped on from my high school social media connections. This fall, I was signed up to go to a conference at my church. The night before the event, it got canceled. I really wanted to go, so a roommate of mine suggested that I look to see if there was another close location. There was one in Long Beach. Guess who was one of the guest speakers?! It was Ms. Lo! After her talk, I went up and said hi. I started with, you may not remember me, but I was one of your students. Within a second, she called me by name and remembered by sister and my high school best friend. It had been 15 years and probably 1,500 students since she was my teacher so I was thrilled she remembered me. I thought she might, but I wasn’t sure. Anyway, all that being said, her book would have been a favorite no matter who the author was, but it’s even more special because she was my teacher. My other favorite was Remember God which I wrote about in my blog from October 22.
The Revenge of Seven

This set contains a well written but messed up saga (Pretty Girls Dancing), a laugh out loud funny book (Seriously…I’m Kidding), two inspirational books (The Good and Beautiful God and 100 Days to Brave), three from the Lorien Legacy Series (The Revenge of Seven, United as One, and The Fate of Two), a children’s chapter book (Haunted Castle on Hallow’s Eve), and a book that was interesting but would have been even better at ⅔ the length (The Devil in the White City). The thing I liked about the last one was that it gave a lot of information about how the World’s Fair works. I learned a lot of historical information that was fascinating.

Then She Was Gone

I really enjoyed reading Everyday Holy. Each devotion was about 2 pages. I would read it every morning before I went to work. It was a great way to start the day. Anxious for Nothing was also a great read. Ironically when I started reading it, I was in a grinning from ear to ear mood so it just wasn’t hitting where I was at. By the time I was finishing it a couple weeks later, some stressful things had happened and it was able to comfort my soul in those situations. Then She Was Gone was a fascinating book. The characters were so messed up though which made it hard to related to them or cheer for anyone. Both James Patterson books were great as usual as were two more in the Percy Jackson family of books. The last one is not quite a normal book so I’m not counting it, but I wanted to share it. She Reads Truth makes Bible reading plans, and each year they produce a beautiful advent workbook. I heard about it last year, but this was my first time ordering one. I really enjoyed it from the beautiful illustrations to the various fonts to the delicious cookies recipe. I just made the cookies today (writing on December 23rd) in preparation for Christmas.

She Rides Shotgun

In this collage, I really loved Unexpected. Christine Caine is a very driven and inspirational Christian leader. I have learned a lot from her over the last few years through her books, sermons, and interviews. The Color Purple was a book I’ve always been interested in reading. It gave me perspective on a life that is very different than my own. It was really sad though. The James Patterson books were good as usual. I was a little disappointed with Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, but I can’t believe I’d never read it before. The others were inspirational (Stand, Dance, Run), intense (She Rides Shotgun and A Killer’s Mind), and interesting but a little more graphic that I’d like (The Time Traveler’s Wife).

The Couple Next Door

These are the last two I read. The Couple Next Door was well written and kept me guessing, but I felt sad for how messed up and full of secrets each character seemed to be. Greek Heroes was an easy (although 500 page) book to finish off the year.

For 2019, a friend and I are going to do the next Modern Mrs. Darcy list. I’m not aiming for 50+ books this coming year, but we’ll see what happens. I’m excited to read 3 books by the same author. Now I need a series I am excited to try.

2019

https://modernmrsdarcy.com/reading-challenge-2019/

If you have a book I should try, leave me a comment.

Abide

My friend Kendra got me started on having a word of the year. I’ve only done it a few times, but it’s been really helpful to have a word to focus on and pursue.  This year mine was the phrase fearless flourishing. One of the by products of that pursuit is this blog. It’s helped me chase a dream and grow more reflective and intentional with what God is teaching me.

I am not sure what my word for 2019 will be, but one word that’s popped up a lot for me at the end of this year has been abide. It first popped out to me while listening to Sing Scripture. The CD I have has John 15 as one of the songs. I’ve been listening to it a lot so it’s been in my brain.

I was reading a plan on You Version called “Live Brilliantly.” One of the days is all about abiding. It pointed out that John used the word “abide” 10 times in chapter fifteen, 27 times in his epistles, and 40 times in his gospel. The definition given was “to remain stable or fixed in a state.”

I abide when I remain in a permanent state of trusting in God and resting on his strength, love, and promises.

It means I…

Allow God to be my ultimate source of comfort

Believe that he is for me at all times even when it feels like tough love

Identify how God has been faithful

Don’t run around trying to “fix” things by myself

Enjoy being in his presence

I’m not always great at abiding, but when I am, I feel at peace and my soul is healthy and at rest.

 

Here I Am

I have been reading the Advent book/reading plan from She Reads Truth. It’s a beautiful book with interesting designs sprinkled throughout the pages. The theme is “until the son of God appears” which is a line from “O Come O Come Emmanuel.” Each day has a stylized “O” to start. Day five is called “O Come, Perfect Substitute.” One of the passages is Genesis 22:1-18. It’s the story of Abraham being asked to sacrifice Isaac. It’s a powerful story, but it’s easy to gloss over it having heard it so many times before.

This time I noticed that the phrase “Here I am” was in the story three times. I’m familiar with that phrase from Isaiah 6:8, but it hadn’t stood out to me before. When I read it the first time in my Advent book, I only noticed it twice. As I sat down to write this I noticed it was there an additional time.

The first time is in verse one. God called to him, and Abraham answers with, “Here I am.” Then God goes on to say go to the land of Moriah and offer Isaac as a sacrifice. So first, Abraham says the phrase when God calls him. I want to be in a position of listening that closely to God that when he’s ready to talk I’m ready to listen. To me it’s like he says, “Here I am ready to take action.”

The second time Isaac calls to Abraham, and Abraham says, “Here I am, my son.” Isaac is confused about the mission they are on, and he’s looking to his father for clarification.  This repetition of the phrase says to me, “Here I am willing to talk about how I am walking out God’s call.” Abraham is doing something that would be horrific for any parent yet he’s taking the time to reassure his son that God is trustworthy and he will provide even while he has no idea the outcome. He’s still saying “here I am” in the midst of the trial.

The third use of the phrase is in verse 11. The angel of God is calling Abraham to stop him from killing Isaac. Here Abraham’s response is saying, “Here I am doing what you called me to do and still listening in case you change my marching orders.”

Abraham was listening all the way through. He didn’t just listen at the beginning and then do his own plan. He kept listening to God and modeling to Isaac that he was still dependent on God in the midst of the plan. Finally, he still listening for God even as he was doing what God called him to do.

Sometimes it feels confusing when you are doing what you think God called you to do and he flips the story or has you change course. While God might change because you got off course, God might also change the plan even though you were doing the very thing he called you to do. That’s what happened to Abraham. Even when we start down the path he’s called us to walk, we need to keep listening in case, like our GPS, God says, “Rerouting.”

 

Brown Water and Reconciliation

My small group has been reading The Good and Beautiful Community by James Bryan Smith. This week was all about reconciliation. Each chapter is full of teaching of a topic and at the end there is something called a soul training exercise. This week there were three options for the exercise.  One was allowing a friend to help you carry a burden of forgiveness. It asked the reader to identify a friend that would share, or take, the weight of unforgiveness you are struggling with. The goal was for that friend to pray for the issue you shared with them for 10 minutes a day for a week. I didn’t do this one, but I have done something like this with a friend before. You have the friend pray for something you’re unable to pray for in that season. It’s really helpful.

The second was to forgive someone internally even if it’s not possible to reconcile with them due to other circumstances. It also involved praying for that person. I had someone in mind that I’ve spent a lot of time praying for recently. I’m seeing the prayers make a difference after several months of waiting.

The third one was to see communion in a new light. It worked perfectly that my church’s monthly communion Sunday fell in the time frame for this chapter.  One thing that was suggested at church was to use some of the time to celebrate what victories God has given you. That was great especially since that week I’d had a big prayer answered in the way I had hoped it would be. Also during communion, I had a few images come to mind. One was one of those big walls that has the water flowing down it from the top. I pictured red liquid, like blood but it wasn’t gross in my image, coming down on the wall and running until it became clear. Then that prompted me to remember something that happened at home a week or so before that. I had come home one day and turned on the sink. It started making a crazy noise and the water came out brown. I left it running until it turned clear. Apparently our pipes were off, but it was a surprise to see brown water. That also reminded me of a video by charity: water which showed brown water coming out in an upscale home. It was made to get people to see what those in other countries with no clean water go through. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-AqlLyLeJuQ

Then in my mind all the things tied together. We have made tons of mistakes and those sins are like the brown water. Jesus’ death on the cross washes them away with Jesus’s blood until we’re clean like that clear water that finally came out of the sink.

If you think any of these exercises would be helpful for you, I would encourage you to give them a try.

 

Glory and Good

I was listening to That Sounds Fun. Again, yes I know to bring it up a lot, but I like that podcast a lot. The guest was Grant Skeldon. He said something that I thought was really interesting. I hope I have this quote copied right. He said, “God’s never entered into anyone’s life in the Bible…and says (said) just keep doing what you’re doing, you’re doing a great job. Every time he enters someone’s life, he disrupts it and makes it uncomfortable.”

In last week’s post, the message was that God is good even we don’t like or understand his ways. So coming from that place, Grant’s quote is not sad or frustrating, it’s encouraging. God comes in and does affirm people who do things right, but he also doesn’t leave anyone how they were before they knew him. He comes in and, sometimes drastically, changes people’s lives around.

He asked Noah to build an ark when he’d never seen rain.

He asked Abraham to leave his family and home and go to a land he would  show him not one he already had shown him.

He asked Joseph to trust him in spite of being sold as a slave by his brothers and thrown in prison.

He came to David the shepherd and asked him to trust him to help him become David the king. (But first he had to be David the man on the run from Saul who was trying to take his life.)

He asked some of the disciples to leave their fishing careers and follow him.

This list goes on and on. The point is that God comes in and changes things around. People had to make hard choices. They had to go against the crowd. They had to go without. They had to hold on to what God has asked them to do even when they didn’t see it for YEARS.

I haven’t had God ask me to leave my country (long-term) or family, fight for my life, or be a head of a nation. But I have had God ask me to give up a hobby (or put it on hold), step out and be different than those around me, live by his time table and not the world’s time table, and deal with physical conditions, both my own and those in others that I care about.

I know he’s not asking me to do these things just to be uncomfortable. He’s asking me to do uncomfortable things for his glory and for my good. What is God asking you to do that’s uncomfortable but necessary for your growth?

 

Just because it didn’t work out…

The other day was one of those days when I really felt like God was trying to make sure I paid attention to a particular idea. I heard the same thing in various ways four times in the same day. The main idea was that God is good no matter the outcome, especially when his final outcome doesn’t match mine.

The first place it popped up was in a reading plan called “I Serve A Savior” by Josh Turner. It’s been fun doing reading plans on the YouVersion app with a few friends. We added a new friend for this one because Josh Turner is a country singer and my friend is a country music lover who had mentioned wanting to do it. I’ve liked it a lot. The part that stood out to me that day was, “Just because things didn’t turn out the way you thought they would doesn’t mean God has forsaken you. He’s still there with you and for you.”
This theme has been popping up A LOT recently and especially in Remember God, a book by Annie F. Downs that I talked about in my blog a few weeks ago, on October 22nd. It’s important to remember that God is good and he is kind even when I don’t get my own way.
I know that, as a teacher, there have been many times I did not let a student have their own way. In those cases, I was thinking of their good in the bigger picture, but they didn’t know that. They just saw the “no” that was in front of them and got upset about it. Sometimes I see the “no” in front of me and get upset too. That’s when my brain needs to remind my emotions that God is good, he’s for me not against me, and that he’s never left me before and doesn’t plan on leaving me at any point.

The same theme popped out in two podcasts that day. They were both episodes of That Sounds Fun. One was with Luke Norsworthy and the other was with Shelley Giglio. Luke wrote a book called God Over Good. I haven’t read it yet. I understand that it’s about knowing God is good. Part of the summary I read about it said, “It means we must consider that the fact that perhaps our idealized expectations are just plain wrong.” What WE think is good is not the same as what God KNOWS is good. We have to adjust our perspective with that in mind.

The one with Shelley was full of good quotes and ideas. Annie asked her to address people who may think Shelley “has it all.” Shelley laughed at that idea, and Annie asked her to explain one lost dream. I didn’t know it, but she and Louie never had kids. Shelley had planned on having 4, but they never even had one. She talked about how that process was really hard to go through. Then she and Annie talked about having “mom energy” as women who are not moms. I love that God has used them in the lives of numerous kids and young people. I totally know what that “mom energy” feels like. I LOVE kids, and I had not ever pictured that at this point I wouldn’t have any myself. However, I have used that energy to serve in children’s ministry, teach, and be an auntie to some of my friends’ kids. I still hope to have kids, but I’m using that passion and energy that God put in to be bless whatever kids I have access to at this point.

Another thing that Shelley talked about that hit me was about living on mission. She mentioned not choosing to make much time for something like Netflix. She said it’s not that it’s bad, but she’s prioritizing other things. She said she likes to be at home, but it’s a bonus if she gets time to rest there. She said the phrase, “I’m more on mission than that.” Of course you need a balance between work/ministry and rest, but I think we feel like we need more mindless rest than we actually do. I think a big part of the Sabbath rest God talks about is connecting with him not our TV’s. It’s an intentional rest that gets us ready for what’s next. I think about how much free time I have, and I’ve been wondering how to use that to be more on mission. I’m not sure what that looks like, but I’m trying to listen if God tells me something.

The other place I heard this message was someone referring to a friend of theirs whose line is “obedience over the outcome.” That means that she follows God’s directions for her even when, especially when, she doesn’t usually get what it is she thinks she wants. I pray that I will be able to live that out.

Thanks, God, for the super blast of that message in my face. Even when I get the things I think I want and will satisfy me, I’m still nowhere without God my good, good father. (It was super cool that right as I started typing this last part, the song on my phone switched to Good, Good Father. Love it!)

3 a.m. friends

I love having friends share what they have learned with me. Whether people are telling me about a new book, show, movie, podcast, etc. it’s fun to learn about new things, especially through the eyes of a friend. This week my friend Kendra sent me a video by Annie F. Downs about 3 a.m. friends. (https://vimeo.com/207701377 If you want to check it out.)

The basic idea is that we may have a lot of acquaintances or even good friends, but we need friends who we could call at 3 a.m. who would be there for us. Growing up, I always just had a small handful of friends. I usually had a best friend and a few others that I hung out with. In college and beyond, especially in my mid 20’s, I started developing a larger network of friends. Currently, I have a very wide group of amazing friends. Even in that group though, there are some who see way more of my heart than others. Those are the 3 a.m. friends.

About ten years ago, I had a friend call me crying to talk about something that was going on in her life. After listening and trying to offer comfort, she said something that stuck with me. She noted that she called me a lot crying. Then she asked me who I called when I was crying. I told her honestly that I didn’t call anyone in that condition. I was a super emotional kid, but since I my teens, most of my crying is at emotional commercials, movies, or books. I rarely cry about stuff going on in my own life. (Part of my testimony is that I was a super worrywart, pessimistic kid. Ask my parents. When I developed a personal relationship with God in my early teens, that all went away.) If I was sad, I usually processed it alone or on occasion called my parents with my tears. My friend reminded me that I could call her, and she would be there for me. At some later point, I remembered that and did call her crying once. I knew that she felt like I really trusted her when I was able to do that.

Before that realization, if I was tempted to call someone, I would feel like it would be a bother and I wouldn’t do it even though I know if they called me with the same request, I would have loved to be there for them. I don’t fully understand why that was the case. I think it’s because I hate feeling like I am intruding and haven’t wanted to do that. That manifests too in me not wanting to ask for help even for things like a ride to the airport. So if I’ve ever asked you for a ride to the airport, you’re in my inner circle. 😉 The fact that I don’t want to “intrude” has actually caused hurt feelings a few times. I am all in if a friend asks for help, but I don’t know how to initiate stepping in at times that maybe I should. Others might just show up with food or help after a tragedy, but I worry I’d be in the way and be an extra burden so I don’t step in. At least once, that led to a friend feeling offended because I gave her too much space.  I’m trying to find a good balance for that.

A quote from the video is, “The braver you are, the freer you are.” She was talking about how when you’re really vulnerable with someone it makes you feel brave. It also makes you feel free because you’re not hiding anything about yourself hoping it won’t come up later. I know that with a couple friends, I will literally tell them anything, even things that embarrass me. I know they won’t tell anyone else, though they may tease me about it privately. It’s such a blessing to have a friend (or two, or three or four) who you know will be this kind of friend.

It’s a huge blessing especially still being single. When you’re married, you have a built in person who is (theoretically at least) always there for you. As a single person, I have been blessed by friends who are my “non-spouse spouse” in their support for me. I’m also blessed with friends who are married with kids who welcome me in as a part of their family. “Auntie Cara” is one of my favorite names at this point of my life. Part of being in a family is that you’re there for each other. I’m glad that the friends I have made my family are that way for me too.

 

35th Birthday Edition

As I write this on November 10th, I am celebrating my 35th birthday. It’s been my practice in my adult life to take some time on my birthday to be alone and reflect on the year. I journal last’s (hug, text, call, food, etc.) of the last year and the first’s of the new year. I write about highlights (a look through my Facebook page helps me remember) , and I dream about the coming year. Here are 35 things I reflected on. My personality would have preferred all the categories to be equal lengths, but this is how they worked out, and I’m going to be ok with it.

Adventure Highlights

  1. I got to see the Eiffel Tower. My favorite was when it got sparkly for a few minutes on the hour at night. I curled my hair and put on a dress and made my roommate take pictures.
  2. I saw a glacier calving (it sounds like thunder) and got to take a helicopter ride to a glacier and walk around on it.
  3. In October, I got to visit my best friend in Texas and meet my favorite Christian author. I also got lots of time to play chase and Mouse Trap with her 3 year old.
  4. In Albuquerque last December, I flew in a hot air balloon.

Favorite Friend Traditions that continued this past year

  1. Biola Christmas tree lighting in November
  2. Fall volleyball league
  3. Picking a Christmas tree with roommates
  4. Hiking-I am done with 5 of 6 of the Six Pack of Southern California peaks
  5. Cabin weekend-This year it was Big Bear.
  6. Valentine’s Day girls’ party-I make a ton of dessert and give away presents. My favorite part is writing notes of encouragement to each other. A lot of us have them hanging in our rooms throughout the year.
  7. My friends stepped up and helped me host a group of teen girls for brunch and games through Love Fullerton.
  8. A summer country concert-This year (the second in a row) I got recognized by a random guy in San Diego as the choreographer of Road Less Traveled.
  9. Luau party-This year my team won the golden turtle shell for finishing first in the relay. A friend blew my mind with chocolate chip cookies rather and graham crackers to make a s’more.
  10. Friday and/or Saturday nights at the Ranch

New things

  1. I started a blog (Fearless Flourishing) to process and share the things God has been teaching me.
  2. Volunteering at church with the kids stepped up to Wednesday nights too.
  3. I went swing dancing a handful of times and discovered it’s fun too. It’s hard to give up line dancing days for it though.
  4. I finally (I have wanted to do it for a LONG time) went to a Harlem Globetrotters game. The kids at my school performed, and I took a group of friends. I felt like a celebrity as all my kids yelled hi as I walked around.
  5. One of my best friends had a baby girl with year. I’m adding a new little person who calls (or will when she can talk) me Auntie.
  6. I saw the King and I with friends at Segerstrom Theater.
  7. A big group of line dancing friends went to the Hollywood Bowl for a Sound of Music sing-a-long. It was amazing! I want to make this a new yearly staple in my life.
  8. One roomie got married and one moved out. I loved my time with them. Now I have two equally amazing new roomies.

Top Books

  1. Remember God by Annie F. Downs-I have learned so much through her work, books and podcasts, in the last year. I read this book straight through (minus a couple breaks to breathe so I wouldn’t cry) on a flight to Austin. I got to meet her in person, and she’s really amazing.
  2. Thirst by Scott Harrison-This book shows how God can completely transform someone’s life. It inspires me to do something to make a bigger difference too.
  3. The Cellar by Katherine Lo-She was my senior English teacher in high school. I loved the emotional depth of the characters. I got teary more than a few times reading it. I was able to see her in person a few weeks ago when she gave a speech at an event I attended. She remembered my name right away after a 16 year gap since we had last seen each other.
  4. Everybody Always by Bob Goff-I am constantly inspired by Bob’s big love and his expressions of it.
  5. The Funny Thing Is… by Ellen DeGeneres-She is hilarious! I am was laughing out loud so much my roommate asked what was happening. I love the joy she brings and the ways she inspires people on her show.
  6. 100 Days to Brave by Annie F. Downs-It inspired me and gave me practical ways to step out of my routines and patterns.

Things That Surprised Me

  1. In Albuquerque, I visited the zoo. I had a moment with a white rhino. It was way across its enclosure. It made eye contact and walked all the way straight over to me. So, like a weirdo, I started talking to it. We had a thing.
  2. I caught the bouquet at my former roommate’s wedding in April.

What I want to do this year

  1. Start a YouTube channel for my dance (Road Less Traveled) and add new dances or teaching videos of dances other people have choreographed.
  2. Listen to all the Enneagram songs by Sleeping At Last
  3. Go on a date or, even better, get a boyfriend (a girl can keep hoping, right?)
  4. Catch up on and go back and listen to all the episodes of the That Sounds Fun podcast.
  5. Listen to Up and Vanished (I heard about it on That Sounds Fun and want to check it out.)