It Takes A Village: On Finding Support & Community

It takes a village.

This is a common theme I believe in and swear by and state often.

I would not be where I am today (feeling healthy and whole and happy) without my village. It’s a village made of home group members, family, baristas, climbers, coworkers, and bloggers. It’s a village of wonderful folks who have cheered me on and invested in my mental health and spoken kind words to me.

Here’s what I believe:

I believe a community of supporters and cheerleaders can empower and enlighten and encourage you. I believe in the importance of lifting each other up, not tearing each other down. I believe comparison is nasty and individualism is beautiful. I believe loving others helps you learn to love yourself.

It took me a while to find my village.

The first few months and even year or so back in Dallas were lonely and isolating. I was struggling with severe depression and I kept to myself. I was insecure and anxious and devastated. I didn’t practice self-care and I didn’t pursue friendships.

It was awful.

A couple years in I found a new church community, invested in climbing gear and a membership, and attended a blogger meetup. All of a sudden I was surrounded by like-minded believer, encouraging athletes, and inspirational creatives. It was a drastic change for the better.

The right village always stands behind your mental health and well-being.

This weekend I had plans of a night out on the town with my girl gang. We planned to dress up and eat fancy food and drink fancy drinks and listen to live music.

But I decided not to go. It was a hard decision and I genuinely wanted to see my friends, but the past few weeks have been stressful and packed and wild, and I just needed time to myself.

So I stayed home, cuddled my dog, and got dumplings delivered to my door. I took a nap and I still went to bed early. I listened to music and watched Kim’s Convenience. It was a restful, easy, peaceful night. It was exactly what I needed.

And instead of shaming me, instead of calling me a flake or talking down to me, my friends encouraged me and offered to pray for me. They affirmed me in taking care of myself and they offered a listening ear and virtual hugs.

My village is amazing. They are kind and encouraging and supportive. They listen well and pray hard. They dream big for me, they hug me, they cry with me. They celebrate and rejoice with me. They mourn and grieve with me.

Do you have a village like that? Because if you don’t, I encourage you to find one. I encourage you to pursue the right people and right relationships. You won’t regret it, I guarantee.

One Month In: Life Lessons From A Future Attorney

I’ve been a law student for a month now.

Yes, folks!!! Four weeks! 30 days! Late nights! Early mornings! That is an entire month of study sessions, introductions, office hours, Zoom classes, and power naps. All the things!

And guess what? I haven’t even cried once!

Now that I am essentially a practicing attorney (100% joking), I’d like to share some of the wisdom I have gleaned over this past month:

  1. Sleep is important. I learned the importance of sleep during undergrad when I suffered from severe insomnia. I would run off only a handful of hours of sleep for multiple days in a row. It negatively affected my energy, mood, and even personality. These days I am reminded the value of sleep and try to get in at least 8-hours per night.
  2. Dog motherhood is good for the soul. My sweet terrier-mix Jack is the light of my life. When I have a long day at school and walk through the front door, my sweet pup introduces me with eager squeals and little dances and pure delight.
  3. Make new friends, but keep the old. The Girl Scouts song rings true: I have made a couple of new 1L friends who have helped me study more and stress less. But I still have my climbing and church community by my side, too. It’s the best of both worlds!
  4. Saying no can be just as important as saying yes. Sometimes I mistake myself for the Energizer bunny and say yes to a bunch of things and people and activities and run around until I’m exhausted and grumpy and over everything. Those are not good times. Sometimes saying no is necessary for my study habits, school-life balance, and me-time.
  5. Jesus loves me, this I know. During this whirlwind month, so much has come and gone and changed and evolved. All of this change can be overwhelming, but it is still a comfort to know Jesus stays the same and loves me the same forever and ever, amen.

I have learned a lot of other stuff, too.

But I also have a lot of reading due tomorrow and a quiz I’m avoiding in this very moment, so I think I’m going to keep internalizing the other life lessons and share those with you another day.

I wanted to pop on here to let you fine folks know that 1) I am alive and well, 2) school has been a blast, and 3) I miss writing my little heart out on this page. I miss your eyes and attention and kindness and grace. I miss you!

Thank you for taking the time out of your day to read this silly little blog. Thank you for being you. Grace & peace!

Hello, 26: Takeaways During My 25th Year

Well I’ve (almost) made it another trip around the sun!

I turn 26 on August 31. Year 25 was a big one: I pursued attending law school (and got in!!), quit a job, started two new jobs, became a dog and plant mom, and experienced quarantine with this pandemic.

A lot of life happened this year, many good and not-so-good things, many highs and lows, many in-betweens. Overall, I am so grateful for every moment, because they have led me to where I am today.

Let’s review this year’s most memorable takeaways:

  • Don’t give up on yourself. Four years ago I dreamed of going to law school. In the years since, I struggled with very severe on-and-off depression. I didn’t think I had what it took to get into law school. But lo and behold, during Year 25, I pushed through, and was accepted! It feels amazing to say that and equally amazing to begin this law school journey.
  • Give yourself a break. Early on into Year 25, I quit my stable job of being a legal assistant and chose to work part-time as a nanny and part-time at the climbing gym. Everyone thought I was crazy, but this break was exactly what I needed to focus on both myself and law school. It was every bit rewarding and liberating and just what I needed.
  • Do things that make your heart happy. Climbing rocks, drinking coffee, eating tacos, all of these make my heart sing. Let’s do more of what makes us happy.
  • Puppy love is the best. Adopting Jack and being a dog mom has been the best thing ever. There’s no love like puppy love!
  • New things are scary, but they can also be fun. Starting law school this fall (next week!!) is terrifying to me. I have to re-learn how to study and prepare for class and take tests. But I am also excited! It should be a fun, hard journey.
  • It takes a village. Without my friends, family, church, climbing, and blogger community, I do not know where I’d be today! I have been blessed with the kindest folks and sweetest community, and they help me get by on the reg.

Year 25 was refining, challenging, stretching. It was eye-opening and humbling. I pressed into some hard moments and hard conversations. I took care of myself, I loved others, I spent time with Jesus.

I am thankful for all of the change I experienced in Year 25–job adjustments, career change, moving, and more. It was one heck of a year, and I can’t wait to see what Year 26 holds. Bring it on!!

A Thankful & Delighted Heart: On Non-Plans & Law School

I’m going to law school.

Let me say it again and say it louder: I AM GOING TO LAW SCHOOL!!!! Four years ago in Nashville, I decided I wanted to pursue a law degree. For the past three years, I battled debilitating depression and discouraging anxiety. I had mood swings and low dips and dark, dark moments. It was hard for me to dream and plan for my future.

Last year (and really all of 2020), I miraculously felt healed in a lot of ways. My medication finally kicked in and I have only faced a handful of depressed days since. It truly has been the biggest and most surprising blessing.

So I decided to go for it! I took the leap of faith, bought some LSAT study books, took the test (twice), did okay on the test (twice), and applied for schools. And here we are, with my dream and plan unfolding right before my eyes, as I begin classes in just over a month.

Quite literally nothing went according to plan.

In undergrad, I never planned to go to law school. I never planned to veer off from my degree and career path in public relations. I never planned to move back home to Dallas so soon.

Post-graduate degree, I never planned to have bipolar disorder and struggle on and off and on again with it. When I began to dream about law school, I never planned for it to take me three years to take action and four years to finally attend.

And even going to law school now, I didn’t plan to stay in Dallas. I didn’t plan to move back home with the parents (again), and I didn’t plan to attend UNT Dallas.

But here we are!

Even though nothing has gone to plan, I am eager and excited and over the moon at seeing this dream come to fruition. It has been a rewarding and humbling and downright giddy experience. My poor little brain was pushed, pulled, and stretched mentally as I studied for the test, wrote personal statements, and applied for schools.

Lately, I have prayed for a grateful and delighted heart. In all honesty, I am not too thrilled to go back with living with my family. I love them dearly and treasure their relationships, but I know the dynamics of being an adult at home will be difficult. And I am not too thrilled to stay in Dallas. I love this city and it will always be home to me, but I was ready to spread my metaphorical wings and fly.

But here we are! I am trying to be thankful for the opportunity to go to law school, for parents who are generous enough to welcome me into their home, for a city that houses a community I cherish.

I am trying to be delighted at the way these non-plans have unfolded, to be delighted in that The Lord has been so gracious to me during this incredible journey of chasing a dream I feared would never happen.

So here I go!

It’s just little ole me with a big-hearted dream and a big-hearted plan to do big things and love in big ways. It’s just little ole me ready and waiting for good things to happen this year, my very first year of law school and my second time around living at home since returning to Dallas.

I am hopeful and expectant and giddy and excited! I am nervous and anxious and scared and intimidated. But it will be a wonderful journey, and I am just grateful and delighted to jump headfirst into it.

Get Up & Follow: On Grace That Moves

Have you ever been paralyzed by fear?

I know I have.

When I first moved back from Nashville and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I faced crippling fear and anxiety. Afraid I would always be depressed. Anxious that I would never be able to feel a sense of normalcy again. Afraid I would always be alone in this fight. Anxious I would be stuck facing intense mood swings and manic episodes for the rest of my life.

And for a long time, my fear and anxiety won. For a long time, I just sat in my room and wept myself to sleep every night, because I just did not see any good coming out of such a devastating life change.

I’m not afraid anymore.

It was not overnight, and it certainly took time and prayer and encouragement, but I’m not afraid anymore–at least not in the same way I used to be. It took months and months. It took prayers upon prayers. It took lots of crying, lots of therapy, lots of setbacks, but I’m not afraid or anxious about my disorder today.

The other day I read my morning devotional, New Morning Mercies, and it really spoke to me. It began by saying this, “We have a grace of empowerment. So get up and follow.” 

And it also said, “You have been granted by the very same grace all that you need to be what God has called you to be and to do the things God has called you to do in the place where he has put you.”

Now those are some words I needed to hear.

When I look back at my past, I am overwhelmed with gratitude and humility. I never would have chosen to suffer from a mood disorder, I never would have chosen to move back to Dallas and live with my parents again for a year.

But God’s grace moves! His grace is kind to us and gives us exactly what we need and when we need it. Even though it is an everyday challenge and obstacle, God chose for me to have bipolar disorder. He chose for me to return to Dallas. He chose for me to share my mental health journey as an encouragement and light to others.

I feel hopeful and expectant of the future.

There are plenty of challenges and obstacles that lie ahead, but as I begin law school (finally!!) and move back home with my parents again, I know good things lie ahead. I know school will be hard and demanding, I know relationships with my family may be tested.

But I also know that God’s grace has been kind to me as I take major steps in becoming an attorney. God’s grace has relieved me of major depression and empowered me to pursue this longtime dream. God’s grace has given me the best support system and the best opportunities to keep pressing on, even when times were hard, even when I felt hopeless of the future.

Dear friends, it is okay if you feel a little afraid and anxious–that just means you’re human, that just means times may be tough right now. But please, please do not forget that God’s grace moves, God’s grace calls us to be where we are and empowers us to pursue big dreams and do big things and love others in big ways.

I know His grace is sufficient for you, because it has been sufficient for me. I know His grace loves you in an unfathomable way, because I myself have been left speechless. So get up and follow! Let’s get up and go! Goodness lies ahead, and God’s grace endures.

Four Years Of Bipolar: On Hope + Expectation

Commissary

I was diagnosed with bipolar four years ago.

Four years!! That is four years of all sorts of mood swings, all sorts of both valley and mountaintop moments. That is four years of on-and-off depression and mostly-off manic moments (phew!).

My mental health journey has certainly been that: a journey.

Years and years ago, a mentor of mine Claire told me that my life is like a tapestry, this wonderful, brilliant, beautiful grandeur of a thing. She said that the hardest moments, the moments of doubt and weakness and trial, will only be a blip, a small stitching within an incredible, grandiose piece of artwork.

And she was right.

When I was first diagnosed, I thought my life was over.

I was afraid I would struggle with severe, debilitating depression the rest of my life. I was afraid of losing friendships and loved ones because they would not understand, they would not be able to empathize with my darkest lows.

I was afraid I would have to give up on my dreams, that the reality of bipolar would just keep me in the pits. I was afraid I would never fall in love, because who could love someone who was so unstable?

My fears were unfounded.

Yes, I have struggled with depression on and off and on again, but the past couple years have been surprisingly and wonderfully magnificent, practically depression-free. Most of my friendships have only strengthened as dear ones have stepped into my sadness with me, coming alongside me in the valley.

I have pursued my dreams harder and fiercer than I ever did before: chasing after this law school goal, taking the LSAT, actually following through with applications. I even fell for a guy who in turn fell for me for most of 2019. It was the most delightful surprise, and though we moved on, I am still abundantly thankful for what it was when it was.

I guess one of the biggest takeaways is this: goodness always lies ahead.

I have a lot of hope and expectation for the future. I have a lot of eagerness and readiness for what is to come. I know Jesus Man is good to me even during the darkest times, and I know His Father will surprise me with the best of things time and time again.

I know there are plot twists and turns and trials coming, too. I know the valleys loom ahead even though I don’t want them to — no one wants them to, after all. I know there will be moments of doubt and fear and weakness and mourning.

But there will also be times of joy and gladness and radiance. There will also be times of gratefulness and a heart that is overwhelmed with love and grace and utter peace. There will also be delight in its purest form as I give thanks to God Above as I am wrapped up in His merciful kindness.

So my friends, be encouraged.

Be encouraged that no matter what trials and tribulations you face, they are but a small blip in the grand tapestry that is your life. It may not feel like it now, but this too shall pass.

Be encouraged that you are not alone in your hardships or suffering, but instead remember you have a village of friends and loved ones who care for you, ones who will gladly come alongside you in the valley.

And lastly, be encouraged that good times and a hopeful future do lie ahead, no matter what your life may look like now: up, down, or in-between.

Hand It Over: On Giving Daily Anxiety To Jesus

We have a lot to be anxious about these days.

The coronavirus pandemic has affected each individual in different ways: people are losing their jobs, losing their health, losing their feeling of security. People are worried and they have good reason, because this is a very serious situation that has taken over our world and disrupted our livelihoods.

When I talk to my friends about the situation, a word that is commonly used to describe how we feel is “anxious.”

We say things like:

  • “I’m anxious about getting coronavirus or unknowingly giving it to someone I love.”
  • “I am anxious about going to the grocery store.”
  • “I am anxious about losing my job.”

I don’t know about you, but this whole situation has left me feeling afraid, nervous, weary, insecure, lost, unsettled. In many ways I have felt shocked, in other ways I have felt numb.

The other day I stumbled upon a sweet reminder.

1 Peter 5:7 says this:

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

Let’s hand our worries over to Jesus.

Jesus can take them, he can handle them, he loves to love us and he loves to take on our burdens. He cares for us deeply and radically and unconditionally, and he can uphold any anxiety we may struggle with or feel.

It is through his grace and mercy that we can find a radical peace and rest for our anxious, unsettled hearts. It is through his grace and mercy that we can approach him on our knees crying out for a sense of comfort and security during these uncertain times.

These truths calm me.

The truth of God’s love and goodness and ever-kindness calm me. The truth of His loyalty to His children, His pursuit of their hearts, His gentleness to them make me feel less overwhelmed and more at ease.

We can rest on these character traits of The Lord, the promises He makes, the sovereignty of His kingdom. We can rest on His love, His goodness, His faithfulness. It is time to hand our burdens over to Him, for He cares for us.

Hold Onto Hope: On Easter Sunday

Lately I have felt pretty hopeless.

With all of the chaos surrounding the coronavirus, it is easy for me to feel hopeless because I can’t change/control/fix the situation. I can’t come up with a cure. I can’t tell you when social distancing will be over. I can’t heal those who have the virus. I can’t leave my home when I want. I can’t magically start my jobs up again.

I can’t do a lot right now, and it makes me feel overwhelmed and weak and powerless. It makes me feel doubtful and anxious and insecure. I’m sad, I’m down, I’m at a loss.

Ironically, this upcoming Sunday is all about hope.

Easter Sunday, Resurrection Sunday, is focused on the hope of Jesus Christ, a hope that is radical and unchangeable. When Christ died on the cross, he left the disciples and his family and his followers devastated and confused and empty. He left behind people feeling doubtful and anxious and insecure.

But behold! He rose three days later, Easter Sunday. He rose again and proved he was the Messiah, the Savior, a being that we can put our hope and trust and faith in.

It isn’t every day a man lives and dies and lives again for you. It isn’t every day your Savior rises from the grave and gives physical, tangible, undeniable evidence of his love for you. That is why this Sunday is so special, amazing and unbelievable.

I can’t do much these days, but I can trust in Jesus.

Romans 15:13 says this:

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

Even though there is so much I cannot control, so much I question and doubt these days, I can stand firm in my faith. I can seek out those still, quiet and serene moments with my Heavenly Father. I can press into Truths found in scripture, I can lean into His promises.

Hope found in Christ gives us joy and peace. Hoping in Christ means I can find little joys every day, even when quarantine is hard and makes my heart heavy. Hoping in Christ means I can have peace with all that is going on, even if it is a lot to take in.

Sometimes it is hard to hope in Jesus Man. I can’t see him or hear him, sometimes I can’t even feel him near me. But the evidence of his life, death and resurrection show his love for me. They give me reason to hope. And I hope they give you a reason to hope, too.

The Monthly Update: February

February came and went in the blink of an eye.

For as long as January felt, February seemed that much shorter. Last month I introduced The Monthly Update to you fine folks, so let’s go ahead and hop in.

February highlights:

  • I was cleared to teach a Climbing 101 class all by myself at Summit. My first two solo classes are in March, and I am excited to hype up climbing to some fresh-faced newbies!
  • I spent a weekend in Austin visiting friends and family. It was so fun exploring one of my favorite cities and spending time with people I love.

February lowlights:

  • I am going to be vague, but likely will share more details later on. I have just been conflicted about the direction my life is going and it has caused a lot of anxiety, stress, and self-doubt. It is no fun, to say the least.

This month, I was filled by:

  • I value all of my friendships, but one that fills me the most is my friend Madyson’s. We have known each other since middle school. She is always a source of light, love, and encouragement. It was so wonderful seeing her in Austin a couple of weekends ago.

This month, I was emptied by:

  • After receiving a couple of rejection letters for law school, I began to question this big dream of mine. I started feeling a lot of anxiety, stress, and doubt.

In March, I am looking forward to:

  • My second nephew’s arrived on March 3rd. It is thrilling to welcome another little boy to our growing family, and I can’t wait to show him how to rebel against his parents.
  • For Lent this year I am doing a new concept introduced to me: 40 Days and 40 Items. Each day I will remove one item I no longer use or wear and then donate at the end of Lent. I am looking forward to self-reflection and taking one more step toward a more minimalistic lifestyle.

It Takes A Village: On The Value Of Deeply-Rooted Community

I used to feel awfully alone.

When I first returned to Dallas from Nashville, I felt awfully alone. Not the kind of loneliness that comes and goes with varying moods or circumstances, but the kind of isolation and desertion that leaves you feeling empty and saddened.

Only a handful of my hometown and college friends were also living in Dallas at the time. As I struggled with severe depression and anxiety, the symptoms of shame and false guilt caused me to withdraw even further away from people who loved me.

But these days, I feel awfully loved.

After three+ years of living in Dallas, I feel awfully loved. Not the kind of vague kindness between civil acquaintances, but the kind of radical and reckless and over-the-moon compassion that makes you feel full and thrilled.

Today I am overwhelmingly cherished by a community of family, friends, churchgoers, climbers, baristas, and more. These are people who show me kindness when I am anything but. These are people who sit and weep with me when I am down. These are people who jump and scream with me when I am up.

It takes a village.

They say, “It takes a village.” I don’t know exactly who “they” are, but it’s a common saying I have heard time and time again, and now I know it to be true.

It takes a village to make me feel loved and supported and welcomed and accepted. It takes a village to make others feel needed and cherished and wanted and treasured. It takes a village for each of us to do this thing called life, and to do it well.

Here are some thoughts on the value of a deeply-rooted village:

  1. Community is worth it. It’s worth the trouble, it’s worth the search. Community is important and it may be hard to find, but I promise if you try hard enough and do discover one, your life will be better.
  2. Community is hard. It’s not easy to be vulnerable and transparent, which are two keys to building a deeply-rooted community. It’s not easy to see someone you love hurting or in need, but I promise if you stick with your community, when your hurts eventually heal, you will have a body of cheerleaders to celebrate with you!
  3.  Community is life changing. When you find people who love you, with heart and soul and in every possible way, your world is entirely rocked. You will never be the same — and I mean this is the best way!