A Heart Full Of Thanks: My 10 Top Blessings Of 2020

Thanksgiving is here!

My favorite food, my favorite people, my favorite holiday all wrapped up into one day and given to me in a pretty little bow! This Thanksgiving will look drastically different, smaller, and quieter than years’ past, but that doesn’t mean it will be a bad one–just different.

This has been a hard year for everyone, but I know we can still give thanks. We can count our blessings, we can remember the good things, we can share the highs and lows and in-betweens. We can be glad for what we have, sad for what we don’t, and still feel blessed.

I’m full of thanks this year.

Here is my list of my top 10 things I am thankful for:

  1. A well mind– I haven’t struggled with depression in over two years, and I cannot express just how huge of a blessing this is. It is a gift to pursue dreams, be happy, and laugh genuinely.
  2. A healthy body– A body that can stretch and dance and move and bounce and CLIMB.
  3. My climbing community– Truly the most welcome and inspiring community, I am thankful for strangers who turn into friends so quickly. They are kind and inclusive and just plain fun!
  4. My church community– The ones who keep me rooted in Christ and point me to what matters, the ones who love me deeply and fiercely and wonderfully.
  5. My family– My new roommates! They have welcomed me into their home, given me reason to laugh, and supported me every step of the way of my law school journey.
  6. Taylor Swift’s Folklore album– It’s a bop! The end.
  7. My pup Jack– The light of my life, the center of my world: he is small and cute and fluffy and scruffy and scrappy and the best thing that happened to me in 2020.
  8. Coffee– The fuel that gives me life!
  9. My job– I get paid to welcome people into the climbing community! I get paid to love people! I get paid to climb! (Ok, not really, but kind of).
  10. My education– Perhaps the most concrete evidence of God’s faithfulness in 2020, I am so thankful that I was able to return to school this year to pursue a law degree. Virtual learning has not been easy (and neither is law school in general), but it has been such a gift.

I encourage you to consider what you are thankful for this year.

Maybe you can’t come up with ten or even five things, but I bet you could find at least a few: maybe it is your health, your family, maybe it is your community, or favorite hobby.

And come Thanksgiving day, you can share what you are thankful for with whomever you may be celebrating the holiday with. You can sit around the table, eat, drink, and be merry, and remember the good things, remember the blessings.

The Monthly Update: June

June highlights:

  • I went to the Boho Market at the Dallas Farmers Market with my sweet friend Lauren and my darling pup Jack in tow. The Boho Market includes a bunch of locally made goods from wonderful, local people. It was nice to approach shopping in a safe and fun way.
  • I got in some good quality time with my darling fam bam for Father’s Day and the weekend after. My crazy, cute, high energy nephew Mason turned two and we sang “Happy Birthday” together. And I got to hold and snuggle Mason’s tiny and wonderful, new baby brother, Westin.

June lowlights:

  • As the potential of starting law school in the fall approaches, my stress and anxiety increase. This dream has been a longtime in the making, and I just want to make sure I am doing it right.

This month, I was filled by:

  • Some friends came over for dessert and conversation in the middle of the month. We talked and laughed and drank wine and laughed some more. We dove into some hard topics, like coronavirus and how it’s changed us, systemic racism and what we can do, but handled the conversations with kindness, grace, and transparency. It was the most magical evening, it left me feeling encouraged and empowered.

This month, I was emptied by:

  • George Floyd’s death was a catalyst for a movement that our nation desperately needed: a movement that highlights injustice, brings darkness to light, and gives a voice to the voiceless. I have been encouraged to see my friends support their Black brothers and sisters, but simultaneously heavy-hearted to see the many injustices that are present in our society today. Though my heart aches and breaks for the BIPOC community, I know a feeling of complacency only leads to inaction and neglect.

In July, I am looking forward to:

  • Even though I am late in the game in posting the June update, I was majorly looking forward to Fourth of July this year. And my high expectations were met! I will elaborate more in next month’s update.

The Monthly Update: May

It is hard to believe it’s June!

Though some days seem long, the month flew by for me, and so has 2020 in general. Let’s go ahead and hop into this month’s update.

May highlights:

  • Celebrating Mother’s Day with my family was great. I got to see my cutie-pie nephews, and sitting around the kitchen table and eating lunch with the people I love was just nice.
  • Summit, the climbing gym I work at, re-opened this month! It has been so nice reuniting with the climbing community. And I was promoted to Assistant Manager. Nervous-excited about this new opportunity.

May lowlights:

  • Now that the gym is open and I have returned to work, my pup Jack and I are trying to get used to being apart. He definitely feels some separation anxiety, but we are working through it.

This month, I was filled by:

  • Now that things are starting to open up, I have been meeting friends for park dates. They’re exactly what they sound like, usually with Jack in tow, we hang out with a friend at a park, just catching up and enjoying each other’s company.
  • My home group has been meeting virtually since social distancing started. It has been encouraging to have that solid community during such odd times.

This month, I was emptied by:

  • The news of George Floyd has been devastating and heart-wrenching for me. I opened up a bit on my Instagram about scripture that encourages me during this time, and where I am starting as I seek to support my black friends and community.

In June, I am looking forward to:

  • My nephew turns two this month! It is hard to believe Mason has been with us for two years. He is a whirlwind of joy and giggles and mischief. I am excited to celebrate him.

The Monthly Update: March

March was a hard month for me.

And it probably was for you, too. My world has turned upside-down the past couple of weeks, as both of my jobs were put on pause, and a Shelter In Place order went into effect in Dallas.

But, as promised, I am delivering you your monthly update. I have plenty on my mind and heart lately, and I am looking forward to sharing with you in the days and weeks to come.

March highlights:

  • Right before my job at Summit was put on pause, I was promoted to Event Manager at our Dallas gym (my home gym). When we re-open, this will entail me fostering community at our gym through hosting events and competitions. I am so excited to reunite with the climbing community!
  • I got my second tattoo mid-March, a simple “joyful” in script with flowers. This little ink is a reminder the Fruit of the Spirit lives in and through me. Even on my down and depressed days, joy is in my soul and bones.

March lowlights:

  • The coronavirus crisis and social distancing is affecting everyone, including myself (obviously). It has been hard to stay home alone and physically distance myself from friends and family, but I am thankful to be safe in my apartment, for video calls, and for food delivery.

This month, I was filled by:

  • While everyone has been physically distant, I have seen so many people come together during this time: supporting one another, praying for others, sending each other love in the form of flowers, cards, and treats. There is so much encouragement and love swirling around, and it brings me utter joy!
  • I was able to have a video therapy session with Chelsey, my therapist of four years(!!). I had not seen her in a couple of months and the timing could not have been better. I loved catching up with her, listening to her wisdom and advice, and left with high spirits.

This month, I was emptied by:

  • The news of having both of my jobs put on hold was tough and discouraging. It made me feel sad and down and even minorly depressed for a couple of days.

In April, I am looking forward to:

  • Time to myself that I can use for creativity, writing, playing music, and more.
  • Continuing to connect with friends via video chats and phone calls, doing my best to spread the love near and far!

2020: On A New Year + Decade

2019 was a big year.

I left my very first adult job, started a new one that I subsequently quit six months later. I became a part-time nanny (again) and a part-time front desk worker at my climbing gym.

I began to take the dream of going to law school seriously, took the LSAT (twice) and submitted several applications. I moved into an apartment of my own, now I am free to dance around pant-less and it’s great.

I was in my very first romantic relationship, we made it eight months before we called it quits. I said “yes,” to dream-chasing, “no” to people who crossed boundaries, “yes” to fun things, “no” to selfishness as best as I could.

2020 may be even bigger.

This is the year I am going to (hopefully) get into law school and start classes in the fall. This is the year I am going to learn how to lead climb (a specific type of climbing) and become less afraid of heights.

This is the year I am going to try to be fearless as I dive into the unknown–unknown plans with law school, unknown future with where I’ll live, who my friends will be, who I will become.

I don’t really do resolutions.

I never have, and probably never will. My mindset is, “Why would I need a change in the calendar year to push me to be better, when I can become better at any moment in time?” New Year’s resolutions just don’t make much sense to me.

But I do have goals for this year: become physically stronger, eat healthier, take the Sabbath seriously. Be less afraid of getting hurt when I care for others, and more confident in loving people outside of my comfort zone.

I want to be kinder, braver, lovelier, softer. I want to make big moves and do big things and not look back, all while feeling secure in Jesus Man’s love for me. I want to care lots in little ways and become a safe house to those who feel lost and scared and empty and sad.

I’m really excited! I’m really nervous!

I’m excited about heading into a new year and a new decade. I’m excited about all of the potentially great things the unknown has to offer. I’m nervous about heading into an era of newness: new school, new friends, new place. I’m nervous about trying and falling flat on my face.

But even if I do end up falling flat on my face, I know that I’ll be okay. I’ve got the best family, friends, and support system around. I’ve got the best Father who loves me in ways I can hardly fathom.

I have a feeling it’ll be a great year: one of growth, renewal, refinement. I have a feeling it may be an even bigger decade: ideally attending and finishing law school, making it into my 30’s, and more.

So here I go, trusting God in the waiting and in the unknown. Let’s do this!!

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!

Getaway Recap: Waco In Five Hours

Waco is a wonderland.

That’s why my friends and I used to say, somewhat joking but also somewhat serious. When people learn I went to school in Waco, they often ask, “Hmm…how did you like Waco?”

Honestly, at first, I hated it. I was a Dallas gal stuck in a less-than-thrilling town. But the more time I spent in the 254, the more I grew to love its quirks and hidden gems, and the more I began to call it home.

I escaped the 214 yesterday for a quick trip to my college town.

My gal pal Lauren and I concluded after a long and semi-rough start to the new year, we deserved a short getaway to escape the worries and stresses of jobs and obligations and Dallas traffic. We hopped on I-35E and headed a couple hours south to my beloved home away from home.

We were only in Waco for about five hours, but we attempted to eat and drink and do the best things this quaint town had to offer.

With so many things to do in such little time, here’s what we ended up with:

  1. Common Grounds —  First thing’s first: in order to have a productive day, you have to start with a cup of Joe. This well-known treasure located right off Baylor’s campus will always be a Waco staple. I started my trip with a vanilla latte and Lauren had an iced mocha.
  2. Spice Village & Roots Boutique — Second thing’s second: once we were caffeinated, we headed to Spice for some great Waco shopping. Cute boutiques with clothes & jewelry & trinkets galore. Roots is located in the same building that also has plenty of good finds.
  3. Lula Jane’s — my very favorite Wacoan eatery, Lula’s is a garden-to-table restaurant and bakery. We munched on some chips and hummus while we downed iced tea. A wonderful midday snack.
  4. Clay Pot — also a great Waco restaurant, this Vietnamese establishment includes great food with kind service. It’s fast and reasonably priced, too!
  5. Dichotomy — As a coffee addict, I needed a drink for the road. I chose a decaf cappuccino to-go even though I would have loved to stay at my favorite local coffee shop. Chill vibes, great drinks, friendly service — you can’t go wrong with a stop by this wonderful Waco gem.

No matter how long I’m gone, Waco always feels like home to me.

Even though I’ve been back in Dallas for three years (time flies!) I had a feeling I would run into a friend or two. I ended up running into four old friends, including a former church intern, a colleague, and a couple of sorority sisters. It was so fun to bump into friendly faces and catch up in brief conversations.

I made an intentional stop to see my dear friend Julianna to hear about her life and latest adventures. It’s always so nice to hear the good, bad and in-between updates that old friends are going through. It warms my heart and nourishes my soul.

I want to be like Waco to my friends and family.

I want to be a home away from home for my friends who are hurting or lost or struggling or even for friends who are doing fine. I want them to feel like I will always welcome and love and treasure them. I want to always be in their corner, to always be a hop, skip and a jump away from wherever they are, even if they’re thousands of miles away.

Dear friend, whoever you are and wherever you are, I hope you have a Waco. I hope you have somewhere you can escape and call home and feel loved. I hope you can be a Waco, too. To encourage and love and cherish others, to open your arms widely and freely and accept those who wander.

Grace & Peace To You: On Kindness Through Faith

“Grace and peace.”

This is how Paul greets the early churches in his letters from prison. These are the words Paul uses first and foremost to encourage fellow Christians.

Lately I need more grace and peace.

I need more grace and peace for myself.

I need to feel God’s good grace at the end of the day when I was mean or grumpy or fell into temptation. I need peace when I feel Satan’s lies haunting me and peace when I give in.

I need more grace and peace for others.

I need to give grace when others wrong me, when they hurt me and when they lie. I need to spread peace when I innately want to return hurt with hurt, I need to establish peace among friends, family, coworkers and even strangers.

It’s hard.

It’s hard in the middle of a long work day when I wake up on the wrong side of the bed and clients are mean and faxes aren’t going through.

It’s hard on the weekend when I go to one event after the next and leave little me-time to recover some lost social energy.

It’s hard when I fight with someone I love over something that’s simply not worth it, when the tension is thick and the voices rise.

It’s easy to be snooty and a little rude and to shrug off the slightly bothersome guy at work. It’s easy to cut someone off on the highway when traffic is awful. It’s easy to point fingers when someone is at fault.

But grace and peace, first and foremost.

Grace and peace to my brothers and sisters in Christ — to those who know and love the Lord deeply and fully and radically. Grace and peace to my friends and loved ones and strangers who do not walk with Him, but deserve just as much love and respect as anyone else.

Grace and peace to myself, grace and peace to others. First and foremost. Grace and peace.

I Love You & I Mean It

“I love you.”

I’m not sure how or why, but these words have always been particularly difficult for me to say. Perhaps it is because it requires some sense of humility, an admission that you need another person. Perhaps it is because it requires some sense of vulnerability, an admission of feelings.

I have never been a mushy gushy person, it’s taken 20+ years on earth and two years of counseling for me to even acknowledge my own feelings. I’m still learning to approach and value and process them. Perhaps this is why it’s a challenge to speak these three words.

I hope you love someone.

I hope you love your mother, father, sister or brother. I hope you love a close friend, a neighbor, a barista, a boyfriend or a girlfriend. I hope you even love something. I hope you love tacos, the sunrise, airports, or puppies.

Each of us has the capability to love and be loved. Each of us has a unique vacancy in our hearts for unique people, places and things to feel.

I vow to say “I love you and I mean it.”

More often to more people on more occasions. To say it when I hang up with my mother, Sweet Denise. To say it when my roomie Lauren brings home dinner. To say it to my home group after our Tuesday nights spent with life-giving community.

I vow to say “I love you” because it matters, because people should say and hear it more often.

Dear Reader, I love you and I mean it.

A Thrill Of Hope: Christ Is Bigger Than Our Brokenness

This can be a hard time of year for some.

It may be the first year someone is celebrating without a mom, dad, sister, brother, friend. It may be the first year someone is struggling with cancer or a new diagnosis.

It’s at this time of year I try my best not to forget those who may be broken. It’s this time of year I do my best to remember those with heavy hearts and sad songs.

Christ is bigger than our brokenness.

When I was first diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I was utterly devastated. My world shattered and I no longer knew who I was.

It took nearly a year of battling on-and-off depression and trying to gauge my moods and medicines to feel normal, whole and well.

Some days I still feel absolutely wrecked — I remember dreams that simply will not come true, I remember friendships that will never be the same.

Yet, Christ came and met me in the darkest valley. He walked alongside me to the mountain top.

And thank God that He was gracious enough to give us this wholly human, wholly divine version of himself in the form of this tiny, humble baby.

“A thrill of hope.”

That’s what the hymn “O Holy Night” calls the Savior’s birth. It says “the weary world rejoices.”

I feel absolutely blessed to be able to have a thrill of hope to celebrate, to expect, to cherish during this time of year. A time of year that can be so joyful yet so somber.

A time of year that can be heart breaking and life giving.

Dear friends, please remember Jesus is greater than your brokenness.

Don’t be afraid to let him enter in, to calm your spirit and soothe your soul. Don’t be afraid to kneel at his feet, to petition and plea and pray for more, for better, for goodness. For a happier, fuller, more lively 2018 than 2017. For peace on earth and goodwill toward men.