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.

2020: A Year In Review

It was a weird and hard year to say the least.

Honestly, that is a major understatement: it was a wild, wacky, devastating, life-changing, year. From start to finish, it was a long twelve months.

This was the year of COVID-19 and heightened systemic racism, but it was also the year I started law school and became a dog mom. This year I wrestled with singleness, but also gained wonderful friendships. This year I was out of a job for nearly two months, but I eventually returned to the climbing gym–a job I absolutely love!

This year I was reminded of the intermingling between joy and sorrow, love and loss, mountains and valleys. I was reminded Jesus is good and loyal and loving toward us no matter our struggles, battles, or hardships. I was reminded that giving while we grieve helps even while we hurt.

2020 had its highs:

  • Getting into and starting law school!–the journey to becoming an attorney has been filled with ups and downs, but I am so grateful that I committed to pursuing this dream.
  • Becoming a dog mom!–my sweet pup Jack has changed my life for the better–his unconditional love and never-ending cuddles fill up my heart.
  • Learning how to lead climb– and continuing to practice this special type of climbing. Saying no to fear and yes to bravery and yes to trying new and hard things!
  • Celebrating one year on desk at Summit–a job I enjoy and excel at and love! And landing a promotion over the summer was a wonderful surprise.

2020 had its lows:

  • Getting rejected by plenty of law schools (but ultimately winding up at the one that was best for me was a high).
  • Moving back home–I love my family and am grateful for their generosity, but I miss my alone time and being messy! Hehe.
  • Coping with systemic racism–I live a very privileged and blessed life, but I know that is not the case for every American (or person, for that matter). It’s been a learning and growing and mourning process, it’s been an eye-opener to consider my colored friends and their daily struggles and hardships.
  • Surviving COVID-19–just like everyone else, it’s been a hard and life-changing year: having to adapt to wearing a mask everywhere, to staying at home as much as possible, to taking virtual classes.

Despite this weird year, I feel blessed.

I feel blessed to have made new friends at the gym and welcomed so many new faces into our climbing community. I feel blessed to have built new relationships, but kept the life-giving ones. I feel blessed to have consistency in my life: with Jesus, with my family, with my well mood.

I feel blessed to have learned and grown and refined who I am. I feel blessed to have loved and lost. I feel blessed to have grown in strength and independence during a year of singleness. I feel blessed to have continued writing stories and sharing my life and learning more about content creation.

It’s been an odd and life-changing year, but I am grateful and thankful and happy and whole! I hope that despite the lows and recognizing the highs, you feel grateful and thankful and happy and whole, too!

But if you do not, I hope you know you are not alone in sadness and struggles. You are loved, you are treasured, you are a delight in the Lord’s eyes. Go in peace and love, go in grace and mercy, and may you have a better 2021.

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.

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!!

5 Tips For Mental Wellness

Seeking mental wellness is crucial.

It’s crucial to how I operate as a person, professional and peer. It’s crucial to how I think and feel and do and say. Often times, it’s easy for me to get caught up in physical health: how fast is my mile? How controlled is my climb?

But mental health is just as important.

I think there’s this unspoken myth that how we look is greater than how we think or feel, that people care more about what’s on the outside than the inside. Those people may exist, but they are certainly not my kind of people. I want people who want me to be healthy in all ways: physical, mental and even spiritual.

In 2019, I want to work on my mental wellness more. To assess how I function and what I need and actually follow through with self-care.

Here are few of my tips & tricks to mental wellness:

  1. Write it out. Putting my thoughts and feelings on paper (or a computer screen) helps me sort through a whole mess in my mind and heart. It’s healthy for me to externally process before my internal explodes.
  2. Stop self-hate. Even if it’s unspoken, I tend to find self-deprecating thoughts and words floating in my head. It’s important to lift myself up and think positively about who I am, what I do and how I act.
  3. Take a breath. I always recommend this, yet rarely do it. Hopefully, in 2019, I’ll take this more seriously: to step away from a moment of heat or tension or just plain busyness, to pause and breathe and recover from chaos.
  4. Seek outside help. Though it takes humility, at times I must admit that I do need help. It’s OK to not be OK. Often times, it helps to talk through my thoughts and feelings with my therapist, friends or family.
  5. Do your thing. It’s easy for me to compare myself, my Instagram & my blog to others and suffer from insecurity. I must remember I am my own person, so I must own who I am, what I do and what I make. Individuality is a pro, not a con.

Sometimes seeking mental wellness can be hard. Sometimes I don’t take it as seriously as I should. But whenever I do pursue it, whenever it is on the top of my list, it is so very worth it. When my mind is well, it’s easier for my body to be well, too. When my mind is well, I tend to be a kinder, stronger, more grounded person.

I hope these tips and tricks help you out. I hope they help you realize that mental wellness is important and we should all keep our minds healthy, just like we want our bodies to be healthy too. Your brain and spirit is just as important as your physique and appearance — if not more so. Let’s do our best to be well, live well and love well.

I’ll Tell You What I Need, What I Really, Really Need

There’s a difference between wants and needs.

It’s a simple concept that I often forget. For example: I want pizza, but I need nutritious food. I want to be the best climber, but I need to practice and refine my skills. I want to do things my way, but I need to remember God’s plans my differ from my own.

Lately, I’m trying to learn the difference between my constant wants and my true needs. I’m trying to choose my needs over my wants, even when it’s hard and I just don’t feel like it.

Things I want:

  1. To run around 24/7. To see people and places and things and to go nonstop, to never experience FOMO (fear of missing out) because I’ll always be present for the best things.
  2. To hang out with my friends constantly. As a quality time addict, I wish I could be with my people at all times. They’re so much fun!
  3. To not experience hard things or heartache. I hate those things. They make me sad and mad and frustrated.
  4. To never have depression or anxiety again. I want to always be mentally fit, to never have to monitor my moods or sleep because they won’t bother me or impact my mental health.

Things I need:

  1. Rest. I always, always need rest. Physical and spiritual downtime to just recharge and recenter my heart on what matters: seeking the Kingdom first.
  2. Community. When I get quality time with quality people, I feel loved and ready for whatever life throws at me. They support, love and encourage me, they make me better.
  3. Eternal peace. Even when things get hard, even when my heart breaks, I need to rest in God’s Truths and remember this earth is not my home.
  4. Wellness. To do the things that are best for me, like therapy and taking medicine, working out and resting. To do all of these things to make my mind better, even when I’m down or anxious.

I wish I could just be this powerhouse of a woman, to always go and never be stressed or never need rest. I wish I could be the best of the best at everything I do, to be loved by everyone and to only have good things thrown my way.

But I need to dwell and abide in Jesus Man, in his word and truth and presence. I need to do what is best for me, not what I want to do or what I like to do.

It isn’t always easy and it certainly isn’t always fun or preferred, but it is good for me and I guarantee it’s good for you, too. Let’s breakdown our wants and chase after our needs. Let’s sometimes say no to fun things and always say yes to what’s best. Let’s seek wellness and wholeness and all good things for our minds, bodies and souls.

Self-Love: What It Is & What It’s Not

“Self-love.”

It’s a term that’s growing to be more and more common each day — or so it seems. It’s a term that captures just how important it is for us to be accepting of not only others, but also of ourselves: of our mind, body and spirit.

Many months ago, my friend & fellow blogger Whitney (the one-woman-show behind Flow & Favor) asked me, “What exactly is self-love? Because sometimes I think it’s yoga but other times I just want to eat chocolate.”

I’m no expert on relationships or dating and especially not marriage, but I do know a thing or two about self-love.

And to answer Whitney’s question: I think self-love can be both.

What it is:

Self-love is the act of caring for one’s own needs on spiritual, physical and emotional levels. Self-love practices self-care above others’ desires, not with the intent to be selfish, but in an attempt for self-preservation.

Self-love looks differently depending on the person, place and time. Though it’s universally valued, it’s not practiced in the same way across all humans.

In my life, self-love has manifested in many ways, including but not limited to:

  • Hiking
  • Praying during car rides
  • Spending time alone
  • Spending time with people I love
  • Reading a thought-provoking book
  • Eating out alone
  • Taking a nap
  • Going on a long drive
  • Crying
  • Laughing

The beauty of self-love is that it can mean lots of different things to lots of different people.

Let me tell you what it’s not.

Because self-love is an umbrella that holds together a vast amount of interests and activities, it is not simple. It is not confined. It is not restrained to a tiny, uniformed box.

Self-love isn’t only eating well and working out — though it can definitely be those things. It’s not eating chocolate cake and watching TV — though it can definitely be those as well.

It’s not one thing over the other, but a bunch of thoughts and actions that complement one another.

So why is self-love so important?

It’s important because we need to treat our brains and bodies better. It’s important because we need it in order to function well. It’s important because if we don’t care for ourselves, we can’t take care of others either.

So let’s just do it! Let’s laugh and cry and eat and fast and run and rest and travel and stay home. Let’s love ourselves and love others in bigger, better ways.

To Stir Or To Steal: On Affection For God

“You have forgotten your first love.”

That’s what Revelations 2 says regarding the church of Ephesus. While there is praise to be given to the members of the church, there’s criticism as well.

Sometimes I forget my first love, too. I forget all The Lord has done for me: how He’s gone ahead and paved a way for me, how He walks with me in the present to keep me company, how He even falls behind just to clean up messes left by heartbreak and hurt.

It’s easy to forget my first love, to be caught up in the hubbub of the ups and downs and in-between’s of life. It’s easy for me to be distracted and complacent and lazy with my faith.

So how do we fight this?

I think there are two ways to go about trying to remember and cherish our first love.

Firstly, we must seek out what stirs our affection for God. Oppositely, we must avoid anything that steals our affection for Him.

These things stir up my affection:

  1. Giving and receiving encouragement
  2. Deep talks with good friends
  3. Breaking bread with loved ones
  4. Appreciating the great outdoors
  5. Making a new friend

These things steal my affection:

  1. Hurtful words from hurtful people
  2. Skipping quiet time with God
  3. “He said, she said” gossip
  4. Feeling betrayed
  5. Neglecting self-care

Sometimes it’s easy for me to seek out ways to stir up my affection for God. I am surrounded by my village of faithful friends, colleagues and family. They make me feel valued and loved. They push me to be a better me.

Other times, it’s easy for me to seek out ways that steal my affection for God. I become lazy with my faith and don’t care for myself well. I lay in a depressive state and don’t even try to come out of it.

Simply put, let’s chase what’s better.

Even if you don’t believe in God, even if you don’t believe in anything, surely you’d like to be happier and healthier rather than sadder and poorer. Surely you’d agree with me that we need to chase the better things: chase things that stir up our joy rather than steal it.

Let’s eat more tacos and laugh more often. Let’s speak fewer mean words and stop hating ourselves. Let’s gather together and encourage one another. Let’s focus less on our weight and be less worrisome.

This is a good life, friends, so let’s make it the best we can. Let’s stir up our affection for God, let’s stir up our joy, let’s stir up good things.

I Am Not My Weight

Plain & simple.

These words are true. Lately, I have been hard on myself about my weight. I am about 10 pounds over what I usually weigh in at, and I have been beating myself up about it.

I want thinner thighs and longer legs and more sculpted arms. I want to look like my Insta-model friends who seem to take the best, most photogenic pictures. I want to miraculously hit a growth spurt to put me at 5’6″.

I want to eat what I want and gain nothing.

That’s just not how it works.

These days, I am learning to love not only myself (my thoughts, feelings and actions), but to also love my body. My weight and looks do not define my character and integrity. My weight and looks are only my weight and looks, and their significance pales in comparison to my actions.

Yes, maintaining a healthy diet and exercising often are important. They’re even more important for me as someone who battles with mental illness.

But my end goal shouldn’t be a number on a scale, my end goal should be holistic wellness. By bettering my body in a healthy manner, I am bettering my mind and soul, too.

“You are what you eat.”

I don’t think this saying is true in all its forms. Yes, my taco-centric diet makes me sluggish and feel blech, but tacos are just tacos. They don’t make me who I am.

Maybe instead, we should say, “You are who you are.” This existential comment may seem vague, but it’s true. I am more than my weight and height and diet.

I am a daughter, friend, Christ follower, legal specialist, blogger, creative and soul sister. My personality is bigger than my body and my dreams are bigger than myself. I care about social justice and I want world peace.

I am not what I eat, I am who God made me. I am who I was created to be, and I am being shaped in every moment to be who I’m called to be.

Friends, let’s strive for excellence.

Excellent, holistic health. Excellent, kind actions. Excellent, life-giving friendships. Let’s look at ourselves more than what we see in the mirror, and instead remember we are more than appearances.

We are creatures of compassion and beings of kindness. We are thoughts and feelings and dreams wrapped up into mind, body and souls. We are not our weight, we are so much more.

Travel Tips: On How To Get Away

Lately, I’ve been bit by the travel bug.

Unfortunately, I get carried away at times.

I become stir-crazy, crazy-eyed and click-happy. I Google flights and Airbnb’s and the whole sha-bang, only to find my bank account lacking a couple hundred dollars a few hours into my search.

Certainly there’s a much more sane, responsible and methodical way. Yes? Let’s talk through it.

When you want to get away:

  1. Consider your budget. This is key. You may want to only spend $100, including food and travel and stay. You may want to spend $1,000. This will determine where you can go, for how long, and what you can do.
  2. Consider your resources. Do you have friends who live in your dream location? Or even a friend-of-a-friend? It’s always nice to bunk somewhere for free. Search and seek out the best bangs for your buck in the area.
  3. Play the field. Don’t settle on the first location. Just open your eyes to new and old places. Do your research. This includes flight prices, times and availability. Which work the best for you? Which are you willing to sacrifice?
  4. Don’t settle. If you don’t find the perfect time or place at first, you still can later. I love to use apps like Sky Scanner and Hopper to keep an eye on flights. Be patient and diligent and trust you will make yourself the perfect getaway.
  5. Double check. Are you sure you have the finances and personal days for this? Are you 105% all-in to literally fly away from your worries and obligations? Then…
  6. Just do it. IMO, the adventure is always worth the risk. Pay a bit, play a bit, live a lot. It’s worth saving for and spending a little.

I love to getaway.

It’s easy for me to feel trapped and overwhelmed. Or even complacent and lame. But when I travel, I come to life. I meet a new version of myself every time I roam.

There’s a lot of land to explore and a lot to learn. Tell me about your next getaway in the comments below!