The Best Gift I’ve Ever Received

img_3651I want to tell you about the best gift I’ve ever received. I’ve received some pretty awesome gifts in my 23 years on Earth (new camera, laptop, trip to NYC!). But the gift I received this past February surpasses them all.

As you may know from reading this blog, I was in a grad program in Germany. After several months, a pit began to form in my stomach. With dawning horror, I slowly realized that this program was not the right fit for me. The reasons were varied (the classes aren’t interesting, Germany is cold, etc.), but I just knew. However, I have never quit anything big before in my life. I didn’t identify with the term “Quitter” on any level. I’d dedicated so much time, energy and money to this grad program. Should I just stick it out for another year and a half? I’d certainly given it the old college try, but maybe I could try a bit longer?

But I knew in my heart it was time to go. So with trembling hands, I called my parents to tell them I was dropping out. They had spent equal amounts of time, energy and money on this endeavor with me. They’d fielded my teary phone calls when I was homesick and lonely, helped me gather the insane amount of necessary visa paperwork, sent me care packages at Thanksgiving, and even booked tickets to come visit me. So, so much. And now I was telling them I planned to leave without a degree!

As the Facetime video rang, my nerves mounted. They answered, and I immediately started to cry. Through tears, I choked out, “I’ve decided I want to leave my grad program and move home.”

Their response?

“Congratulations! We are so proud of you for making this tough decision. We love you and your room at home is always ready.”

THAT was the best gift I’ve ever received.

The knowledge that no matter what I do or don’t do, my parents love and support me. Looking back at it now, I should have known they would react that way. After all, that’s what parents do: they love unconditionally. Unfortunately, though, not all parents are great at loving their kids through their failures or directional changes. But my parents’ reaction will stay with me forever. It inspires me to be the same way with my children one day, and I’m sure I will understand a whole lot more once I become a mama.

The other great part of this experience? It helped me realize that people don’t care about what you do as much as you care. They just want you to be happy, so stop stressing!

We can all give the gift of unconditional love to the people in our lives. I try to every day, and I hope this post can encourage you to do the same 🙂

Stop Over-Glorifying Youth (Please!)

Processed with VSCO with hb2 presetHi! Remember me? Good. I’m back to rant about something that has been bothering me lately. Ready? Okay, let’s go.

If I had a dollar for the number of times someone has said to me, “You’re so young! The world is your oyster! Oh to be young again!” or some other wistful, care-free cliché, I would have approximately 105 dollars. Which isn’t even enough to replace the breaks of my Honda. But still, it’s a lot.

Our culture is obsessed with youth. We glorify it like nobody’s business: young love, beauty, sexy bodies, travel, wanderlust, wild spirit, no responsibilities, spring break in Cabo, nary a care in the world. The list goes on.

Well, I am almost 24. I have been out of college for two solid years. And I want to tell you that being young is not. always. that. fun. Examples for your review:

-Need a job? Not enough experience.
-Need professional clothes to get said job? Not enough money.
-Not sure what you want to do? There are millions of options to disorient you and confuse the living daylights out of you until you have decision fatigue and are paralyzed.
-Who are you going to marry?
-Student loans. Yeah.
-Where should you live? Choose wisely, because it will “set your path”…
-An old lady at church just asked if you’ve graduated high school yet…
-Here’s another UNPAID internship (AKA slave labor) to “build your resume”.

Being young has less responsibilities than, say, being a parent. I’ll give you that. But it also has far less stability and support. No one else is going to get the groceries, not even once. It’s all you. I have moved seven times in the last six years. It’s exhausting. But you know what’s more exhausting? Trying to buy into the youth-glorifying culture that our society sells. I get caught up in what people think I should or should not be doing. I have friends that say “You shouldn’t tie yourself down! Just be single and go backpacking through Europe for the next five years! It’ll be great!” Then other friends who say, “You should start your career already! You’re behind the rest of us who jumped in the day after graduation.”

I honestly don’t think there is a right or wrong. Everyone has to struggle through this decade of immense transition and change. I just wish older people would stop making me feel bad for not enjoying it all the time. Because the truth is, there’s a 99.99% chance that if they could push a button and go back to age 24, they wouldn’t! My mentor and friend in her 50’s, when asked, said, “I do not envy you! So many big decisions to be made at your age. I wouldn’t want to go back.” WORD.

Listen, I know getting older has its negatives. No doubt. I’m just saying that every age and stage of life, without exception, has its negatives. And I want to work to change our culture to one that is more open and honest about those challenges. Maybe this blog post can make a dent in the conversation.

Are you with me? Let’s start together.

 

Dutch Tulips with Mom and Dad

Have you ever been to the Netherlands? I have been twice before, but this time was extra special. My parents picked me up in Münster and whisked me off to the tulip fields across the border. I don’t have a particularly green thumb (re: black) but I can appreciate gorgeous flowers as much as the next person. And man, these flowers inspired me to plant my own! These photos were taken at the Keukenhof garden, which is basically Disneyland for flowers. I was awe-struck and couldn’t help saying “Look at that, Mom!” around every corner. Below are a few photos if you’d like to see.Dad thoroughly enjoying the tulips…All in all, an inspiring visit! I’m off to purchase gardening supplies…

How I Met My Boyfriend

dba90e31-5112-4655-b0f7-480512fb0cefFor some reason, I really enjoy hearing about how people met. Like, it brings me an absurd amount of joy.

So, dear reader, I will recount for you how I met my boyfriend, Trey. This is partly for your enjoyment and partly so I don’t forget any of the details!

I had just finished my Fulbright and was living with my parents in Fort Worth for the summer. I had was waiting to hear whether or not I had been accepted to the graduate program I’d applied to. Since Fort Worth is not where I grew up, I didn’t have any many friends there. I decided to download an online dating app mostly just to laugh at the Texan cowboys’ profile pictures with their camouflage outfits holding a fish they’d recently caught. I’m an LA snob, I know.

I went on one date that was mediocre. Then I swiped upon Trey’s profile. He was cute. I liked his glasses. He went to Baylor University, where my little brother currently goes. I messaged him something casual: Hey, my brother goes to Baylor.

Genius.

He wrote back and we ended up discovering that we’d both taught English abroad– him Spain, her Germany. We decided to meet up a few days later (jokingly at a German/Spanish fusion place).

We met at a cafe called Black Walnut. It was a nice place, but casual. I was so nervous I changed my shoes two times in the car!

The first few minutes were a bit awkward as is usual with online dating, but soon we got into discussing our mutual childhoods in the church, funny youth group culture, teaching abroad, going to small christian liberal arts colleges, having two siblings, and so much more. We had a lot in common…

The date was off to a great start but we were done with our food. So we decided to continue at a local coffee shop. We drove over there, ordered and sat down. After about five minutes, I see a woman walk past and I say, “That’s my mom.”

Yes, my mom had accidentally wondered into our first date!

She was so embarrassed haha. She drank her drink in the corner and left ASAP like a trooper. Luckily Trey thought it was funny and not too creepy.

My house wasn’t far from the coffee shop so Trey walked me home afterwards. It was sweltering Texan heat, and the poor kid had to walk back to his car drenched in sweat. The things we do for love!

We decided to go out again later that week and I said goodbye. On the other side of the door I remember smiling and thinking, That was the best first date of my life.

It was. And every date since has only been better 🙂

The Greek Island of Aegina

6E2C030B-91C2-47AB-A56C-F70F42DD41DC.jpg9C601C4B-5003-452B-8216-C268340620EF.jpgB6B0EB3A-9910-4E5C-8021-0CBD0471BFF1.jpgA6CC1EE9-2790-4DB2-A1DB-7256C3441FF4.jpg09D7BDEA-BCD0-4C86-9AD4-D6AC8A77CC89.jpg0108655D-3885-4D81-88BD-28F370C8FF00.jpgIsn’t it dreamy? It’s a 40 minute ferry ride from Athens that I just couldn’t pass up. If you are in Athens I would definitely recommend this day trip. It was pretty affordable and the ferry ride itself was also beautiful. I felt like I was the character Lena from The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants! The water was gorgeous and the atmosphere was relaxed. I think I could get used to island life ;p

Israel!

When my friend Jessica asked in November if I wanted to go to Jerusalem, I took a moment to think about it. I had never been anywhere in the Middle East. I am comfortable with Europe, but this would be something new entirely. Having grown up in church in Los Angeles, I knew all the Bible stories by heart and remember studying the map of Israel in my Bible when I was (bored) in church. How could I say no when I was only a short flight away? So off we went.

First of all, Jerusalem was so much greener than I imagined. Hilly and rocky, with yellow wild flowers and tall, skinny trees. The city is built out of creamy limestone. The old city has four quarters: jewish, christian, muslim and Armenian. We went on some walking tours to get more information, which was helpful! It struck me as a city full of contradictions- a devout jewish man praying for peace at the Western Wall right next to a an Israeli soldier with a machine gun. I was taken by the complexity of the milieu.

One day we did a bus tour into the Judean desert. We climbed the mountain to the fortress of Masada, which was built by king Herod the Great as a military look out and retreat of sorts. Then we went to the Oasis park called Ein Gedi. It had beautiful waterfalls and gentle rivers. I think I finally understand the concept of a desert oasis! But my favorite part was swimming in the Dead Sea, which is HUGE! I thought it would be a little lake. The mud is good for the skin, so of course we covered ourselves in it! The water stung a little bit because it is so salty, but it was fun to lean back and float effortlessly.

We also went on a tour of the tunnels under the city built by King Hezekiah. Its so funny: the tour guide was asking all these questions about jewish history and I knew the answers automatically- buried deep from years of Vacation Bible School I guess! She was like “How old was king Solomon when he was crowned?” and I blurted out “12!” No idea where that came from haha!

I was fascinated with how the jewish religion emphases outward expressions of faith (clothing, behavior, hair, food, etc.). This is so different than the ways we are taught to express faith at home in America, which is more internal. I loved seeing an entire city (or section of the city) on the same page, with religion at the center.

Overall, it was a wonderful experience. I’m so glad I went and would definitely recommend it. Enjoy the photos below!

The long hike up to Masada was worth it for this view!The Dead Sea!Israelis sure know how to cater to white western protestants hahaThe Dome of the Rock was gorgeous! We couldn’t go inside because we are not muslim but it was stunning!