youthful wonder

If you’ve ever gone through boxes (and boxes) of old items (including everything from old papers, report cards, medals, trophies, essays, certificates, and photographs) you’ll know very well that you never know what, exactly, you are going to find.

Over this last weekend, Chelsea and I visited my mom’s house to clear out stuff that I had kept over the years (largely untouched). It was delightful to see old yearbooks, to find shirts I had been looking for (namely, my Mia Hamm jersey), and to see old, whimsical items that I hadn’t seen in a very long time.

However, my favorite FAVORITE part was finding my old 1st/2nd grade journals. You know, the ones that you are required to keep to practice your composition and handwriting skills. Laughing with tears in my eyes, I found some of the gems below that touch on my thoughts related to family, Tyrannosaurus Rex, and helping people. Seeing these old writings brought such joy to me. Sorting through my writings and drawings again felt like getting to know the little me; ever sunny, ever positive, and ever obsessed with animals. It was good for the soul.

I suppose getting to see artifacts from the past remind us that we are still that person, we are still young at heart. Seeing these old writings reminded me of a couple things. One, I always have, and always still, love to write. And two, I don’t want to lose my wonder. I don’t want to lose that part of my heart that loves reflecting on the world and continually unearthing what life experiences mean to me. I did this a lot when I was young and I have continued to do this even now.

Wonder – youthful wonder – it’s a beautiful thing.

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the longest lesson

There are few things I appreciate more than a really good question.

You know, that moment when someone inquires or speaks in such a way that the entire conversation shifts to something that touches the experience of being human. I often lean in closer, unable to contain my interest in where the answer might go. I live for those moments.

I suppose it is a good (and necessary) thing that I enjoy the act of questions and dialogue – this is much of what goes into becoming a therapist in the first place.

Oprah has this fantastic question that she has used when filming her Super Soul Sunday series. During interviews, she will skillfully ask, “So, tell me, in your life what has been the lesson that has taken the longest to learn?

Uh, BRILLIANT.

This question is striking because it is asking so much more than what appears on the surface. Essentially, this question is asking about what life has taught you. When you boil it all down, what have you had to endure to learn (usually again, and again, and again)?

When interviewing Julia Roberts last fall, the actress responded in such a profound way that I could barely contain myself. She shared that the life lesson for her was, “…that I think, we as people or as women, or me as myself, who I am in this world, that I had to make myself less for someone else to feel more of whatever that thing was.”

I think the dynamic quality of this question is that it reminds us that we are more similar than different. I would guess that most of us have actually had to learn similar sorts of things – sure, we might use different language or words to describe the actual experience, but if you’re talking about identity, love, feeling worthy or enough, or whatever it might be, chances are someone else has had to journey through that as well.

I wonder, too, if what we learn changes. Is what I have had to learn over and over again now going to be the same as when I am, say, seventy? I suppose I don’t really know.

The lesson I have had to learn repeatedly so far, across multiple domains of my life is this:

I am loved just as I am. I don’t have to do anything to earn it. I don’t have to be someone I am not. And, most importantly, I don’t have to give parts of myself away to find love.

This has been my life lesson – one that I have been learning a long time.

In elementary school I was afraid to share with friends that I liked country music – I thought that if I was honest, they wouldn’t like me. Though I found my niche as an athlete in high school, I feared that if I dressed to much “like a boy” then I wouldn’t be able to keep the friends I had. Later in life, I felt that I had to serve and give to be valuable. In this context, love was no longer love – it was transactional. And of course, for a long time I hid my own sexual identity, fearful that if I was honest about who I was, then I would be rejected and no longer worthy of love – whether it be from family, friends, acquaintances, or broader society.

Breaking through these barriers has been a big, big deal. Today, I am continuing to find the power of being honest, speaking my truth, and not molding myself to what I think others might want of me. When I do acts of service it is because I want to, not because I have to. While the difference is subtle, it is incredibly important. This work is extraordinarily challenging, however, when I actually do it, I feel like the most powerful woman in the world. When I am honest, genuine, authentic and still know that I am loved (and that I am enough), there is a small spark that fills my body.

This is what it feels like to take up space and to not apologize for it.

So, what is that thing for you? What is the lesson that has taken the longest to learn?

In all likelihood, you (we) are still learning it. That is the beautiful journey of life: always learning, always growing.

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Lez Plan a Wedding – Part 3

2018 snuck away and suddenly, like clockwork, it was 2019. 2019.

As in WE ARE GETTING MARRIED THIS YEAR.

For so long, namely because we’ve had a long engagement, we’ve been talking about our wedding as this idea and major life event that is happening sometime in the distant future. Yet, as the new year fell upon us, Chelsea and I both had a very real moment of reality: our wedding is happening soon – I mean, now it’s only 6 months away!

Truly, it shouldn’t surprise us. Chelsea and I have been taking time a couple times a month to spend hours planning everything from schedules, hotel blocks, flowers, and guest lists. Yet, as with many things in life, when you find yourself thick in the process, you barely recognize how fast everything is moving.

We have kept approximately sixteen sheets in our Master Excel document to track everything. Several months ago, Chelsea suggested we keep a sheet to track the things that we have accomplished throughout the planning process so that we could feel encouraged in what we have completed. Seeing that list grow has been delightful; to-dos are getting done and we’re getting closer to capturing the vision we have for this day in our lives.

However, even at this juncture, it has been necessary to recognize that planning a wedding is more than a list of things to do. Wedding planning is inherently stressful because getting married is a HUGE deal. Sure, it’s positive stress, but it’s still stress. Not only are we working together to plan this celebration, but we’re also wrestling with what it means for us to be a married couple – particularly when we already live together, are working to combine finances, and very much have a shared life. What, then, does marriage mean for us?

Contemplation of this change is something newer we are bringing to the conversation of wedding planning. What will change after we become legally married? What might stay the same? What expectations are we both carrying into the relationship (unconsciously or otherwise)? 

I suppose this is the gift of a long engagement. We’ve had the time to enjoy the newness of our commitment, to hash out important details for our ceremony and reception, and to allow the process to remind us that a very big change is coming. Marriage has been a conduit for us to discuss even larger, looming questions about our future: where we will live, our careers, our dreams, and of course, children.

These conversations are timely as we turn to more intricately plan the ceremony. The ceremony, for us, is the sacred, intimate representation of us joining our lives. We want the format to speak to who we are as a couple and to set the stage for this very serious commitment we are making. We’re planning for instrumental music, meaningful readings, and a space filled with support, love, laughter, and ease. When I envision marrying Chelsea in the Washington Park Garden (one of my absolute favorite spots in Denver) I anticipate how right it will feel, and how beautiful it will be.

These are the joys of wedding planning. To be honest, it can be hard to hold on to these joys when so much of the process requires diligence about money and details. Yet, as we continue to make more decisions and have more clarity on this experience, we find a deep knowing that this will be the next step into the rest of our lives. Our process is reflecting this, too. The choices of our locations, vendors, and logistics show a shift to have the kind of day that we want, not a day that the wedding world and/or society says we should have.

6 months to go – I can hardly believe it.

There is still much to be done, yet, I feel so joyful at all that we have created and all that will come together this August.

My heart is full.

 

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writing & me

As we move into a new year, I cannot help but recognize my place in a season of massive change. It as though the change has been set into motion – but I have not yet arrived. I am engaged – but not married. I am studying to be a therapist – but not yet graduated (and certainly not yet licensed). I have started a new job – but have not yet mastered the many skills and learnings required.

Upon this kind of reflection, I have found myself asking: What is consistent in the midst of this deeply transformative time of life? What is it that I can come back to that is wholly and completely grounding?

Writing.

That was the first and most salient answer. Writing – of course!

I have been writing since I could actually write. I have been writing throughout my life and it is the type of thing that has both defined me as I have also defined it. That is to say that I have always been a writer – but throughout the varying seasons of life, I have decided the kind of writer I want to be. When I was young, I wrote a lot of stories. In my travels, I wrote a lot about the people I met and the awkward encounters I often managed to find myself within (I still do this, by the way). When I was an angsty teenager, I wrote about my friends, my perceived social life, and how high school was everything. Several years ago, I spent most of my time writing about social justice: the things that have broken my heart, the things in the world that seemed so wrong, so utterly out of place. Now, I write a bit of everything – I write poems from time to time, I write about my insights from unexplored parts in my past, and I write about my partner, and wedding stuff, and balancing all the newness in my life.

However, actually getting myself to pick up a pen and write something has been harder than at any other time in my life. Sure, it is somewhat hard to find the time, but actually, it’s more difficult to bring my presence to the space of writing. Good writing requires a mind ready for wandering and exploring, and lately, I have found myself hinged up by the waves of practical, modern-day stresses.

Yet, I come back to it because writing is the constant in my life, right? I am a writer – and so when it’s hard to do, I allow myself to trust the process and carry it me where it needs to go. This never fails. Honestly. Even with writer’s block, there’s always something I can bring forth in my heart, soul, and mind and express it on paper. Writing is magical like that.

Thinking about this today, I wrote the piece below. It’s simply a call back to what I love in writing and why it matters so much to me.

                                               

The only thing between me and writing is me.

I mumble, “what really do I have to say?”

I ask this question only to find a swell of energy that reminds me –

A lot.

I have a lot to say. I have a lot to write.

I can write about the world and my place in it.

I can write about the people, places, and relationships I experience.

I can write about spirituality and God – what I know to be true and everything that I don’t (which, let’s be honest, is a lot).

I can write about love. Love – the way I know it, hold it, and bear witness to it. Love – the way it can be extraordinarily miraculous and complicated at once.

I can write about change; how we propel forward and let go of the past while still knowing where we come from.

I can write about learnings. Mistakes. Vulnerabilities.

And, if I dare, I can write about unspoken truths.

The power of writing is in the ability to make that utterances inside of us real. Writing brings forth and identity and pieces of ourselves we may not always speak into the world.

When I give writing a chance, I come back to one of the strongest parts of myself – authenticity.

When I write, it is like my real voice, unfiltered and unwavering, is alive.

The world creates barriers and boundaries (as do we) to what we share.

We are silenced, muted, and asked to be quiet.

Writing radically creates and provides the space for considerations, musings, and ideas that are transferred beautifully (sometimes messily) from mind to paper.

Writing is a process, a practice, a discipline, a craft.

Writing is where I find myself.

Writing is the soul moving into a deeper existence.

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becoming 30

Nearing the end of my twenties is beginning to feel infused with equal parts nostalgia, pride, reflection, and gratitude. I spent this morning sifting through old photographs and recalling old memories leading me to wonder, once again, who am I? Where am I going? What is this crazy life?

It’s funny – isn’t it – how the questions really never change. When I first turned 20, I was asking the very same things. I had no idea who I was, and I certainly could never have anticipated where life took me for the last 10 years. I suppose now things are different – I do actually know much more of who I am, however, in knowing how growth and change work, I also know there will be even more to be discovered in the years to come.

My twenties were vibrant, challenging, illuminating, joyful, heartbreaking, and full of travel to new places. I believe it has been my experiences away from home that have taught me to appreciate what home means and how much the world has to offer. Learning new places, new languages, new modes of transport, and new foods has shown me the delicate beauty of humanity. I learned how to love in my twenties (or at least, how to love better), and I know now this is the greatest gift we can learn. I have learned to love God, the world, others, and importantly, myself.

The best part of my twenties was exploring cultures, places, and my identity. I knew, already, when I was twenty that I was gay. However, I had convinced myself to repress this, to live a different life because the one that I wanted was impossible. I’m pleased – and blessed – to see that as I close this chapter of my life, I am exactly where I had hoped and dreamed to be.

Within the past decade, I made so many new friendships, got to vote in my first election (right before I turned 20), played NCAA field hockey, became an aunt, fell in love, lived in new places, ran a half marathon, helped start a business, gained new family members (via in-laws and families in East Africa), attended a Sooners football game in Norma, and published my writing. More recently, I became engaged and am planning a wedding with the love of my life. Truly – I never thought that would happen. So much of me did not believe in the institution of marriage. However, I will be the first to say, I am grateful to have changed my mind. I have learned the art of doing so; it is perfectly acceptable and even preferable to reconsider what you think about people, ideas, and things. When I was younger, I thought changing your mind was a bad thing. Yet, it is in challenging our own assumptions where we find the biggest growth opportunities.

The most arduous part of my twenties was loss. I lost my grandmother, who in many ways, was the light of my life. I lost my dog, Buddy, too, and this was also inexpressibly difficult. I lost – for a while – a part of myself when I moved permanently back from Rwanda. Moving back to the United States was literally, painful, lonely, and isolating. Easily, this was one of the more grueling times in my life (not just my twenties).

In addition to loss, my twenties were demanding because of the amount of change that occurred. I had to let go of my first love because of distance – that hurt every part of me. I had to learn about building long-distance friendships when I graduated college, knowing that all of my dearest friends would live in different parts of the United States. My brother also went through a great deal of hardship, and as a sister, this was agonizing to bear witness to. Loss and change, I now understand, come with life. As we hold onto love and joy, inevitably, we will also meet suffering, too. It all goes hand in hand.

As I look to 30 and the next season of life, I see hope. I am actively working towards new dreams – dreams rooted in helping others as I work to become a licensed therapist – and dreams of starting a family. I yearn for more ways to make a difference in the world and to always seek personal growth and become the woman I am supposed to be. I want to continue to write, to continue to seek adventures, and to continue to promote love in a world that desperately needs it. I hope to do this with boldness and humility, knowing that my journey now could not be without the journey that has come before.

I am proud of who I am. I am proud of the life I have made so far. I am just proud. Yet, in this pride, I know I would not be where I am without my family, without my friends, without my partner, Chelsea, and without God. I am truly fortunate to have this life, and my hope is that I can give back to the world what has been graciously bestowed to me. I am motivated to live in a world that values humanity, kindness, and community and I aim to push forward this kind of world for my kids, their kids, and the people who will come after me. I am absolutely pumped to be thirty years young and I genuinely look forward to what the next 10 years – and beyond. Bring on the art of living.

Here we go.

As I look forward to the future, it has been deeply rewarding to look back on where I have been. Here’s my favorite photos (and memories) from the last 10 years.

Cheers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

36 Questions

An old friend and I got together for dinner and a movie earlier this week. We met towards East Colfax, a bustling, growing part of Denver. I parked my car (admittedly, it was a bit stressful as I have only recently become competent at parallel parking) and made my way towards the restaurant.

As we ate our food and caught up on the small details of life (work, summer activities, and dating) she mentioned that on several dates she had gone through the now famous 36 questions that are thought to lead to intimacy between two people with recent suitors.

The study, led by Arthur Aron and a group of psychologists, found that “reciprocal and escalated self-disclosure” can be associated with the development of closeness. The research and findings became famous because they were featured in the Modern Love column in the New York Times. I first heard about the study while listening to an episode called “To Fall in Love, Do This” and was fascinated at the idea that interpersonal vulnerability could create such a strong bond.

My friend told me more – she shared that the last activity after asking these series of questions (there are three sets, designed to build in depth) was to stare into the other person’s eyes for four minutes. FOUR MINUTESImmediately, I thought to myself, I definitely need to do this with Chelsea.

We haven’t tried it yet – but I want to. In the mean time, I have read a bit more about the questions and the study.

Some of the questions in the exchange include items like:

For what in your life do you feel most grateful?

Is there something that you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time?

Why haven’t you done it?

When did you last cry in front of another person? By yourself?

Tell your partner something that you like about them already.

Alternate sharing something you consider a positive characteristic of your partner. Share a total of five items.

If you knew that in one year you would die suddenly, would you change anything about the way you are now living? Why?

What is the greatest accomplishment of your life?

Better yet, I stumbled across this charming, touching, tender video of three different couples going through the process of asking the questions. I literally wept. There is something about watching love manifest between two people, especially in their interactions. It is both inspiring and soothing.

Check out the video below – you won’t be sorry. And, if you get a chance to start exploring these questions with someone you love (it doesn’t even have to be a partner!) who knows where the conversation might lead.

God just is.

I have often found that the presence of the Divine is surprisingly subtle.

Experiencing, feeling, noticing, observing, communing (or really, whatever you want to call it) with God, for me, is typically an occurrence in the quieter, more reflective spaces of my life.

This is counterintuitive to many of the religious spaces I have found myself in over the years. Places where God is equal to loud praises, loud shouts, and loud songs. And sure, God can be found here too, in fact, I think that God is accessible anywhere and everywhere.

Yet, for me I feel God when my environment errs on the side of discreet and still.

So, it was completely “on brand” that when riding my bicycle this afternoon I felt the noticeable, pressing experience of God. Gliding along the paths near Crestmoor Park I was sorting through what felt like a million feelings. I had just returned from Rwanda. Even after two weeks, I was literally gleeful to be with Chelsea again. I was considering upcoming transitions. I was thinking about weddings, fall plans, and the end of summer. I was also recalling conversations with my parents, wanting to make sure that they were both doing well after not speaking with them during my travels.

A lot was on my mind. At one point during these thoughts, I turned the corner, touching on my brakes ever so slightly when –

Silence.

I felt a need for all things to be quiet – mostly the noise in my head. And so, with resistance, I silenced my questions, to-do lists, and contemplations. I existed in the moment, amidst the vibrant, green trees and slightly rocky bike paths. Suddenly, a mantra –

You are loved. You are enough. You do not have to explain yourself.

These phrases came to mind – on repeat – like a song that you just cannot get enough of. I wondered to myself: how do you know when you are skimming the line of God versus when you’re giving yourself positive self-talk?

Real question.

And, the real answer is that I don’t know. I literally have no idea. However, I do have a hunch.

When I am with God, everything is in balance. Everything is with perspective. And, any thoughts I have (positive or otherwise) feel exquisitely simple and yet equally profound. It is as though my spirituality is full of reminders of love, yearnings for compassion, and fierce dedication to hope. All of this, without any of my own internal baggage. It is quite nice.

Prayers, revelations, and messages come together – time with God is never so clearly sparred out and divided like we do with our church programming. God just is.

I kept riding my bike, sifting through this nugget of faith that I was greatly welcoming. You see, connecting with God in this way has been more difficult lately. There has been so much moving around, so much change, so much distraction, to be frank. Because of that, I have missed these still moments that allow me to push further, beyond myself, so that I can access God, the Divine, and explore life from a fresher perspective – even if it is just for a moment.

Connection with God, I am learning requires connection to self. One must take the space. One must understand their identity. One must be willing to find what is available to them in any moment. God does not require a church, God does not require a certain verse or saying, God does not require a performance.

God just desires you – me – us.

Realizing this is changing my prayers, too. Today, I prayed a simple set of questions, a kind of prayer of humility:

God.

Thank you for today.

Thank you for bringing me home.

Thank you for the love I have in my life.

My hope is to steward this love well.

Where can I grow?

Where can I learn?

Where can I forgive?

Where can I hope?

Where can I give?

Where can I receive?

Where can I support?

Teach me how to explore these spaces – whatever my resistance, whatever my disposition. May I live well. May I love well.

God, help me to not forget the richness of this life. God, be with the hungry. God, be with the lonely. Be with all of us – regardless of belief, regardless of circumstance, regardless of anything. May your presence and experience be known. May your love reign.

I love you.

 Faith is both incredibly simple and extraordinarily complex.

I will forever fall short of describing my faith. I mean, how does one describe that which can only be felt?

Here’s to finding God in all kinds of places, in the most unexpected of ways.

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