Tuesday, January 29, 2013


My fiance periodically informs me that I am a hippie.

I am okay with that.

While I am not a fan of tie-dye and do not condone the usage of hallucinogens, I do care deeply about life and love and people and the earth. I think life is meant to be lived, but I do not think that one person's life should ever be lived in a way that inhibits someone else's ability to live well. I think love--real, selfless, intentional love--could change the entire world. I think that people are beautiful and unique and valuable, regardless of color, culture, language, size, wealth, or any other silly "category" we assign them to. And, I like the earth.

I have been thinking much lately about how all of these ideals collide in my life and have shaped my perspective on faith. I think faith is holistic. I think faith has much more to do with ascribing to a set of beliefs or going through a set of rituals. For me, faith cannot be separated from any part of my life. My faith affects my relationships with people. My faith asks me to love more deeply and forgive more freely. My faith encourages me to wash my dishes promptly and keep my desk tidy. My faith forces me out of bed early in the morning to go for a run. My faith is why I eat less meat and more vegetables...because it is healthy for me and the environment. My faith compels me to genuinely get to know people and to be sincere in my interactions with them. My faith makes me give myself a pep talk about how it is completely and utterly inappropriate to take out my frustrations or disappointments on someone else...and then treat them with honor and respect instead. My faith quiets my soul when I feel like I am swimming in chaos. My faith leads me into the future and helps me learn from the past. My faith encompasses all things.

And, I am more than okay with that.

I also suppose that my hippie-esque qualities might also be reflected in the homemade granola on my shelf or my calloused, constantly bare feet...

No, I think those are actually reflective of my faith, too.

Thursday, January 17, 2013


Sometimes I struggle to slow down, and occasionally (perhaps that this an understatement...) I expect more than is reasonable of myself. Over the past several months I have wondered more than once why I cannot seem to balance my life without feeling exhausted all the time. I mean, I want to think that it is completely reasonable to work part-time as a social work advisor, to study full-time for my MSW, to study Khmer a few hours a week, to maintain a long-distance relationship with my now fiance, to train for a half-marathon and maintain fitness, to cook (healthily) for myself and take care of my house, to maintain some semblance of a social life, to keep in touch with family and friends in the US, to be involved in 2 small groups and church, and to just keep my head above water in a country that is not my own.
That isn't too much to ask, is it?

As much as I wanted all of this to be reasonable for me, I have realized that it is not. That is difficult for me to admit. It is difficult because it feels like failure to me.
But, it is not failure. And, the reality is that I have been doing all of that for a year and survived. I made it through. And coming out on the other side of that year, I never, ever want to do it again because it is neither reasonable nor healthy.

So, this year the idea is slower...

And, to be honest, I think this might be equally as challenging as the manic year before it.
Well, because I struggle to sit through an entire feature length film without picking up my computer to send some emails or read some news while the movie plays.
Because I do crossword puzzles while I eat my lunch.
Because I take books with me to get my oil changed (It takes 10 minutes...tops.).
Because I make impossibly long "to do" lists ever day.
Because I fear being lazy.

And, it is for all of those reasons and many more that I know this year and the years that follow need to be slower, to be intentional and productive but slower, to be healthy and balanced but slower.

Healthy, balanced people are not lazy. These are not the people who are falling into ruin of which Proverbs speaks. These are the people who have learned to understand what it means to live in joy and abundance and contentment and with the One thing that matters.

"But the Lord said to her, 'My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her." Luke 10:41-42

Here's to a sloooooower 2013! 

Sunday, January 13, 2013

a year in review

Okay, so the title of this post may be a bit deceiving. I am not going to review the entirety of 2012 in this post. Rather, I am going to reflect on my reading accomplishments for the year because, well, I love books. I have enjoyed reading as long as I can remember, and at the beginning of 2012, I compiled a reading list for the year. I determined that this time of my life might be the most suited to devouring the written word, and I want to take full advantage of it. I was not able to cross every book off my list this year, which may have partly been due to the fact that I continued to add new ones to the list or that reading about social work policies and theories absorbed far more of my reading time than I might have otherwise chosen. (To be fair, I thoroughly enjoyed most of the social work reading, but it wasn't exactly what one might call leisure reading...) So, because I know that many of my friends are always looking for some good books to read, I will share my book list of 2012 with you. Be forewarned, that I like an eclectic collection. These are in no particular order (not even the order in which I read them). I will highlight my favorites with an asterisk. You know, so you don't have to waste your time filtering through the boring ones...

1. The Giver by Lois Lowry*
2. The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevsky
3. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe*
4. Breaking Intimidation by John Bevere
5. In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day by Mark Batterson
6. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
7. Love Wins by Rob Bell
8. Erasing Hell by Francis Chan and Preston Sprinkle
9. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins*
10. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins*
11. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins*
12. Plan B by Anne Lamott*
13. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
14. Persian Girls by Nahid Rachlin
15. Tattoos on the Heart by Gregory Boyle
16. The Notice by Sean Chandler
17. One Day by David Nicholls
18. Speaking of Jesus by Carl Medearis*
19. The Tale of Three Kings by Gene Edwards
20. Say You're One of Them by Uwem Akpan
21. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows*
22. Where Am I Wearing by Kelsey Timmerman*
23. Secondhand Jesus by Glenn Packiam
24. Tell a Thousand Lies by Rasana Atreya
25. Nickel Plated by Aric Davis
26. Never Fall Down by Patricia McCormick
27. Lulu in the Sky by Loung Ung*
28. The Furious Longing of God by Brennan Manning*
29. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman*
30. Crazy Love by Francis Chan and Danae Yankoski

I am not sure that I read a "bad" book this year, so I would probably recommend every one of these books for different reasons. And, the best part of a "year in review" is that a whole new year of books and reading and learning is ahead! A good year it shall be!

Happy reading!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

fairy tales

As a little girl I embraced the wonder of princesses. I liked pink and puffy skirts (when my mom would allow me to pick my own party dress) and clip-on earrings and fancy tiaras. I sang along with Snow White, knowing that someday my prince would come. I imagined pumpkins turning into chariots with Cinderella. I tried more than once to go on a magic carpet ride like Jasmine. I wondered what it would be like to fall in love with a beast in a castle with talking teacups.
But, none of that was real. I wanted it to be, but it just wasn’t.
I think that many little girls have grown up wanting to live inside these same fairy tales, to dress in beautiful ball gowns, to be sought after by Prince Charming. Unfortunately, most of us do not live in castles (even if we are only the servants) and we do not get invited to balls, some of us do not even get invited to prom.
But, sometimes reality is better than the best fairy tale one can imagine.
I am confident that I am living a real-life fairy tale. I am not sure how it happened, but I am sure that I do not deserve it. To be honest, I have wondered many times why it is all happening to me when there are so many amazing women in the world, many in my own life, who are completely worthy of such beauty and wonder. I do not know the reason why, but I am thankful. I am ridiculously blessed.
On Christmas morning in Paris on the steps of the Sacre Cour Cathedral, I became engaged to an amazing man. He is far better than any prince charming. He loves me well. He makes me a better woman, and he points me to Christ. He shattered my expectations and revealed something so much better. There is no one else with whom I would rather spend the rest of my days.
We met in Cambodia in June 2010 at a mutual friend’s birthday party. He had been in the country for just a few days, and I was preparing to leave in just a few days. He returned to the US, and I returned to Cambodia. A few months later, we began emailing back and forth, which started as somewhat professional correspondence then turned to friendly notes. Unbeknownst to the other, we planned simultaneous trips to Le Rucher, a retreat center in the French Alps, in the fall of 2011. He was spending the autumn volunteering, and I was planning to go through a de-briefing session prior to a brief furlough in the US. Shortly after both of our plans were solidified, we discovered that our trips were going to coincide. We were both hopeful but unsure of what that time could mean. While in France together, we spent hours chatting, watched The Sound of Music and Nacho Libre (save your judgment, please), explored Geneva, shared dinner and wine, and he mourned with me when I learned that my Grandpa had passed away. He took me to the train station and prayed with me. Then, we emailed nearly daily for the next several weeks while he remained in France and I returned to the US. We planned to meet for a day in December when I would be visiting my brother and his family in Tennessee and he could drive the few hours from his family’s home in Georgia. The day ended with hugs and huge heartaches. In January 2012 I returned to Cambodia with a heavy heart. He remained in Georgia with a hurt of his own. After a long couple of months that include a lot of prayer, a few random phone calls, a painfully honest letter, a couple important conversations with good friends, we decided that while the situation was not either of our ideals or something we knew what to do with, we would give it a shot. Thanks to emails, Skype, Facetime, gmail’s 1 cent/minute calling rates, and a lot of patience and intentionality, we have spent hours upon hours falling in love with each other over the last several months. We spent a great week together in Indiana in June with my family. We had an amazing 2 weeks together in Cambodia in August and September. We had a better-than-fairy-tale time together in Paris and Edinburgh for Christmas and New Year’s. And, we have the most wonderful future ahead of us…happily ever after will simply not be sufficient.
I love you, Adam.