A Condensed, yet Comprehensive Conspectus
I am currently completing my Masters with a focus in Integrative Wellness at Point Loma Nazarene University, of which I am over halfway through. For those of you who know me, this sort of program is a dream. There’s a particular area of interest, beauty, awe, passion that I have found here; every day + every assignment is lined with excitement. There’s also a peculiar coincidence + paradox I have surfaced in the journey as well. Let me elucidate…
To whomever may be drifting by these words, I invite you to consider what it is that wellness means; and particularly for my colleagues in this journey, what it is that we study. We (that is, those in this specified area of health exploration + expertise) recognize that there are several dimensions of wellness — including physical, intellectual, emotional, spiritual, social, and even environmental, occupational, or financial. What do we as wellness professionals and human beings seek in cultivating and nourishing these aspects of wellness? What is the underlying motivation or ultimate goal to be achieved? To live a better, more satisfying life…sure! But what about beyond that? Do you notice anything curious about the dimensions in light of that last question — “beyond” this life? Let’s take a look at each one a bit more in-depth, in reality.
Physical: no matter how conscientious, caring, and compassionate we are towards our physical bodies/health through means such as nutrition, exercise, sleep, and medical care, our bodies are bound to fluctuate in size over time, movement + function will likely become more difficult than it used to be, we will grow more fatigued than in our younger years, and we will ultimately pass on — a vapor that is here ~73 years (the world’s average life expectancy) and then moved on.
Intellectual: we spend our whole lives learning new things — without even trying. It is inevitable! What a glorious reality. However, as we begin to age, our memory weakens, our mental stamina + reflexes are lessened, we may find it more difficult to keep in step with our old routines or our previously-loved hobbies.
Emotional: this category is a rollercoaster in itself; do I need to explain? Ha, kidding. But, our emotions legitimately are bound to ebb + flow + fluctuate depending upon our circumstances, our conscience, our counterparts. Working towards emotional stability + regulation has evidence backing its efficacy, yet we cannot ultimately control external circumstances and how they truly make us feel inside, regardless of how well we process or react to them.
Social: I think we can all relate to very impactful + meaningful relationships that we have had in the past that are no longer present. That hurts — really, really hurts. Yet, when those relationships were at their prime, they offered contagious contentment, comfort, confidence, encouragement. It’s another reminder of an area that truly nourishes the person in its pursuit + practice, yet is not promised to last forever.
And taken together (since these are not always included in all wellness models, though I do appreciate their inclusion), Environmental, Financial, Occupational: Melting icebergs, blizzards in Texas, skyscrapers in place of farmland — we know well how the geographical landscape is steadily sliding into deterioration + transformation, whether you see that as good or bad, it is not under our ultimate control. Inflation, Unemployment, Unexpected emergencies — such quick occurrences can turn what we placed all of our hopes, plans, promises in, upside down + flattened out. Again, completely out of our control.
Now what’s my point? To be oh-so-very pessimistic + pitiful? No! Our lives — every aspect + dimension of them — are coherently created + diligently designed gifts given to us! We focus on all these areas in order to be good stewards of our gifts. However, did you notice that I forgot to get nitty-gritty with one of the dimensions? Well, that was intentional. Spiritual wellness, or spirituality, is a unique player in this game. Why? It doesn’t fade, falter, fluctuate, or fail. Let me repeat, spiritual wellness is steadfast + lasting. And for the people in the back, spiritual wellness is firm + forever. How can this be?! Our spirit + what our spirits are connected to are eternal things — not things of this physical, material world. Yes, devotional books + church buildings + hymnals will also fade away like all the previously mentioned. Yet, the Word of God, the Church of Christ (that is, the body of believers), + the songs of the saints will carry on into eternity (Isaiah 40:8, Hebrews 11:16, Revelation 5:9-10,15:3-4,19:1-8, 21:1-5). Have you noticed the stark trend in the aging population that are more invested in their spirituality, faith community, or even finding God for the first time? That is partially due to changing times + the era that they grew up in, but not to be dismissed is their realization that as their physical body, mental capacities, social interactions, and finances diminish, they become more aware + dependent on the Almighty God who both created + sustained them through all of their life; who is currently sustaining them when they have no else. If only we could reach that realization sooner. If only we could live a full + whole life, throughout our life. If only we could truly say that we care for + cultivate our health + wellness…
In case you may be wondering why all of the other aspects of health are bound to deteriorate, unlike spirituality, I will share a bit of a well-known story. God created the universe in perfect order + harmony — there was never pain, death, sorrow, strife (Genesis 1). He created humans to be like Him, to have a right relationship with Him + with one another, and to steward His creation (Genesis 2). Yet, those humans didn’t quite obey the perfect order that God had set in place, and this act of rebellion is called sin (Genesis 3). Sin immediately ushered in all of those dreadful things — death, disaster, depression, destruction, etc. Because of this sin, we now see why the things on Earth are bound to corruption (i.e., our bodies, relationships, planet) (Romans 5:12,8:22). But God couldn’t stand to see His beloved creation (His people) to live in this way. So, He sent His Son Jesus Christ, part of His very self, to be born + live among people on Earth whom He knew would reject + despise Him because of their sin (John 3:16, Psalm 118:22, Isaiah 53:3, Luke 17:25, John 1:11). Why would He do such a thing?? (This is where the story gets really good). While Jesus was on Earth, He lived a perfect life without sin so that He could pay for the price + punishment that was due to the Holy God on the part of OUR sin (2 Corinthians 5:21, 1 Peter 2:22, Hebrews 4:15, 1 John 3:5). The punishment of our rebellion was death (Romans 5:8,5:12,6:23, Hebrews 2:9). Jesus Christ, God’s own Son + piece of Himself, died to wipe our record clean, but most importantly, He rose from the grave up to Heaven, signifying that the substitution for us was accepted by God (John 11:25, Romans 10:9, Ephesians 1:7, 1 Peter 1:3). Whew! (If you made it this far, I’m sending you a big, big hug). This whole process with Jesus removed eternal death/destruction/darkness + secured eternal life for those who believe that this testimony is true, committing their lives to abiding in Him (John 3:16,3:36,5:24,17:3). Bonus: not only do these believers receive eternal life, they also receive abundant life now (John 10:10, Romans 8:11,15:13) — this is what spiritual wellness is all about! We have hope, purpose, meaning, direction, guidance, peace, comfort, growth, joy, and contentment in this life because of where our spirits lie. Without a grounded foundation of our spirits, we are bound to worldly deterioration + our aims for health/wellness are in vain.
So, what is wellness to you?
Header image: Shane Watson (2021). Holiday self-care for parents: The eight dimensions of wellness. NotMyKid.org. https://notmykid.org/2021/12/12/holiday-self-care-and-the-eight-dimensions-of-wellness/
A Reflection On The Past Year: Experiences, Thoughts, Growth
Man, 2019 has been a year of complete remodeling, rebuilding, renewing, revamping myself in all sorts of ways. I lived in Ireland for four months. I lived in Denver for two. Then somewhere in between my home-home and college-home (you know how that goes…) the rest of the time. I learned to let go of my deep-rooted, tight-gripped sin of control; trusting God with whatever unfolds. I learned to open up to strangers + to genuine community – replacing fears + insecurities with fellowship + vulnerability. I learned to dig in – to His character, His calling, His creation, His community. God has consistently paved my way. Consistently led me on a journey – one He has crafted + known since the beginning (Jeremiah 1:5, Ephesians 1:4); one He delights in revealing to me (Job 12:22, Daniel 2:22). This neck of the woods has been a mix of unknown highs + uncharted lows, comfort + difficulty, expected + unforeseen. Through it all, I’ve been learning to put behind my innate tendencies + give my full, undivided, wholehearted attention to the experience.
I spent the beginnings of the new year in a new country. I took a chance going somewhere I had no distinct connections or draw to, somewhere I had never been, with people I had never met, with really no clear direction or expectations for what I was to do when I arrived. I honestly like this sort of mystery + exploring something new; but paradoxically, the details surrounding that new territory must be mapped out in my brain. This world of unknowns was setting the stage for four months of breaking down my built up walls + loosening my clenched up fists, to humbly be brought down + fully trust my Father in every aspect of my life. Going to Ireland was for a study abroad, but more so for my own enjoyment — to travel + explore + grow in cultural experience. However, God had far greater plans + purposes than either of those reasons — far beyond what my finite mind + persistent heart could comprehend, configure, or contrive. As you may have gathered from a previous post, I struggle(d) with the desire for control — in general, but more specifically in my health/appearance, my school/success, my everyday events/time, etc. Throughout the four months of traveling alone, living in a foreign place, having unknown plans, I learned to let go of those things I was trying to control + let go of the idea that they provided me stability + security. I learned to let go of fear — fear of safety, of unknowns, of failure, of imperfection, of living up to or missing out. It was by no means an easy process. I faced many late nights + early mornings burdened, pressed, stressed out of my mind with tears streaming down my face, just to realize that it was all for nothing (Matthew 6:25-34 James 4:13-15, Proverbs 16:9) — Jesus has already promised to take ALL of that weight off of my shoulders if I just give it to Him (Matthew 11:28) — why had I not done this sooner?? Learning to remove the desire to control, to know the details, to plan all things, to have set expectations, set me on a sure foundation of trusting God completely, constantly + also set me up for the subsequent two months in Denver, and even the upcoming semester at school, and let’s be honest, for life.
The summer brought excitement, and thanks to the first half of the year, unwritten + unestablished expectations. I went into the experience in Denver with an open mind + in turn learned to open up other parts of myself. I was challenged to step outside of my normal/my comfort zone to engage with strangers. This allowed me to truly learn from them + for them to learn from me without any hesitation or pretenses. I was bold in my speech, actions, decisions. I was vulnerable about my faults, past, weaknesses, needs. As I have mentioned before, I am an introvert. It takes a bit to draw me out + for me to feel comfortable, confident, adequate to make myself known. However, I see now, through the process of this summer, that God can use me in that particular way He created me, as well as expand my illusory boundaries to open up unrevealed, concealed parts of me to further grow myself + His Kingdom.
As Fall rolled around, I headed back to campus for the first time since the previous Fall semester. I was uneasy about the transition back, mainly because I had learned + grown + changed so much that the experience would be completely different than what I was used to previously in that environment. Right off the bat, God crossed my path with numerous individuals that provided me the opportunity to form new friendships + invest in being intentional with. Further, I was led to a local church that drew me in like a magnet with the concentration of their community + depth of their doctrine. These opportunities, divine appointments if you will, allowed me to fully express + dive into the uncharted territory that was introduced from the past eight months. It also got me more interested + invested in committing time to wrestle with difficult topics, study theology, search for understanding. I’ve acquired a new found passion + urgency for these things — I keep digging, digging, digging into the Word of God with a continual supply of new findings + questions — it’s the Mary Poppins bag of life! Day by day I am acquiring more knowledge about God + His sovereignty, character, will; moving me from elementary milk to substantial meat (Hebrews 5:12-15, 1 Corinthians 3:2). Now, I must continue in this pursuit, finding a balance beyond selfishly soaking up all the information for myself + rather turning outward to love, encourage, serve, exhort my family of believers + reach out to share this overflowing knowledge, heart, passion with unbelievers who may not have access to or any experiential knowledge of picking up + tasting of this cup.
This year, God has abundantly + exceedingly answered requests.
Concluding the summer, I prayed that I would be able to form the same type of prompt, pointed, purposive, life-giving relationships with people I would come into contact with on campus. Provided.
Prior to my return to my campus from a semester away, I prayed that I would have someone to disciple + lead in the way that a mentor had done for me. Provided.
Going into this past year of 2019, I prayed for a heart change. I think, in review of all this… provided.
I prayed to my good, heavenly, trustworthy Father that what I had learned + grown into within the past year wouldn’t be left behind in Denver or in Dublin or in the cracks between here + there, but I would be able to tap into + draw from that newly dug well of Kristen — that I could let go + open up + dig in to anomalous avenues of life where He was leading.
Wrestling With Staying Put Or Striving Out
I left Denver on a high (no pun intended). I had made memories + connections like I never have before + like I never expected I would. I departed with a heart full of all the goodness of Christ + a head full of ideas, hopes, plans to come back.
But transitioning back home was hard. Transitioning from busy days filled with a constant presence of people + places + plans to a slow murmur of sitting at home, sauntering alone, silent living. I felt like all of the gains I had just made in my life relationally, personally, spiritually had just come to a halting, screeching stop.
My thoughts have been scattered with doubts. My mind is reminding me of the plans I had to travel the world, to see new places, to meet new people. I shouldn’t be wanting to return to the same place again… or should I?
What if God is calling me to settle down + establish roots in a single place at such a time as this, in such a place as this? Can I continue to love a place if I’m living life with the same people? Is this why He placed me in Colorado — to draw me back in? Was Colorado just another destination to meet + connect with new people for the heart movement, head memories, high moments? Or was it planting a seed for a further flourishing in the garden of His plan?
The time spent home didn’t last long because I was soon off to another location — back to my university. I had lots of mixed emotions going in, mainly due to the fact that I hadn’t been back on campus in almost a year. Getting back into a routine of balancing long days full of lectures, work, and studying with the numerous leadership responsibilities I had taken on was daunting. Not to mention this underlying, irrational fear that somehow I had been forgotten by everyone I previously knew due to my prior semester’s absence.
This fear + stress coupled with all that God taught me this summer about intentionality + relationships came together smoothly, satisfyingly, splendidly — because I stepped out of the way + let God do the work. I think I’ve met + established connections with more people on my campus in the past two weeks than I had the previous two years. That fact would have been overwhelming + horrifying to me then. Praise God for that heart change! Not only have I gotten to deepen relationships with individuals whom I only knew a name, but I’ve also met new friends whom I’ve never known before. By opening up + extending friendship like Jesus did, I’ve come into contact with people that I never would have otherwise. Isn’t that what the Kingdom should look like anyway? I want to befriend the people who have a completely different history + who may have been on a totally divergent trajectory, because they very well may be the ones who need someone in this moment the most.
Maybe that’s why I’m here + not in Denver now. For such a moment as this. To reach out to these people + for them to teach me. There’s a time + a place + a season for every part of life (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8); this we know. But I am currently learning to not yearn, dwell, linger on pieces that previously were because then I miss the pieces that currently are — that are coming to be — by God’s guiding hand. I’m praising + thanking God for what He’s done, watching + listening for what He’s doing, and waiting patiently + eagerly for what He brings next — whether that be something familiar or something entirely new.
Developing A New Mindset For Isolation + For Missions
I have always liked to define myself as being quite independent, isolated, introverted, individualistic. I thrive in solitude — I am more creative, confident, calm, centered when I am left to myself. While great benefit + value, strength + satisfaction may be found in this state, I have learned that it is not meant to dwell in continuously.
In Genesis 2:18-22, God created Eve as a much needed companion for Adam. We, too, were created as social, relational beings not meant to function alone. We were wired for life to be lived with meaningful, worthwhile relationships.
The pendulum of this isolated lifestyle can quickly swing over to a state of loneliness — leaving us with feelings of loss, emptiness, unworthiness. The Father reminds us in His word that those feelings are far from the truth. He guides us (Psalm 73:23), fills us (Exodus 31:3, Ephesians 3:19), frees us (Psalm 27:16-17). In Psalm 139:13-15 we are told of our purposeful, intricate creation, He has given us a spirit of confidence + power (2 Timothy 1:7), and Luke 12:6-7 reminds us that we are fully known + full of worth.
There must be some sense of balance between solitude + socialization. There is a need for accountability — to be fully known + fully loved not just by my Father but also by those who walk beside me, who can press in + push me toward growth in my walk with Jesus. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 teaches of the importance of being surrounded by other believers, especially to help build us up + lift us up when we have fallen. It is impossible to mature my relationship with the Lord in isolation; the only option alone is stagnancy. In isolation, I may not necessarily be drifting backward, but I am surely not making any progress forward. Through opening up + being vulnerable, allowing the dark parts of myself to be seen by others, I can work to strengthen the aspects that are on the right track + aim to improve those that are not serving to benefit myself or my walk.
God has really been pressing in + making me aware of this isolation tendency of mine for awhile now, but since being in Denver, the concept of community + fellowship has really been emphasized + experienced. For the first time in my life, I have genuine accountability partners that are real with me + I feel comfortable in being open to them. They push me to be better, encourage me when the devil gets into my head, and teach me how to handle various situations maturely + like Christ would. Further, God has been teaching me a lot about Himself + His character through these people that surround me. I see passion, grace, generosity, genuine care, love. I am able to see + experience these unique attributes of the Father because He created each of us in His image — each with different gifts, talents, bits + pieces that work together to function + reflect Him (Ephesians 4:16).
In addition to the importance of community, I have been enlightened with the importance of solitude as well. Recently, as I have come across this understanding of God’s intention for us to be relational beings + dwell in company, I have been harsh + gotten down on myself for the way that I have been operating solo for the majority of my time. However, the two are not in conflict with one another, yet require a balance in our lives in order to operate. We must ultimately learn to create a productive rhythm of fellowship + seclusion, conversation + silence. Jesus modeled this as he took time away by himself with the Father (Matthew 14:23, Mark 1:35). I don’t believe we were made to have the capacity or energy to keep up with others all of the time (we receive this solely from the Lord apart from ourselves), but we aren’t to remain in this solitary state forever either. Each have a distinctive place + purpose in our lives + our walk with Christ.
Lastly, being in Denver has taught me a lot about how to go about fellowship + cultivating community. Previously, I understood service + mission trips as going out to help someone — physically, emotionally, financially, or most importantly, spiritually. A mission trip, understandably, meant that there was some underlying mission to be accomplished. Until recently, I never understood how wrong this mindset was in going out to reach people for Christ. Rather than following Jesus’ example of relational missional living, we see a group of people or an individual as someone in need of something that we can provide; a project or goal that we can accomplish. Going in with this demeanor + mindset is surprisingly evident to the person that you are trying to reach + will most likely make them highly resistant to whatever help or message you are trying to transfer to them.
The alternative to this process is modeled in the life of Christ (John 4:7-42, 5:1-15). He asked questions + then took the time to listen to their ideas, thoughts, perspectives, feelings. Through this process, He meets the person where they’re at, helps them to discern what it is they desire, + then what it is they ultimately need (which is God, not us).
The main purpose in what I am doing in Colorado is to form relationships with people. Not to change them or to fix them, but to genuinely listen to them + show care for them; just as Christ did to the people He interacted with. I have been astounded + overwhelmed by the individuals I have met + the stories they’ve told, baggage they carry, passions they hold. While I still cherish + delight in my time alone, I have come to love engaging with people around me — another beautiful, wonderful piece of the Father’s creation.
Side note: Here are some pictures from some Colorado nature time (my favorite!)
My Process of Planning, Preparing, Packing for Ireland
Before I even applied to go to school anywhere I knew that I wanted to study abroad at some point during my time in college. I was blessed with the opportunity to go on a short-term study abroad trip to Scotland at the end of my freshman year where I hiked, mountain-biked, kayaked, and canoed along The West Highland Way. Now, I am about to embark on a full semester abroad in Dublin, Ireland.
When first exploring my options to study abroad, I was overwhelmed. I wanted to go everywhere + anywhere and had no idea where to begin to narrow it down. Thankfully, my school has an awesome study abroad program and coordinator who helped me through the process. Since I was open to traveling to any type of climate + culture, we began to look at study abroad programs that would offer me the most money through scholarships + that would allow me to complete the courses that I need in order to complete my degree (two very important aspects when deciding on where to attend school abroad, by the way).
Once I narrowed down my options + discovered Dublin, Ireland to best fit my needs, I began working out the details of how to make it all come together. I obviously first rushed over to the program’s website to fill out my application, which I completed two months before the deadline (excited, or?). Then, I met with my academic advisor + student services coordinator on campus to discuss which classes I would need to take abroad + how those would transfer back as course credit here at my university. I also got into contact with a couple of students I knew that had attended the same program in Ireland before to get answers to some of my initial questions + advice on study abroad in general. The study abroad office on my campus hosted an orientation meeting discussing what to expect, financial aid, culture shock, packing, etc. which was extremely helpful!
Now the initial details, logistics, paperwork are all out of the way + I am gearing up the last stages before heading off! I am a huge fan of clothing + putting together new outfits for every single day of the year. However, when packing to live abroad for 3-4 months in a single suitcase, this tendency is just not possible. So, here is a bit about how I went about packing for my study abroad:
Lastly, before I set off I wanted to jot down some goals for my time abroad. I wrote them on two little post-it notes so that I could carry one around with me in my bag while traveling + hang the other up in my bedroom. These are things that I hope to accomplish while I am in Ireland such as travel destinations + personal development, as well as little reminders + words of encouragement to keep me going as I come into contact with culture shock + challenges.
I am beyond stoked to begin this new experience ahead of me + I hope to keep you updated so as to take you along the journey with me!
Slán go fóill (goodbye for now)!
A Self-Evaluation + Self-Reflection Through Journal Entries
It’s time to get real.
My recent blog posts have been fun + full of adventure, activity, awe but something has been pressing on my heart for some time now that I feel like needs sharing. It’s time for me to be honest with myself, and in order to do that I need to allow my heart to be vulnerable + raw so that I can have some accountability in my life, from myself as a self-reminder, as well as from others around me who care about my well-being.
So here it is. These are some journal entries I have had over the past year or so compiled into a single post, in a somewhat coherent fashion. Please feel free to leave a comment or email me separately if you have any questions, reactions, concerns, advice.
I am fully aware of the surfacing lifestyle pattern I am living that is contrary to a life with God. my flesh longs for self-dependence, self-will, self-sufficiency. I don’t know why I continually struggle with wanting to know everything for the future + wanting to control every aspect of my life. I don’t know why I can’t fully trust my God who has great plans for me—plans that exceed what I could ever imagine (Ephesians 3:20) + that He will undoubtedly bring to completion (Philippians 1:6). I want to stop depending on my own limited view, knowledge, resources, ability + rely fully, completely, wholeheartedly on Him. I want to let go of my own notions + simply surrender. Lord, forgive me of my desire to plan my own steps. help me to focus my mind on your faithfulness, power, wisdom, creativity + lean on your guidance + plans for my life.
this obsession with gaining control has profound effects on seeing, hearing, being with Jesus.
it’s ironic that I continually seek to have control when it only creates more stress + worry for myself. I can easily be free of this weighty burden if I just let go of my grip and give it over to God, trusting Him to handle the reins. His ways are always better than mine even when I don’t want to believe it or quite understand it (Jeremiah 29:11, Isaiah 55:8-9, Proverbs 3:5-6).
it's ironic that I continually seek to have control when it is only an illusion. I know full + well that it is unattainable for me to grasp because God is in total control, yet I’m still so persistent in chasing after it, to the point of neglecting other priorities.
last night I was brought down to my knees in prayer with the Father. I am aware + appalled at my sin, so I admitted my faults to God. He overwhelmed me with reassurance. this struggle has been impossible for me to get past because I have been fighting it alone rather than through His strength (John 15:5, Luke 1:37, 18:27, Philippians 4:13). I am returning to the Father with arms wide open so that He will bring me back + restore me (Jeremiah 15:19), amplifying His great power through my weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). the process of purging this from my life is lengthy, difficult, painful but God is severing my dependence on these things so that I can be made whole + well + mature in Him. through this process, God is crafting my testimony + through my testimony, others will also hear of His grace, goodness, glory + be drawn near to Him (2 Corinthians 1:3-7).
the enemy is pretty crafty in the lies that he tells me (John 8:44, Genesis 3:1). and often, it’s really difficult for me not to believe them. he knows my weakest points—even the ones I’m unaware of—and he attacks. I see it as one of those National Geographic, Planet Earth type of scenes where the predatory animal goes in for the youngest, slowest, weakest of the prey they’re after.
Satan attacks the Christians who are growing in their faith, knowledge, love of Christ and he aims to pull them away by using whatever means he can through confusion + lies. confusion yields a realm of blurriness to what we know to be true about God + the lies bring a world of darkness. fortunately, light exposes truth, and that light has come in the form of Jesus Christ (John 8:12, John 12:35, Psalm 27:1, 1 John 1:5) who brings all darkness to light, and declares what is true + trustworthy.
I’ve somehow lost the ability to have real + honest conversations with others around me either out of my own introverted nature, or more often than not, because of the constant chaos + noise around us that begs for our time + attention away, making genuine conversation or sitting in stillness difficult to attain. time and time again I’ve had the conversation role play in my head of asking my parents to take me to visit a therapist. and every time the thought has crossed my mind has been when I was in prayer with God. somehow it’s just now occurred to me that God IS my therapist. He is my healer (Psalm 147:3), my comforter (2 Corinthians 1:3-4), my source of peace (John 14:27, John 16:33). He is my Father, my Leader, my all-accessible, always-available Counselor. undoubtedly God places other mentors and helpers in my life, but no person on this Earth can supply me with the guidance, grace, comfort, contentment as He can. no person can ever come close to replacing the gift that is my relationship with the Lord. I need Him in my high, mountain top moments and I need Him when I am at my lowest, struggling with the desires of my heart + the thoughts in my mind. He already knows every bit of my inner workings (Psalm 139) so there is nothing to hold back or hide from. He won’t be surprised or think of me differently or be scared away by what I bring to the table, but offers me His open + loving ears, arms, heart. in His presence, I am in a place of complete openness + vulnerability.
Reminiscing On Brief Trips That Brought Unique Experiences + Lasting Memories
The beginning of September translates into the transition into Fall which signals a shift into my student season of life. My summer days spent as an avid world traveler are put on hold for the time being — trading in the passport + sightseeing for thick textbooks + studying. As I am settling into my new routine of courses, labs, tutoring, leading, I wanted to take a moment to reflect back on a few few-day trips that weaved their way into my wondrous weeks of summer break.
The first mini trip was spent in charming Charleston. I traveled down with my brother who was visiting the Medical University of South Carolina where he hopes to attend for dental school. While he was busy with a schedule full of meet-and-greets, touring campus, mock labs + demonstrations, etc., my parents and I had the opportunity to explore the Charleston area, which brought back many memories, and definitely created some anew.
In 1995, my parents came here and stayed at Shem Creek Inn for their honeymoon. We spent some time around the area, walking on the boardwalk along the marsh + line of shrimp boats where they recalled to me their adventurous activities + sweet stories from their time spent here. Later that evening, we drove around the Battery to admire the beautiful old homes + waterfront at sunset.
We spent the next day as tourists around the downtown area, Battery Park, Waterfront Park, and Kiawah Island. We also took some time away to head over to Angel Oak which was a favorite of mine when I was younger. The tree is thought to be the largest, towering at about 66 feet. Despite 400-500 years of harsh weather and curious tourists stopping by, the tree still manages to hold deep roots + stand strong for all to admire -- what a perfect paradigm for me to apply to my life as I inevitably face the many confusing, stressful, difficult, overwhelming moments that come with being a full-time student again. As long as I have a strong foundation + deep roots in the Word of life, I will stand strong + withstand any circumstance that comes my way.
One of my favorite things about Charleston is walking around downtown exploring all of the eclectic shops + foodie spots, as well as the open marketplace. In addition to the plenty of plates of seafood that I put down on the short trip, I stopped by some health-focused cafes + juice bars including Huriyali where I got a loaded açaí bowl + a vanilla beet cupcake topped with cashew frosting, rose petals, lemon zest — score!
My next weekend getaway was to another lovely southeastern coastal town. My mom and aunt took a long weekend away from work to spend with me around Wilmington and Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina. There were off and on summer showers, but the Lord held off the rain while we were out doing activity + sprinkled the grounds as we were indoors doing other things -- nothing could put a damper on our girls trip when our good Father is looking out for us!
We toured Bellamy Mansion, explored downtown Wilmington’s shops + restaurants, and spent an afternoon at Airlie Gardens where we saw the oldest live oak tree of 470+ years, historic chapels, art sculptures, and beautiful flower + butterfly gardens. We ended the evening with a delectable, fresh seafood dinner + a sunset cruise along the Cape Fear River.
We set out early one morning to Fort Fisher to take the ferry over to Southport, which was a unique experience from what I have done before. Southport was the film location for numerous movies + TV shows including Nicholas Sparks’ Safe Haven. We walked around the local neighborhoods, did some shopping (salt water taffy to bring back for my brother + thrifted clothes for me!), had lunch on the water, visited Wrightsville, Kure, and Carolina Beaches, then headed back to our place for the weekend to watch Safe Haven, pointing out all of the spots in the film that we had just visited that day!
Before we could even unpack our bags from our beach weekend in North Carolina, my mom and I set out again along with my Dad for a road trip up to Indiana. My brother had won an outstanding + infrequently given award under the Boys Scouts of America Order of the Arrow known as the Distinguished Service Award, so we drove over 8 hours, through 5 states, to celebrate him + his awesome accomplishment.
We attended a dignified national recognition dinner + ceremony at Indiana University for the select group of individuals who won the award, then headed over to an impressive show hosted by the Scouts with a reception following.
Leading up to the main events for the evening, we had a day open with freetime that my parents and I spent exploring the surrounding area. A notable feature about the town is the extensive natural supply of limestone rock. We sought out a particular rock quarry nearby that provided the stone in the construction of the Empire State building. However, we weren’t quite successful in gaining access to the quarry, so we visited around downtown Bloomington, went to local parks, the visitors center, and Indiana University’s campus.
As I finish typing this post, my heart is full of gratefulness. I am beginning to sink deep in assignments + responsibilities, but I am overcome with awe at what the Father has blessed me with ― the big, the small, the in-between. These blessings that God has gifted me in my life in terms of family, opportunities, experiences are far more numerous + incomparable to any bump in the road or hardship I may come across. Reminiscing on moments, events, places such as these forces my eyes to see nothing but the good in all things + my mouth to speak nothing but praise + thanksgiving to the Father who provides His children good, perfect, pleasing gifts (James 1:17). As I approach the start of this Fall semester, I aim to keep my mind lifted to things above (Colossians 3:2), remind myself of the provisions He has blessed me with + always stand rooted in the purpose He has called me to (Colossians 2:6-7).
Not Your Typical Trip to Grandmother’s House
I recently spent a (short, but sweet) week at my precious grandparents house with intentions of getting some alone time with just the two of them now that I am older — to simply spend time with them, learn from them (mentally, spiritually, realistically), be a part of their day-to-day routines. The whole week was a continuous trip down memory lane + filled with a focus on whole body wellness — preparing healthy meals, going on walks through nature, spending time in the Word + in prayer.
"Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees." - John Muir
I used to spend a week every summer there visiting various museums, going to the pool, playing board games, and all of the typical kid activities enjoyed during the summertime. But times have changed now — I’m driving myself to their place; they’re no longer living in the same old house that I grew up visiting but are now in a new, smaller condo; we’ve moved from playing board games + hosting “tea” parties (one of my favorite memories — silver platters spread with heart-shaped Easy Bake Oven brownies + teapots full of bright red Kool-Aid) to diving deep into devotionals + spiritual conversations; rather than my Meemaw making our classic breakfast menu (scrambled eggs, bacon, cinnamon toast, strawberries with sugar, hot chocolate), I am now cooking the meals for them for the week. The changing of times does not stir up a sense of sadness or regret, but the memories that were made were so fulfilling + valuable that our maturation into this next phase of life only brings reflection on the past as a pleasant, precious pastime.
Most people admire the looks of my food creations, but my grandparents are of the select few who actually enjoy eating the uber-healthy, plant-based meals that I whip up in my mind + in the kitchen. The slideshow below gives you a glimpse into our summer menu for the week.
Meanwhile, while I was cooking + following along with my grandparents’ daily life, my brother spent time working on his new project of researching (by means of online sources, in-person interviews, flipping through old photo albums) + recording our family’s ancestry, which will be made into a detailed book for distribution to members of the family in the coming months. It was truly wondrous seeing the light spark in my grandfather’s heart as he recalled so many sweet memories + moments in his life that he had forgotten.
I had grown up watching my Meemaw + Pappaw have morning devotional time + prayer together, and I had always secretly wanted to join in the conversation, but I felt too young + inadequate to contribute anything. Now as I have grown stronger in my faith + more intimate in my relationship with the Lord, my desire to dig into the Word + study, learn, pray with them grew evermore intense. I regret not taking the time sooner, but I am grateful that I had the opportunity before I missed it again.
Even back then I had witnessed firsthand that just those mere moments of them together in the presence of the Lord was undoubtedly the reason for their unshakable, affectious marriage of 50+ years. Christ is in, through, at the very center of their relationship + life together. I pray that I can model this paradigm they have set in my future marriage (God-willing), but also reflect it now in my personal relationship with Christ in the present moment.
During the short week spent in their presence, I learned much about the heart of my grandparents — what fills it with joy + admiration, what breaks it due to intense care + selflessness on their part towards others. I got to experience what it is that makes them excited, elated, exhausted, emotional.
Also, this week God was certainly pressing on me + teaching me how to embody the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23, 2 Peter 1:5-8). Specifically,
Patience: learning to slow down + not be go-go-go all of the time.
Gentleness: learning to speak + act in a way that is not quick or harsh, but seasoned with grace (Colossians 4:6, Psalm 103:8).
Loving: learning to share the love Christ shows me through my actions, words, encounters with others.
I am continually in awe of each of my grandparents + how effortlessly they embody these attributes + a life of Christ as a whole despite all that occurs in their lives. I intentionally sought out this time to spend with them alone, without any distractions or forms of entertainment, because I wanted to physically experience, learn, absorb all that I could from them firsthand so that I can follow directly in their footsteps; in the footsteps of Christ himself. I am beyond blessed to have a physical family who also doubles as my spiritual family + who I can look up to as mentors, guides, role models in my walk. My heart was overwhelmed with warmth + my soul with gratitude at the conclusion of the week, and I pray to God that I have the opportunity for many, many more moments like this to create memories + be molded into the person that is particularly pleasing to my Father in Heaven.