Dear 23-year-old Stephanie::

You’re on the other side of the world right now.  This adventure you’re on, it’s one of the greatest gifts you’ve ever been given.  Don’t waste it.  Learn all you can, but stop taking yourself so seriously… try and laugh a little more.  You’re actually really funny.

You’re going to take a job that will steal your joy. You’ll survive and it will teach you so much.  You’ll be lonely, but you’re going to make it.  You’ll walk away at exactly the right time… so hang in there! 
You’re going to walk away a lot in the next five years. 
Sometimes it will be walking away from good in order for better-  other times you'll be walking away from things you ought to have avoided all together.
Don’t be afraid to walk alone… don’t be afraid to like it. 

In the same breath, don’t be afraid to walk back into things.  Don’t be too prideful or arrogant to admit you made a mistake… ask for forgiveness and do the difficult but rewarding work of rebuilding the greatest of friendships.  Walk back into the Church, despite apprehension and hurt; you will be welcomed- and you will be gently reminded of the goodness of His mercies.

You’re still going to be in school at twenty-eight… it’s going to be tough for quiet some time. Keep your head down and work all the jobs, this too shall pass.  Learn boundaries as soon as possible- you’re going to end up spread too thin. Learn to say no, even when it’s hard.

Invest in friendships.  Forgive quickly and often.  Don’t ever stop giving and receiving feedback- it’s one of the most valuable gifts.  Surround yourself with people who are honest and don’t shy away from telling you when you’re out of line.  Pay attention to things that offend you- there are lessons to be learned from them.

Don’t become so preoccupied with doing “important things.”  As Momma T said, “Faith is love in action not in feeling.”
The most important things you will do are not at all related to travel or adventure.  While those things are good and will give you good blogging material- you’ll soon find that the most loving and faithful thing you can do is show up consistently.  Show up to church, show up for your family, show up for a friend.  It’s not always going to give you the warm feelings you hope for- show up anyway.  

Keep dreaming big. 
Keep your standards high and expectations low.
Keep writing, even when the words don’t come easily.

I’m really proud of the woman you’re becoming,

-Steph

P.S You’re going to bring in your twenty fourth year in a night club in Bulgaria, miss the last bus home, and spend the wee hours of the morning in a Subway.  It’s not one of your finest moments.  Take a shower, pick yourself up, and live the next five years with a little more grace…

P.P.S.  You’re going to start running again.  This time it’s not going to be for a guy, and that will make the miles all the more meaningful. 

P. P. P. S You’re going to be able to drink tequila again someday.  You can thank Aaron Luke for this.

lessons of love and loss five years later

Richard taught me to speak genuinely about how you feel- to not leave words unspoken.
He taught me a half-truth is still a lie.
He taught me how to drink red wine.
He challenged me to write honestly, take chances, and travel as often as possible.

There are very few things about my life that don’t make me think of him…
When I went to Cambodia and visited Angkor Watt… he would have loved that!
When I went to Greece, he would have been all about it; he would have come with me, and not thought twice about the fact that there was no notice given.
Going through RCIA- he wasn’t Catholic, but there’s no doubt in my mind he would be sitting next to me every. single. Mass.
And in the past two days of field placement at CCI there have been no less than 1000 moments when he’s crossed my mind and I’ve had to re-wrestle with all the feelings.

I never told Richard about Jesus.  And that broke my heart in a way I’m positive nothing else ever will.  It also changed me in a way that I am most grateful for. 

I am a goal setter and list maker by nature.

I’m my most comfortable when I start my day with a plan and end my day with tasks completed.  It’s a control thing.

Each January, I task myself with a spiritual, financial, physical, and relational goal. Each year I fail miserably… some failures are due to factors out of my control, others I am simply not diligent enough about. 

This year, some failures were somewhat life changing like the ending of a relationship.
Others were of less significance like goal races and paces. 

The danger with how I set goals is that if I’m not careful, I begin to associate my worth in goal attainment. 

While failure is not something I take lightly, or aspire to- it is a reality.
And with a little coffee, a few good laughs, and a whole lot of Jesus- I’m learning to be a little more gracious with my reality right now.

So with much grace, and willingness to re-goal when necessary, here are some things I’ll be attempting in 2018

Financial:: pay at least the first half of my student loans off
Physical:: complete two half marathons, beat last years sprint tri time
Relational:: more coffee dates and handwritten letters and generosity

 

here's to you 2018 

Au revoir 2017

2017 was a full 12 months of grad school.  The days were full of grace, difficult decisions, laughter, and wine.  This year challenged me once again to re-evaluate my goals and plans, and then surrender them to The One who holds the future. 

(some of) This Year's Highlights
Being all but one semester away from finishing Grad school...
Beginning RCIA classes
Paying off my car
Attending the National Orphan Summit
Haiti with AIM
Lake weekends
Participating in The Huntsville Sprint Triathlon with my dad
Auburn Football- that Iron Bowl Win though
Climbing in Nashville
Honest Coffee coming to Huntsville
Miles run and the community they’ve brought
Joining the Anthro Family
Attending the Margarita Ball
Local bike shops
Cashin Holladay Christmas
Sweet best friends moving back to Huntsville
Eye- spy games with my favorite little
Whole 30 with my momma
Celebrating my dad’s 60th
Learning to say “No” to anything that’s not a “hell yes”

I listened to these on repeat (in no particular order)
Build it Better- Aron Wright
So Will I- Hillsong United
I’ll Keep You Safe- Sleeping at Last
Our Love- Judah & The Lion
I’ll Find You- Lecrae featuring Tori Kelly
and obviously the entire Reputation album by Taylor Swift 

Favorite Books Read
They Say We Are Infidels- Mindy Belz
Fear No Distance- Danielle Grabol
Love Lives Here- Maria Goff
A Call to Mercy - Mother Teresa and Brian Kolodiejchuk M.C.
Bird by Bird- Anne Lamott 

Favorite Online Read:: We Must Trade Charity for Solidarity

Looking forward to these things in 2018...
Confirmation into The Catholic Church
Graduating with my MSW
and seeing what comes next…


 

Advent has historically been a lonely season for me.
But not this year... no, this year I dug my feet in and refused to be lonely.

The Advent devotional I’m reading claims it to be a season of mixed joy- “Thanksgiving for what I have, musings of what might have been.”
Today’s reading urged me to accept the mixture of these feelings…
To accept the celebration of the birth of The One who came to suffer, die, and rise from the dead to open the door of life for me. 

It’s difficult for my soul to be at peace on an ordinary day-
Let alone on days when I’m asked to celebrate the birth of The One who would die to save me.

This Advent season has been more eventful than those of the past.
If I’m being honest, I’ve found myself hiding from the loneliness more than I believe to be healthy. 

But that’s what we as broken people in need of a reconciling Savior do, isn’t it?

And as a feeler of all.the.things.
It’s been easier to find cheap rest in staying active, staying laughing, and staying out too late than sitting with my feelings and wrestling for true rest.

Easier yes. Satisfying no.

So tonight, I sit with the mixed feelings and allow the loneliness to make itself at home-
And face the uncomfortable truth that there’s some shame surrounding Holy Seasons, for me at least,
when I feel less than Holy, or less than worthy- or when my emotions don’t exactly line up with liturgy. 
I so often forget that God’s not offended by my feelings [shocker I know]

It’s okay for Advent to be both an anticipatory celebration and a solemn time of reflection… there is grace enough to feel and help us navigate both so long as we are being authentic.