Saturday, June 11, 2016

Things I've Learned About Life in 2016

This year has been an absolute whirlwind so far. It's been full of unexpected, but ultimately necessary, changes; full of new challenges; and now, at this point almost halfway through the year, full of hope for the future and full of a realization of how faithful God has been in my life.

So without further ado, here are some life lessons I've learned so far this year:

1. If something in your life is broken, FIX IT. Please, please, please just fix it. Don't do what I did, and try to convince yourself for many months that something is working when it obviously isn't. I'm definitely not advocating that you just run away from anything that's not working (key example--marriage isn't something you just walk out on when the going gets tough). But I think you'll know what I mean by this. I tried for such a long time to convince myself that certain areas of my life were "just fine" when they were causing me so much pain, frustration, and unhappiness. YOU are the only one who knows whether your life is really working for you or not. YOU are the only one who knows whether you are really and truly happy or not. (Quick side note on this: if friends or family tell you when you talk on the phone, "You sound so happy!" and your immediate thought is, "But I'm so NOT . . . don't you get it at all?" then that's a sign something's got to change!) I know this isn't always possible, but when it is possible--If where you live isn't working for you, move! If your job isn't working for you, get a different one! If a friend has proven over and over that they're not really going to be there for you, it's ok to gently and kindly let the friendship go. And please don't try to talk yourself out of making a much-needed change because you tell yourself, "But I really wanted this! But I really worked hard for this!" Or even . . . "But I really prayed for this!" Sometimes, God gives you things for a season, and only for a short season, and then He wants you to move on. Sometimes, the things you thought you wanted just fall flat. And that's okay, and that's life, and God is not going to be "mad" at you for moving on from something that you once prayed for because it's not healthy for you and is sucking the life out of you. The desires of your heart can change. And that's normal, and healthy, and completely okay.

2. Along the lines of #1--When you "fix" whatever it is that you need to fix, you will feel like the weight of the WORLD has finally fallen off your shoulders. And you will wonder, "Why didn't I do this so long ago?"

3. There's really no better therapy than hiking, writing, or being on the beach. Really.

4. You are the only one who gets to decide what kind of career you want to have. If people try to push you away from your passions without giving you a clear reason why, you are under no obligation to listen to them or heed their advice.

5. Don't assume that someone won't step up into the role of a true friend just because you've only known them for a little while. Even relatively new friends can prove themselves to be the kind of people that you can call in the middle of the night; the kind of people who will come over to your place to help you assemble furniture; the kind of people you can cry with over brunch when life gets overwhelming; and the kind of people you want to call first when something amazing happens.

6. You should make a list of fun things to do in your city and actually do them. Y'all, I have a list of 85 things I want to do in this city this summer, and I've already done a LOT of them. Along the way, I've discovered fantastic restaurants, great hiking trails and outdoor spots, fun new shops, local farmer's markets, and my favorite new coffee shop. Get out and explore the place where you live.

7. Go after the things you want. Keep sending the follow-up emails. Ask and keep on asking. The worst thing that can happen is that someone says no or gets annoyed with you. The best thing that can happen is that you stumble right into an amazing new opportunity.

8. This is one of my favorite lessons of all from the last few months--so many more people in this world WANT to help you than don't want to help you. Don't be afraid to ask for help. Don't be afraid to contact people that you don't know out of the blue and ask them to meet with you (one piece of advice though--use any connection you do have, like a school or organization in common, to help). I have met with so many people in the last 6 months that I simply contacted and asked for advice. I don't think I'm exaggerating to say that 95% of the people I asked to meet with me actually DID. And almost all of those people helped me in one way or another--by giving me advice, by introducing me to someone else, by asking around to their networks about opportunities I should look into, etc.

I was shooting for ten life lessons, but that's about all I have for now!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Celebrating New Beginnings!

So this is my view until tomorrow evening:

Yes, I'm at one of my favorite places in the world--Tybee Island on the Georgia coast! Yesterday was my 27th birthday, and last week I got a new job, so some celebration was definitely in order! Last Friday was my last day at my old firm. I will really, really miss everybody. In fact, I already do. I got a good start to my career there, and it was certainly bittersweet to leave. But I wanted to get a different kind of experience and develop additional skills beyond just family law, so I've found a firm that will get me in the courtroom right away and where I'll be practicing some family law, but also trusts, estates, & fiduciary litigation. I'm really excited about it. It's a small firm, and I'm confident I'm going to get a lot of experience there and really bring my career to the next level. I accepted the offer last week and will be starting on May 31st. So yesterday morning I drove out here to the beach for some serious rest & relaxation. I am SO excited about having two weeks off to basically do whatever I want, and my plan involves lots of running and hiking, a 10K, strawberry picking, art museums, going to cute local coffee shops, a couple of day trips, going to the aquarium, trying out some new restaurants, reading A LOT (stay tuned for my summer reading list), some farmers' markets, some volunteering, some boot camp classes, some cleaning and organizing, and a whole lot more. Basically my plan is to have at least one adventure a day (essentially, to try something new every day, whether that's a coffee shop I've never been to or a fitness class I've never attempted).

But meanwhile, I am enjoying some quiet, deeply reflective, much-needed time at the beach. It's been storming all day, so I've mostly been reading my Lisa Scottoline book, writing, thinking about life, etc. And I really haven't minded. I did get in a great sunrise walk on the beach this morning before the weather turned bad. And in a little while I may drive off the island for dinner in Savannah. But mostly it's been some great time to reflect on this season of transition. I am truly excited for what is to come. I have needed to make some changes in various parts of my life for a long time, and I've set out to make those changes now, and I'm so happy with it. So I will leave you with that for now, because I really have to finish that book!

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Bucket List, April 2016 Edition

I've been getting so inspired from the travel bucket lists that I've been compiling for this blog that I just want to share with you all a general list of many of the items that are on my overall bucket list for life. In thinking about this topic, I looked back on this post from February 2012, in which I wrote some of the items that were on my bucket list at the time. I'm happy to see that I've accomplished some of the items on the list since that time . . . I've seen a play on Broadway and been to Italy, and I've worked on a professor's research project on issues of neuroscience and the law, and I've graduated from law school (not summa cum laude though!) and passed the bar exam on the first try. I've run a half-marathon (well, four half-marathons). It's also interesting that some of the goals I noted back then aren't things I care that much about anymore, such as reading 100 classic or award-winning books. I know at the time I was meaning books like A Tale of Two Cities and Pride and Prejudice. Well, to be honest with you, I think books like that are usually really, really boring! I do want to read tons of books in my lifetime, but I'd prefer them to be the kind of books I actually like--novels, and mysteries, and books on travel and running and psychology, and memoirs from the lives of interesting people. In looking at some of the other goals from back then, I've decided that riding a roller coaster will probably NEVER happen (just like sky-diving is never going to happen), and I am not exactly going to be debt-free by December 31st unless I win the lottery. But that's okay.

Four years later, here are a number of the items on my current bucket list, in no particular order (including traveling to every place noted in those earlier posts!):
  1. Do a mud run (not Tough Mudder, something a little more manageable)
  2. Go stand-up paddleboarding
  3. Take Korean classes
  4. Become legitimately fluent in Spanish (I've gotten close a few times, and I think a few more classes should do it)
  5. Run a full marathon
  6. Go surfing in Africa
  7. Read the Bible from cover to cover in 40 days (obviously working on this one right now)
  8. Go skiing or snowboarding
  9. Swim with whales, sharks, or dolphins
  10. Run a night marathon under the midnight sun in Norway
  11. Go to Antarctica
  12. Have a traditional Bedouin meal and camp out under the stars in the Wadi Rum desert in Jordan
  13. See the pyramids
  14. Ride a camel
  15. Sleep in an igloo
  16. Go ice-hole swimming in Finland
  17. Go scuba diving
  18. Go snorkeling
  19. Eat street food in Bangkok
  20. Get a standing ovation
  21. Have a scholarly article published in a major family law publication
  22. Teach family law and legal writing classes at a law school
  23. Go to Rio de Janeiro and see the Christ the Redeemer statue
  24. Go to Africa to visit one or both of the children I sponsor through World Vision
  25. Attend a service at the Brooklyn Tabernacle
  26. Give a waiter/ waitress a tip that is at least $50 for no special reason 
  27. Hike the Grand Canyon from rim to rim (and watch the sun rise over the Grand Canyon)
  28. Learn more languages, like Arabic or Italian
  29. Visit every state in the US--I really only have a few to go, and if I went to all the states in the Northeast, I'd only have 7 left to go to. 
  30. Join the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers
  31. Mentor younger lawyers. This has become a cause dear to my heart in the last year or so! It's so needed. 
  32. Go on a solo vacation that requires air travel
  33. Go on an Alaskan cruise
  34. Run an 8-minute mile (it may not sound that hard but for me this would be huge because I'm a slow runner), do at least 35 military-style pushups without a break, and hold the plank position for 5 minutes
  35. Fast for at least 30 hours
  36. See the Sydney Opera House
  37. See an amazing Northern Lights show--I've had the privilege of seeing the Northern Lights, but I want to see them again where I can get a shot like this one:

I'd love to hear your bucket list ideas!

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Life Lately

I blinked and somehow, it is already mid-April, and I just filed my taxes, and the weather is finally really getting warm. The first few months of 2016 have flown by, for the most part. I'm in a season of transition and change right now. I'm looking for a new job, so that has been keeping me really busy, and I'm hoping to have some updates on that fairly soon. Meagan and I have been doing a challenge to read the Bible through, from cover to cover, in only 40 days. We started the challenge on March 28th, which means we only have until May 6th to get it done! For this month, I'm not really able to watch movies . . . or read other books . . . because I'm reading the Bible ALL the time. But I believe this is going to be a life-changing experience to fill my mind and heart so deeply with the Word of God, in such concentrated doses, for this period of time. And since I'm in a season of change and growth anyway, I want to seize this opportunity to make this a season of spiritual renewal as well. And I have found in my life that I have never had more strength than in those times when I was reading the Bible till the pages ripped. I need that strength, hope, and guidance in my life right now, so I'm seeking it out even though it's really hard to read that much every day. But I've already been blessed by this challenge, and I would strongly encourage you all to give it a try too. Meagan is coming down to visit me for the weekend two weeks from now, and so HOPEFULLY we'll be caught up on our reading by then!

And just in general, I want this time to be "40 days to a new me." At the end of these 40 days, I want to have read the Bible from cover to cover, gotten a new job, deep cleaned and organized my entire apartment (working on that little by little), started training for my half marathon in June, and gone on vacation to the beach. As far as other plans for later in the summer, I want to do one of those mud runs! And run at least two half-marathons. And go to San Diego and Mexico with Meagan. And finally, finally finish reading every novel Jodi Picoult has ever written (plus a whole stack of other books). I want to go surfing in San Diego and watch the sun set over Scripps Pier (look this up--so beautiful!) I want to take a Korean class and an advanced Spanish class. Those are just a few of my plans for the next few months.

My life should settle down a lot more hopefully in the next month or so, and I'd love to share more with you all about what God is teaching me during this time. But for now, I'll leave you with this: "He who trusts in, relies on, and confidently leans on the Lord will be compassed about with mercy and with loving-kindness." Psalm 32:10 (Amplified Bible)

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Yet I Will Rejoice

These verses have been speaking to my heart lately:

"Though the fig tree does NOT bud and there are NO grapes on the vines, though the olive crop FAILS and the fields produce NO food, though there are NO sheep in the pen and NO cattle in the stalls, YET I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; He makes my feet like the feet of a deer, He enables me to tread on the heights."

--Habakkuk 3:17-19

This is just so good. YET I will rejoice. Even now I will rejoice. If the worst happens, even then I will rejoice. Though all seems lost, I will rejoice. I really can't add much to that message.

Looking for some more inspiration from the books of the minor prophets (or perhaps you've never read them)? Here are some more beautiful and hopeful passages from those books to encourage you all to dig right in, if you never have:

  • Zephaniah 3:17: "The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love He will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing."
  • Hosea 6:3: "Oh, that we might know the Lord! Let us press on to know Him! He will respond to us as surely as the arrival of dawn or the coming of rains in early spring."
  • Joel 2:13: "Return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love."
  • Micah 7:18-19: "Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of His inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea."

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Travel Bucket List, Part 2

We're not quite ready for the U.S. list just yet because I keep finding international places that I REALLY want to go to. Here are some more:

  • The village of Manarola Cinque Terre, Italy--no words needed:

  • I've never seen anything like this in my life: on the island of St. Maarten in the Caribbean, there is a beach that is so close to the airport that if you're on the beach, the planes are about 20 feet over your head. 

  • Tashirojima in Japan: an island in Japan with more cats than people.

  • The island of Capri off the coast of Italy:

  • Azenhas do Mar, a seaside town in Portugal. I'm planning to go to Portugal this year, and I'm so excited about it:

  • St. John. Ok, this isn't really international because it's in the U.S. Virgin Islands. But have you ever seen a more beautiful beach?

More coming soon!

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Thankful. Unshakable. Hopeful.

Right now, I am thankful for long, long talks with my dear friend from law school over dinner at Red Pepper Taqueria, complete with watermelon margaritas and queso and laughing until I have hiccups. The kind of talks where we tell each other that we're valuable and to keep trying and remind each other to surround ourselves with people who love us and push us to be BETTER.

I am thankful for cold and sunny January weekends, where the year is so new you are still taking its packaging off, filled with a stirring and impulsive hope for what is to come.

I am thankful for the technology that lets me talk to my friend who's all the way over in South Korea. And I am so thankful for starting off my day today with a huge life discussion with her--the kind where we reminded each other not to hope in the wrong things. And that life's not about us, it's about glorifying God. And that JESUS is the only firm foundation of our lives. And that we need to stop running away from hard things and instead lean into the challenges and lean into our weaknesses. And that our day-to-day lives are about so much MORE than our happiness and fulfillment and satisfaction; they're about fulfilling kingdom purposes and drawing others to Christ and stockpiling our treasures in heaven. Not here. No, not here. And that if we hope in the Lord, we will never be shaken. No, not ever.

I'm thankful for Isaiah 28:16, which says that the one who believes will be unshakable. Unshakable. I love that so much! The Living Bible translates it a little differently to say, "He who believes need never run away again." Other translations say, "He who believes will never be disappointed." The overall message is so clear--if our hope and faith and reliance is fully and completely in the Lord, we don't need to run away from the hard things or sprint from the storms, because we place all our hope and expectation in the solid Rock. In fact, we can lean into the hard things because of our hope in the Lord. I run away far too much. You probably do too. I run away from things that seem hard. I run away from things that scare me. I run away from things that are outside my comfort zone. I need to stop running away. I don't need to keep running away, because my hope is in the one unshakable foundation and, therefore, I am unshakable too.

I'm thankful for this reminder from Lamentations that I blogged about last year: "Even then, all is not lost. We cannot lose everything. Because his mercies never fail. They are not yesterday's mercies, because they are new every morning. We don't have to try to 'store up' the mercies of God out of fear that we're not getting fresh ones tomorrow, because we are."

I'm thankful that of the three times in my life that my boss has written "good" on an assignment that I did for him, two of them were in the last three weeks (need to keep this streak going).

I'm deeply thankful for each and every song on the Passion: Salvation's Tide Is Rising album. Please get it on your Spotify playlist ASAP! These songs are chock-full of faith and brimming with hope. This is my absolute favorite song on that album and I've been listening to it on repeat every morning while I get ready for work. I also love this one.

I'm thankful for the chance to read through some old journals and have a hilarious and riveting journey through God's faithfulness in my life.

I'm thankful for being in the process of redecorating my apartment (pictures coming soon).

I'm thankful for cute lamps and candles on sale and my "lush Amazon rainforest" and "coconut cake" candles making my bedroom smell amazing.

I'm thankful for the toppling stack of books I want to read in the next few weeks.

I hope you all will find much to be thankful for in the days and weeks ahead!

Saturday, January 16, 2016

My Travel Bucket List, Part 1

I'm sure that most of you know by now that I really love to travel. I'm one of those people who wants to go to every country in the world, explore the most remote places, and have some crazy experiences along the way. My personal travel bucket list for my life gets longer every time I read or hear about a new place, but here's the most significant places on my list, with Part 2 coming soon (with some pictures to inspire y'all to want to go there too!):
  • The Great Salt Flats in Bolivia--This used to be a huge lake, which dried up leaving only salt behind. During the rainy season, it reflects the sky like a huge mirror. 

I especially want to watch the sun rise here and watch the stars come out. This is why: 

  • The Wadi Rum Desert in Jordan. 

  • Lapland, Finland: This is where you can watch the Northern Lights from your own personal IGLOO. 

And this picture is of a place in Lapland called Santa Claus Village:

  • The ice caves in Iceland. I just went to Iceland, and it was my favorite place I have EVER been, and I want to go on my honeymoon there/ retire there/ etc. But check out these amazing caves:

  • Zanzibar, which is in Tanzania:

  • Prince Edward Island in the autumn (which is in Canada):

  • Chefchaouen, a city in Morocco where all the buildings are painted blue:

  • The "swing at the end of the world" in Ecuador. I want to get on the swing too! No safety harnesses or anything though:

  • There's this beach in the Maldives covered with bioluminescent phytoplankton that look like stars:

  • And the black sand beaches in Iceland:

  • Eyjafjallajokull Volcano in Iceland:
  • The "glow worm cave" in New Zealand:

  • Of course Santorini. I've been to Greece, but I've never been here:
  • Machu Picchu in Peru:

  • Atlantic Ocean Road in Norway:

  • And of course, Antarctica. And I want to go scuba diving in Antarctica, too:

I don't just have a travel bucket list, I have a "photo bucket list" and I want to take photos at each of the above locations myself some day! Coming soon this week, Travel Bucket List Part 2: United States Edition. Until then, I hope I have helped some of you add to your own list!

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Europe Recap. And Everything Else.

SO I'm just going to act like it's not been 57 years since I last blogged . . . right. Hi. I'm back. And I'm sitting at Starbucks planning to write this post and do my taxes and finish a project for my boss all in the next, say, hour and a half. So, first, I need to tell you all about Europe! Or instead, I'm mostly going to show you because I have some really great pictures. And because this was an amazing trip and I had so many wonderful experiences that I really don't know how to put them all into words!

This was our itinerary: We started out in Paris for 4 days. Then we spent two days in Rome, two days in Florence (which included a day trip tour of the gorgeous Tuscan countryside), two days in Venice, and two days in Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland.

Some of the most memorable moments: This BEAUTIFUL little town in the Tuscan countryside called San Gimignano, home of the world's best gelato and most stunning views! Going on a bike tour of Paris at night (most nerve-wracking experience ever, but fun! I had not been on a bike, except stationary bikes at the gym, since 2007). Traveling around in a "water taxi" in Venice. Climbing to the top of the Eiffel Tower, to the top of huge hills in Rome and Florence, and to the top of a cathedral in Reykjavik. Experiencing the "polar nights" in Iceland because you're so close to the North Pole and it's December, so there's only 4 hours of sunlight each day. Three words: blackberry lavender gelato. The Louvre and seeing the Mona Lisa up close and personal. Touring massive "Christmas markets" in Paris. The Sistine Chapel and seeing Michelangelo's "Hand of God" painting. Sunset over the Venetian canals. The Colosseum at sunset. Going to a pizza-making class at the Florence Food and Wine Academy. Ferris wheel rides over Paris! Seeing the aurora borealis in a boat off the coast of Reykjavik. The Leaning Tower of Pisa. Lunch at a Tuscan winery. The best almond cookies in the world in Siena, Italy. Seeing the painted houses on the island of Burano off the coast of Venice. Going to a Vivaldi concert in Venice. Having the best brunches EVER in Iceland--they do brunch right! Tromping through 18+ inches of snow in Iceland and wondering what I had gotten us into!

All told, in two weeks, we went to 4 countries, including the smallest country in the world (Vatican City), 8 cities, and multiple islands, and walked more than 100 miles through Europe. In one day, we traveled by boat, bus, metro, plane, train, and car--I wonder if I'll ever do all that in one day again! We had such a great time and are so grateful to have the chance to travel together. Next up for us? Prince Edward Island, Morocco, Spain, and Portugal are on our list for this year . . . because life's too short not to ride a camel and go surfing in Africa and explore Madrid and see the Anne of Green Gables house, and I could go on! I have a million pictures, but these are my favorites:

And since coming back, I've been incredibly busy with the holidays, volunteering at the Passion 2016 conference, lawyering, and planning goals for the new year (post on this coming very soon.) I hope you all are having a very happy new year . . . more coming soon!