Sunday, December 11, 2016

Just Be Faithful.

I have come up with a "theme word" for 2017. I know some people who get really into picking out theme words and theme songs and you name it for the new year, and I am not really one of those people. But sometimes, a word or a concept or a verse or a goal continues to tug at your heart, and you just need to turn it into a word you carry with you throughout the year. As my title suggests, for 2017, my word is "faithful."

Being faithful means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. I think we most often hear this word in terms of being faithful to a spouse or in terms of being faithful in our friendships and family relationships. But there is so, so much more to it than that.

Mark Batterson writes in his new book Chase the Lion: "Just keep doing the right thing day in and day out. It's called faithfulness." Mark hits the nail on the head--that indeed is what it means to be faithful. Doing the right thing day in and day out, over and over and over again, whether anyone is watching and especially if they are not. One of the reasons I keep coming back to this concept of faithfulness is because the life stage that I and most of my friends are in (late 20's and early 30's) is generally a stage of laying the groundwork for the rest of your life through a lot of hard work and commitment, and that takes faithfulness--choosing to do the right thing over and over again, even when we don't feel like it and are exhausted and don't think anyone notices or cares.

It's a stage of planting seeds, but not so much a stage of bearing fruit, as that often comes much later. It's a stage of putting in the work to be successful, knowing that the success may not come for quite some time. It takes a long time to build that groundwork--the groundwork for a healthy life, a strong career, a family, and whatever it is you may be seeking. It's a time for a lot of sweat and tears. Late nights and early mornings. Being at the bottom of the totem pole at work and often getting tasked with the grunt work that no one else wants to do. Long hours of training and sore muscles. Alarms set for 5am. Budgeting and saving money when you'd really rather not. Investing in personal friendships and a professional network. As the quote says, being willing to do what others are not willing to do so that someday you are able to do what others are not able to do.

And make no mistake--it requires a lot of faithfulness. Being faithful to take care of your body and your health. Being faithful to manage your finances, to take care of your home, and to go above and beyond at your job. Being faithful in your marriage and family life, if that applies to you. Being faithful in your relationship with the Lord, in church attendance, in studying Scripture and spiritual disciplines. Being faithful about the really little things--like responding to text messages and always being on time (can't even tell you how much I need to work on both of those).

In 2017, I just want to be more faithful. I want to go above and beyond. I want to do more than what is asked or expected of me. I want to show up early and stay late. I want to do things with all of my heart. I want to treat the work I have to do as if it is a privilege--because it most definitely is. As Mark Batterson also points out in his book, doing the right thing is one day at a time. He writes, "You get in shape one workout at a time. You get out of debt one payment at a time. You get the job promotion one project at a time . . . Games aren't won on game day. Games are won in the weight room. Whatever dream you are chasing, you prove yourself one day at a time." I love that because it is so, so true.

Y'all, I can't expect to be "a partner at a law firm by the time I'm 30," Elle Woods-style, if I'm not willing to knock it out of the park now on the research and writing assignments the partners at my firm give me to do for them. I can't expect to be able to be running, active, and healthy at age 80 if I'm not carving time out of my day now to exercise. And I can't expect to have the friendships I want to have if I'm not willing to be there for people when they need me.

Be faithful. Pour your heart into the life God has given you and the tasks He has placed in front of you. Work really hard and do your best.

And without further ado--I need to go be faithful in my life by cleaning the bathroom, doing my laundry, and finishing a project for work.

Friday, October 21, 2016

It's Fall, Y'all!

This is my favorite season of all--comfy sweaters, scarves, boots, hot apple cider, hiking, beautiful fall foliage, cool weather, crisp mornings with coffee, pumpkin everything, and I could go on. And this year, suddenly, it's autumn again, and I realize how much the year has simply flown by.

I have not written in months, mostly because I spent all of August and September preparing for a jury trial which I had about 3 weeks ago. And I tried that case by myself and got a verdict of well over a million dollars, so I am thrilled! Thrilled to have gotten such a good result, happy to have gotten the experience, and really happy to be in a firm that's letting me near a courtroom. Between the trial, a bunch of other cases, getting sworn into several federal courts, trying out CrossFit, a weekend at the beach, and more, the last two and a half months have been an absolute whirlwind.

Friends, these last five months, I have learned so, so much. I have learned that God can redeem anything, and that as this song says, there is nothing in my life that He cannot revive. All of 2015 and the first few months of this year was an incredibly difficult season of my life, and there were times I didn't think I was going to get through it or that things were ever going to get better or were ever going to just change. But I'm here to tell you that they did, because no matter how bad things seem, God is STILL a God of restoration. He is STILL working for His glory and for our good. No matter--no matter--how bad things are. No matter if we are in a season of deep depression caused by dark and painful circumstances in our lives. No matter how desperately and how much we have prayed, yet seen our prayers not be answered. God has brought such tremendous revival and restoration from that terribly dark season of my life, and honestly, it brings me to tears. Those wonderful, healing, I-have-no-words-for-how-good-God-is tears.

I've learned that God can fulfill our deep needs in ways we might never expect. Miracles don't always seem that way when we first see them. No matter how long we have been in the valley, God can and will still lead us out. Really, that's about all I have for you tonight. This is my testimony. This is what God has done. And He is to be praised.

Let me leave you with this song. If you're like me, you'll be listening to it every single day. I listened to this song at 4 a.m. in my hotel room during the week I was in trial! Let it remind you that Jesus is unfailing.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Top 25 Best Eats in Atlanta

Today is one of my favorite kinds of Saturdays--I got up early (who knew that one day I would get up at 7am even on the weekends?), had coffee with a friend this morning, went to the gym, came home and cleaned, and caught up on my emails. Now I'm sitting on the couch with a load of clothes in the wash and the dishwasher humming in the background. And I have a few minutes to blog.

I've been wanting to share with you all my list of some of the absolute best foods in Atlanta. Now that I've lived here for two years, I feel like I can speak with at least some authority on the subject! I'd also like to write about the absolute must-do activities in Atlanta, but that's for another time. Every item on this list I have had the chance to try personally. Fair warning that most of these foods are not necessarily the healthiest, but if you're really wanting to try the restaurant scene in Atlanta, you can't be too worried about that. It's all about balance. So without further ado, here's the list:

1. Salted caramel cupcakes from Sprinkles. This cupcake place absolutely nails the "cake" part of the cupcake--they are dense and moist and flavorful. And that salted caramel icing is the best.
2. Butterscotch bacon doughnuts with Mexican hot chocolate from Bon Glaze. Yes, they're as good as they sound, with real, delicious pieces of bacon on top of the doughnut. This is my every-once-in-awhile Saturday morning treat.
3. Chicken biscuit with Frim Fram sauce from Hop's Chicken at Ponce City Market. For only $4, you can get a perfectly spiced chicken biscuit with an irresistible sauce that tastes like some sort of tomato mayonnaise. And dare I say it? It's better than Chick-Fil-A.
4. Anything at Daddy D'z BBQ. Somewhat sketchy surroundings in a not-so-great part of town, but this hole in the wall serves some great barbecue.
5. The chicken coconut soup at Little Bangkok. This is another hole in the wall (with very limited parking, so you might want to use Uber if that stresses you out as much as it does me), but this is some excellent Thai food.
6. Anything from Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams. This is the best ice cream I have ever had, with a menu that changes seasonally and is always adding new and innovative items. You can't go wrong with anything you order here, and any ice cream flavors that you mix up will be good (i.e., don't shy away from mixing salted caramel ice cream with lemon sorbet and topping it all off with strawberry sauce--I promise it will taste great). My recommended order is a scoop of brambleberry crisp ice cream with a scoop of Savannah buttermint ice cream, topped with bitter hot fudge sauce and whipped cream. You have to try the fudge sauce--it is slightly bitter while still tasting great, if that makes any sense.
7. This place called Juice Bar in Suwanee. All these smoothies and juices are incredibly healthy and taste great.
8. The lime fries from Tex's Tacos food truck--these are sweet, tangy, and salty all at once.
9. The award-winning cheeseburger from Kaleidoscope. Think pimento cheese, slaw, and sweet pickles on a burger cooked to perfection. The cocktails are really good here too.
10. This list is not complete without some brunch! Especially since Atlanta does brunch really well. My favorite brunch here is from West Egg Cafe. What to order? The pulled pork benedict and coconut iced coffee. Also, the garlic grits are NOT messing around.
11. If you're in the mood for pizza, DaVinci's is the place to go. It's pretty simple, and the surroundings are nothing special, but the pizza is delicious. I've also had several amazing multi-hour conversations with friends here, which makes the food taste even better. This is a great place to go if you want to eat and talk until 1am.
12. The butternut squash and walnut pizza from True Food Kitchen. This is only offered seasonally, but it's a pretty masterful combination of flavors.
13. Tamarind Seed. Order the Kai-Pad-Prik-Kingh. A deliciously different take on Thai food.
14. The best cocktail in the city from Minero at Ponce City Market. It's called the Estrellita: vodka, hibiscus, cinnamon, lime, mint. So refreshing. And the chilaquiles are great too.
15. The pimento cheese omelet from Buttermilk Kitchen. I'm a big fan of pimento cheese, and this is the best pimento cheese omelet I have ever had. It's savory with noticeably sweet undertones. And it has bacon. The biscuits and jam and coffee are great too.
16. This may be the best cheeseburger in the city--the cheeseburger from Fred's Meat and Bread at Krog Street Market. Very basic, nothing fancy, but this is a cheeseburger done right.
17. The pear and pepper sangria from Tavernpointe. Spicy and refreshing at the same time.
18. The pulled chicken sandwich from Memphis BBQ. Try the incredibly spicy Squeeler Sauce (or just dump it all over your sandwich, if you're like me and like spicy food as much as I do). This sauce will make you sweat/ cry, but that's the mark of a good spicy dish.
19. Indian-style sloppy joes (and other Indian street food) from Chai Pani.
20. One more great brunch place: Sun In My Belly. Try the PBLT, which is basically a BLT with--you guessed it--pimento cheese. Also, there are lots of wonderful coffee options here, and this is a great place to come for a satisfying brunch and a hot drink on a freezing winter morning.
21. I would be remiss not to include Mary Mac's on this list. This is the best Southern comfort food in the city. Try the meatloaf and sweet potato casserole, and do not miss the Key Lime pie. It's so creamy and tangy and flavored perfectly.
22. The potato soup at Shillings on the Square. Great for a cold day.
23. Just about anything from Red Pepper Taqueria. Get the queso. Get watermelon margaritas. And definitely get the poblano corn soup with habanero oil and the fried chicken tacos.
24. The Memphis taco, the veggie taco, and the fried chicken taco (yes, another one) from Taqueria del Sol.
25. The Rise and Shine smoothie from Dtox Juice. Coffee, banana, almond butter, and some other great stuff. This is a good and healthy pick-me-up.

Are you hungry yet?

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Things I Am Thankful For Today

1. Summer
2. Blackened salmon tacos with caramelized onion and pineapple
3. No major deadlines this week at work
4. Being reunited with my cat after being out of town for a conference (someday this might say "being reunited with my husband," but until then . . . )
5. A bouquet of fresh yellow roses to decorate my apartment
6. Late-night workouts
7. The fact that in less than 6 weeks, my best friend will be here all the way from South Korea!
8. Re-instituting my Wednesday night "weekly mini-vacation" tradition--to the extent possible, I take Wednesday nights for myself, and even if it only involves a couple of hours of writing at a coffee shop, it is a much-needed break in the week.
9. Actually getting 8 full hours of sleep
10. Having a job where I am treated with respect, needed, included, and supported
11. Sweet text messages from friends
12. Surprise packages in the mail
13. Scary movies on Netflix
14. Paying down student loans!!
15. Peaches and pecans from roadside stands--the perks of living in Georgia
16. Diane Chamberlain books
17. Actually accomplishing to-do list items
18. New pillows for my couch
19. Espresso-scented candles
20. Just starting fresh, especially because I thought I couldn't for so long. Just hitting the reset button on my life and turning over a whole new leaf. Not being stuck anymore and finally moving forward.

What about you?

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Why I Read the Bible from Cover to Cover in 41 Days

As I've already mentioned, Meagan and I recently embarked on a challenge to read the Bible from cover to cover in 40 days. I ended up needing an extra day, but in 41 days--starting on March 28th and ending on May 7th--I read the Bible from cover to cover. It was one of the most challenging and life-changing things I've ever done, and I'd love to share with you all a little more about the experience. And ideally, maybe I'll convince you to do it too.

First of all, if you're anything like me, you're probably thinking, "I don't have time for that. I have a job/ school/ social life/ kids/ all of the above. Are you kidding me?" But you know what? I always think I don't have time to read the Bible. And if you keep thinking that, before you know it, months have gone by and you really haven't been in the Word much at all. You haven't picked up the sword of the Spirit except maybe a time or two in church. I don't know about you, but time or no time, I don't want to live my Christian life that unequipped. If I have time, so do you. If you have time to watch Netflix or use Facebook or post a picture on Instagram, then you have time to read the Bible.

Second, reading the Bible in 40 days gave me a beautiful image of the big picture of Scripture and God's plan for the human race, from start to finish. I wouldn't recommend a Bible challenge like this to be the way you always approach the Word--it would be too much to take in and would prevent you from doing a deep-dive into areas that require a lot of further study. But in terms of getting a general understanding and deep insight into the whole of Scripture in a short time, this challenge can't be beat. I understand so many things that I have never grasped before, including the full saga and historical timeline of what happened to the Israelite people; who went into exile and when and where (Ezra and Nehemiah were written AFTER the exile and chronologically go AFTER the major prophets, which I never understood before); and how so many Old Testament prophecies are fully and completely fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ.

Seeing how the prophecies of the Old Testament came alive in the New Testament was one of my favorite parts of this whole experience. You see, we almost always read the Bible in fits and starts. In bits and pieces. We may generally understand (and believe!) that Jesus came to be the light of the world and to save His people from their sin, but think about this . . . reading the Bible from cover to cover, and getting through the entire Old Testament before Jesus Christ jumps on the scene, will show you in a whole new way how much the world needed a Savior. How much the world still needs a Savior.

The Old Testament can be a bit depressing because it describes a world with only the promise of a Savior--but before that Savior came down to ransom the world He created. Once you've read through Leviticus, you realize how desperate and hopeless the state of the world is without Jesus. I read the Bible with completely fresh eyes this time--I know the ending. I know what happens next. But while reading the Old Testament, I could feel the desperation for the promised Savior as if I were living it myself. You realize fully that this system of sacrifices was never going to be the final solution. Over hundreds of years, literally rivers of blood of sacrificed animals flowed down from those altars to atone for the people's sins. And of course, the people continued to sin. The people continued to live in bondage. Broken under the oppression of evil, the oppression of a sacrificial system that was a precursor of what was to come, but nevertheless a system that could never truly atone for sin.

You've got to slog through it, folks. The first number of books of the Old Testament are hard. Hard in some places to understand, and most of all hard because you realize how truly burdensome life can be when you're a sinner without a Savior. How burdensome it can be to try to follow every aspect of the law, knowing that you never measure up, knowing that God requires righteousness and no amount of animal sacrifices can make anybody righteous. How dark it can be. Yes, just how dark it can be.

But then--but then! "The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. You have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this . . . the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners . . . to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion--to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair."

(from Isaiah 9 & 61)

Yes. Yes. YES. The people HAVE seen a great light. Oh, they have. When I got to this passage in Isaiah 9--one of the first direct prophecies of Jesus Christ--it felt like I was letting out the breath I'd been holding since Adam and Eve first sinned in the Garden of Eden, bringing sin and shame and despair into the world. And I realized in a way I never have before just how great that light was. Because I had seen, more clearly than I ever had, just how great the darkness was.

But we have a Savior! We. Have. A. Savior. Hallelujah! God has seen the oppression of His people, and He has sent us a Savior to rescue us. A Savior who gives us His robe of righteousness and is the perfect, complete, and final sacrifice for sin. A Savior who exchanges our ashes for His crown of beauty, our mourning for His joy. And you know what? That Savior did not come from a long line of perfect people. God did not choose to make His Son the (earthly) descendant of a bunch of perfect folks. No, He chose for His Son to be the direct descendant of people whose lives were desperately scarred by sin--liars and prostitutes and murderers and people who had made a terrible mess of their lives. But He redeems everything. Nothing is wasted. And those people--people like you and me--were part of the direct line of Christ. The Messiah. Quick side story--my favorite person in the line of Jesus Christ is Leah. This story is in Genesis 29. She was married to Jacob, who never really loved her, but only loved her sister instead. Leah's father tricked Jacob into marrying her. Leah gave birth to a son, and said, "Maybe my husband will love me now that I have borne him a son." She gave birth again, and said, "The Lord gave me this son because my husband doesn't love me." Her life seemed beyond redemption--alone and forgotten by the man who was supposed to love and care for her. But then, Leah had a third son, her last son. When she had this son, she didn't talk about how Jacob didn't love her. She didn't even talk about how she wanted her husband to love her since she had given him three sons. No, she said, "This time, I will praise the Lord." This time, I will praise the Lord! Spoiler alert--the third son was named Judah, which means "praise." Jesus was born into the line of Judah, and became the Lion of Judah. Because a lonely and rejected and forgotten woman praised the Lord, she was written directly into the story of Christ. Isn't our God amazing? Isn't his redemption profound? Can He not make broken lives so beautiful?

And finally, reading the Bible all the way through in a short time gave me so many beautiful pictures of the heart of God. Don't you want to know His heart? Don't you want to see firsthand how kind and loving and holy and pure He is? I know I do. I want to be a woman after God's own heart, and to do that, I need to be able to know His heart. And His heart is put on display most clearly in His Word.

The Word became flesh, and made His dwelling among us. And out of His fullness we have all received grace upon grace. Read God's story from start to finish. Please, please read it. Dwell in the darkness awhile, feel the oppression and the sorrow and the longing and yearning for hope. And then sit back and watch the light break through, because it does! Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Watch how the hope unfolds, because it does. It unfolds in a way I've never fully appreciated when I've tried to read the Bible in fits and starts, like I talked about before. Read it from cover to cover. And it will deeply increase your hunger for the Word and your desire to read it more in the future and to incorporate it into your daily life. He has given us grace upon grace--and a true light that can conquer any darkness. Read about it.

Friday, July 8, 2016

The Last Two Months in Pictures

I've not posted nearly as many pictures on this blog as I would like, so without further ado, here are quite a few from the last while:

This is the "travel wall" I put together in my living room and I LOVE it. It really emphasizes a lot of the places that are meaningful to me and/or my favorite places in the world: Lexington, Virginia; Atlanta, Georgia; Venice; Paris; Iceland; Rome. 

Atlanta skyline:

Best Mexican food (and cocktails!) at Minero at Ponce City Market:

My first time trying avocado toast (and the book was really great, by the way):

Splash of colors on the Atlanta Beltline trail! It's totally fair to run on this trail just for the beautiful murals:

Beach beach beach:

Also: first time trying an acai bowl. It did not disappoint.

My friend and I made it to the top of Stone Mountain (not us in the picture though)!

My sweet friend sent me these beautiful flowers to celebrate my new job:

More wall murals:

Just about the best cheeseburger I've ever had, from Fred's Meat & Bread at Krog Street Market. 

This is a random mural on the side of a Kroger:

Love those sunsets!

New favorite coffee shop, new favorite book:

I finally hiked Mt. Yonah and it was BEAUTIFUL:

More to come, eventually!

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!