When You Least Expect It

It happens when you least expect it.

Boy is that a relevant phrase in my life.

Just when I became content with the single life, he crashed into my newfound world filling me with curiosity, uncertainty, and butterflies… lots of butterflies. But my intentions here are not to brag about this man and the time I’ve spent dating him. The intention is to stress the importance of my time without him.

Prior to meeting him I can recall a moment when I looked at myself in the mirror hanging on my door in my bedroom. It was one of those moments where I really looked at myself, my entire being. Does anyone else do that? It’s taking a step outside yourself and asking, “Who is this?” Well when I did it this time around, it was different than the last. I felt like I truly knew myself. And I was happy with that self.

My duration of singleness gave me an attitude and outlook I never got the opportunity to gain previously. I explored hobbies I was interested in, relationships I wished to strengthen, read books that opened my mind, and I created a new self. I was enjoying getting to know her. I wasn’t searching for anything except happiness, and I found a new form of unfamiliar happiness when I met him.

All too often I see girls scrambling to find their way out of the single life as soon as they’ve been thrown into it. Why do they reside all their strength in a man? Why is there greater curiosity about the next guy that walks into their life rather than their own self? You do yourself a disservice when you neglect the precious time of singleness because not only is it special, it is a rarity. You will not have it all your life. Regardless of if/when you find your person, life if going to be full of lonely seasons and ultimately the person getting you through it will have to be yourself.

It is for this reason that I will forever stress the importance of using your time of singleness to its fullest potential. Yes, you’re going to make mistakes, but those mistakes are a step in the right direction believe it or not. They’re a step closer to the person you’re meant to be, but maybe haven’t met yet. And in turn, that is a step towards a person who will rock your world in all the right ways. They’ll introduce you to an incomparable form of love you’ll hold not only for them, but for yourself as well. If you’re lucky like me, it will happen when you least expect it.

Denver and Megs

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I’ll keep this one short since the pictures speak louder than my words. Perhaps the wildest thing I’ve done thus far has been hoping on a plane with my best friend, leaving the two of us in an incredible yet unfamiliar place. Denver Colorado.

Our adventures lead us to one too many restaurants, plenty of book stores, thrift stores and city parks where all we needed was a blanket to rest our tired heads on. Voodoo Doughnuts was our savior after a long and crazy night at Red Rock Ampitheater for a Flume concert. Best part… they had vegan options. You betcha that Oreo doughnut was one of the sweetest indulgences I’ve had since I went vegan.

Denver is also such a large, spread out city that Meg and I always found a new place to explore. Perhaps one of my favorite memories was our last evening. We spent it in Larimer Square, a small area for shopping and food located off the beaten path of Denver’s main strip. We found a market, and sat at a table outside along the street with sandwiches and wonderful conversation to sustain us for the night.

A travel tip I have: Travel with someone who will appreciate the experiences as much (or more) as you will. Meg awed and got wide eyed at every new destination I did. Another tip would be to travel with someone who is down for just about anything. It was such a joy to explore with Meg because I never knew what was in store for us next! If we had to change our agenda, neither of us cared! When asking for plan preferences, neither of us had any! We were equally happy to be in this one-of-a kind city, and simply let the Colorado wind take us where it pleased.

I believe with each new destination there are ideas and understandings waiting for you to unlock. Mine this trip? This world is much larger than I imagined and it is a necessity that I see it. As much as my heart resides in Cinci, there are many things it can never teach me. The beauty this world holds is begging to be seen, and I want to see it.

Pikes Peak

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26 miles, 14,000ft, 3 days. Yup. We did that. This backpacking trip in Colorado Springs turned out to be more memorable and eye opening than I could have imagined.

The first night Meg and I were doubtful about reaching the summit. It gloomed over us that night, making me feel smaller and more insignificant than ever. Thankfully those worries were a mere bump in the road to the glorious summit of Pikes Peak.

Day 2 brought us to a stopping point called the A Frame, which will forever hold a special place in my heart. It was here that we met four strangers whom soon became friends. We pulled resources together to roast smores over a much needed fire. One person had marshmellows, one had chocolate, and someone else had pretzles (a great substitute for graham crackers we learned). Just like that we bonded the rest of the evening campfire-side, over the deliciousness of smores. We agreed that night to hike the summit the next morning as a team.

With an early start on the day, leaving our camp at 7am, and a challenging 3 mile hike, we had made it. We summited. Our two nights spent shivering in our tent, and two days full of sweat and achy legs finally showed us their worth. The view at Pikes Peak was unlike anything I’d ever seen before, and taking the long hard road there made me appreciate it greatly (I guarantee you much more than those who drove to the top).

An unforeseen realization Meg and I came to is that the journey to the summit was just as jaw-dropping as the journey itself.  We often stopped along our hike to gaze at the view (and to catch our breath of course), taking it in before stumbling upon another view. And those little moments of astonishment helped me grasp the full beauty of the hike.

Being in this sort of environment broadened my perspective of the world out there. All we did was explore, free from any desires to alter it in anyway. In my eyes, it is perfect in its most natural, organic state. The mountains, pines, and boulders exist for our benefit. They take nothing and give so much. It makes me wonder what other beauties are out there, calling my name to be seen. This trip is the start of many to come.

1 Corinthians 13:13

June 14th 2016 I began a journey to Los Chilitos Guatemala. I am writing about it a year after it took place, because my experiences there follow me day to day just as they did the week after I stepped off the plan. To begin explaining all that took place during my mission trip would be a post much longer than anyone’s interest, and so I will keep this simple by giving you a brief yet important reminder.

This trip opened my eyes to a world much more selfless, caring, and humble than the one I lived in before. I will never forget the faces of the people in Los Chilitos who lived a harder, yet more appreciated life than mine. There is a lot of hardship and heartache within the village. I would not have fully understood if I hadn’t experienced it first hand.

And so here is my reminder to you, or the takeaway if you will: You are incredibly blessed to live the life you do, and you did nothing to deserve that.

The last part of my reminder is what humbles me and brings me away from the entitlement I believe I have at times. And you did nothing to deserve that. In Gods eyes, we are not entitled to anything. We did absolutely nothing to deserve being born into the life we are so blessed to live. The same can be said for those wonderful people I met in Guatemala. They didn’t do anything more or less than me to be born into their lifestyle.

Our Father truly has a never ending love for each of us. And because of this love He blessed us with things, experiences, and people we do not deserve! I think that says a lot not only about God, but about ourselves. They way we acknowledge those blessings speaks volumes.

I hope you feel overpowered with God’s love. Because He truly does love us all more than we could ever imagine. Weather they live in the suburbs of West Chester, Ohio or the hill top of Los Chilitos, that love is the same for every one of His children.

“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

1 Corinthians 13:13

Livin’ in Lexington

A three day vacation in Lexington Kentucky was EXACTLY what all four of us needed. Andie and Taraneh call Lexington home and they were eager to give Mersadi and I (Cinci girls) a full experience. We shopped, walked around the city, had coffee dates, ate some incredible food, and celebrated Mersadi’s 20th birthday (which was the icing on top of the cake;)

Lexington is about as charming as a city can get. It isn’t a big city, but it has a great deal of character to show for itself. Through country side drives (with music and windows rolled down of course), dining at local restaurants, and walking the downtown streets I’d like to think I got a wonderful little glimpse of this city.

When August rolls around I move into a house with these girls, and believe me it’s pretty much all we talk about these days. Our trip to Lex has confirmed my certainty in wanting to live with Andie, Taraneh, and Mersadi day in and day out. They’re the only thing I need in my next house. We are going to fill it with unforgettable memories in the city that brought us all together, Cincinnati.

Linville Gorge

I’m not quite sure where to start with this trip. My friends and I all agreed that explaining this trip to people who weren’t there is difficult you just can’t understand it all if you weren’t there. The phrase you had to be there sums it up. I’ll just begin by saying it was one of the challenging, craziest, and hilarious experiences I’ve ever had. The gang’s biggest adventure thus far lead us to Linville Gorge in North Carolina. I am so proud of us for making it out alive (although there are a few bruises, cuts, and blisters).

Linville is breathtaking not only for it’s beautiful views of tree covered mountains, but it’s intense hiking trails as well. In no other circumstance would we be forced to exert this teamwork if it weren’t during this trip. We placed our trust in one another to hang on tight, hand in hand, when we crossed the rushing river together. We cheered each other on when someone was lagging behind, struggling to finish the hike. We gave up our own water when we noticed someone needed it more.

I always say that time spent in nature is something I am due for every few months. It is so refreshing to envelope yourself in an environment where there are no distractions from phones, work, or school. The only distractions I had were my friends and the thriving natural world around us. It is a beautiful world, and to think about how each and every inch of it was created by God with a purpose is mind blowing.

We met many fellow hikers during our journey, and one in particular was amazed by our 11 person group. “Are you guys all friends?” she asked, probably expecting us to say that we were doing this for a class or school club. “Yeah!” we answered, “We’re all just friends!” Surprised and smiling she said, “Wow I wish I had a group of friends like that!” I can’t blame her for being jealous. We are the best friend group I know, if I do say so myself.

 

Hey Mama

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One Christmas, when I was about 12 years old, my mom asked for a memorized poem as a gift from my sister and I. We had racked our brains out trying to come up with the perfect present, and when we eventually gave in to asking our mother for an idea, this answer was not what we expected. My mom has never been one for material possessions. Sentiment means a great deal more to her than a Fossil watch or Kate Spade purse. You can’t compare the two in her eyes. This is why I feel the best Mother’s Day gift for my one-of-a-kind mama is a post explaining why she’s my whole world. This is my best attempt to convey exactly how I feel about her.

As I get older, the importance of a healthy relationship with parents becomes clearer to me. Some adults my age simply aren’t as fortunate as me when it comes to this. I’ve been given the perfect balance of a mother AND best friend all in one! We have a natural and effortless connection. We know how to have fun together, and vibe off of each other’s humor. Weather we’re watching The Godfather with popcorn and massages included, attending church and getting avocado toast at First Watch afterwards, or listening to a new podcast in the car, time spent with my mother is time well spent. Despite this, she knows when to lay down the line and set me straight. She gives the most thoughtful advice, always looking to God first before she does. I am certain my mother does not feed me lies I want to hear in the mists of anger or sadness. She tells me the hard truth, no matter how often I reject it. And whenever I am acting as if I’m better than the world I live in, she snaps me back to reality.

If you don’t know my mother, it’s probably because you’ve never been in the same room as her. There isn’t a drop of shyness running through her veins. I consider myself to be a friendly and personable person, and I get that from my mama! Curiously and silently, I’ve observed how she interacts with people over the years, and have learned that they don’t have to be strangers if you don’t want them to be. You are presented with an opportunity to learn more and grow through each interaction. She knows exactly how to connect with people, even if they don’t have much in common. For this reason, my family and I often call her Chatty Cathy, which some people might see as an insult, but I think it is one of the best qualities about my mom! She shows such genuine kindness and care to each and every human she meets. I love knowing I can bring anyone around my mother, and they will see the amazing qualities I see.

One of those qualities is her hard work and resistance to giving up. For as long as I can remember my mother has worked a 9-5 job, and saying 9-5 is probably low balling time spent there to be honest. Her job isn’t easy, but it’s the dedication that makes it possible. The surprising part about this is that I can count on my hand the amount of occasions she has come home from a long day at work and complained about it. Complaining is not in her nature. When she comes home from work, my mother would rather hear about my day (no matter how uneventful it is) than share her frustration with me.

My childhood is filled with family vacations, and 80% of them were camping trips. My family practically mastered what my dad would consider the art of setting up camp, and tearing it down. Once, we were packing up our site after a week in the wilderness and my mother took on the unfavorable job of packing the sleeping bags. She perfectly packed away four sleeping bags, but the fifth didn’t come quite as easy. She tried packing it tightly, tying it up, stretching out the pouch it was supposed to fit in, but nothing was working. I kid you not, my mother spent an hour trying to get this dang sleeping bag into its pouch and it fought her every push and shove. “Mom just give up already! It’s okay!” we told her. She was persistent in that if the sleeping bag fit before, it WILL fit again. You know the saying, if there’s a will, there’s way? Well my mother had the will, and she found the way, so thankfully this story has a happy ending. Although it seemed hopeless, and I’m still not sure how she managed her achievement, the sleeping bag ended up in it’s pouch. This scenario also meant my mother took on the lifelong nickname of Sleeping Bag. Whenever we hear that nickname, we’re reminded of my mother’s stubbornness to never give up. My mama is one of the most intelligent people I know, therefore if there is something in her way she is bound to create an unforeseen solution.

This past year both my sister and I moved out, leaving our Essex Mill home to our parents and younger brother Colin. I have learned more than I could have imagined from moving out, especially about living with friends and maintaining a clean household. I assumed cleanliness would be an issue at some point, but I didn’t fully grasp the frustration around it. Time and time again I would come home from class to a sink full of dishes. Reluctantly, I scrubbed off the week’s leftovers and put the dishes in the dishwasher. Eventually, I had to address it with my room mates and while that solved the problem initially, it resurfaced soon after. One day after coming home to yet another sink full of dishes I said aloud to myself, “Gosh I know how mom felt!” And then I thought…when I was younger my siblings and I were awful about doing the dishes. The way we acted would’ve made you think the dishes would kill us. My mom would come home tired from working all day, and all the poor lady wanted was a dish free sink! My sibs and I struggled to give her that for absolutely no reason other than we were lazy. That excuse didn’t fly with my mom.

I can’t help but feel like my life is going to be scattered with similar moments like that, gosh I know how mom felt. When my children are pushing my buttons by refusing to eat their veggies, fighting in the car, complaining about their curfew or the fact that they don’t have a car, I will probably roll my eyes and say to myself gosh I know how mom felt. When I watch my baby walk onto the school bus for the first time, score a goal in their soccer game, graduate high school, and send them off to college I will say it again. This time with a smile I often saw on my mom’s face; gosh I know how mom felt. I’m looking forward to these moments when I gain further compassion for the women my mama is.

When I think of the woman I get to call my mother, the first word that pops into my head is selfless. She has taught me in every area of my life what it means to look past your own desires in an attempt to serve others and God. This became more apparent to me when my mother embarked on a mission trip to Guatemala. She came home with countless pictures, and I filled through each and every one intrigued to see her in a land far from Cincinnati. Seeing her hold the tiny village children and teaching them about Jesus had me sold; my mom is the coolest. Not many moms out there would give up thousands of dollars and a week of their time to hike up a mountain in blistering heat to play with a bunch of rowdy kids. But my mom did so with a smile because she embodies what it is to be selfless.

People may think picking the most valuable lesson they’ve learned from their mom would be difficult, but for me it comes easy. God has given you everything you need. Be grateful. That’s what my mom has instilled in me, and it seems so simple, but it took her years to finally nail this into my brain and I’m thankful she didn’t throw the towel in on me. I think it all clicked when I followed her footsteps and went on the same mission trip two years after her. My eyes were opened to a further understanding of God, the world, and my mom. After this trip, I was drowning in the guilt I experienced from reflecting on times where I complained about my first world problems. I cannot name a single reason I have to moan and groan about the crack in my phone screen, the barista who screwed up my Starbucks order, the dreaded 15 minute walk to school, or the numbers in my bank account. When I want to complain, I take a look around at the blessings that easily surround me every day. It isn’t hard to be snapped back to reality.

My children will be incredibly fortunate if I can teach them a fraction of what my mama taught me. She is a light in a world so dimly lit. She is a light that many people don’t deserve, yet she keeps shinning for them. I have her to thank for all of the best qualities about me, but how do I even being thanking her? This post certainly isn’t enough but I hope it suffices, because as a broke college student a Fossil watch or Kate Spade purse wasn’t in the cards anyways. As I get older, I’ve come to the conclusion that the best way to thank my mama for everything she has done is to be the best Christian I can possibly be. Passing down her qualities to my children, and shinning my mother’s light and God’s on those I meet day to day is going to be my way of saying thanks for everything mama.

Thank you for being my whole world mom. Everything I am is because of you, and for that I am eternally grateful. I hope you feel extra special today. Happy Mother’s Day.

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Time, My Friend

This school year has flown by, and the scariest part about it is that I find myself saying that every year.

Sophomore year has been an important school year in my life. I think it’s the year where everything has begun to fall into place. I say I think because one of the greatest certainties in life in uncertainty. I don’t know what the future holds and although I feel good about where I am in this moment, I’m aware life may decide to throw me into another whirlwind of transformation.

For the very first time I am comfortable with the person I am. There isn’t much I am fighting to change. Within the past year, I’ve let life do with me what it pleased. The strangest part is it all began with everything falling out of place. I guess it just goes to show what a wonderful thing time is. I am amazed with what it’s done to me in the short span of a school year.

People often act as if time is our enemy. Maybe one day it will be for me. As of right now the way I see it, time is my friend. It is a gift which has treated me well.

Red Flags

How can something that was once so good, turn so bad? Well maybe problem is quite simple. Perhaps it was never so good to begin with. Maybe what you once thought was everything you wanted and more was really a red flag, warning you to turn around and run the other way, FAST. What you told yourself was too good to be true, really was just that; too good to be true.

Life has a funny way of tricking us. We’re presented with so many doors, behind each of them is a path, unique in its own way. The door may look appealing at first. Everything about it tells us that it’s perfect, it’s the right choice. Then we open it, and what follows is one of two scenarios. The door might lead us into a downward spiral from the very beginning, revealing to us that the decision we made wasn’t the right one at all. Life starts to fall apart and no matter how hard we try to piece is back together, nothing seems to fit perfectly the way it used to. As strange as it may seem, this scenario is less painful in the long run.

The second scenario is when we walk down a path which is seemingly satisfying and comfortable for the time being. We become unaware that in reality, we’re walking down this path blindfolded. This blindfold is our countless lies and our false reasoning. We tied it so tightly around our eyes, tricking ourselves into believing every untruthful bit. Ultimately, the person who lies to us the best is ourselves. Maybe, despite what I said earlier, life doesn’t trick us at all. Or at least, maybe it’s not life that’s tricking us. Signs and signals surround us every day and we choose to ignore the ones that don’t attract us. Could it possibly be ourselves organizing the ultimate deception?

There are two similarities in each of the scenarios I presented. The first, is that we paved the path we chose to walk down. It was never there to begin with. We had to create it from decisions and experiences we’ve gone through; good and bad. The second similarity, is that we’re walking. Walk-ING. We continue the act of moving forward down this path despite how daunting and obscure it truly is. We continue on step by step even though some steps are more painful than others. I believe what keeps us going through hard times are reflecting on the joyful times and reassuring ourselves that those moments do exist. Those moments aren’t another blindfold we’ve bounded our eyes with. They’re authentic, and the hope that we’ll reach more moments like them is something to never let go.

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