Friday, July 3, 2015

[new season contemplations]

I am convinced that I am not a real blogger. I lack consistency, discipline, and focus. Yet, I somehow find my way back here to journal some thoughts and share photos. To be frank, I have been re-thinking my online presence again. I wonder, what's the point of it all? I am always questioning certain areas of my life, examining if it's contributing to my self-growth (and sanity) or not. It's a complicated ordeal. For the moment, I will carry on as if blogging and sharing matters.

May and June slipped through my hands. I simply had no energy or inspiration to write or to take out my camera. So many transitions, set-backs, and new opportunities have marked the past two months.
May was living with my generous in-law's, getting addicted to Diana Gabaldon's Outlander, and learning to physically rest.

June was securing our apartment in Durango, the exhaustion of moving, and making a trip to Urgent Care (oh yeah, all while still obsessing over Outlander!).


 In the whirlwind, I can now say, with much relief, that I live in Durango, CO. Two years ago, as newlyweds, my husband and I didn't even know where we were going or what we were doing. It has all been a journey of many surprises, not all of them pleasant, but still full of comfort from Grace along the way.

I have lost many things along this journey. Friends, what I perceived or knew as reality, family stability and security, vibrant and functioning physical and mental health, my views on God and myself, and more.

It's only since the beginning of this year that I have begun to awaken to the normality of loss. Life is very much like the changing of seasons and it is inevitable that there will be loss involved on some level. Having living a privileged, stationary, and unaltered lifestyle for so long, it is obvious why loss has been so jarring to me. It came all at once and I was unprepared for it. I have felt my inner self changing and evolving, a process which has unveiled my humanity to myself. I am weak. I am frazzled. A mess. My identity, shifting and confusing. All is uncertain. Permanence is an illusion. My thoughts are scattered, broken questions. All I can say is, I wish someone had told me that adulthood was this bizarre and unsettling!

If anyone has read my previous posts on my blog, you will know that, though I write as if I'm totally disoriented, I have found the core to my identity through the pain. It's funny...sometimes Jesus is just sitting there on the roadside, so ordinary and nonchalant, as we carry on trying to pull ourselves together and bring a sense of purpose and stability to our lives. I have known Him almost my entire life, but I haven't known Him quite like this before. It's His own humanity staring me down. Well, yes, I am quite aware He took on flesh and became like us for a time. But just for a time, right? The relatability levels kind of plummet after 2000 years, I think. That was then, this is now. The disconnection seems so obvious. I want to protest and question and doubt. It's easier to react that way then to do the hardest, the best, thing and open myself to trust. To trust that we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. For anyone who resists and doubts the existence of such Love, all such verses from Scripture will seem trite, empty, superficial. I know because I resisted His love for a time. Then, it became apparent that the more I resisted such love, the sicker and more bitter my heart became. It scared me. I scared myself. So, I chose to bring my broken shards back to Him who I knew would never reject me.

As I have entered into this new season, it hasn't been smooth. I am learning new beginnings are from easy. You'd think I'd be glad about the new surroundings, but I ain't Pollyanna, let me tell you that! Again, I am tempted to linger on all that I lost, on all that was before, on all that I still cannot make sense of. I am tempted to become bitter that my body is riddled with numerous concerning symptoms and anxiety. I am tempted in a million ways every single day to sin willfully in my heart and thoughts. There's a battlefield in my mind and I wonder if I shall ever know victory. That's when the Word comes to me,

"In returning and rest you shall be saved,
In quietness and trust shall be your strength"

My cry is to not be unwilling, to not run away and pursue on my own what I cannot do, what I shall always fail at doing. It is the patient heart of Christ that has allowed me the opportunity to no longer run. If He was not patient, kind, and gracious, there would be no safety net for me in such moments. He knows I have been frightened and has pulled me all the more close to Himself. This is Jesus, the man well-acquainted with the fragility of humanity and the sorrows of this world. He doesn't want to give us religious answers. He wants to hold us close. In quietness, we will hear every whisper of Him affirming us.

I have experienced the loss of many things. I am not promised anything to be certain or permanent. My weaknesses are blaring. Fear seems all-encompassing.

Yet, the sun rose again today. My husband sleeps by my side. After long, tormenting thoughts, I reach out for him. The familiarity of his skin, his strong hands, and quiet movements. Pressing close to him, I remember. My marriage. My husband. My friend. Many things have been stripped from my life, but not him, not what we have. Communication is often difficult. Our personalities rub against one another with a coarse friction. But, this. This, Lord! Let the nurturing of this gift be my greatest work on earth, if nothing else! Friends will come and go. Babies, successful careers, vacations, grand accomplishments, and a great home may never be guaranteed to us. But I know I want to come to the end of my life and be satisfied that I loved this man well. To love him unconditionally. To love him without reserve. To love him with raw honesty. To love him even when he changes, even as I change. To love him with shocking vulnerability and gentle tenderness. To learn to love him in the exact way I am learning how Jesus loves me. Everyday, re-learning in renewing my vows to him in word, thought, and deed. This is the hardest thing. The best thing. So, today, I breathe a thank you for this man, my ranger. And I learn the steps of our new beginning.

In my usual style, I end my post with some photos. The images below were taken by my sister this past April at the Riparian Preserve in Gilbert, AZ - a special little place to me and Nolan. It is the park he took me to in the summer of 2012 and quietly surprised me with my first-ever kiss. That moment was like magic and I don't ever want to forget the simple little place that became the setting of something so extraordinary.

And because it's on my mind, two quotations from Diana Gabaldon's Outlander that keeps things in perspective.

Love forces a person to choose. You do things you never imagined you could do before.
[Jenny Murray]
For where all love is, the speaking is unnecessary. It is all. It is undying. And it is enough.









Friday, May 1, 2015

Blessings of April


April was a full month. It brought a happiness I haven't known in over a year. I was able to visit my family and friends in my hometown and what a blessed time it was! Every moment was golden to me. I haven't laughed that long and that hard for so long. I sang and played songs for all my loved ones. My love and I visited the farm where we said "I do" over two years ago. The familiarity of everyone and every place was comforting to me. Leaving the people and the place that made up my home for almost 25 years has proven to be the hardest choice I have ever made. I knew that marrying a ranger-man, who always takes the road less-traveled, would lead me to make a sacrifice. In February 2012, days after we entered into a courtship, my man and I took long walks during sunset and sat on top of rustic red buttes, discussing the future we had envisioned with each other. I knew leaving all that I had known was part of that equation. I did not hesitate. I promised to follow him always. I promised everything to him just as he, in that moment, promised to return to my home-state and marry me soon. Over three years have passed since that first conversation and I have no regrets about my choice, but the pain is still real. Even so, whenever I am able to be with those I love, those moments mean ten times more to me.

April was also a month of closing in, an expansion of the mind's understanding and also a narrowing of the mind's focus, a letting go of all that has been, and receiving closure for the things that I cannot change. Sadness will always walk with me. It is a part of my story. A divine instrument to strip and carve me down into my truest identity, the truest self that has always been within, waiting for an awakening. Yet, I have also found that there is a reservoir in me capable of much joy. The sorrow and joy, coexisting in harmony, create the rich fruits of gentleness, kindness, patience, understanding, compassion, and acceptance. In my times of meditation and introspection, I sense these fruits welling up within me. What they will become in maturity, I do not yet know. I welcome the water of Life to my inner garden, the grace of my sweet Jesus, and tend to myself. Grace and Identity, hand in hand, are restoring the inner landscape of my ravaged heart. Grace, which says I am always and unconditionally favored. Identity, which says I am the Beloved, the Pure, the Clean, the Righteous. I have nothing to prove, nothing to do. I rest, allowing my inner self to receive what has been given, and entrust my growth and healing to Father's care.

As I continue to struggle with physical pain and symptoms of unrest in my body, I am learning to simple be, to cease the grasping for solutions and resolve. I came across this Kahlil Gibran quote from a now-favorite yoga therapist that I recently started gleaning wisdom from.

Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding. Even as the stone of the fruit must break, that its heart may stand in the sun, so you must know pain. 

I am allowing myself the opportunity to truly know my pain. To cease wrestling with it has opened a world of understanding about myself, about my Savior, about humanity, about nature. And suddenly the revelation came to me that my Savior, who took upon the unpredictability and frailty of my own human flesh, became well acquainted with many layers of pain. He did not turn from it, nor did he fight it. Also, he never sought a solution to "fix" it. From the day He was crucified to the day He resurrected and until now, pain has continued on in this world. Pain in all its varied, traumatic, and despairing forms. Instead, He came so that we might know Him, to remove all that stood in the way of a restored relationship with Him. Pain and suffering became a gateway to this. Nature is a narrative to this as well when you study the seasons and when you analyze the cellular functions of our bodies. Life birthing from decay, death, and pain is a cycle that continues on in many layers. More recently, I have begun picking apart the ways I view this cycle. Before, the goal of restored Life was all my focus. Being vision-minded, the end result is all I have cared about. Oddly enough, that focus has been unhealthy and self-destructive. While that thinking is an integral part of my personality, I also see how those thoughts are heavily instilled into the Western world and, sadly, Western Christianity has adopted it. It revolves around results, achieving goals, and constantly improving ourselves, our circle of people, organizations, businesses, etc. So much could be said on this, but I am summarizing this to say that in awakening to my pain and taking time to step back and releasing my hold on "fixing" it, I have been made aware to the self-destruction of constantly pushing to the end result. I must allow the cycles of nature to run its course, even in myself. In observing, self-reflection, and remaining present, I can then learn what is needed to serve me towards wholeness. 

As I write these words, I wonder if this comes across as sounding esoteric. Maybe so.  

I have found the key to unlock my life. I misplaced it by adopting frenzied approaches. Still, I must practice this, memorize this. Learning comes slowly, but it comes with gentle repetition. These days, I am learning the slow, subtle, soft repetitions of grace, present-mindedness, receiving what is given for the day. You know, like the birds? They who neither sow nor reap, and yet they fly as free beings, bound by nothing.

P.S. This song inspires me.

A summary of snapshots from my Arizona trip:






Wednesday, April 1, 2015

March Musings

Goodbye, March.

You were a month of drifting, but with fresh buds of promise that there may be good things on the horizon.
I beg you to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language.  Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them.  And the point is, to live everything.  Live the questions now.  Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer. - See more at: http://rebeccapacheco.com/quotes/have-patience-with-everything-unresolved-in-your-heart/#sthash.6qpu5NpR.dpuf

During the long past month, I wasn't very inspired to pull out my camera and use it. However, a trip up to my husband's parents' home gifted me with some scenic views and pretty blossoms. At the moment, I am a little frustrated with the limitations of the kit lens that came with my camera (just realized I need a lens with a smaller f stop for better aperture range!), but until I can save up for a better quality lens, this shall have to do. I took hundreds of photos, but these are most definitely my favorites.

I was musing on this excerpt from one of my favorite selections, Letters to a Young Poet, by Rainer Maria Rilke.


 Be patient toward all that is unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.

I am not yet there - the place of patience with all that is unresolved in my heart. I hope and sense that I am closer to that place than I was at the end of 2014. There are some big changes coming up this summer in my life, but I feel not quite ready to meet them in my current state. I have no control over the progress that my own heart makes and that leaves me a little more than flustered and frustrated. I know I must trust this journey that I am on. Trust my Father's heart that He will provide for each laborious step.
I beg you to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language.  Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them.  And the point is, to live everything.  Live the questions now.  Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer. - See more at: http://rebeccapacheco.com/quotes/have-patience-with-everything-unresolved-in-your-heart/#sthash.6qpu5NpR.dpuf
have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.” - See more at: http://www.refinethemind.com/wisdom-of-rilke-love-solitude/#sthash.Twg7MSZo.dpuf
have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.” - See more at: http://www.refinethemind.com/wisdom-of-rilke-love-solitude/#sthash.Twg7MSZo.dpuf
have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.” - See more at: http://www.refinethemind.com/wisdom-of-rilke-love-solitude/#sthash.Twg7MSZo.dpuf

I beg you to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language.  Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them.  And the point is, to live everything.  Live the questions now.  Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer. - See more at: http://rebeccapacheco.com/quotes/have-patience-with-everything-unresolved-in-your-heart/#sthash.6qpu5NpR.dpuf






Do you think it all means nothing, all the longing? The longing for home? 

// Brennan Manning //





































Believe in a love that is being stored up for you like an inheritance, and have faith that in this love there is a strength and a blessing so large that you can travel as far as you wish without having to step outside it. 

// Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet //























Now so much I know, that things just don't grow if you don't bless them with your patience. 

// First Aid Kit //

Monday, March 16, 2015

pursuit of minimalism

Since moving from my home state in 2013, most of my social life has moved from face-to-face to strictly internet updates and occasional phone calls. As I launched into social media full-time (Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and recently started a Twitter), I became quickly disillusioned. I began to quickly feel disconnected and lonely. Then, came the trials of life, disappointments, and failing health. The loneliness gripped me more intensely. Life seemed to stop for me. All of my pursuits ended in closed doors. A lot of my friends were experiencing big and wonderful changes in their lives. As for me, I sat at home, watching the seasons slowly change and hearing the monotonous tick of the clock from sunrise to sunset. I have had nothing but time on my hands and, yet, motivation and inspiration and joy remain far from me. As I watched myself drift along, my anxiety attacks became a constant companion, culminating in a trip to the E.R. last month. The isolation, the lack of purpose and movement, no productive occupation - all of it has borne down upon me. To say I have been cynical, jaded, depressed, and bitter is an understatement. Some days, I am all those things and more. The most frustrating part was not being able to accurately and fully share this with my friends abroad. I mean, who writes status updates like this? I reminded myself that I could always just call and share with them where I am at. However, being the type of person that is somewhat of a nervous phone-caller [only my very closest family and maybe one or two friends do I feel comfortable talking with over phone], I avoid the phone altogether. Perhaps, the most significant reason why I have avoided my friends: shame. But most of my friends didn't even bother to call me anyway. That is a subject for another post, though, as I sift through what I have processed from this past year. Nevertheless, I must be honest...I have never felt more miserable in all my life as I have during this season. In the midst of my misery, I have been overwhelmed by social media. I am guilty of playing the comparison game as I have watched nearly everyone (even people I don't even know or didn't even know existed until recently) win the lottery at life. 

  Successful businesses, intimate community of friends, the ultimate marriages, the most adorable wardrobes, life-long creative dreams becoming realized, landing the greatest jobs, and even terrific testimonies of the Lord providing the biggest and most lavish surprises!

  Honestly, it's like watching your Pinterest boards come to life and attach itself to everyone except you. 

  Recently, my husband and I were discussing the topic of connection with social media. Clearly, the constant connection with everyone is becoming more of a disconnection. In addition, we're all busy bees just living vicariously through the lives of others. My husband pointed out how crippling this kind of "connection" is on a local level. It hinders us from really making a difference in where we are at because we're so preoccupied with what's going on with everyone else in everywhere else. My husband even drew this example further and tied it to how the news media keeps us all connected to random, mostly trivial and insignificant events in other countries. Even here in the U.S., someone in California gets to be updated on some random burglary in New York City. Who cares? Apparently Americans do because we eat it up like gluttons. There's something addictive to knowing what's going on in the lives of others, whether negative or positive. Sometimes, those events that are totally unrelated to our lives stir up a larger force than is necessary. For example, the Ferguson 2014 shooting. Whatever your opinion is on the matter doesn't matter because whatever happened in Ferguson, Missouri should stay only in Ferguson, Missouri. The loss of anyone's life is tragic, regardless of whoever they may be. Yet, we would be wise to stay out of business that doesn't concern us, as well as things we know absolutely nothing about (unless one plans on moving where such events have taken place and become involved in the local community - but, no, we'd rather just sit back comfortably into our chairs and shoot out our opinions via social media!). Since when has humanity ever taken the side of wisdom and learned that lesson? It's human nature to meddle. Whatever happens in small counties across the U.S. or the remote plains of Africa always concerns us and even though we don't live there or know anything about the people or the situation, we suddenly need to be informed and have a strong opinion on everything pertaining to every single event. Suddenly, we become disconnected from our own neighborhoods, our own towns, our own cities. We don't care about the events happening in our backyard (good or bad) because our minds are so distracted by what's happening everywhere else. As a result, our own towns and cities fail to be given the very best that their citizens have to give because we are a very distracted bunch of people.

  It's disgusting and tragic that this is where we are at. We allow ourselves to becomes slaves of the media (whether social media or news media) rather than using it as a tool for the good of ourselves and others, as my husband so wisely stated.

  So, what is the solution to this problem? For me, personally, it has been wrestling with this concept of minimalism. Recently, I have been so overwhelmingly inspired by the blog, Becoming Minimalist. I resonate with so many of Joshua Becker's posts and am so thankful someone is brave enough to step out and live and speak on minimalism here in the U.S. Minimalism is such a vast concept because it entails an entire way of living. It is holistic, I suppose you could say, since it leaves no ground uncovered. It covers the whole of a person's existence. I started my journey towards minimalism last summer when I began selling household items. Initially, I was merely saving up to buy myself a decent camera, but what I didn't realize is how addicted I would become to getting rid of unnecessary items in my life. Suddenly, most everything I owned lost its meaning and purpose. If they were gifts, I didn't lose the memories. The memories are not in the item, but rather in the person. Slowly, one thing after another, I began saying goodbye to a good majority of my earthly goods. Our one bedroom apartment finally became a comfortable one-bedroom apartment rather than an over-stuffed one-bedroom apartment. There is a freedom that I cannot quite describe that comes along with living on less. You don't experience it immediately. It kind of sneaks up on you and, suddenly, you realize that this is the kind of life you want to live. In addition to this, with living away from my closest family and friends, it dawned on me how much more of value they are to me than living a luxurious and well-furnished life. Obviously, they have always been my everything, but I didn't realize just how much they are truly my everything in this life. That is one of the reasons I bought a camera, to be able to capture memories of them every chance that I get to visit them. Their smiles, their presence. Those are the things that I want to adorn my life with. With another potential move this summer, I am envisioning what my and my husband's new apartment will look like and I have only one decor pursuit in mind: photos! Photos everywhere! Naturally, displaying them artistically will be important, but I want the faces of everyone I love on the walls of where I live. I want that daily reminder that they are, and will always be, the best gifts I have in this life.


  In constant pursuit of a minimalist lifestyle, I asked myself, "how can I transfer this to my social media/online life?" I have been so burdened by the constant noise and distraction that social media brings to my life. I am in a constant love-hate war with it. So, I have asked myself what I do love about it. The people I know - the people that care to know me. The ideas that I want to implement into my life. The pages that inspire me in my pursuit of minimalism and things of value. Slowly, I have begun chipping away at the amount of pages or people I follow via Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. I deleted my Twitter when I realized that it didn't appeal to me much and hardly anyone I know is on there. My goal has been to follow less than 50 pages/people on my accounts. One of my biggest pet peeves has seen some friends following 300 or 500+ people and pages. Really? Do they even read every single one of those updates from those pages? I highly doubt it. As a result, they end up missing the updates from the friends they do know because their friends' updates are drowned in the massive sea of updates. Sadly, I know the feeling of never being seen on my social media accounts because that has happened to me countless number of times. A few friends of mine would completely miss important things I wanted them to read or view because they are following 500+ pages and only happen to check their account every other day or so. Well, if you aren't checking your account every hour, clearly you will never see what someone posted yesterday because you are following 500 other accounts that are daily (sometimes hourly) posting updates. Our social media newsfeeds are blown up with a bunch of updates that don't enhance our lives nor do they concern us. It's ridiculous. I wish people would just realize how absolutely silly this all is, but sometimes we are so busy allowing ourselves to be distracted. I understand how tempting that distraction is because I, too, have allowed myself to do that time and again. 
  As I will continue to decrease the amount of pages and people I follow on all my social media platforms, it allows me the freedom to focus solely on those that I do love to follow or those whom I personally know. While I stopped using Facebook last year to follow friends (I deleted it and then created a new one just to follow pages), I became aware that I missed hearing from and sharing with a few people that are only on Facebook. I plan to return to Facebook soon but will only add a very small amount of friends. One of my other pet peeves is adding people just because they requested to be my friend. These people could be individuals that I had met and known during the duration of my college years, or when I went to Bible school, or wherever. Or, they could be relatives that I had known at one point in my life but have never talked to or seen in person in the past 10 years. They could also be a friend or family of a mutual friend. Sorry, but just because we know the same person doesn't mean that you and I actually want to invest in talking with one another. If you want to become my actual friend, that takes a lot of time, not just following and liking and commenting on my updates. And, lastly, this one irks me the most - when someone requests to be your friend after they saw a mutual friend "like" or commented on a big eventful update you posted. Thank you, Facebook, for letting people who aren't on my friends list see my updates through our mutual friends. Ugh. When I got married two years ago, I had a lot of marriage updates and wedding photos on my Facebook. Suddenly, people I had been briefly acquainted with years before started requesting to be my friend. I even had a relative want to add me, who has never reached out to talk to or see me after years. Although I had pursued them in my younger years I was always met with silence and flakiness. *facepalm* *facepalm* *facepalm* While it may offend or cause people to wonder why I won't accept their friend requests, it doesn't bother me anymore to ignore requests. If it isn't obvious to them why we shouldn't be "friends," then there's nothing I can about that. It's about time that someone use social media correctly instead of becoming a slave to its every suggested friend and page.

My encouragement to myself is that I do not have to be distracted unless I choose to be. 


  It seems so simple and obvious and, yet, how easily and quickly we lose self-control. But the pursuit of minimizing the unnecessary in every part of life is worth it. That is what I am finding from day to day. When I stop putting my time into "catching up" on the lives of people I don't really know anymore (or never knew) and stop investing in relationships that have evolved, changed, and drifted away, I realize that I have more time and energy to love the handful of people I do know. Also, in pursuing minimalism, it has dawned on me that it truly is O.K. to let people and things go. It doesn't have to be done in bitterness or disappointment. Life is very much like the changing of seasons. Some things remain, some things leave. Yet, it is also good to mourn and grieve those hard and sad changes. The first 25 years of my life were marked by constant things. But near the end of those years, many changes came along and most of them were very difficult. Those changes brought an end to the life I once knew, but they also ushered me into a new one. Now, I can say that I have entered into an entirely different and entirely new season. To my own astonishment, I have found that beginnings are just as hard as endings. I don't know where I am going in this new chapter. I want to hold onto everything from the old, but am slowly learning to let go and to travel a little more lightly and with more focus into this next season.  This is what minimalism is teaching me.