I Am Here Now

I have had the urge to write a blog post for several days now, and no matter how many times I have sat in front of my computer or tried to come up with something to say it has failed. Even now I’m having quite the time. My creative juices have just been having some struggles the last few days. Which is frustrating, especially when I have this urge to write and get something out of my head and can’t seem to.

It has been a really wonderful week, though. I started the last semester of my undergraduate degree this week, and honestly, it has been really wonderful. I have so many stories of things that have happened to me this week, most of them a little outrageous. But it has been so much fun. I always thought that when I got to this point in my life I would outrageously scared and have no idea what to do next.

But I couldn’t be further from feeling that way.

I am so excited for all of the possibilities coming my way. Earlier today I discussed the possibility of going to London for a week with some of my best friends in May, and I couldn’t be more excited. I have been longing to go back since my last visit in 2016. It would be like going home. There are so many other things coming that I’m excited for as well. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of uncertainties in my life right now, too. But I’m just so excited for all of it.

Life has been so interesting lately.

I feel like I keep using that word, and in general when I use that word it doesn’t necessarily mean something good. But that’s really the only word I can use to describe it accurately. And it has been good. Life has been very, very good to me lately.

There have been some hard things. And if I’m being honest, how I’ve been dealing with those things and how I feel about them now has me SHOOK. (To use a modern slang term.)

One thing happened to me this week that I’ve been thinking about a lot. My sister-in-law Kaylee, whom I love dearly, has been really revamping her life recently. She’s made a lot of changes that I’m super proud of. She introduced to me an idea this week. The idea is that no matter what we’ve been through we are here. No matter what pain you have endured, no matter what mistakes you have made, no matter what darkness you have faced, you are here now.

It did not break you. It did not kill you. It did not win. Because you are here now.

I absolutely love this. I love this because there have been so many times in my life when I felt broken to a degree that it seemed I couldn’t possibly ever be whole again. We all have moments like this. But no matter how many times you have felt that way, you are still here. You are here right now.

You have not been beaten.

It is never too late to be brand new. It is never too late to start over. It is never too late to remember what you really want and to commit to chasing it. No matter what you’ve faced before. It’s absolutely incredible.

Last night as I was doing my gospel study, I decided to go with an old technique that is very tried and true for me. I’ll begin with a prayer, pour out all that I’m feeling, and then I turn to my scriptures and let them fall open. And the first thing it lands on has always, without fail, been exactly what I needed in my life.

Last night I came upon Ezekiel 22:14. It reads:

“Can thine heart endure, or can thine hands be strong, in the days that I shall deal with thee? I the Lord have spoken it, and will do it.”

I absolutely love this scripture with my whole heart. It was everything I needed and more. One thing I love about this technique is that I often don’t know the context surrounding the verses I come upon. Sometimes I’ll read on and the context will help me even more, and other times it is just the one verse that makes the difference.

This time all I needed was this one verse. I love it because it reminds me that God’s timing is different than my own. His plans are different than my own. But He does not lie. Ever. Not ever. It reminds me that even when hard times come or I’m faced with a myriad of unknowns (kind of like now) that the Lord is always with me. He has a perfect plan for my life that I have always done my best to follow, and I always will.

This verse was incredible because it acknowledges that waiting on the Lord isn’t always easy. Being patient is hard. Trying to understand the twists and turns of life can be confusing. But God is always constant.

The very last phrase is the most powerful to me: I the Lord have spoken it, and will do it.

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If You’re Reading This At 4 A.M…

I have almost written this post probably 20 times in the last year. Every single time I have obviously not, for various reasons. I just want to tell all of you a few things that I’ve learned. And a few things I believe. And a few things I’m holding on to. And a few things I am still trying to figure out. 

I have learned that human beings are infinitely complex. And that we have the capacity for so much. Whether that be good or evil. I have learned that the older you get the more gray areas emerge. Nothing is black and white. I have learned that life is messy. And that no matter where you go or who you meet, everybody as problems. And everybody has baggage. I have learned that the worst pain in the world isn’t physical. I have learned what it is to be connected with other people. To feel what they feel. To know they are in pain that you cannot heal. 

I have learned what it is to love. To love with every fiber that makes you who you are, and every infinite thing that makes up the spaces inside you. And I have learned what it is to fear that even that isn’t enough to heal the broken pieces. 

I have learned what it is to give second chances and to be given second chances. I have learned what it is to be so broken inside that you look in the mirror and can’t believe you are still put together. I have learned what it is to be so whole that you feel as though you couldn’t possibly contain all of the joy and rightness that is bursting through your heart. 

I believe in God. I believe that He speaks to us. And I believe that He always keeps His promises. And that He doesn’t lie. And that sometimes He asks us to be patient. Sometimes He asks us to wait. And sometimes that is hard. But He is always, always there making the same promises over and over again. Reminding you of the things He’s told you before. Reminding you that you aren’t alone. Reminding you that He is in charge. Reminding you that all things are possible. Reminding you that true joy and peace comes from Him and Him alone. 

I believe that life is different for everybody. And no story is exactly the same. But also we are all intricately connected. And it is absolutely vital that you find the path that God wants for you and stick to it, no matter what voices pull you in other directions. No matter what the world throws at you. That’s where true joy is. That’s where true peace is. 

I believe in love. That it will conquer everything if you let it. 

I’m holding on to answers whispered to me by the wind. And answers thrown in my face like a billboard. And answers spoken to me as if there was an actual person saying the words in my ear. I’m holding on to hope. I’m holding on to dreams. I’m holding on to love. Because it turns out that this love is stronger than every broken moment I’ve ever had. And it refuses to go away. It refuses to break. Maybe that’s the point of love. 

I’m trying to figure out how love really works. And how to use it to help fix the dark days. I’m trying to figure out if I really can use love like a weapon, or if it really is just a matter of feeling it and pouring it out of my heart. If it is the latter, I am more than capable of that.

I had a therapist teach me a visualization exercise once. You imagine somebody standing before you. The person in your life that you love most, or that you are having a hard time with, or the person who you want to express your love to the most. And you imagine the color pink, which represents love, pouring from your heart into theirs. And you let it flow freely, and you allow them to receive it freely. And if you do it correctly, you can actually feel a connection with that person as if they are standing right in front of you actually receiving all that love. 

And if you’re reading this at 4 a.m., please know that you’ve been that other person a million times. 

What Happens After “The End”?

For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to change things. I have always wanted to be able to make the world different, or at least make somebody’s world different. And since writing has always been something I have considered myself at least adequate at, I have always imagined that it would be through my written words that I’d be able to help make these changes. 

I’m honestly not sure if this has ever been the case. 

In fact, I realized the other day that I am 23 years old and if I disappeared tomorrow it is very likely that nothing would happen. I have made no significant changes in the world. And this thought didn’t necessarily come to me as something depressing, but it did make me think. It made me think about a lot of things. Mostly, it made me think about complexity. 

Have you ever wondered what happens after you read the words “The End” on a page or movie screen? What happens after they get home from their epic journey? What happens after the guy runs after the girl and they go off into the sunset? 

Well, I’ve got a few thoughts about this. 

I recently finished a novel in which (spoiler alert) the main guy goes after the woman he loves months after they’ve been torn apart. And honestly, the scene is very sad. You can tell that even after all they’ve been through and everything that has happened, they love each other so much. But they are both terrified. And she tells him that. And he responds with, “We’ll be brave together.” 

And even though it’s true, and very beautiful, what I don’t tell you is what happened later. About how it was very hard for her to ever trust him again. About how it tortured him every day that he had hurt her like that, and how he was worried it might happen again somehow. And I don’t tell you about how even though they loved each other very much there were still obstacles to overcome. There were still moments when they fell into old patterns and she was terrified and the emotional connection between them felt frayed. 

I don’t tell you that there were moments when she wondered if he really would be happier without her. I don’t tell you that he struggled wildly, too. 

I don’t tell you that there is so much more to “The End” than we all think. That “The End” is hard. That “The End” is really just a new bend in the road. That “The End” is just another way of saying, “Let’s start over.” 

But I think that the point of “The End” is to hint at all those things the creator doesn’t tell us about. The point of “The End” is to say that the storm has passed and whoever has faced it is stronger or happier or, if the story is wildly depressing, at least this one storm is now over. 

The point of my “The End” was to tell you that both characters were very, very aware that the future before them wasn’t an easy one. But that they would rather face it together, because they have discovered through all of the not being together that they were meant to face the storms side by side. And it doesn’t mean that it will be easy. It doesn’t mean that everything is now fixed between them. It doesn’t mean that it is all riding off into the sunset. 

It means that they found what they truly wanted, deep in their hearts, and fought for it even though they knew it wouldn’t be easy. It means that they decided to be stronger, even if they didn’t feel like it. It means that they decided to be brave together because it was worth the fight. 

The End

Is It Cool That I Said All That?

Something happened to me today that hasn’t happened to me in a very long time. I was sitting with my family, enjoying the Thanksgiving holiday, and suddenly I got the very strong feeling that I needed to write a blog post. 

I have had this blog for five years now. And it has been through many highs and many lows. But through everything, it has always been the place I’ve gone to that houses all of my thoughts. It has been there for me through thick and thin. I’ve gone through times when my views and comments have exploded and I’ve made tons of new friends, and times when nobody ever visits. Which I think is a normal thing. 

It’s just always been my place to come and let everything out. And it’s been a while since I’ve done that. 

The problem that I’m facing tonight is that I have so much on my mind. The last several weeks have been a really interesting time in my life, and there’s a lot going on in my head. But since it is Thanksgiving, I feel this obligation to write about the things I’m grateful for and all of that. But to be honest, the last weeks have been really hard and being grateful has been something I’ve had to give an active effort towards. (An effort that hasn’t always been successful… or successful at all, really.)

You know something? SO much of life is unsure. I think that’s just the nature of life. There’s always going to be something we don’t know. There’s always going to be something we don’t think we’re ready for. This happens to me a lot, actually. I have had several experiences in my life when I thought that I was set and everything was going to be fairly steady for a while. And then all of the sudden everything changes and it’s all unsure again. 

When this happens, my strategy is usually to just hang on to what I know to be true and ride the wave. But it isn’t always as simple as that. 

I am at a time in my life when I have a lot of really big decisions before me. And if I’m being completely honest, my absolute ideal for the next year of my life would probably shock everybody that I know. But I’m not sure what’s going to happen. It’s almost like I’m living day to day right now. Just waiting for whatever life decides to hand me next. 

As a very spiritual person, this is sometimes hard for me. I have this relationship with God where He will tell me something about my life in an incredibly powerful way, and then tell me to trust Him. In order to explain this a little bit better, it’s almost like somebody really, really influential and powerful in your life telling you that all of your wildest dreams are going to come true. Absolutely and completely. But you have to just trust them and they’ll take care of it. And they’ll let you know what to do every now and again. Your job is simply to believe what they’ve told you and do your best. 

It sounds really great, I know, but it’s more frustrating in practice. I think it’s God’s way of teaching me that I can’t control everything and that ultimately He is in charge. I think it’s His way of letting me know that He’s aware of my life and the things I want in the deepest part of my heart, and showing me that He’s ultimately got everything taken care of. 

Trust is hard for me. It always has been. I’m not exactly sure why. I’ve gotten much better at patience, but trust not so much. 

In learning patience, I have learned that it is something you have to continually work on. And ideally, you should never run out of patience with anyone. I have only had to deliberately cut somebody out of my life one time. And honestly, it wasn’t my favorite thing. I wish I hadn’t had to do it. I don’t think that’s the way we should have to live our lives.

Maybe trust is kind of the same way. There are definitely people in our lives who betray our trust. There are a lot of circumstances, I understand, and in the end, I think we just have to be the judges of what we are patient with and what we trust. But when all is said and done, I don’t want to be the kind of person who doesn’t trust. I don’t want to be the kind of person who doesn’t have patience. I don’t want to be the kind of person who can’t trust God to fulfill His words. 

There is a sentiment that’s been floating around my life recently. Essentially it’s that you should remain breakable, but be strong. If I’m being honest, I only agree with this in theory. The truth is that I’m tired of being breakable. Because I’m actually a very breakable person. I’m tired of that. But I don’t want to have an ice castle for a heart, either. And as a person who feels a crazy amount of emotions ALL THE TIME, that would be the alternative. 

Another thing I’ve learned, and I’ve written about this a lot, is that life is very individual. It’s actually really hard for somebody to say: this is how life goes, live your life this way. Because everybody’s story is different. For example, one of my older sisters got married at 18 and now has 6 children. She and her husband have been married 10 years. They love each other very much, and they are very happy. They’ve had a great life together and will continue to.

And because this is her story and she’s been so happy, she has the tendency to think that everybody should have the same story as her. I think we all do this to some degree. But that just isn’t the way that life works. She and her husband didn’t date for very long before they got married, and to be honest, we were all a little worried about the whole thing because of that and because they were so young. But that is their story and it’s been great for them.

My other older sister does the exact same thing. She’s even more forceful about the whole, “This is the way love works…” thing. But I am with somebody right now who I care about very, very much. And our story couldn’t be more different than either of my sisters’ stories. The point is that everybody’s story is different. But that doesn’t make one story better than another. It doesn’t mean that there is a way that everything has to play out. Life is just different for everybody. 

Sometimes when I post on my blog a lot of the thoughts that are rolling around in my head I expect some kind of repercussion. I write things out that feel incredibly bold to say, and it’s like I wait with bated breath to see if anything’s going to happen. Nothing ever does, but I always wait to see if it will.

Sometimes I’m tempted to think negatively about this and think that my thoughts just aren’t worth commenting on, but other times it actually helps me to know that my thoughts aren’t so uncommon. I think a lot of people feel uncertain. A lot of people are worried about things. A lot of people hope that everything in life works out. A lot of people are waiting with patience and trust and putting their thoughts out there for the best version of their story. 

Is it cool that I said all that?

A Different Kind of War

A Different Kind of War

It is a different kind of war we wage when it comes to love. For in finding our center of gravity we also let go of everything that ties us to the floor of certainties. We don’t realize how many puzzle pieces are missing until we find the soul who owns them. Within this completion is a sense of peace unheard of. Within this wholeness dwell the innermost truths we never dared to whisper out loud, but only dreamed we would actually feel someday. And within this orb of unheard truths we step forward together, hand in hand, heartbeats syncing. We don’t know what is around the blind corners, but nevertheless, we do not let go of each other. Because if nothing else we have discovered that the world makes no sense if we aren’t together.

It is a different kind of war we fight when it comes to love. There are monsters behind those corners, and they attack our orb of pink gold light with weapons made of shadows. But I will fight back to back with you against these attacks and the dark places, those innermost truths my weapon. And if our light sputters and we lose some of the battles, we still press forward hand in hand: always stronger together. Perhaps a day will come when I am not strong enough to fight. When thick gray fog rises to obscure the intricate ties that bind our hearts and souls together. If this should happen, please find me again, and hold me in the home of your arms. Until the beat of your heart beside my ear heals all of the broken parts and makes all of those ties even stronger.

It is a different kind of war we face when it comes to love. As we continue forward we will glimpse peaceful cities and rolling fields so vibrantly green, and perhaps we’ll jump into rivers and dry off again under brilliant rays of sun. We will not always have to fight shadows and monsters. But if a day comes when we enter a dark wood and you should lose your way, remember that I will find you. Or if you find yourself facing an impenetrable wall on all sides, know that I will not stop until I conquer the wall brick by brick. And if it should happen that you fall inside yourself, trapped at the bottom of your soul, never forget that I will always reach for you and pull you back towards the light. One day there may be problems I cannot fix. But I’ll hold you as close as I can while I fight ghosts that haunt you. And keep you safe until morning.

It is a beautiful kind of war we declare when it comes to love. And we know it isn’t a constant war, and in the end, the plenty will outweigh the famine. Perhaps there will be days when I wear a white dress that tickles my feet, and we’ll visit hilltops or orchards of apple blossoms. Or perhaps we’ll find a peaceful library with a nook containing just enough pillows. You’ll read something French and I’ll stick to the Postmodern. And the days like this will make it easier when the white turns to red, and we find ourselves in battle again.

I visited a cathedral once. And saw rows of standards taken into battle. Flags that had seen so much death, and had somehow made it home. Now they hang in places of sanctuary and God. A testament to their victory, to the preciousness of what the fight was for.

Phoenix

Phoenix

There was a girl who stood
at the top of the world
we all watched her rise
and some of us were happy

She stood there and glittered
clean and untouchable

And then one day the world turned
and she fell from that place
we watched all the glitter shed
off of her like skin

None of us were there when she
hit the bottom of the sky

I thought about her often
and wondered about her death
If it had been white, red, or black

White like a soul escaping
stretched thin by its separateness
and burned away before the sun

Or crimson red like a broken heart
stuck in a pattern of beats
until it surrenders to the silence

Though perhaps it was black
like the souls of men who put flowers
on the graves they’ve created

But maybe it was none of those
and it was only gray

Gray like the ashes of an explosion
that was so beautiful
it killed everything to live

I think those ashes covered her
becoming new glitter
trying to convince her
of her new place in the world

And for a very long time after
we could not see her

Out of habit, we looked for her skyline
and all the lights were gone
we wondered about the aftermath
what would be there
if the ashes ever left the sky

I imagined a ring of fire
around the crater where she lay
and her eyes were closed
below the costs of ash and smoke

But one day they opened
and they were full of so much fire
that all her condemning flames
shuddered and withdrew from true might

She rose from the crater
brushing ashes and glass off her skin
like words that didn’t matter

with every step that she now took
across her new wasteland
a hot wind blew at the edges
of a once blue dress

She reached her hands high above
to a limitless sky
empty of the reels and negatives
while she declared,
“You don’t need to save me.”

And the world grew back

Instead of a mountain where she stood
it was a wide plain
wide and free

To this place she rose
and here she will rebuild
something much more beautiful
than all the shattered lights

Thoughts On Plan B

townOne of the reasons I decided to study history was because of how much it changes. The past may be set in stone, but there is so much about it that is different every single day. We discover new things, learn about new perspectives, and uncover lost truths. And through it all, we are constantly building the story and the identity of the human race.

I find it incredibly beautiful.

And one of the reasons that I am a writer is because of the same thing. I love meeting new characters and figuring out what their stories are. I love seeing their perspectives. I love being able to figure out how the words will fit together so that what I’m actually trying to say is said.

There is something I have often struggled with in writing that I have never struggled with in history. And this is the problem of originality.

I have fallen into the trap so many countless times of thinking that whatever I write has to be totally and completely unique. But the truth about literature is that this isn’t really a thing. We take elements that already exist and we create a story in the way that we wish it to be told. It is the way that we put them together and the way that we say what we need to say that makes a story different and individual.mountain

For some reason, I’ve always understood this about history but never about literature.

Do you ever look up at the stars at night and wonder? I once read something that said that whatever your mind goes to when you’re looking at the stars or the ocean is where your heart truly is. Perhaps this is true sometimes and not others, because the child in me will, every now and again, look frantically for the Big Dipper when I look at the stars and I can promise you that isn’t where my heart is.

And sometimes when we are faced with something that vast it makes us look inwards and wonder what we are in relation to it.

Can I compare to a star? What does my life truly mean in the face of the countless ones a star lives through?

The last several days have been pretty hard ones. A lot of things that I struggle with have decided to come for a visit all at once, and it has been very hard. It is in times like these when I start to question absolutely everything. I look back at posts I wrote when I was doing well and wonder how I was naive enough to have that kind of hope.

Of course, this is ridiculous. But that’s what I think.

planI realized something about myself this week. And it is this: I am a Plan B-er. I am. 100% completely and thoroughly and absolutely. I am a Plan B-er.

Let me explain.

I have this picture in my head. This very special, sacred picture, of what I want my future to be like. Of what I believe would be the very best future for me. The future that would help me learn and grow, but also make me wildly happy. I have this picture. I very rarely look at it or entertain the notion of it, because if I’m being honest, too much of me doesn’t really believe it will happen. I believe in how incredible it would be. But a lot of me likes to whisper horrible things about it. That it’s a stupid picture and I should get rid of it.

And as terrible as this sounds, it is the way I’ve always been.

No matter what my dream was, and no matter how hard I believed in it or prayed about it and felt amazing in it: I always let a very horrible side of me dressed as practicality talk myself into believing that it was a joke.

And so I live my life for Plan B.

I think of the next best thing. Whatever would do its best at filling the void. Whatever would get me to the silver medal. And I plan on that. I pour over my plans for that. I tell everyone about them. And nobody ever knows that it isn’t even what I absolutely and truly want for myself.

And all the while I’m pouring over Plan B, in my deepest heart of hearts, I pray for Plan sunA. It is so deep inside my heart that sometimes I even forget about it. I just focus on Plan B and do whatever I can possibly think of to get there. And then sometimes, very late at night, when my mind is full of all the things I don’t let it think when the sun is shining, I remember Plan A.

And I say a prayer. And I hope. And I let Plan B go away until I’ll need it again the next morning.

I have realized this about myself, and I think it is something I should stop doing. Maybe you’re the kind of person who thinks that we should absolutely go for our Plan A, for our number #1 dream. And if so, you’d probably agree that this isn’t a very good mindset to have. So I’ll see what I can do about fixing that.