Thursday, September 6, 2018


Feelings. Today I have a lot of feelings about this topic!

For anyone familiar with the enneagram(hot topic 2018!) I am a 7. 7's try to avoid pain. Looking back that has been a huge part of who I am. I don't want to feel pain and I will do pretty much anything to accomplish that. Sometimes it means pushing down feelings and saying I will be fine. Sometimes it means avoiding people or places or events.

Growing up I was always told I was so happy. Joy has always been a word people have used to describe me. When I met with a counselor he said I was "smiling depressed." At the time it didn't make sense and I didn't really know what he meant other than I felt a lot of dark and deep feelings but I was still smiling-why was that? was that a bad thing? good thing? just a thing?

Recently, I think for maybe the first time in my life, I've been letting myself feel some things that are painful. My go to reaction when I experience pain is to avoid it. To tell myself I'm fine and move on. To try to justify the person who said hurtful things or rationalize why the event happened- all in pursuit of not feeling pain. Last week I spent most of a day in tears. Literally every time I tried to open my mouth I started crying. It frustrated me. I tried to stop it. I couldn't. Again my go to when I start to cry is to try and stop-to find a way to avoid feeling the pain of whatever is causing the tears. I took a morning and tried to process where the tears were coming from-if I'm being honest it was not in pursuit of healing but in pursuit of figuring out how to make it stop. There were a lot of reasons for the tears but I think the root of them was 2-fold. One it was the Holy Spirit trying to get me to listen and the other was me feelings some things I just couldn't push down any longer.

This week I have been feeling a lot of things. I have been angry, hurt, confused, excited, tired, encouraged, disappointed. This morning as I was spending some time journaling I decided to press into some of those feelings instead of avoiding them. I asked the Holy Spirit to help me process.

Part of what I was processing was something that was said to me yesterday. Someone said to me, "%#*& wants married couples  . . . . " It was said in reference to community building and what would be good for a particular community that I am a part of and what someone valued in bringing a particular person into that community. It was said to my face. I am single. Again- I am single and someone said-to my face- that they valued married couples(over single people). This is where my avoidance of pain kicked in hard core! I respect and value both the person who said this to me and the person they were referencing. I value them as people and I value their words and work ethic. I believe they value me and my work as well. So my initial reaction was to rationalize-they didn't know what they were saying- they didn't mean it- they just don't know better- it's my own issues that make me feel hurt, etc.

I felt very hurt and angry but I tried to push it down. I couldn't. As the night went on, once I was alone, I got more and more hurt. As the words and the sentiment behind the words continued to sink in I became more discouraged and hurt and angry. So this morning I tried to process. Recently I have been reading through John. Today I just happened to be in chapter 11. The thing that hit me today was how Jesus felt. In the version I was reading it says several times, "he was deeply moved(vs 33, vs 38)." It also says he wept(vs 35). The thing(and I know this should not be an epiphany at this point in my walk-but it was today) that struck me was that Jesus felt. He felt deeply and he didn't try to avoid it because he knew everything would be ok. He didn't try to avoid it because he could control it. He didn't try to avoid it because he knew the people and could justify what happened. He was moved and he wept. He sat in it and felt it.

Here are my words from my journal as I processed-unedited from my journal

"Lord, sometimes/right now-it feels like I've been trying so hard to fit in, to find my place and in the midst of that it was thrown in my face that I don't. How hard it is in the christian world- as a woman and as a single person to feel like there is room for me-it feels like a constant battle and sometimes I don't want to feel it. I want to just keep going. When I feel it-it hurts and seems to make life harder. But maybe it also makes life better-both for me and for the people around me who I am a part of changing-opening the eyes of. God-I give you that-it is hard work to keep fighting/going/pursuing and to be rejected or left out or "behind." Help me to keep going though-use me, my voice, my life.  Holy Spirit-all that you have given me-use it in my life and in the lives of the people I'm around."

As I finished writing those words I was encouraged. Encouraged that God is growing me, changing me, using me. Encouraged that even though it sometimes feels to me like I am always having to fight for my place in the church or christian community- God has put that fight in me-has created me to keep going even when I want to give up- is always pursuing me and saying there is room for me. I was also discouraged- that this is still something I butt up against on a daily basis- the idea that because someone has a ring on their finger they are somehow more valuable or more mature. So in this moment I am choosing to feel. Feel the feelings and not try to avoid them. That may mean more tears or venting than I am comfortable with but I'm pretty sure it is part of growth and I want to grow.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Not on anyone else's timeline

I sat down in a meeting recently and the first question out of the person's mouth was, "Are you married?" 

Picture this-We were outside of a lodge at the camp where I work- beautiful setting- looking out at the lake. We were about to sit in some Adirondack chairs and I was in the middle of sitting down as he asked me this question. So now I am sitting but he is not yet sitting down. I have never spent any amount of time with this person so we obviously did not know each other(given the question he is asking). So I am sitting there and he is halfway into his chair and I say, "No." He remains halfway down in his chair and just continues to look at me so I tentatively say, " . . . and I've never been???" trying to figure out what he's trying to figure out. I know it sounds creepy but really it wasn't- I think he was just trying to get to know more about me. I think we do that a lot when we meet new people- we try to figure out which category to put them in our brains. He went on to ask if I have pets- my answer is, "No." Then- do I have roommates?- the answer again is, "No." 

At this point I have begun to feel like a psychopath- never been married, no kids, no pets, no roommates and I work with kids! These are the moments when I feel like I am the odd woman out. I do not fit into most peoples categories for a 41 year old woman. I have no husband or kids. I am not a cat or dog lady. I don't have a long term roommate. I don't own anything of monetary value(home, fancy car, a KitchenAid)

I am me.

I didn't follow the timeline and I don't fit into people's preset categories. I know people categorize never married older people into some very interesting categories. My own amazing family has even made those types of comments in front of me- things like, "You know he's never been married-he's a little odd." They are not trying to be mean- their brains are just trying to make connections and perhaps they are basing them off experiences or just what their culture or upbringing has taught them.

I didn't get married out of college-or anytime after that. I didn't have kids or buy a house or "settle down." Instead I spent some time figuring out who I am as an individual and by my late 20's when I started to entertain the idea that I MIGHT be ready to "settle down" or get married I decided instead to switch careers and move to Norway sight unseen. I decided that I really liked me and I had some more growing to do before I was ready to buy that house or have that kid or commit to that guy. So I moved to Norway and then 2 years later I moved to Belgium.

Now the timeline was completely out of whack and what category did I fit in?-the aging spinster?, the fun aunt?, the rebel? the crazy lady? A few years passed and I was mid 30's and still no husband, roommates, kids or permanent residence. So at 38 I decided to really send that timeline/category searching on a run for it's money and moved back to America and into my old bedroom at my parents house!!!! That'll teach 'em! Maybe the jarring nature of it would set the timeline straight. . . . . .it didn't!

So then 11 months later I packed up my car and left Pennsylvania and started driving west with no real plan other than that if I got to California(where I could go no farther west) and still didn't have a job I would drive north to Portland and find a place to live. Seemed like a reasonable plan-timeline moving along and all.

So off I went and for 3 months I drove west(making tons of stops along the way to see all those people I hadn't seen in 9 years of living outside of the country or who I had met while living outside the country but who now lived in America). If you really want to blow peoples ability to figure out where you are on the "timeline" or to place you in their internal categories- tell them you are a 38 year old single woman with no job and a brand new car driving across the country with no set plans until such a point as you can no longer go west in said car!

So of course at the end of that road trip I ended up in Arizona where I have spent the last 2 1/2 years. I'm going to go ahead and say my timeline is a bust and I don't fit into many preset categories. The things I thought I would be and be doing at 41 are nothing like what my life actually looks like. I thought I would have all those things I mentioned earlier-the husband, kids, house- maybe not the pets.

Instead my life has included deep friendships with people from all over the world. It has included visiting over 30 countries. It has included growth I don't think I ever would have experienced if I had followed the timeline I had as a kid. It has included getting to live, work and coach in 3 different countries. It has included having friends and family in pretty much any region of the world I would ever want to visit. It has included being on ESPN and in the USA Today because of the ridiculous outfits I'm willing to wear to support the USA teams in other countries. It has included being lonely and having to work through that and learn to enjoy being alone. My timeline has included so much more than I could have thought or imagined.

So when I get frustrated because my life doesn't look like what I thought it would or what others peoples look like. When I hear comments that allude to the fact that an older never married person is strange based solely on their marital status . When I start to question whether I am too old to be still asking the question-what do I want to do when I grow up? When I struggle with feeling like the odd woman out because most people don't know or understand huge chunks of my experiences. When I get frustrated because most of my dearest friends are at least 3 times zones away. When I begin to wonder if I AM that odd person my family has talked about. When people ask the initial questions of -are you married? because they are trying to figure out what box to put me in or where I am on my timeline- I kind of enjoy that I get to blow their box and their timelines up and I get to be me!

I'll be me and I hope you'll be you!

"I Wanna Be Like Me" by Sara Bareilles

What if I wanna be the one who
Never looks like anybody?
What if I wanna be the one who
Goes her own way?

Would you still believe in someone like me?

What if I wanna be the one who
Doesn't belong here?
What if I wanna be the one who
Won't fit in?

Would you find a new way to make room for me?

What if I don't wanna be like you?
Not to make you cry
What if I don't wanna be like you?
Just because I was made to be exactly like me

What if I don't wanna be like you?
Not to tear you down
What if I don't wanna be like you?
Because I found I was made to be exactly like me
I wanna be like me


What if I wanna be the one who
Doesn't need to hide?
What if I wanna be the one who
Won't apologize?
I'm not the enemy
Unless that's what you choose to see

What if I wanna be the one who
You never understand?
Do you ever think you'll ever want to still try to hold my hand?
To get through to you I'm still trying to

What if I don't wanna be like you?
Not to make you cry
What if I don't wanna be like you?
Just because I was made to be exactly like me

What if I don't wanna be like you?
Not to tear you down
What if I don't wanna be like you?
Because I found I was made to be exactly like me
I wanna be like me


What if I don't wanna be like you?
What if I don't wanna be like you?
What if I don't wanna be like you?
What if I don't wanna be like you?

What if I don't wanna be like you?
Not to tear you down
What if I don't wanna be like you?
Because I found I was made to be exactly like me
I wanna be like me

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

5 years later

WOW! and 5 years later I'm asking myself- why did I not keep up with this blog??? Pretty sure I know why-life, moving back to the states, figuring out life in America after having been gone for 9 years, moving to Arizona, the invention of Chatbooks to record my life in pictures......I just looked back through this and it is so interesting to read my thoughts from 5-10 years ago! I'm def still the same person with the same questions but I have also come up with a few more:)

Why are American's so obsessed with "stuff?" Why do I have this overwhelming "need" to know what's next? What-of my beliefs/knowledge- is cultural and what is universal? How does God see me? How do I see myself? When will I feel ready to settle down? What does that even mean? Where should I travel to next? Why does Williams, AZ not have a Chick-fil-a? :)

When I initially started this blog it was so people would know what was happening in my life while I lived in Norway and then Belgium. Looking back I realize it had morphed into a place where I was sharing bits and pieces of myself-not really caring if anyone else was reading it. And so today, I begin again- not caring if anyone else finds/reads this but also valuing the ability to not just look back on pictures but also on thoughts, questions and ideas.

5 years later. . . .

I live in a tiny town, where there are more tourists than residents, in Northern Arizona. I work at a camp(which I always thought was my dream job-still figuring that one out). I try to take a 2 week adventure trip each fall and spring-using my passport as often as I can. I have now been to at least 30 countries. I am still figuring out what life looks like for me and what I am passionate about. I have kept a few foster kids short term-which as been on my heart since middle school. I keep in touch with friends on a few continents. I still struggle with identity and a sense of belonging. I am still passionate about women and their strength and successes.  I still question the "why's" of anything I do.

This weekend I am heading back to Atlanta for a baby shower. It has been a couple of years since I have been there and I am so excited to get to see and spend time with people that mean so much to me. 18 years ago I left Pennsylvania in a car packed with my limited earthly goods and drove to Atlanta knowing 3 people. I started a job teaching at a school I had been to one time(for an interview). I lived in the basement(picture cement floors, an area rug and flying cockroaches as my neighbors) of a friends family. I arrived feeling nervous and insecure but also excited about the possibilities. Feeling like I did not fit in to the southern world in which I had arrived. 4 years later I left Atlanta calling it home. I left with friends that had become family. I left having met some of the biggest heroes of my life- Teachers, Mothers, Students, Athletes and Activists. I head back this weekend knowing I will see some of those amazing women and some others I've met along the way in Norway and Belgium(somehow everyone ends up living in Atlanta at one point or another!). Women who are strong and loyal. Women who are vulnerable and giving. Women who care deeply and give of themselves freely. I am so excited to see some of these mentors and friends and hear what they have been learning about life.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

on being single and a wedding

I am back in Belgium after an almost 2 week adventure to California.  One of my best friends-Sarah was going from being a Holt to a Kappen and I was not going to miss it.  Since it was such a long trip and I have begun to hate plane rides- I get VERY antsy after the first 2 hours- I decided to make a vacation of it and get to spend some sweet moments with Sarah before she went from single to married.  

I am SO glad I made the trip and that I went out early.  I can say it was SOO good for my soul.  
Another friend of mine from Belgium-Christie- also came out early and we rented a beach house together.  So for a few days it was just Sarah, Christie and I at the house.  It was beyond lovely to wake up leisurely in the mornings, eat breakfast together, work out together(yes-we did Insanity) and then go to the beach or run errands or whatever the day called for.  All the while having amazing conversations about life-it's challenges and it's joys.  I laughed so much my abs were hurting by the second day.  These ladies are AMAZING women of God who know how to listen well and not always feel like they have to solve problems.  They are women of prayer.  Women who love well.  Women who care deeply.  True Community is something I tend to lack in Belgium and I got to experience amazing community last week.  As I said-it was good for my SOUL.
The finale of the week was of course the wedding- which was probably the most beautiful and meaningful wedding I have ever gotten to be a part of-and if you know me- I consider myself in the running for 27 dresses status!  It was truly about 2 lives coming together as one.  The wedding was beautiful in an aesthetic sense-with old fashioned lights and pennants decorating the church and reception- but even more beautiful in a spiritual sense.  From them inviting the people there to stand and commit to encouraging them as a married couple to the families coming together for an intimate communion in the middle of the service to the pure worship as Rex(Bride's dad and pastor) joyfully yelled out while singing 10,000 reasons.  It was AWEsome!

Weddings are beautiful and intimate and powerful.  As a single woman I love the promise of a wedding.  The beauty of the day.  The beginning of a new adventure.  But the thing I love most about a wedding is the idea that for probably the only time in your life(except perhaps your funeral) it is the one time when people from all the different parts of your life come together to celebrate.  Maybe it's because my life is so compartmentalized.  Many of my friends have never met each other because they live across the country or even the world.  I love the idea that all of my friends and family will get to meet and have a party together!  That I will get to stand before them and God and make a lifelong commitment.  That everyone gets to be a part of the beginning of something so deep, so intimate.
As a single woman weddings not only bring out joy for this amazing and beautiful moment but it is often a bittersweet reminder that I am single.  Top that off with the fact that the week before the wedding it was mother's day and I had to SIT through the typical- "all mother's STAND up" bit at church- wondering if I will ever get to stand up-it made for an awesome but sometimes overwhelming week.  YES- I want to celebrate the mother's and YES I want to celebrate the brides-I want to be their loudest fans, their biggest cheerleaders but it does remind me of what I am not- a wife or mother.  Sometimes people write me cards and they mention me being a mother to so many through my job.  Yes -I have loved and mentored many kids over the years but I have not had to learn the selflessness that comes with motherhood.  I do not get to stand up on mothers day with all the other mother's- no matter how many lives I have touched.  As pastor's speak of Motherhood being the highest calling I am reminded that I may never be able to pursue that calling no matter how much I want it.  Sometimes people(especially within the church) say it is a privilege to be single and have time to do the things I want to do and to serve others with my time but at the same time they speak about how man was not meant to be alone.  As a single woman within the church there is more often than not this feeling of not belonging.  I have often felt used as a single person- someone who can help with children's ministry or with babysitting since they have time-so that the real people(the married people) can go to church or do fun things.  Single people are often not invited into community with married people but, regardless of age lumped together with all other single people-as if being single or married is the most important defining characteristic of each person.  I have often been made to feel-either overtly or covertly- that something is wrong with me-that I am not full or complete person until I am married.  Like the time my sister and I joined the same church at the same time.  We are basically the same age(she's one year older than I) but she was married with kids.  Right away she got invited to be a part of all kinds of groups while I was asked to help out in the nursery but not invited into any kind of community.  Or one holiday with my family when I was placed at the kids table(I was in my late 20's and the next oldest person at the kid's table was about 12) while my cousin, who is younger than I, was placed at the adults table because he had gotten engaged-I will admit to possibly calling them out on that one.

As I traveled home I was able to process through some of my thoughts and feelings from the week.  I tend to be a slow processor so it was nice to have a plane ride to work through some thoughts.  There may have been a moment on the plane where tears were literally streaming down my face but I think I did a pretty good job of paying it off as something in my eye:)  I am BEYOND excited for my sweet friend as she beings this whole new adventure of being married.  I was thrilled to stand beside her on Saturday and cry and smile and laugh as she joined her life with Billy's.  They are amazing people individually and I can already see God beginning to grow them and use them together as a couple.  I love that God orchestrated their lives is such a unique way and that there are no other Billy's or Sarah's in the world.  They are unique as individuals and they will be unique as a married couple.  I pray and have faith that their marriage is going to be powerful in many lives.

Maybe that's why these feeling and thoughts have come up- Because I could see what God is doing in them and through them and their coming together.  Maybe it makes me want that sense of community even more.  It is also a reminder to me that others want to be a part of community.  That even in my daily life I want to be inviting other people into my life- regardless of their marital status.

Friday, April 26, 2013

It's that time of year again!  We have been back from our Young Life service project for about 3 weeks.  Once again it was an AMAZING week.  We took 40 kids and 6 Adults from Brussels.  I honestly can not put it into word but since a picture is worth a 1000 words- consider this a novel!
Here is my cabin of girls- all juniors.  They were beasts on the Obstacle course which included getting pelted by flour balloons and having to carry me!
YES- I am so excited to be building my 8th playground!!
 By day 3 I was a bit tired of being the coordinator so I grabbed Ella and Ally along with a drill, measuring tape and saw and we got the platform wrapped in wood.  This is us being hardcore!
 Celine and I-this was our 5th service project together and this year we recruited her husband. I think he's "IN" cuz after about 4 days of being back he told her he missed it already:)
 Here I am with our senior student leaders- I am going to miss these awesome ladies next year!  They are amazing!  Madison is heading to university in Australia and Kelcie is off the Auburn!
 The adult and student leaders- 3 years ago this was as big as our whole group and now this is just the leaders-God is so powerful!!
 The Macedonian kids LOVING their new playground!
 So stinking Cute!!!
 and so cheeky!!
 Young Life Brussels in downtown Struga, Macedonia
 We saw lots of interesting things including a tractor that was actually a mobile saw mill- it looked like a car made out of scrap metal but they would drive it around and use it to cut wood.  This was one of the best sign-YES you can drive your donkey cart on the road-in case you were wondering!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Adventure.  It's something I crave.  It makes me feel alive.  I know I often speak of control but when it comes to travel I love to explore new places.  To get on a plane, land in an unknown country and hit to road to see what I find.  Now the modern convenience of the GPS does give me a bit more confidence but it still is fun to get lost and find something new.

This past year has been quite busy with work.  While that is awesome it has not left me a whole lot of time for adventure.  Sure I have traveled but it has pretty much been to places I have been before or it has been for work-in which case there are not a whole lot of chances to just see where the road leads me.

As I am typing this I am actually laughing at myself because I know I often speak of wanting and seeking control in my life but it seems the one place I love to get outside that box is when I travel.

Well this past weekend I headed off to Portugal.  The US women's soccer team was playing a tournament there and I was meeting up with some friends to take in a couple of games.  After having seen the women at the Olympics I was pretty excited to see them again.  I brought my face paint and various USA things in case we wanted to go all out.  I am a little sad to say that we did not go all out but we apparently still got on the live coverage several times because I received an email from a friend in the states asking if I was at the games cuz she was 99% sure she had seen me at lease 3 times and she thought the camera guy had a love affair with us:)

I arrived in Portugal on Friday and we headed straight to the game.  Right as the game began it started POURING.  Not the weather I was hoping for but we were just excited to be there.

Pouring rain
Game Face:)
Megan and I are excited and Kerry is just realizing we have the same camera

By the 2nd half the weather turned gorgeous and we considered running over the security guard to stand in the sun that was on the field-we were gonna promise not to harass the players- we just wanted the sun and the stands were in the shade!  but we held ourselves back:(

Tobin Heath sure has a game face while she signs
went for a sunset walk on the beach
 My friends had to leave saturday but I stayed on to watch the Monday game.  So on Sunday, with the sun shining, I went for a walk on the beach and then found a place where the wind wasn't whipping and sat and read in the sun-GLORIOUS!  Monday the game was about and hour away so i decided to make a day of it and left early to go visit some cliffs and a fort I had heard about.  Though it was still quite windy the sun was out and I made it work:)
Cliffs of Sagres

I'm so excited to be in Portugal!
Game on Monday
The Fort at Sagres

Monday, February 4, 2013

Between two worlds

I went downtown the other day dressed like this.  I wouldn't say this look is particularly "american" or "european" but probably somewhere in between.  The converses are less american than the many pair of other sneakers I have but the bright blue coat is not so very european.  Apparently I am completely wrong about what makes a look american or european for as I exited the Metro at DeBroukere a girl(woman actually-probably in her early 20's) essentially yelled at me, "Vous etes Americaine!"(you are american) and then looked at me and smiled and repeated it louder and with the affirmative nodding of her head.  I was so shocked -first that someone would make eye contact with a stranger on the Belgian metro but also that someone I didn't know would speak to me(maybe not so much to me as at me- but. . . )!  I simply nodded my head yes, gave her a quick smile(trying to hide the shocked look on my face) and ran up the stairs.
Seriously though- I am perfectly aware that I am 100% american.  As a matter of fact I am very capable of laughing at myself and my purely american sense of style.  But I was not aware that my outfits are so SHOCKINGLY american that perfect strangers in the metro feel it is their duty to shout it to everyone within earshot!