Changing Tides

“Changing tides, baby that’s the hardest part of life.” – Isaac Slade, The Fray

I’ve heard it said that the hardest part of our lives is where we are transitioning from one version of ourselves to another, and I couldn’t agree more. For me, the past couple weeks have been rough. Not to say that there haven’t been great moments, because there has, but I think that it’s been eventful to say the least.

The past saturday, I spent the day by myself, which is how I’ve found myself a lot lately. But sitting on the bank of Lake Michigan, I couldn’t help but bring myself to think of the one place that has touched me more than any other place in the world: Many Glacier.

I believe everyone has a soul place, a place where they feel free, the most connected to God…a place they long to be when they’re away from it for even the slightest bit of time. For me, that place is Many Glacier. (For those of you who don’t know, Many Glacier is located in Glacier National Park in Montana.) Over the past few weeks, I’ve been overcome with a whirlwind of emotions, but reflecting on my recent trip back to Many a few weeks ago, I think about this next season of my life and how uncertain everything is.

A lot has happened in my 24 years of living: Unspoken suicide attempts. My father’s passing. Depression. Recovering from an alcohol addiction. Drifting apart from old friends. Moving. Graduating College. Unexpected changes. Gaining new family members.

All of these things, these circumstances, have led me to where I am today. Every interaction and conversation I’ve had with someone has impacted my life in some shape or form.

When I left glacier last summer, I left feeling exhausted…mentally, physically, and spiritually. I didn’t really understand why things played out the way that they did until I actually took the time to reflect on it. Someone told me that when we feel distance from God, it’s not because he left us. God is always with us. When we feel that distance, it’s when we stop placing Him as a priority in our life. We put our relationship with Him on the back burner and try to control everything that is going on in our life, and sometimes in the lives of others.

The words “growth” and “priorities” have popped up a lot in the past few months. Life can be funny sometimes. Time seems to pass by quicker than we think, and in the amount of time, we can feel as if we learned nothing. But with the right perspective, we can see the change. Our attitudes and opinions shift slightly based upon the things we’ve gone through and the people we surround ourselves with.

Someone recently asked me what my five-year plan looked like…and I’ll be completely honest: I don’t have one. It’s not to say that they don’t work, I’m sure they do for others, but for me, I just don’t find it realistic. Yes, I have things that I want to accomplish, however, I’ve learned that you cannot place a specific timeline on your life. Had this person asked me a few years ago, I probably could’ve given them a definitive answer, but ever since my dad died, I’ve had a different way of thinking. I hardly know what I’m doing five months from now, let alone five years. I’ve learned that yes, dreams and goals help aspire us to become something, but everyone has a different timeline, and despite what society tells us on when we should have certain things done by, I just don’t find it attainable to have a “set plan” for how my life is going to turn out.

As I drove back to Wisconsin this past week, there was a song that came on as my friend and I were driving through the plains of North Dakota. The song was called, “Journey On” by Elms District. The song repeats itself over and over in a lulling and reflective way, saying:

“You’ve only got one more river to cross. One more storm to go through. You’ve only got one more journey to walk, and know the waters wide. You’ve only got one more mountain to climb. One more hand to reach for. You’ve only got one more journey to walk, and you’re on the other side.”

I had never heard that song up until that moment, but I felt as if it was a way that God was speaking to me. (Side note: God is always speaking to us, in many different ways. It’s just a matter of if we’re taking the time to listen or not.) Mountains and valleys, as cliché as they are, are good representation of the trials we face in life. All vary in size and shape, but the duration of time it takes to get to the top (or through the trial in this case) is entirely dependent on how long we’re willing to climb or endure the pain.

Something that has been on my heart for a while is that we are constantly worried about everything in our life. What is our next job is going to be? Where should I live? What if I lose my job? Why don’t I feel good enough? What if this person doesn’t like me? And so on and so forth. I know personally, I put certain expectations upon myself in hopes that I will appease society and the people around me. But tell me, when did we start living for the opinions of other people? When did we stop living life the way God says we should? Where did our confidence and self-esteem go?

I think we have so much trouble just giving up and into God because we’ve become accustomed to the temporary things of this world and have forgotten what we know about God. What do we know about own? The Bible tells us he created this entire Earth and every soul that wanders it. He created me, you, your best friend, that person you just can’t seem to get along with.

He created every planet and star in the universe. The hands that so carefully rolled stars in his palms formed your soul. Not only that, but he knows every thought you’ve had; he sees your soul and knows you better than you know yourself and yet he loves you just the same. He’s mapped out your life with perfect precision. The creator of the universe looks upon you with love and you are worthy in his eyes. This beautiful, glorious world and life he created for you. He died on the cross with you in his heart so that you could have and experience that.

So why is it so hard? Why is it so hard to for us to let go of this world and throw ourselves at his feet? We still focus on these evanescent things That distract us from this wonderful truth. We become slaves to our reputations, the acceptance of others and we measure our worth by these things and push God to the side. BUT, we need to realize that putting God first and losing all of these other distractions doesn’t mean losing happiness; it means gaining joy.

It’s hard because we let it be hard. When we think of losing the world, we think of losing everything, but this world is not everything. The word “heaven” is mentioned in the Bible 457 times, the word “world” 190… how much more important do you think eternal life is then this temporary, short one? How incredible do you think it will be when he takes our faces in his nail-scarred hands, looks us in the eyes and tells us how much he loves us? Whatever you think, it’s infinitely better. God promises us a hope and a future. So, give into that greater power. Because with it, you are promised eternal joy and love from the One who lived and died for you.

The scripture says, “God will give you beauty for ashes.” Ashes here represents our broken dreams, our failures, our disappointments and our hurts. That’s the key here: you have to let go of the ashes before you can receive the beauty…if you won’t let go of the old, you can’t receive the new.

In Acts, Peter learned to be content with what he had. Which is remarkable since he had so little. He had a jail cell instead of a house. He had four walls instead of a mission field. He had chains instead of jewelry, a guard instead of a wife. How could he be so content? Simple. He had focus on a different list.

He had eternal life. He had the love of God. He had forgiveness of sins. He had the surety of salvation. He had Christ, and Christ was enough. What he had in Christ was far greater than what he didn’t have in life.

Romans 8:18 (NIV) says, “The pain that you’ve been feeling, can’t compare to the joy that’s coming.”

With that in mind, it’s okay to question, to doubt. But don’t dwell there. The answers we want from God might not come dramatically. They might not be in front of our face. But maybe if we keep going, keep asking all the questions that get laid on our hearts, something miraculous might happen: we might find a few answers or we might find peace with the not knowing.

There is mercy and grace in asking big questions. To ask big questions is to go before our God, who handles all parts of us — our junk, our nastiness, our hopes and our failures. I think God is big enough for your big questions and bigger than any frustrations we can possibly have.

Life is uncertain. It always has been. We never know when our time on Earth will come to and end. But, I’m not here to live in the worries of tomorrow. I’m here to live today, in the now, in this very moment in time. I don’t know what will happen in these upcoming months, but I know one thing that holds true: I will continue to pursue the calling God has placed on my life and I will continue to glorify Him in all that I do, trusting that everything will work out the way it’s meant to in due time.

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Lessons Learned Along The Way

I’m not sure why, but whenever I find myself near a body of water, I always have a lot of things that get put into perspective. Maybe it’s the calming sound of the waves as the crash onto the shore line. Maybe it’s because looking out onto the horizon really makes it feel like there’s an infinite world around me. Or maybe it’s because the mountains that sit before me make me think about the mountains and valleys in our lives, the good and the bad and how everything that we’ve experienced thus far has shaped us into who we are.

Regardless of what body of water I’m sitting near, I always seem to learn a thing or two from this life that I’ve been fortunate enough to live. The lessons I’ve learned along the way, I’ve found are usually learned during the worst seasons of our life and often from the worst mistakes made (whether by you or someone else). I’ve found life is full of ups and downs; of joy and happiness and sadness and anger. We experience various trials and emotions… and sometimes we forget that it’s okay to be vulnerable and allow ourselves to feel. We’re human. We’re not perfect, nor should we be. It’s okay to make mistakes, to second-guess our decisions sometimes. And you know what? The perspective we gain through these times in our life changes us…and rightfully so.

In Ireland, I truly learned the meaning that life is short and that we should never take it for granted. While I have heard these said a million times, it never really sunk in until I traveled abroad back in May 2015. It was in Ireland that I found out my dad passed away. Being 3500 miles away from home when you get that kind of news is heart-wrenching. No one can prepare you for the kind of pain you feel when this happens, being so far away and not being able to do anything or be near your family. It was extremely difficult, but the lesson I learned from this still affects me today. Be in the moment, say all the things you need to say, and appreciate all of the people in your life, because life is short and we don’t know how long we get to live it.

Lake Michigan, and being in Milwaukee, has taught me home isn’t necessarily where you live, but rather, who you have beside you. Every place I’ve lived (Prescott, Montana, Milwaukee), has a part of my heart and so do the people that I’ve met along the way. Each place is beautiful for different reasons, and each city has impacted my life in some way. To be honest, it doesn’t affect me so much as to where I live, as long as I have a roof over my head, and a job that lets me eat and provide for myself. But the people, that’s what really matters. I’ve found that having a great community and support system has benefitted me so much more than my love for a particular place. Do I love mountains and being in the middle of nowhere where I don’t have to be so reliant on technology and the past-paced life that the city brings? Very much so, however, I’ve found that if I don’t have that support system, people who will encourage me and people who allow me to be the best version of myself, I end falling back into a place in my life where I just don’t want to do anything and isolate myself as much as possible. The amount of people I have here in Milwaukee, supporting me and having the same morals as me, has been something I’ve always cherished. I finally feel like I truly belong somewhere. I know that God will lead me somewhere new in the future, and I’ll move once again. Places come and go, and so do people I guess, but if you find those life-long friends, they’ll be by your side wherever you go. And believe me when I say that that has made all the difference.

Many Glacier, the place where I spent the last two summers of my life, has probably had the most impact on my life. It’s taught me more lessons than I can share at the moment…but I’ll stick with the cliché lesson of living in a national park with a mountain ranges as your backyard. The mountains and valleys, they symbolize they good and bad times in our lives. We all have them, and will continue to have them, because bad times will inevitably come as they always do. But I’ve found we can do one of two things when that happens. We can either sit and complain about the problem or we see the problem as a blessing in disguise. And please note, I’m not saying you can’t be frustrated, because I know that I was upset for a long time after my dad died, however, death is inevitable and sometimes, its in these moments where we receive the best things to ever happen to us. For me, after my dad died, I was a wreak and became heavily dependent on alcohol to solve all of my issues. I hit rock bottom because I didn’t know how to live without someone who had been in my life for so long. But God brought me to Glacier to see that everyone goes through bad times, that we’re all going to have those valleys in our life. I’ve found that most of my growth comes from those valleys, because while we all strive for those “mountain top moments,” there’s always going to be another mountain, and the lessons we learn from those previous mountains will help us with the next one. In Romans 8:28, it says, “God promises to make something good out of the storms that bring devastation in your life.” I can finally say that I’m almost 2 years sober and that I’m in the best mental health state that I’ve ever been in in my entire life. Some mountains are harder than others to climb but allowing ourselves to view them from a positive perspective changes our entire life.

Throughout all of these places, I’ve realized how much of a necessity self-care truly is. Andre Lorde once said, “I have become to believe that caring for myself is not self-indulgent. Caring for myself is an act of survival.” I have to wholeheartedly agree. You can do all the things you want in the world, but if you’re not taking care of yourself, you’re just going to burn yourself out and have no motivation or drive to do anything. Nothing good comes from putting yourself on the back burner. So here are some things I’ve done in the past couple months that have gotten me to where I am currently, maybe they’ll inspire you to put yourself first too.

Staying In. Please note, I’m not saying isolate yourself from society. The last few years, I’ve always had this “go-go-go” mentality, always moving, trying to hang out with as many people as possible and working so much so that I didn’t know any different.  I think the first time I noticed myself living like this was when in my final year of college. I was working full-time (50-60 hours) while taking a 20-credit class load and still volunteering at my church and commuting into the city every other day. Make sure you’re taking the time to rest, to do some things by yourself and allow yourself to breathe. Don’t overwork yourself, you have one body and one life, and it’s up to you to make sure that you’re taking care of yourself.

Self-Love. In a previous blog post, I mentioned taking soul breaks. Similar to staying in, it’s just another way of making sure you don’t burn yourself out. Self-love looks differently to everyone. To some it may be doing something by yourself: hiking, taking a nap, going for a long drive, playing your guitar or whatever your heart so desires; just doing something that allows you to refresh and nourish your soul. To some it may be making sure you take time do the things you love. For me, I’ve regained my passion for a few things: hiking, reading (yes, I’m a book worm and have no shame for this), painting, coloring in my journaling Bible, and writing. While as mundane as these hobbies may seem, they bring me joy and allow me to forget about all of the “problems” I thought I had. And to others it may be rebuilding your self-confidence. I recently read a book by Annie Downs, there was a specific quote that really it me. It said, “If you are going to be the person who does the brave things God is calling you to do: speaking life and developing beautiful things in others with your words, it begins with doing that for yourself.” How can I speak life into someone when I barely do it to myself? I’ve made more of an effort to remind myself that I was made who I was for a reason. I’ve learned that I’m shy at times, and other times I’m sillier than I could imagine. I’ve learned to embrace who I am as a whole. The thing is, my worth isn’t found in the opinions of other people. It’s defined by God and who HE says I am. If you find yourself in a place where it’s hard to love yourself because you’ve been so consumed by the thought of what the world has made you believe, remind yourself of this: society’s standards of beauty didn’t create you, as they are unattainable and give you a false identity. God created you. And He doesn’t make mistakes…let that sink in. Learn to speak life into yourself, it all starts in your mind: what you give power to has power over you, or as my friend likes to say, “The thoughts in your head rule your world.” Think positive. A beautiful day starts with a beautiful mindset and when you wake up in the morning, think about what a privilege it is to simply be alive and healthy. The moment you start acting like life is a blessing, it will start to feel like one. Time spent appreciating is time worth living, learn to see the world through the lens of self-love, care and humility.

Don’t Be Afraid to Say No. Regardless of why you might think, the word “No” is in the English Dictionary. And yes, I feel like it took a long time for me to actually use this word. I’ve always been the type of person who would put other people first, and sometimes I still do that. But, you have to find a balance helping others and maintaining a good mental health. If you’re feeling tired or burnt out and someone asks you do them a favor, make sure you aren’t afraid to say no. You have to make yourself a priority too. If you’re like me and hate saying no, try compromising and say something like, “Hey____, I’ve been working a lot the past couple days and just really want to rest today. Can I help you tomorrow?” This shows you still care and want to help, but also shows that you are trying to take care of yourself as well. Don’t feel like you need to carry the whole world on your shoulders, as one of my friends from Glacier told me last summer, prioritize you. You can only help others once you’ve helped yourself.

Kim McMillan once said, “When I loved myself enough, I began leaving whatever wasn’t healthy. This meant people, jobs, my own habits – anything that kept me small. My judgement called it disloyal. Now I see it as self-loving.” When it’s all said and done, you have to invest in yourself. Self-care is a necessity in life, and call me selfish if you want, but I’m finally putting myself first. I’m not going to lie, it hasn’t always been easy. I had to learn how to love myself again:  from the messy hair and tired eyes to the pure joy that came from simply finding time to rest. It’s one of the hardest things I have ever done, mainly because I care about helping other so much, but the end of the day, it was worth it. Because in the end, the only person you really have to count on is yourself, and if you don’t love you, who will?

For the Sake of Being Real and Honest.

“If you aren’t willing to be honest and vulnerable with the people that are in your life, then you’re letting fear win, and if you’re letting fear win, than you need to figure out why that fear started in the first place.”

Want to know who said that?

Me, just now.

But all jokes aside, honesty and vulnerability are two traits that I value more than anything.

I very recently had a conversation with a friend of mine. This person hasn’t been in my life long, but they are someone who’s opinion I highly value and respect. The context of the conversation isn’t relevant, and quite frankly, it’s not my place to say what it was about, but there was something they said to me that really hit me. Not in a bad way, but more of a thought-provoking, reality check kind of way. They said something along the lines of, “You have to be willing to have hard conversations sometimes, because it allows you to let go of the past, of what you were feeling. Because once that happens, this imaginary weight will be lifted off of you and you can move on with your life.” Now mind you, that’s not exactly what they said verbatim, but you get the point.

The thing that stops me the most from being truly honest and vulnerable with the people in my life is fear. Fear of judgement, rejection, loss…you name it. If you know me well enough, you know that I have a tendency to avoid conflict; and while this can sometimes be a good thing, in most instances this is a hindrance to any type of relationship that I have. My reasoning for avoiding conflict is due to the fact that I don’t like to be the cause for people’s hurt, nor do I like being hurt.  For the longest time, I truly believed that it was better to be closed off and not let people in, because that way they couldn’t hurt me. But I couldn’t have been more wrong. You know, it’s okay to be scared, but you have to put yourself out there at some point. You have to make new friends and allow yourself to be vulnerable. You have to be willing to love and make mistakes; to learn and become a stronger version of yourself and start all over again.

Here’s the thing.

The time in our lives is wasted when we find ourselves in a position when we know we need to take a leap and go for something…to say something, but we turn around instead. It’s wasted when we anxiously hit backspace while typing a message to someone or constantly avoid a question because we’re too afraid of expressing how we truly feel. Time is lost in the what ifs of our lives, of the could’ve, should’ve, would’ve moments. It’s true when they say that time can pass by fast, but it’s important to note that time isn’t necessarily wasted in the passing minutes, hours, days, months, and years. It’s wasted when we count the seconds and let those seconds pass by when we could have made them count.

You can never be happy if you’re always afraid to let go of what’s comfortable and familiar in nature. Sometimes, the comfortable habits we keep, those are the things that will hurt us the most in the end. Learn to be honest all the time. Learn to say what you mean, but don’t say it mean. And if you can’t be real or honest with the people in your life, think about what it is in your life that you need to work on and why you feel that you can’t be real or honest. If I’ve learned anything over these past few months, it’s that I’d rather speak up and tell someone what’s on my mind or how I feel than let the non-spoken words and feelings consume my life. And often times, it was a previous encounter that occurred in my life that forced me to stay quiet, because I was afraid that I was going to be a continuous cycle of hurt. But honesty in the past few months has been a blessing. For the longest time, I’ve been in this state of letting few people in, and only when I thought it was convenient for me. The last few months has brought new people in my life, people who have showed me that it’s okay to be vulnerable, to be intentionally authentic with the people in my life.

John Lennon once said, “Being honest may not get you a lot of friends, but it’ll always get you the right ones.” To me, this statement couldn’t be truer. It’s in the moments when I allowed myself to be honest, to be transparent with the people around me, that I gained true friendships, ones that look at me…the ones who see my authenticity, see all my flaw and imperfections, and stay anyways. They continue to encourage me, to speak life into me because of the willingness I had to be vulnerable and honest with them and allow them to do the same in return.

I’ve said this before and I’ll keep saying it: Don’t let your fears get in the way from living life. Living a life being constantly afraid to tell people how you’re feeling will never get you anywhere. Have those hard conversations. Be bold and say what you need to say. At the end of the day, we’re all human, and we have to realize that it’s only when we allow ourselves to become real and honest that other people will follow suit. Be intentional with the people in your life. Be honest. Be real.

And if things in life don’t go the way you want them to, shake off the past and try again, because I promise you this, better things are yet to come.  And the way I see it? It’s better to live an honest life than to live one full of regret and things left unsaid.

A Letter To My Dad In Heaven

Dear Dad,

It’s been a little over two and a half years since you passed away, but it only seems like yesterday. As this 23rd of December seems to continue on at an ever-so sloth-liked pace, I finally decided to get the courage to put my words on paper (or in this case, on a screen).

Life hasn’t been the same since you passed away, and I guess that’s both a good and bad thing. The bad thing is that you aren’t here with me. You don’t get to experience some of the many firsts in my life, like how I graduated from college this past May, or how I finally got my first apartment, to even getting married to my future husband someday, God-willing. You won’t be here to celebrate the highs or encourage me when I’m feeling down. Now, you’re probably shaking your head at me. Of course you’ll be there in spirit, as you would say, you’ll always be with me in my heart. While corny and true, it still sucks that you won’t be here in person.

Some of the good things, if I had to pick a good thing, would be that I’m finding out more about myself and who I am without you in my life. Now you may have noticed, but living without someone who has been in your life for 21 years is really hard. Another good thing? I learned that If I can handle your death and learn to move on in life, I can conquer anything that comes my way, because I have a God who loves me so much that He gives me the strength to get through things I didn’t think were possible.

Dad, here’s where my strong façade starts to crack. You see, growing up, I watched you struggle with alcoholism and your addiction to cigarettes. It saddened me that someone who I loved so much could be so dependent on these drugs. It’s hard to remember a time where you didn’t have one or the other in your hand. I also know that because of these two things, plus your many health issues, that this caused you to have a heart attack after you quit drinking cold turkey. When I found out you passed away, I was so mad at you. There were many times I has asked you to quit drinking and smoking, what made this last time so different? If you had given it up years ago, you might still be here. Now I won’t play the what if game, but things would be so different if you gave it up many years ago instead of that May.

It’s funny how the grieving process works. I’ve come to terms that you’re dead and never coming back.  I understand that you’re in heaven and that you’re watching over me, but I hate how every time I accomplish something, or if I have a question about my car, I want to call you but I can’t. There’s a split second where I forget that you passed away, and I get excited to hear your voice. But I know that will never come. It sucks having to watch all of my friends (and random strangers) hang out with their dads and watch them take their time with them for granted. It sucks to see that they get to do a lot of things that I won’t get to do.

For me, the holidays are the worst part of the year. Holidays, at least these past two years, have been a not so subtle reminder that you’re no longer here, something that I normally can stop myself from thinking about until they creep up so suddenly that I don’t know how to react.

Dad, I miss you so much that it sometimes just hurts to even think about past holidays, about the good times we had while I was growing up. I truly wish you could be here, but sadly, I know you can’t; I guess I’ll just stick with old photographs and passed down stories from when you were younger.

As much as I try to pretend that everything is alright, I know deep down in my heart that it’s not. I just want to know when it’ll stop hurting. When I’ll finally be able to get through the holidays without locking myself in the bathroom and bawling my eyes out because it hurts too damn much. I want to know when this void in my heart will stop growing.

I really miss you dad, I just don’t know what else to say.

But enough of the complaining, because I know you would tell me to stop if you were still around. So I won’t. Instead, I want to thank you for some of the greatest lessons I’ve learned from you.

  1. Leave your work, at work. Thanks for this dad, while this wasn’t something you did, It’s something I learned to do over time. Often times I come home with no energy and with an urge to sleep for the next 24 hours. I get so caught up in complaining about my job, when I could be spending time investing more into the people around me.
  2. Don’t let alcohol control your life. As I myself have struggled with an alcohol addiction in the past, I know this is easier said than done. Some people have amazing control when it comes to drinking, and by all means, good for them. But for me? I don’t know when to stop. That’s why I don’t drink anymore, because I don’t trust myself and I never liked the person I was when I drank.
  3. Don’t take time with your family for granted. Call your parents, call your siblings. Tell them how much you love them, EVERY DAY. Talk to them about the little things going on in your life. And no matter how infuriating or stressed out they make you feel, always end your conversations with, “I love you.” Your family won’t be here forever; be thankful for the time you get to spend with them. I wish I would have answered the phone when you called me the night before you passed away…I’m sorry dad.
  4. The present moment is the most important moment. Get off your phone. Sure, take a few pictures here and there, but get off your phone. Enjoy those late-night chats with your best friend, those spontaneous hangouts that you’ll remember 50 years from now. Enjoy the company you have around you. They won’t always be around, make sure you are intentional about spending every moment being IN the moment… Your Instagram post can wait. Life is too short for half-hearted connections and meaningless run-throughs. Dad, you were never on your phone, I wish I could be more like you in that way. I’m going to try to be.
  5. It’s okay to not be okay. Really, it is. We all have to deal with trials and struggles at some point in our life, it’s okay to have angry days, sad days, so-so days, and even days when you don’t want to see anyone. Days when you just can’t be happy and you think that it’s a terrible day, and you don’t even know why because you just woke up, but don’t let those days consume your life. Talk to your friends, talk to your mentors, parents, pastors. Be open and honest with them. They WANT to know how you’re doing. They’re your support system, and will encourage you when you’re feeling down. Dad, you always showed me that it’s okay to be human, but how we react after the situation settles, that’s what matters. It doesn’t matter how big of a step you take, just as long as you take one.
  6. Take advantage of the opportunities that come your way. We aren’t meant to live in our comfort zone, make sure you are stepping outside the boundaries you’ve made for yourself and find those small adventures that are out there waiting for you. Take time to travel, make new friends, find new hobbies you can enjoy in the future…life is too short to sit around and do nothing. For me, if you hadn’t passed away Dad, I never would have been able to experience the breathtaking and soul renewing that Glacier National Park gave me.
  7. GOD is ALWAYS faithful. No matter what trials or hardships seem to come my way, I know that He alone can give me the strength to get through it. God alone is our strength and our refuge. We need to trust His will and His timing. We may not always get to choose what our circumstances are, but we can choose how we deal with it. We can worry and choose fear or we can trust God to lead us through it. Personally, the second option sounds a lot better, and I know you would agree with me on this one dad.

I don’t know if you know this Dad, but you were and always will be my motivation to fight through struggles, work hard, act without fear, smile through the pain, to dream bigger and make those dreams come true. I know that moving on in life without you has and will continue to be hard, but I hope you’re proud of the woman I’m becoming. I really hope that I haven’t let you down in some way…I’m sorry if I did.

I love you Dad, forever and always. I hope and pray heaven is treating you kindly. May you continue to rest in peace with Jesus, I know full well that I’ll see you on the other side someday.

With all my love, heart, and soul,

Sara Jane ❤

Glacier Reflections

It’s been a little over a month since I left Many Glacier, and I still cannot fathom all of the glorious blessings God has given me this summer. Sometimes in life, our trials can often seem like roadblocks; however, God showed me this summer that that isn’t always the case. This summer held many trials for me, involving my family, my friends, and my job. More often than not, it was some sort of combination between the three. But, I truly believe that God uses the people in our lives to speak to us. He puts us through certain situations and in certain places to show us different lessons we need to learn. For me, this summer in Glacier showed a plethora of things, but there were a few things that stood out the most:

Communication is Key:

Just like in any relationship or friendship, communication is key. Being able to have people you can talk to for one, but being able to be vulnerable and express your fears, doubts, and worries with people is so vital. And for me, this summer really showed me just how crucial it is for me to be around a solid group of people who are able to communicate well with me. Despite me being around so many people this summer, I don’t think I’ve ever felt so isolated and lonely. That’s hard for me to admit, because if you know me, you know that I can tend to bottle things up and not admit when something is wrong. And that’s what I did for the majority of the summer. I pretended as if everything in my life was fine, when in actuality it wasn’t.

Being introverted in nature, it can be hard for me to open up to people if I feel even the slightest bit uncomfortable in any given situation. Not to say I won’t open up, but it makes it harder to talk to people. In most instances this summer, a few people had to force me to talk about what was going on. There was one friendship in particular this summer that I really struggled with, and despite talking and working things through before I left Glacier, I couldn’t help but think on my drive home that maybe things wouldn’t have been so tense all summer if I had just sucked up my pride and stubbornness and had talked to them sooner. With this particular friend, this summer truly showed me the importance of communication. While it’s something I’ve always known, I realized that 99% of the problems we had this summer wouldn’t even have existed if I had just had spoken up and had been honest enough to put my feelings into words. Instead, I did the opposite. I felt as if ignoring the problem would magically fix things, but in reality, it didn’t. And when I figured that out, I began to “fix” the problem by trying to be a better friend without ever really communicating to them that there was a problem until it got to a point where we weren’t really speaking. Trust me when I say that, communication is so essential to any type of relationship you have. Having close friends who are like family require communication, because without communication, you have nothing. You need people in your life who aren’t afraid of communicating how they’re feeling, who aren’t afraid to be brutally honest with one another, and someone that, no matter if you get frustrated or angry with one another, is always going to have your back.

Authenticity Please:

As we grow older, we really just want people in our lives that are good to us, good for us, and good for our soul. We as humans crave genuine, authentic community; relationships that allow us to be ourselves, to have raw and honest conversations. We need people in our life who are going to hold us accountable, who will continually encourage us in every season of our life, people who will push us to be the best version of ourselves and not let the past hinder our future.

I’ll be honest. I’m starved for connection, not attention. I could care less if I’m the center of attention, because I dislike being in the spotlight. But in the in midst of my mainly unplugged summer, I felt isolated, and to be fully real with you all, I still do. I’ve felt like I can’t even talk to people who I have been friends with for years for fear of judgement. But let me tell you something: when it comes to having authentic relationships, It’s not our job to judge. It’s not our job to figure out if someone deserves something. Our job is to lift the fallen, restore the broken, and to heal those who are hurting. The thing is, when God puts love and compassion in your heart toward someone, He’s offering you an opportunity to make a difference in that person’s life. You must learn to follow that love. Don’t ignore it, act on it. Somebody needs what you have. Again, that’s where communication is so important, because if you can’t be fully real with the people around you, you can’t expect them to do the same. With this in mind, we need to be vulnerable and be willing to reach out and ask for help when needed. If we don’t let people see the real us, and see our struggles, how are they supposed to help us grow and get through all the adversities we face? We need to be honest with ourselves as well, not just other people.

Living in the Present Moment:

We sometimes stay so focused on what God has done for us in the past that we sometimes forget about the beauty of all that God has yet to lead us to. Don’t get me wrong, reflecting on the past can be a wonderful thing, but we’re not meant to live our lives there. Often like the mountaintop moments of our life, we’re called to live in the valleys, to grow from our experiences and to learn from one another.

I’ve found that we often cannot control our circumstances, but we can control out attitude and how we deal with it. This summer was vital for me and for my relationship with God; it showed me many areas of my life that I still need to work on: my lack of confidence in myself and my abilities, my communications skills, my attitude towards life and the people around me, and the importance of community. One major thing is that I have become seemingly more aware that I tend to dwell on the past a lot more often than I should. Looking back on everything, I think this started more shortly after my dad passed away. I’ve been thinking, quite honestly, overthinking, about all of the little things that I could have done to change certain outcomes in life. But, then I realize that If those events didn’t play out the way they did, I wouldn’t be where I am today; I wouldn’t have met all of the wonderful people I worked with in Glacier these past two summers.

The truth of the matter is, life is too precious to waste. When we look at life from that aspect, we learn not to take certain moments, or people for granted. Quite honestly, that can be hard in the pro-technological world we live in. Living in Glacier for a second summer in a row showed me that we sometimes need to disconnect from the outside world and focus on what truly matters, the present moment.

Simply put: life becomes more meaningful when you realize that you’ll never get the same moment twice. And being someone who’s emotional doesn’t make you any less of a person. Embrace it. Take advantage of every opportunity. Allow yourself to be vulnerable, to be authentic with those around you and let your empathetic nature shine through. Communicate with each other. Be honest and don’t let fear hinder your future. Someone once told me that I was beautiful because I let myself feel, and how that was a brave thing. I never understood what they meant when they said it, but now I do. It’s okay to show emotion, and to be true to who you are. Life affects people differently, but in the end, our emotions shouldn’t hold us back. Be messy, and complicated, and afraid, and show up anyways.

In The Midst of the Storm

Storms.

That simple, yet monumental word just about sums up my summer here in Glacier, and my seasonal work isn’t even over yet.  This summer is definitely not how I thought it would go; you’d think I’d learn by now that we should never have expectations for what our future holds and that we should just trust God wholeheartedly that He’ll walk alongside us through whatever life throws at us.

A few Sundays ago, I opened to a random page in my devotional book, “New Morning Mercies” by Paul David Tripp. This devotional spoke to me in ways that I can’t even begin to describe.  Let me share with you what it says:

“Jesus sent his disciples across the Sea of Galilee to Bethsaida. They have encountered an impossible headwind and angry seas. If you look at the time clues in the larger passage of Mark 6, you can see that they have been rowing for about 8 hours. They are in a situation that seems impossible, exhausting, frustrating and potentially dangerous. They are far beyond their strength and ability. As you read the passage, you have to ask yourself why Jesus would ever want his disciples in this kind of difficulty. It’s clear that they’re not in this mess because they’ve been disobedient, arrogant, or unwise, but because they have obeyed Jesus.
Jesus sees that his disciples are in this exhausting and dangerous situation, and He sets out and begins to walk across the sea. Yes, you read that right: He walks across the sea. Now, the moment He begins to take this walk, you are confronted with two things. The first is the fact that Jesus of Nazareth is the Lord God Almighty, because no other human being could do what He is doing. But there is a second important thing to observe. The minute He begins to take the walk, you know what He has in mind. If all Jesus wants to do is relieve the difficulty, he wouldn’t have to take the walk. All He would need to do is say a prayer from the shore and the wind would cease. He takes the walk because he is not after the difficulty. He is after the men in the middle of the difficulty. He is working to change everything they think about themselves and their lives. Standing next to the boat as the wind still blows and the waves crash, he says “It is I. Do not be afraid.” He is actually taking one of the names of God. He is saying the “I am” is with them, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the One whom all the covenant promises rest. It is impossible for them to be alone because their existence has been invaded by the grace and glory of the I am.
Why did Jesus send his disciples into that storm? He did it for the same reason he sometimes sends you into storms – because He knows that sometimes you need the storm in order to be able to see the glory. For the believer, peace is not to be found in ease of life. Real peace is only ever found in the presence, power, and grace of the Savior, the King, the Lamb, the I am. That peace is yours even when the storms of life take you beyond your natural ability, wisdom and strength. You can live with hope and courage in the middle of what once would have produced discouragement and fear because you know you are never alone. The I am inhibits all situations, relationships, and locations by His grace. He is in you. He is with you. He is for you. He is your hope.”

Tripp’s words hit a crucial part of my soul. I’ll be honest, I was outright sobbing after I read this. This summer has been nothing but trial after trial in the worst way. I’ve felt so lost and discouraged. I’ve been so emotionally exhausted that I almost up and left Glacier on several different occasions. But that would have been me giving up: and I’m no quitter. I’ve had so much time to convince and remind myself that God called me here for a reason, and while that reason is unbeknownst to me, I know that despite all the hardships this summer has brought so far, this summer is a season of growth. It’s a season of being uncomfortable in every possible way. I’ve said it several times to people here, and these words came back to hit me deep: “God doesn’t call us to be comfortable. He calls us to be comfortable IN Him, in spite of all the things going on around us, in spite of all the trials we continue to face.”

Tripp advised in the book to read 1 Samuel 17. In that passage, it talks about David and Goliath.  The one thing that stood out to me after reading this was that this summer, I feel like David when he’s fighting Goliath. I feel like I’m in the middle of this spiritual war, in a battle that I’m never going to win. I feel like my attention has been so focused on my problems and the world around me, that I haven’t been able to focus on the One who gives me strength and courage to face those battles. This world tells us what we need and when we need it, but I’ve been so focused on these worldly problems affecting me that I’ve failed to realize that the only thing I truly need is Jesus.

Our God is bigger than any battle we face and any worldly thing we’ve been chasing. He is our only true source of Hope. Like myself, you might be dealing with struggles yourself. I encourage you to lean into Jesus; He is always by our side. He’s always working in our lives, even if we can’t always see or feel his presence. We need that faith that David had when He was facing Goliath. All David had was five tiny stones; Goliath was a giant and David knew that this was an impossible battle. But David knew that God would be beside Him in battle. He showed us that it doesn’t matter how small of a stone you have, you just need to believe that God is always with you, and that things will get better if we are patient enough to wait out the storm.

As if that wasn’t enough to hit my soul, later that night, my friend Kaylee played a song for me called “Tremble” by Mosaic MSC.  {For the full effect, feel free to give it a listen: I highly recommend it} In it, it quotes,

“Peace, bring it all to peace. The storms surrounding me, let it break, at Your name.  Still, you call the sea to still, the rage in me to still, every wave at Your name. Jesus, Jesus, you make the darkness tremble. Jesus, Jesus, you silence fear…Your name is a light, that the shadows can’t deny. Your name, cannot be overcome. Your name is alive, forever lifted high. Your name, cannot be overcome.”

Little did she know that this song was exactly what I needed to hear. I needed that reassurance that Jesus, our Lord and Savior, is an all-powerful God who takes away our fear, and carries all of our burdens. Gods plans are always better than anything we can comprehend, and He knew exactly what He was doing when he brought this wonderful lady into my life. Kaylee is simply one of the people you need in your life; she’s on fire for God, has a heart of gold, and if you’re lucky enough to know her, you know she will defend you like no other person will. I know that she’s going to always be there for me, encouraging me to be the best version of myself and to chase God before any worldly thing. She’s taught me that storms, despite all the undeniably scary fears they bring, are necessary for our growth. She’s taught me that it’s in these storms where God allows us to change into the person he designed us to be. Change, I’ve learned time and time again, can be a scary thing. I’ve been constantly trying to find reassurance, to obtain some sort of self-confidence; but in the end, storms allow me to see that my life can’t change for the better if we don’t have a little setback in the process. Life doesn’t always happen the way we want it to, but sometimes the detours God takes us on end up being the best thing we never even knew we needed.

Moving On

“Know there’s a ticket with my name on it. Know there’s a plane leaving any minute. Know there’s a past that is full of fear; This ain’t a chance that I can forfeit. Movin’ On.” – Ciaran McMeeken, “City”

Change.

Some love it, and some are afraid of it. Change is inevitable. It’s a process that we all go through in life, minute by minute, day after day, year after year. Sometimes change is subtle; like a slow Sunday drive down a country back road. And other times, change is sudden, and forces you to rethink every moment of your life that led up to this point.

Someone once told me that, “When God gives you a new beginning, it always starts with an ending. Be thankful for closed doors, for they often guide us to the right one.”

You see, I’ve been learning that there is no rule book for life, nothing that tells us what is right or wrong or how to deal with all the adversities that life throws at us. But our mindset changes everything. Once I started having a more positive mindset and not allowing my past experiences to hinder my future self, I realized just how freer I’ve felt. It’s doesn’t mean that I don’t feel sadness or pain; on the contrary, there are days where all I want to do it sit and cry. And that’s okay. It’s okay to not be okay. But at some point, you have to stop letting the past control your life. We all have so much potential, but when we focus on our past, on the experiences that have shaped who we have come to be, we lose sight of all the beauty of what we have yet to experience in life.

Lately, I’ve been faced with so many changes; none of which are bad. But that doesn’t mean I don’t need time to adjust to everything that seems to be happening all at once. One change that I’ve been looking forward to is my change of scenery. Since being back at Many Glacier, I’ve remembered how much this place has stolen my heart and been a place of renewal, healing, and joy for me. This place has a way of making you forget you had problems to begin with.

This next season of my life is a mystery to me, I have no idea what’s ahead or where I’ll end up come October, but for now, I’m going to make the most of this summer in Glacier. I’m going to embrace the messy, the chaotic, the glorious sunny days, and all the smiling faces I’ll meet along the way. Life never ends up how I wanted it too, but it always ends with how God meant it to fall into place. Every challenge I’ve faced along the way has led me to Glacier once again. Every situation we face, every person we meet; they all impact us in some shape or form.  Instead of analyzing every situation that has happened in the past, I’m choosing to be grateful for the good and the bad, for each lesson that I’ve learned and being thankful for all the friends that have become family to me.

To me, moving on with your life means that you’re slowly growing into the person you were supposed to be. Don’t let fear of change hinder you from experiencing all this world has to offer; every end is a new beginning. So, take a deep breath. Smile. Start again.

Advice from an ACMNP Alum

I remember last year, coming back from the annual A Christian Ministry in the National Parks (ACMNP) Training with a genuine excitement about what God was going to do up in Glacier National Park that summer. With me heading back up to Glacier for another summer with ACMNP, I am still longing for the mountains, along with the rest of God’s creations, and to be able to use my story as a living testimony that our God is good, sovereign, and forgiving to all of His children. I’ll admit, last year didn’t go at all as I planned, but I know that was how God wanted it to turn out. That being said, here are 5 things I wish someone would’ve told me before spending an entire summer living in a national park:

Don’t Have Expectations. Trust me on this one. When I got up to Glacier last summer, all of the expectations I had completely shattered within the first week I was there. It’s going to be tough, probably one of the hardest summers of your life, but the outcome is going to be worth it, and you will leave completely changed. The only expectation you should have is that God is going to move in big ways; it’s all in His timing, we just have to trust Him.

Be Authentic and Intentional. This is one of the most important aspects to your summer. God has called us to a specific park for a reason, and it would be selfish to not share Him with those around us. In order to do this, we need to build relationships. Not only with our teammates (because you do need to have some type of relationship with them and know them on a deeper level than just who you spend your Sundays with), but with your co-workers and other employees who are living in the park.  They are real people with real stories and struggles, most of whom don’t know the God we love and serve.  Most of the people that come to work in the parks are trying to heal, or run from something. Last year, I came into my ACMNP season a couple months after my dad passed away and had used alcohol as a way to cope. When I was in Glacier, I was forced to see that I was idolizing alcohol and putting it before my relationship with God. With the help from one of my friends in Glacier (and God), I became sober, and my friendship with them is one of the deepest ones I’ve ever had in my life. My friend isn’t Christian, but they support what ACMNP does because I took the time to get to know him, show him my struggles (which in turn I found out that he had gone through a similar situation a few years prior), and allow Him to be able to reciprocate that.

1 Corinthians 15:58 (MSG) says, “With all this going for us, my dear, dear friends, stand your ground. And don’t hold back. Throw yourselves into the work of the Master, confident that nothing you do for him is a waste of time or effort.”

Be bold, be yourself, and get to know people on a deep level. I wish I would have done more of this last year, because I know that I could have had a lot more impactful conversations. And that’s the thing, we never know who our testimonies are going to impact.

Take Soul Breaks.  There will come a point in time where you will get tired and feel burnt out. When that happens, well, it will be differently for everyone. My first piece of advice for this, pray daily, whether it’s by yourself or with your team. Have constant connection with our Lord and Savior. My second piece of advice, do something by yourself. Go hiking, take a nap, go for a long drive, play your guitar or whatever your heart so desires, do something that allows you to refresh and nourish your soul. As I said before, this summer is going to be hard, but it’s going to be worth it in the end.

Get Outside. You may be thinking, isn’t that obvious? Well, you’d be surprised at how many people don’t take the time to explore the creations around them. You get to live in a national park for 3+ months; most people who visit stay for a week tops. Take your co-workers hiking, sit by the lake, explore the area around you. Each part of the park has a different story or lesson waiting for you to stumble upon, don’t waste your opportunities to make memories and create new friendships.

Be Thankful. As Andrew Bellisle told us at training, we need to Be ORBS. We need to be the light of Jesus to those around us. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 tells us to “Be Thankful in ALL Circumstances”. Believe me, it can be so easy to be negative and complain about how stressful our jobs can be, because they are indeed stressful. However, whenever life throws us curve balls, and it will, we need to choose to be thankful, to be a positive light in a negative world. The thing is, we can’t always control our circumstances, but we can control our attitude and how we deal with it.  Don’t let tough situations bring you down. Your co-workers see how you deal with pressure and interact with others. Choose to be thankful. Choose to bring joy to those around you. Your positive and joyful attitude may be the only positive interaction your coworker may experience that day. Be the person who brightens their day with a simple hello and smile, because 9/10 times, someone is going to ask you where your joy comes from, and that is when you get to tell them all about Jesus.

All in all, there is a reason God is bringing you to where you are going this summer. I implore you, if you feel like this summer is hard and you can’t do it, stick it out, because God is going to reveal that reason after that last hurdle. If you give up, you won’t know what’s on the other side of those mid-summer blues. Give all your worries to God, and trust that this summer with ACMNP is what you are meant to do. Embrace the unknown. Be true to yourself. Change can be utterly terrifying, but I learned that change doesn’t require us to take giant leaps of faith in hopes to have the results we want right away, all we have to do is trust God and remember that His plans and timing are always better than what we could ever imagine.

~ Sara

Finding My Sense of Self

Once upon a time, I was a little girl with big dreams that I promised myself one day I would make real. I was a girl who didn’t have a care in the world, and who’s only worry was what cereal I was going to eat the next morning. There was an innocence that the world couldn’t seem to take away. As time passed by, and I started my college years, I was still that little girl with big dreams, but I knew that innocence wasn’t going to last forever.  And like an uninvited friend, inevitability showed  up.

When my dad unexpectedly died, my life seemed to do a complete 180. And the way I like to phrase it, I was just a kid who had to grow up way to fast. Suddenly, I wasn’t a little girl anymore. I became something that a 21-year-old shouldn’t have to be right off the bat. It’s hard to try and deal with something so sudden and tragic, when everyone expects you to be strong. And that’s what I was. I was strong for my family. I had to be. I didn’t ask for it, and I definitely didn’t want to be strong. There were countless times where I would be there, for my mom, my brother, my sister, and later at night I would cry myself to sleep trying to fathom or comprehend how this happened. It seemed like I was strong for others but no one was strong for me.

As someone who is still in college, it’s also hard to have stability in your life, and it’s hard when you have all these constant pressures of people who expect you to have your life together. What are you doing when you graduate? When are you going to settle down and get serious about finding a husband? When are you going to get a real job? Why can’t you be like so and so?

It was at this point in my life, June 2015, that I turned to alcohol. Whenever I was stressed out or sad, I would drink to numb the pain. Because I didn’t want to deal with it. Did I acknowledge my dad died? Yes, but mentally and emotionally I just wasn’t ready to deal with it.  1 drink turned to 2, which turned to 3 or 4 a night…every night. I hid it very well, which wasn’t a good thing, but those societal pressures were  constantly being thrown at me time and time again. My drinking became a habitual thing, one that was a constant routine in my life, and like most routines, it was at the point where I didn’t even realize how big of a problem it was, until June 19, 2016. Father’s Day. During this time in my life I was out in Glacier National Park, serving with A Christian Ministry in the National Parks and working in the kitchen at Many Glacier Hotel as an EDR Cook. A few days prior, I had become friends with one of the most influential people in my life to date, whether he actually knows it or not. I had a conversation with him, mainly about my dad, and for some reason told him about my dependency on alcohol, and how I used it to deal with my problems. I don’t remember most of that conversation, but I do remember him saying that being sober was one of the best things he ever gave himself, it freed him in a sense that he didn’t need to rely on alcohol to have fun. He left me to myself after that, and as I thought it over and prayed, I knew that in order to truly deal with my dad’s death, and to start healing, that I would have to stop drinking… for good. It wasn’t easy, being sober in a place where the majority of the employees’ drink and party every night, but I knew that the outcome I wanted from this situation wasn’t going to be.  I had to fight for it, every single day I was there.

In these past few months since I got back from Glacier National Park, I’ve had a new perspective on life, and in a way, it has been life-changing. And when I say that, I’m not saying that I’ve gone off on some crazy or extravagant adventure.

I’ve been in Wisconsin. Waukesha, Wisconsin.

I have the same routine: Wake Up. Go to Class. Go to Work. Sleep. Now a consistent schedule is hardly what I’d call life-changing. However, there were particular moments where I would find myself in silence. Those quiet moments, which people might find awkward or uncomfortable, but for me, it reminded me of the peace I felt while sitting upon the shore of Swiftcurrent Lake.

It’s in those quiet moments that I ask(ed) God to give me clarity. Now, back to what I said. These past few months have been life-changing. How can that be exactly?

Well, while I haven’t done anything extravagant, I’ve had a lot of time by myself.

A lot of time to think about how much I’ve grown. I’ll admit, about a year and a half ago – I lost my sense of self. When my dad died, I entered into one of the darkest seasons of my life. My hope. My confidence. My self-esteem. They all seemed to be nowhere in sight. As I mentioned earlier, I turned to alcohol to numb the pain, to make me forget that I ever really had a problem to begin with.

Now leading a sober life, I’ve had a chance to see the other side of this dark situation that I was forced into.

Life is too ironic to fully understand it. It takes sadness to know what happiness is. Noise to appreciate silence, and absence to value presence. I can’t even iterate how true this is. We take things for granted all the time… our friends and family being one of them. In this millennium day and age, when we hang out family and friends, we’re constantly on our phones, engaging in social media, or playing the newest game because that’s what we’ve been influenced to do. But I’m making it a point to do the opposite. I’m not saying I’m deleting social media, but I’ve made it a point to be more intentional with my friends and family, to set the phone down and really be present. You see, it’s fine to get a few pictures here and there, but to really engage, to be in community with those friends and family members, that’s the real treasure. That’s where you get to be vulnerable, to share your fears, your heartaches, your struggles. You can share your dreams, goals and aspirations. It’s important to make time for the people who you care about.

But you see, it’s just as important to know your worth. When someone treats you like you’re just one of the many options, help them narrow down their choice by removing yourself from the equation. Sometimes you have to try not to care, no matter how much you do (believe me on this, it’s easier said than done). Because sometimes you can mean almost nothing to someone who means so much to you. It’s not pride. It’s SELF RESPECT. Don’t expect to see positive changes in your life if you surround yourself with negative people. Don’t give part-time people a full-time position in your life. Know your value and what you have to offer, and never settle for anything less than you deserve. Some people will talk to you in their free time, and some people free their time to talk to you, and you have to recognize the difference.

You see, it takes a level of self-love, of dedication and determination to live your greatest life. So, look within. Look at every area of your life and ask yourself these questions: Am I on course? Am I growing mentally, emotionally and spiritually? Anything that is blocking that, anything that is preventing you from living your greatest life, make the tough decision to let it go. You need to surround yourself with people who make you hungry for life, touch your heart and nourish your soul.

I’m not the same individual I was a year ago, a month ago, or even a week ago, I’m always growing. Experiences don’t stop. That’s life. I finally understand that some of the hardest times we go through in life are where we are transitioning from one version of ourselves to another. I’ve been hard on myself, but I’ve had a moment to take a step back and marvel at my life: at the grief that softened me, at the heartache that made me wiser, and the suffering that strengthened me. Despite everything, despite all the bad days and mean people, I still believe in good days. I still believe in good people. I still grew, and for that, I’m really proud of myself.

I’m still trying to find my sense of self again, but I’m learning to accept that it’s okay to not know who I am right now. It’s okay to learn new things about myself, to experience new things, and to go places I never thought I’d go. The sun will rise and set regardless of what we do. What we choose to do with the light while it’s here is up to us. I was scared, afraid that If I tried to move on with my life, that I would forget my dad, and all of the wonderful thing he’s taught me. But that simply isn’t true. Change can be utterly terrifying, but I learned that change doesn’t require us to take giant leaps of faith in hopes to have the results we want right away. It’s okay to start where you are. To start with fear. To start with pain. To Start with doubt. To start with hands shaking and your voice trembling, but to start. To start and don’t stop. To start wherever you are in your life, and with whatever you have…just start. Because change is always messy, but it’s always good to take the scenic route, to be reminded of how far you come, and how much further you have left to go. Finding my sense of self is a journey in itself, and I’m ready for the endless adventure to begin once again.

Dad, Thanksgiving Isn’t The Same Without You.

​Dad,

Its been a long year and a half since you’ve  gone to be with the Lord, and with every day that passes, I miss you more and more.

With today being Thanksgiving, its hard for me to not be emotional. Like anybody who has lost a parent, its natural to feel empty inside, to feel like something is missing from this day, from every day really. I should be happy, but all i feel is sadness, that you’re not here to celebrate with us. In reality, its like this void inside me that I know will never be filled.

It seems like just yesterday we were making cinnamon rolls early in the morning while we watched the Macy’s thanksgiving parade.

It seems like it was just yesterday that we would set up our Christmas tree and hang up the rest of the Christmas decorations while some NFL football game is on in the background.

As it is Thanksgiving, I will say that I’m thankful to have had you to share holidays with for as long as I did. I’m thankful for every second. But missing you hurts. Spending them without you hurts. It’s another day that I have to be reminded that our time together was cut short. It’s another day I have to be reminded that we won’t get to spend holidays together ever again.

Its just not the same without you dad.

I miss your smile. I miss your laugh. But most importantly, I miss you. I love you Dad, and I really wish you were still here.