April 3, 2016

Do What You Love, Love What You Do

69 days ago I interviewed for this insanely DREAMY job. All I could think about was how to NOT mess up this incredible opportunity. The amount of sweat my body produced in that two hour interview was actually impressive; thank goodness it was all via video chat online. When people asked me how it went later on, all I could muster up was, "It was so fun!! I wanted to talk to them forever." I had never really had experience doing professional interviews, so something in me was confused because I never expected an interview to be fun and full of laughter. It just felt so right...

66 days ago I accepted that insanely DREAMY job at Seattle Children's Hospital. Seattle Children's Hospital. A world-class institute for pediatric medicine just offered me a job and I had ACCEPTED it. An absolute blur that phone call was; I'm 100% sure I never formally accepted the job. After the job was offered over the phone, I blurted something along the lines of, "THIS IS SO COOL!!! Thank you so much!" Luckily, that blubbery mess was an acceptable acceptance or I'd still be stuck under piles of snow in Milwaukee instead of sitting on my patio basking in this sunny Seattle Sunday (not that anything would be wrong about that).

40 days ago I was on the move! With my dad doing most of the hauling and some heavy-lifting help from a few generous friends (thanks a million, Brad!!), we had two cars loaded up and ready to hit the Great North! Shall I remind you that we were traveling through the northern states in the middle of February? For all of my California friends, that is ultimate snow season...

...we didn't see more than 3 inches of snow on the ground the entire 2,000 mile trip. How's that even possible?!?! Highways get shut down, the three gigantic mountain passes between Montana and Washington are often closed for snow or slowed enormously during this time of the year. We cruised through those six states at 80 miles an hour for three days without any problems. The week before, Milwaukee looked something like this:

 Some people would consider that lucky, I consider that Jesus.

A beautiful Montana sunrise!

Home stretch!
Home sweet home...my new backyard.
33 days ago I started my absolute dreamy job. Now that it's here and my job title is set, it's hard to remember the stress and angst I put myself through to get here. I vaguely remember a few days (okay, a few more than a few) being worried about my future, if I was going to be moving and where that would be, if my future coworkers would accept me, if I would find a niche like I have in my past few cities, etc. etc. etc. Let me tell you before you put yourself through the same cycle...God's gotcha. Just put your hand out, open up your heart, and He'll take you where you belong.

Milwaukee, Wisconsin was such a wonderful home for me, something I hadn't really thought possible as I moved out there. It was a huge transition moving from San Diego to Milwaukee, but I settled in beautifully and broke my heart into a million pieces as I packed up my bedroom a few weeks ago and hit the road Westward Ho. While I miss the laughter with dear friends (lifers), the winters, the cheese, the lake, the people, the beer, the festivals, the babies, the friendliness...I'm absolutely where I belong. I think the only two things I really don't miss are the potholes and Milwaukee's infamous odor. Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who made my life in Wisconsin so easy and simplistic. I would have been a completely lost lunatic if it weren't for y'all welcoming me into your space. Thank you for loving me, accepting me, and for teaching me all the tricks of the Midwest. The memories and friendships I made there can't shine a light on anything; 100% irreplaceable.

But now? Now, I work at one of America's Top Employers with my absolute DREAM JOB!! I've said that a million times now, but it still hasn't really settled in with me. Each morning that I go to work, I walk through the doors of a children's hospital, a place that regular people don't want to be...but I love it. This is something I honestly did not think would come to fruition until a few years post-grad, but with my minimal faith and a whole slue of doubt, God lay down a path for me to follow and brought me to this new, marvelous, fantastic chapter of my life. I owe so much more to Him than I currently allow myself to give.

So, long story short: don't count yourself out of anything. Set your goals, follow your dreams. Don't count the days until they've passed (easier said than done!), do what you love, and for heaven's sake, love what you do. Please do not make yourself miserable at work. Here's a harsh reality: we will likely (and God-willing) be working for a few more decades. Love it, enjoy it, cherish it.

Clearly enjoying my new home!
For those wondering, I am absolutely infatuated with my new home and love sharing it with this wild animal. Thanks a million for keeping tabs on me and for praying my way to this marvelous moment in life!

December 25, 2015

Above the Clouds

*(Written 12/21/2015)

As winter creeps up on us day by day (although so, so slowly), those sunny, blue skies slip away faster and faster, as do our daylight hours. I think Milwaukee is down to an average of 8ish “daylight” hours each day, but that does not imply sunny daylight. It’s basically saying, “the sun should rise at this time and set at this time, but you may not actually see it.”

As with most of my blog posts, I am currently 30,000 feet in the air taking a quick escape from Earth. Flying became somewhat regular to me when I began college and moved hundreds of miles from home. Then I moved to Wisconsin which is just a few more hundred; it can be a road trip away, but only with a commitment. Anyway, flying gives me the escape from reality I need that leads to some of my greatest reflection and insight (at least I think so). I severely struggle at shutting down my mind and reflecting on those average-Joe-just-want-to-sleep days. The distractions, commitments, priorities (out-of-line, might I add), and noise often take my attention away from the important things in life: joy, laughter, smiles, peace, community, conversation, etc. etc. etc. I like to be busy, I thrive being busy (a productive nurse is always doing something!). But it certainly does catch up to me, which is where flying comes in handy.

With these gray days that we’re beginning to experience, I always love escaping in a plane to the land above the clouds. The land where the sky is notoriously blue and the sun is shining regardless of the weather 30,000 feet below. The place where clouds look like the coziest lovesacs where I long to relax. A place where children marvel from inside the plane's windows at the Earth below and where people and their things are tiny little specs, if even that. I love reflecting at how small we really are even when, some days, we feel so big, so mighty, so powerful. Although there are definitely days where we feel small, worthless, shameful, and mini, maybe even a spec of dirt on the Earth. Flying above the clouds reminds me how close I am to the Earth’s light source, but furthermore, how close I always am to the True Light. To Jesus.

This season has been somewhat the unraveling of a new season of my life. Although I have no clue what that may be, I know it definitely involves some sort of change. I think for the first time in my entire life, I do not have a concrete plan (HA!) or a place I have to be. I like to see change as wonderful and healthy, a chance to grow. But sometimes change is so inconvenient, so expensive, such a commitment. Last week was a special milestone for my classmates and myself. As we wrapped up our nursing program at Marquette, we got to briefly marvel in one another’s new plans. Very bittersweet conversations nonetheless, as we have already begun branching off to our reach our next goals. Though we were able to celebrate the completion of nursing school together, it is important to keep in mind that the real celebration focuses on what awaits us in the coming year and those that follow. And the real triumph more than anything? We have the skills and knowledge to help us adapt to beginning a new era of our lives. After learning, living, and rejoicing alongside my classmates at Marquette, I am confident that we are all ready for those first few steps. We can watch each other’s dreams unfold. Talk of travel. More education. Whatever it may be, we get to embrace the success of one another and that is something special. At last! We are free.

As we stood there on the graduation stage peering over the edge to the new phase of our lives, we were able to reflect back on the integrity that got us to that moment—the moral uprightness and strong principles we had developed. That accomplishment is worth more than excelling in a sport, success in the workplace, or even the satisfaction we were feeling then, as we danced across this stage, because without integrity, no such accomplishments have significance. I delightfully look forward to seeing that integrity play out in our nursing practices, with all our patients, with their families, and with all of our colleagues. I am so thrilled to have shared this milestone with so many wonderful people!


My Peruvian buddies!!

My rockin' roomies! Couldn't have done it without them.

This Christmas season, I am thankful for our great God whom I so poorly serve. I am thankful that He continues to bless me regardless of my transgressions or how much attention I give Him. I am thankful for my dear friends—that means you!—for loving me always and for accepting me even when you don’t want to, or when you disagree with my actions. I am seriously so ridiculously blessed by all of my family-ships and friendships; so blessed that I often lose sight of that in the midst of chaos. I like to be busy—I thrive being busy, remember?—but I also run out of gas quickly. Above the clouds is such a wonder, a wondrous time for me to fill my lungs to completion and reflect on all the wonder that happens everyday. Thanks for joining me! I pray this holiday season finds you blessed and warm. I pray you fill up with laughter and joy as you spend the days with those you love and those who love you. I pray you are able to use your eyes to find the good in one another, in your patients (for nurses/healthcare professionals), and in Jesus. I pray you put your healing hands to work, that your healing power will touch those you care for and any patients who need you. I pray you follow your caring hearts, for when our hands and eyes become weary, our hearts will still be there to guide us peacefully. And finally, thank you, Lord for the support You’ve given us to get to this moment and for the encouragement to make it through our challenges. We thank You for all our success and future endeavors. Amen.

February 14, 2015

Surviving Winter and Keeping My Heart Warm

On February 13, 2014 I received an email that essentially changed my life--my acceptance to Marquette's Nursing Program. It wasn't an immediate "YES!" from me (I had to first look up which state Milwaukee was in and where that state was located in the US) as I was still waiting to hear from my first choice school, but it made the last 365 days an incredible, unfathomably amazing adventure. 

Ever since the moment I first arrived in Wisconsin last May, I was anticipating Winter and all of the beautiful glory that comes with it. The first two things I really ever "learned" about Wisconsin was beer and Winter. In the beginning when I would meet people for the first time, once finding out I'm from the west coast their immediate responses would go something like, "Oh, just wait for winter. You'll be fine, but it's all about layers." or "Why did you move here? Be sure to invest in some layers." or "Why the hell would someone leave California to be in Wisconsin? You're going to die in the winter."

It's all relative, people. On the left is a plowed sidewalk from SuperBowl Sunday--my first "real" blizzard, about 18 inches of snow. On the right is this exact time last year during my final semester in San Diego. Look at me wearing long sleeves...fool. It was at least 70 degrees. And below is last weekend after I fell through a frozen lake. It's relative--I'm finding joy in things I've never experienced as most people do in new environments! I'm SURE if I grabbed someone from Wisconsin and moved them to San Diego, they'd spend every day at the beach. Especially December through March. I'm tellin' ya: relative :)

Still to this day people continue checking on me, from home and from here. "Are you surviving, Alex?" or "This winter hasn't been nearly as bad as last year; it's very mild." or "It's all about layers." That last one has stuck with me. It makes me smile because although I feel like I've handled winter pretty well (even if this is considered mild) and have learned to find anything above 25 degrees a warm day (that is, without windchill), I've learned so many more life lessons from Winter than ever imaginable.

Before I get to the main point, I must say one thing: I have learned to appreciate the sunshine so much more. When the sun shines on Milwaukee (approximately every three days), I don't miss a moment to shout, "THE SUN IS OUT!!!! I SEE THE SUN!" and it's immediately a beautiful day. The other day on my walk to school, the sun was shining and it was 9 degrees, but it felt blissful. In San Diego if it was ever over 75 degrees and I didn't have to be outside, I probably wasn't. I'm embarrassed in myself.

Anyhow, I want to direct this next note to most ladies, but I'm sure it actually applies to everyone. In the midst of all your Winter layers, have you ever "hidden" something? Perhaps, no t-shirt. Or maybe you're actually wearing three pairs of pants. Or your leggings might have a hole on the booty but it doesn't matter because you won't be taking off your long coat (but be careful of that draft!). I have found myself skipping showers because I can just hide my greasy hair in a beanie. I have found that no one will actually know if I'm wearing my pajama shirt under my coat because even if I take it off, I have a sweatshirt to protect me.

The other day I was walking home from water polo practice and I had forgotten to bring a hat or anything for my head to prevent my hair from freezing. Luckily it's only like, three blocks from my front door to the gym, but my little bun still managed a few haircicles. Regardless, it got me thinking about how vulnerable my hair was to the cold and how throughout Winter, we layer up and end up protecting ourselves from not only the snow and bone-chilling wind, but from everything else around us. Those Winter layers build up and draw us closer to ourselves. They allow us to hide underneath so much down and fleece that our hearts somehow get hidden, despite being very warm.

"Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love." 1 John 4:7-8

On this Valentine's, I wanted to send a little reminder to all of my dear friends about how VASTLY we are loved. Not only by each other, but from our Great Creator. He loves us with an unwavering faith, more than myself or any friends could offer, although sometimes I do think that highly of myself. Being loved is one of the most mystical, magical feelings, but we often get caught up finding that love from another human. Another person who still has the capability to let us down, not always on purpose. Once we are fully able to comprehend the love that Jesus has for us, it is infinitely easier to shed those layers and wear our hearts on our sleeves. This doesn't protect us from heartbreak or heartache, but it protects our hearts and allows our Savior to heal it whenever necessary.

"But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ--by grace you have been saved." Ephesians 2:4-5

I pray that this day finds you encouraged and overwhelmed with love. Valentine's Day often tows behind it a negative connotation, especially for people who hold bitterness and betrayal in their hearts. It doesn't have to be like that! We are LOVED, ADORED, CHERISHED, and BELOVED. So, in conclusion, Happy Valentine's Day, my dearly loved friends! May you find an authentic joy in your hearts today...sending my biggest hugs and warmest blessings your way today!

"No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who lived us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 8:37-39 

PS: Cats are also great companions if you were to ever need a tangible reminder that you're sincerely loved and cared for. Rocky sends his warmest greetings for a paw-some day! :) xoxoxoxoxo

December 31, 2014

2014 Couldn't End Without a SapFest

Every single day, I am graced with incredible people. Each day, these people ignite in conversation with me, challenge me to think a little deeper, expect me to live a little more, and continue to teach me that love actually can be unconditional. 

For twenty-two years I have been learning, making mistakes, trying new things, befriending more people, chiseling my heart, and strengthening my foundation. For as long as I can remember, through some of the toughest years yet, these people have been present. 

Once upon a time, these friends danced into my life and we never quit dancing. They've graduated with me not only from high school and college, but from Best Friends to Lifers. These people mean so much more than the world to me and always will. We may not talk everyday, but everyday we talk is the new best day. When we are all together, it seems as if time stands still. But at the same time, it feels like time flies. Sometimes I wouldn't mind hitting the pause button. :)

As we all continue growing up, choosing career paths, falling in love, falling out of love, moving across the country, and making new homes, time together becomes more and more precious. 

So, my dearest loves, thank you for loving me. Thank you for your unconditional friendships that never change regardless of how long it goes between our chats or face-to-face time. I cherish you all and all of you: your hearts, your minds, your broken pieces, your joyful moments. I understand that friendships such as these are rare and because of that, you're all even more special. There's a very special place in my heart that each of you fit perfectly into. 

Although this photo doesn't display all of my Lifers, y'all know who you are. I'm so appreciative and unspeakably blessed by each of you and pray that 2015 is filled with more surprises than ever before. Thank you for sticking with me this year! 2014 has been an incredibly wild year full of joy, change, cheer, love, sorrow, challenge, and so.much.more. As every year should. Let us be eager to see each morning of the New Year. Let us be hungry to grow and challenge ourselves more than before. And most importantly, let us love. 

November 27, 2014

Your Not-So-Typical Thanksgiving Post

***Clearly I am posting this hours after I wrote it, but enjoy***

I’m currently sitting in a plane with my surrogate mother and 200 strangers en route from Milwaukee to Los Angeles. (I’m starting to realize my best writing is done in airplanes. Perhaps it’s the disconnect from media and life that gets my happy fingers going; we’ll never know.) It’s noon in Milwaukee but I’m honestly not sure which time zone I’m in right now. What I do know is that it’s Thanksgiving Day and I don’t have any plans to sit around a table and confess to my family that I’m thankful for them and the warm environment in which we live. Rather, I am praying that once in Los Angeles, everyone else is sitting around a bountiful feast roasting and toasting their glasses to yet another Thanksgiving full of laughter and love so that there is minimal traffic on the freeways. Either that, or lazily slopped into a plush couch watching football. (I know which I would choose. Hint: #BeatTheSeahawks.)

And, you know what’s awesome about all of this? I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m on my way to see a beautiful bride marry her soul mate! I’ve heard a few people this week express concern that I won’t be with family, invite me into their warm homes for a tasty turkey, pity me for traveling on Thanksgiving Day. Truthfully, it’s way better than traveling the day before!
So, instead of awkwardly confessing out loud to my family and a few friends some of the things I am thankful for this year, I now publicly announce my top 2014 Thanksgiving-worthy remarks.

1. I am thankful for being brave. A year ago, I was thankful for a joyful, warm life living in San Diego and playing in the sand year-round, not even thinking about Milwaukee. Honestly, when I got into Marquette, I had to look up Milwaukee (and Wisconsin) on a map of the United States. Oh, it’s near a lake? Sweet, at least there will still be beaches (there’s one but it’s currently covered in snow). Without my ridiculous sense of adventure, I’m not sure how I would have made it here. God sure did give me a wanderer’s heart and for that, I am extremely thankful.

2. I am thankful for the community of friends I have been blessed with in Milwaukee (and across the country). I remember in 2010 when I was leaving home for the first time heading for San Diego, I was so certain that I would never find friends as good as those from childhood and high school. Although that assumption has proven true, I have found plenty that really give my long-timers a run for their money. So, if you’re reading this and it applies to you (likely does), thank you, thank you, thank you from the depths of my heart for showing me your hearts and allowing me to share and bring loud laughter in your lives. I wouldn’t change one thing if I had the choice.

3. I am thankful for the freedom and privilege I have to travel and adventure. I’ve been living in Milwaukee for only six months (almost to the day) and have seen and experienced a ridiculous amount of fun. Although I adore the west coast and will always consider it home, being in the Midwest feels so central to everything. Also as a side-note for all my friends in California, I do not live on the east coast.

4. I am thankful for the joy I find in learning. In finishing up my undergraduate degree, my brain was beginning to feel stale. Kinesiology is brilliant and a useful degree, but not if it isn’t your passion in life. Starting nursing school has reminded me that learning can be fun and interesting and better yet, challenging. Week after week (ps: is it week 15 yet?) my cohort is thrown so much information, so much instruction which makes it extremely difficult to stay attentive. Thank goodness for those 50+ classmates (and my patient roommates!)—I would actually be L.O.S.T. without their wisdom and guidance.

5. I am thankful for good health and for actively improving the health of others. Nursing school has been so, so good to me and as noted above, has taught me a great deal. I never knew my brain could expand this large, but wow, it has. I find joy being in the hospital and first-handedly being involved in the care of so many different patients. I enjoy seeing them improve and return home to their families. It’s promising that I feel this way now, because the rest of my life will (hopefully) revolve around this.

6. I am thankful for many means of communication and for staying in touch with loved ones throughout the country. At first thought, moving most of the way across the country seems like a substantial change and adjustment. Although there may be a little truth in that, it doesn’t feel much different than when I moved away the first time. My ability to chat and chat and chat greatly benefits me when it comes to staying in touch with all of my non-local joys. The darn time-change though…that’s the only (very, very minor) issue.

7. Last and certainly not least, I am thankful for the unwavering, everlasting, unconditional grace from Jesus. I mess up every single day and every single day, I am still adequate. I am still loved. I am still seen as perfect in the eyes of our Lord. There are days where I find myself feeling like a sinner (most days), entitled, dumb, irritated, hopeless. I may not feel beautiful, perfect, gifted, loved, encouraged, adored, or highly thought of but here’s some serious Thanksgiving-worthy news: I am. And so are you. If you’re shaking your head, stop that. We are dearly loved, adored, gifted, and cared for thanks to our Savior.

I pray this blog finds you peaceful and bubbling with joy today. I pray that you are laughing with family, friends, acquaintances and strangers on this beautiful Thanksgiving Day. I hope you know that I am thankful for you. I am thankful that somehow our paths crossed and pray they continue crossing. I am so thankful you allow me into your life and pray we continue growing together as life continues progressing.

Happy, Happy Thanksgiving from my heart to yours! Now, turn your attention to the one thing substantially more important than this blog: my 49ers beating up on the Seahawks. Good ole Thanksgiving Day stress…I mean football.

One very final thing (promise): I hope your Thanksgiving meal looks prettier than mine. :)

October 4, 2014

How to Comfort a Mourning Friend

Almost six years ago when I was a junior in high school (boy, did that fly by fast), a dear friend of mine and the heart of our hometown passed away from an aggressive cancer. I suppose that death could be considered an "expected one" (I absolutely hate saying that) or one that didn’t come as a shock after supporting her through a brave cancer fight for 10 months. Regardless, it was obviously very hard on the community and everyone who was touched by her beautiful life.

Flash forward six years to present time. Two months ago today, my college roommate woke up to a disturbing phone call from across the country informing her that suddenly her little brother had passed away. Moments later, she attempted to call someone for support, for an ear, to wake up from this undesirable dream she was experiencing, for anything. That person was me, and in a daze I slept through the whole thing. A little while later (after a few snoozes), I woke up, sent her a quick text saying something along the lines of, "Hey, sorry I missed your call! I'm heading to class for finals all day but I'll call you this afternoon. Can't wait to catch up!" When she responded saying, "Alex, I need you. It's an emergency," I called back immediately.

There is absolutely nothing fathomable, bearable nor comparable about a death such as this one. It takes anyone that is affected back to their last interaction with him: the last words they exchanged, the last text message that was sent, the last fight they had, that last meal they shared together, the last prayer they pleaded, the last laugh they both cried to, the last hug that was exchanged, the last phone call that was ignored. It makes every phone call from that moment on sting, every dessert tray nauseating, every flower arrangement suffocating, every delivered dinner unappetizing, and every person's solemn stare unbearable.

And that's exactly what I got to live four days later. As soon as I could, I rushed to my best friend's side and the moment I walked into her house, I smelled a floral shop. At first breath, it was lovely. Then I remembered: her little brother just died. These were sympathy flowers. These were, "I'm so sorry, we love you," flowers. These were, "We wish we could be there with you," flowers. These were, "What-do-we-do-when-a-21-year-old-dies" flowers. These were, "I-have-no-idea-what-to-say-so-enjoy-watching-these-flowers-die" flowers. It was overbearing.

To stand and be present with my dear friend during the worst week of her life was the least I was able to do, but the best thing I could have done. I feel so blessed to be living in Milwaukee, not far from her hometown. With just a quick road trip, I was granted the opportunity to visit her and her family for a few days after her brother had passed and it was one of the most heart-wrenching yet powerful experiences of my life to date.

Watching a family mourn for a 21-year-old son, brother, uncle, nephew, classmate, teammate, and friend was understandably tragic. In all honesty, I was mourning too! But by the grace of God, I was also able to crack open my already broken heart and hold theirs close to mine while together we wept, remembered, shared, laughed, wept more, ate from cookie trays, ate frozen dinners, breathed in the smell of flowers. I took the last-minute road trip expecting to be a shoulder to cry on, an ear to scream at, an open heart to heal with, and a set of open arms for immediate comfort.

But then after a while, this strange thing started happening. I felt myself beginning to need strength. I found myself feeling weak. I found myself needing open arms to hold me. I found myself struggling to fight back tears and to find, not necessarily words to say (here's the number one secret to death: there are no right words), but how to help the grieving mother, father, sisters, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends. That second night, I remember staying up after everyone and pouring into my journal. Pouring my heart and being poured back into. He had been there the whole time.

Which is when I was graciously reminded of a great promise that is to never be forgotten: our Almighty God is the Ultimate Healer. Only He can permanently comfort us. Only He can provide the immediate strength we need each day. Only He can soothe the painful grieving process. I was not just a shoulder to cry on or an ear to scream at. My fragile heart and mind would have never been able to do that on my own. I am not Jesus (He's so much cooler), but in that moment late Saturday night, I realized that He had gotten me there safely and provided me with the appropriate therapy that was needed throughout each moment, and the moods were always changing. Therefore, I knew and was relieved that I could not make that situation better. I had already known that, obviously, but I needed to stop worrying and just be. Be present like I initially intended to be.

I am not a great healer nor do I calm weary hearts nor do I cure the broken. I do not have the magic words to say to someone who is mourning (there are no right words, in case you missed that part) or fighting the harsh reality of a lost loved one. What I do have is prayer, presence, patience and most importantly, love. Those were the four most important things I packed with me that weekend. 

After my quick trip there, I made another quick jump across the country: home! In the midst of many hours spent traveling (I miss those quick San Diego flights), I was reading the book Rediscovering Catholicism by Matthew Kelley (an incredible one that I highly recommend, even if you’re not Catholic!). I began with a chapter discussing the idea of discipleship and it struck a good chord in my heart that reverberated for hours. The line that caught my attention was discussing Jesus’ attitude. I read, “He certainly didn’t ask himself, ‘What is the least I can do and still bring salvation to humanity?’ No, he asked, ‘What is the most I can do?’” Boom. Yep. That's Him.

How many times have we encountered moments and immediately looked for the short cut or the easiest way around a situation? An infinite amount of times, I'm sure. In my case, every single day, multiple times per day on average. Can't say I'm too proud of that.

The chapter continued on: “'Go and make disciples of every nation.’ (Matthew 28:19) He did not say ‘Go and make followers of every nation.’ It is easy to be a follower, but to be a disciple means to be a student—to be humble, docile, and teachable, and to listen.”
Shoot. We can't just be followers anymore? We have to lead as examples? I thought being a follower of Christ meant that He would lead me wherever I needed to go. There’s some truth in that, but being a follower implies that no work or forward progress is being made. On the other hand, discipline is the path that leads to fullness of life. Being a disciple requires discipline. The chapter then describes the four major aspects of the human person: physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual. Then it continues:

“When we eat well, exercise often, and sleep regularly, we feel more fully alive physically. When we love, when we give priority to the significant relationships in our lives, when we give of ourselves to help others in their journey, we feel more fully alive emotionally. When we study our vision of ourselves and God, the world expands, and we feel more fully alive intellectually. When we take a few moments each day in the classroom of silence to come before God in prayer, openly and honestly, we experience life more fully spiritually. All of these life-giving endeavors require discipline. When are we most fully alive? When we embrace a life of discipline. The human person thrives on discipline.”

I love everything about that paragraph, which is why I had to quote the entire thing (I made it smaller to seem a little better, ha). If this were high school English class, this blog entry would be an automatic fail. But it’s not.

The human person thrives on discipline. Are you thriving or surviving today? In my real, raw, honest way I’m going to admit that most mornings, I am barely surviving. I wish with my entire heart that I was a morning person and could wake up with as much joy as I go to bed with, but I become a morning person about half an hour after I get out of bed, which is usually half an hour after I wake up. It takes me a while to become alive and in those moments each morning, I’m surviving. But what about the other 23 hours and 30 minutes each day? Lately, I have been trying to keep myself in check throughout each day by asking myself simply, “Are you thriving? Is what you’re doing challenging you to thrive? Are your actions those of survival and desperation or of heart and courage?”

Reflecting back on the beginning of my post, would we be surviving or thriving the moment we woke up if we knew what the outcome of that day was? I know for a fact that my life would run a little differently.

The last portion of the chapter that really stuck with me was the section on love. I love love and I love to study love and talk about love. I love Jesus’ love for us and how it is unconditional every day. I love that love makes the world go 'round and that we are called to love not only our family and peers, but also our enemies. Love is a beautiful thing.

So as I was saying, love is the core of Jesus' philosophy. But, in order to love, we must be free from ourselves and ready to experience selflessness. "For to love is to give your self freely and without reservation. Yet, to give your self—to another person, to an endeavor, or to God—you must first possess your self. This possession of self is freedom. It is a prerequisite for love, and is attained only through discipline." 

Love is beautiful and a big reason I was able to experience mourning in such a way that weekend. Those few days I spent with my friend and her family were likely some of the worst days they have ever had, but to be there loving them through the hurt and pain gave my heart a little slice of hope. It gave me a glimpse of peace, like a ray of sunshine through a vicious thunderstorm (I know what those are now since living in the Midwest). It made me thankful. How can I be thankful during such a tragic time, one may ask? Jesus. I was thankful for the chance to be with my friend, for the opportunity to open my heart and share love, for the grace and love of Christ, and for the comfort we all were able to experience that weekend. Although much of our time was spent sighing, crying, watching home videos, reading old journals, sorting through scrapbooks, ignoring smelly flowers, and avoiding to-go trays, we were all able to grow and love one another and for that, I am so thankful.

As a minor disclaimer, in times of tragedy, the last words a mourning person may want to hear are, "It's okay, God has a plan," or "This will all work out if you rely on Jesus." In the midst of the most painful suffering, it is not necessary to speak at all. However, thriving, having discipline and loving are all non-verbal actions.

So, how to comfort a mourning friend?

Be there. 

Be present.


Expect nothing.


Allow Jesus to use you.


Don't stress yourself out over what words you will say like I did. Silence, eye contact and love speak louder than any words ever could. Life is full of twists and turns, ups, downs, and loopty-loops, but having concrete friends and family who will love you consistently is one of the most encouraging aspects of life. We are called to love one another. I like to think of love being unconditional, because that way there can't be conditions put on love and friendship. So, if you like to take short cuts like I do, loving everyone is a great short cut to start with.

Additionally, we have this incredible Savior who surpasses all expectations a person can dream of and who will love, heal, comfort, care for, and encourage us on the long road called grieving. He's really special and already knows where you and your friends' hearts are at.

To close, don't shy away from people who are mourning, or even from your own mourning. Embrace it, as painful as that may seem; it's an unfortunate characteristic of life that we encounter eventually, but running away is the last thing to do. Be there, be present, spread love, and count on Jesus. No matter if a death is forthcoming, expected or sudden, everyone grieves and no one can do it alone.

August 8, 2014

How Did I Get Here?

I should be currently sitting in the Milwaukee Airport waiting for a 6 hour and 20 minute non-direct (LAX sucks) flight to Oakland, landing me there at 7:30 pm. That includes a 2-hour time change and probably a lot of snacks. Since when did traveling home via airplane take over an hour? But, as I said, I should be there.

Life is so unpredictable, and even at 21 years old I'm still discovering adult-like secrets. (Suddenly the phrase, "you'll understand when you're my age," make sense. Thanks mom and dad!) I just finished up my first semester of nursing school at Marquette! Only 4 to go. However, on Monday I received one of the worst phone calls ever: my college roommate was on the other end sobbing that her brother had died that morning.

My heart erupted. Right there in the middle of Marquette's beautiful campus I wanted to sit down, sob, cry, scream, and mourn for her desperately sudden loss. But, that's not what mature adults do (or so I've been told). Being in the Midwest makes the country seem so much smaller--I'm suddenly within distance to everything, so I changed my flight and am currently on my way to be with her and her family for the weekend. Lord, hold me and speak Your healing words through me so that I may be a comfort and a source of healing for them through this tragedy.

The next day, I found this beautiful quote from Beth Moore and it changed my life: "The art of friendship is forged in pain. It's allowing your own heart to break with theirs instead of fixing what you can't." Amen. Bring the healing.

For the last couple weeks I have been experiencing so many new things that the Midwest has to offer, and it has been one giant, 2-month long adventure! Since then I have been meticulously sorting through all sorts of scrambled thoughts in my mind and trying to come up with a nice, fresh updated blog post that everyone has been waiting for! This way I can give everyone a big update without leaving anyone out. I've always been thoughtful like that. ;)

I hate to disappoint, but this is going to flow about as well as all the thoughts in my mind. If you've ever had an extensive conversation with me, you may know exactly how this post is going to look. (I'll never know if you close the browser now, so there's no need to feel guilty if you "have to run".)

Anyway, about a year ago my calendar was covered in so many different colored scribbles that sometimes I woke up 5 minutes before I had to be at work; sleep was obsolete so I liked to take advantage when I could. One of my biggest concerns was if the carseats were installed properly in the back of my car for the twins I nannied for. One of my biggest fears was Senior Year of college; how was it just weeks away already? One of my biggest joys was spending quality time with the best friends anyone could ever wish, pray, hope, or dream for (you know who you are). One of my most consistent prayers was, "Keep me sane, Lord. Reveal Your plan to me clearly. Transform my heart and mind. Transform the hearts and minds of everyone around me. Unite us."

That prayer is the only thing that remains the same a year later. I have since:

  1. Turned 21 (it wasn't as crazy as it sounds),
  2. Welcomed the most adorable puppy into my extended family (okay, it's my bff's, but still),
  3. Donated 13" of hair (yay, less tangles!), 
  4. Said goodbye to Candlestick Park (home of my beloved 49ers from 1971 to 2013!),
  5. Welcomed a new year with my dearest friends (2014 sounds so much nicer than 2013, right?),
  6. Watched the Sharks almost sweep the Kings (it was 3-0) in the NHL playoffs, only to lose the series 3-4 (I'm still recovering, but talking about it now is helping),
  7. Completed 4 years of collegiate rowing (I thought it would never end),
  8. Graduated from college (cue instant anxiety),
  9. Moved out of the best apartment in San Diego (minus the no AC thing),
  10. Gotten a new car (yay, gas mileage!),
  11. Moved across the country (or close enough),
  12. Started nursing school (cue gray hair),
  13. Bought my first down jacket (I hear it gets cold here),
  14. Met and befriended an exceptional group of people in Milwaukee (their opinions may be different),
  15. Tried so many different beers (Brew City?),
  16. Stayed up later than I ever did in undergrad (no morning practice!),
  17. Started working out when I want to (and definitely not for 20 hours each week, NCAA),
  18. Made Milwaukee (and Wisconsin!) my new home.

So, fast forward a year from then (I went on a mini tangent, oops). One of my biggest concerns now is how fast time goes without me even noticing (I say it every single day--ask my roommates). One of my biggest fears now is flunking out of nursing school. One of my biggest joys now is experiencing an entirely new city/state/region of the country, a new school, new relationships, new surroundings, and new outlook on life. It is so beautiful. But wait, I live in Milwaukee? How did that even happen and when did I grow up? Another year and some months from now, I could be moving again and it could literally be to anywhere. I feel like I should be freaking out, but I'm strangely at peace and it's so comforting.

Earlier this week on my way to a coffee shop, I was listening to a song by Switchfoot (Awakening, look it up immediately, with the lyrics probably) and felt a serious connection with God in the moment (some of my best soul searching is done in the car, seriously). I said to myself, "Lord, I want to hit rock bottom so I can rely on You more faithfully." Not even two split seconds later, I saw a 3-legged dog hobbling gingerly down the sidewalk and I lost it. How unfair. Why does a dog have 3 legs? Why doesn't he get a prosthetic leg like humans can? Yet, this pup looked happier than a kid with candy...he certainly didn't know any different! How could I even complain running to the car in the rain anymore; I have the complete capability to walk and run normally.

Then, two days later I received that phone call from a dear friend and immediately thought, "Shoot, I guess the Lord is really listening to me. Rock bottom."

In the beginning of the summer I was running down by the lake (one of my favorite things to do in Milwaukee) when I saw an itty bitty wheelchair up ahead. As I approached the little girl and her family, I noticed how she was very fragile looking, hairless and pale. I tried super hard not to change my demeanor (besides a gentle smile, I'm sure), but my heart broke and I melted into the sidewalk. I wanted to pick her up out of the wheelchair and carry her in my arms the rest of my run. I wanted to hold her in my arms and lay in the perfectly green grass all afternoon listening to her talk about her favorite movies and games, what she was learning in school, what her favorite pet was like, why she and her little brother were arguing, why it was so easy for her to flash her tooth-gapped smile in the midst of obvious suffering.

A few weeks ago while in class, I asked my professor if nurses get emotional while at work. I don't remember exactly what we were discussing in class at that moment, but I remember getting choked up and a little teary. She said it is very common for nurses to get connected to their patients and then struggle to let go when they pass away. However, they must hold it together in front of the patients, understandably so. For some reason I'm guessing it wouldn't be very professional for me as a nurse to crawl into bed with a child after hooking up a chemo treatment, but...my heart! 

How does any of this relate? It relates in every way. One of the most beautiful things I have learned about myself in the last year is how carefully the good Lord designed my heart. It's one complicated organ, but I have loved diving into and virtually dissecting my own heart, discovering all there is to it. In an instant I can flash from utter joy to utter despair. I can be jumping for joy then sobbing for pain. I can squeal with delight then scream in anger. I can be smiling for comfort then collapsing with empathy. My heart can't ever catch a break; I'm one talented person.

This past year has been a continuous roller coaster, complete with the drastic loops and jaw-dropping free-falls. There would be eventful days that I'd make it through by the skin of my teeth and thank the Lord that I was able to rest peacefully, then wake up to the same, sometimes harsh, reality. Applying to schools last fall was a whirlwind and not the most impressive times of my life. Rowing became a beautiful disaster and physically traumatizing (but my teammates...boy, my teammates. Love doesn't even begin to explain the feelings I have for those people). Moving from San Diego saw more tears than a funeral, as did my first day in Milwaukee (sorry, mom!). I'm not sure what's so magic about the age of 21, but ever since turning that age last year, I have been on the greatest, most thrilling ride ever. Is this real life? I hear people talk about that all the time, but I think I'm finally catching on. It has been painful, thrilling, new, fun, dreadful, redeeming, peaceful, and freaking full of glory. It's still going, and strangely enough, I hope it never ends.

My day-to-day experiences are different now. I wake up excited to see what's in store. I don't fear the unknown anymore and my heart doesn't race when I hear the word "future". I am thrilled to see where God takes me each day and to meet the people He puts in my path. I allow myself to step back and take everything in, rather than jumping ahead of myself. I am thankful for each day's challenges and each day's successes, whether they are often or far between, full of joy or full of pain.

So, what was that constant (way, way back in the beginning) again? PRAYER. Keep me sane, Lord. Reveal Your plan to me clearly. Transform my heart and mind. Transform the hearts and minds of everyone around me. Unite us.

I am incredibly thankful, blessed, overwhelmed, redeemed, and passionate for this SWEET life I've been given. God has been so good to me, but I haven't always been the best disciple. I wish I were, but here's another harsh reality that I've learned (and should have memorized) this year:

You are not perfect without Christ. You will make mistakes. You are perfectly and wonderfully made. You are beautiful even if you don't feel so. You are so dearly loved, deeply cared for, and sincerely desired by the most perfect, holy, trusting, and steadfast Lord. Stay positive, stay passionate, stay rooted in faith.

Keep going.

The three-legged dog, the sick girl in the wheelchair, my friend's dead brother, all of us...time does not stop. We must pick up our crosses everyday and carry them. We must carry them faithfully and whole-heartedly. It doesn't matter if we want to or not. What that is easy is worth it? Our days are numbered and we can't waste them. I don't want a day to pass that I'm not joyful or finding something to be joyful about. Life is not meant to be easy, but we can make it easier by admitting that we are imperfect beings and staying in constant connection with God. The only thing I'm perfect at is sinning.

Keep going.

The Lord is waiting for us and will always be ready with His arms open wide. We are all at different places in life and always will be. Everyone is experiencing their own pains, own triumphs, own fears. Let's unite and be one in Christ. Let's be fearful, fearless disciples. Lift your friends up, lift your enemies up--it's amazing what a small piece of encouragement can do in the middle of a seemingly endless day.

Keep going.

This, everything I said above and commit to daily, is certainly not (never, ever) easy for me, but I hope that by sharing my own experiences and my own "wisdom" (still not old enough for that), I can stimulate all two of my blog readers to be better. We are all here together striving for the same goals; why don't we live that way?

In the past year, I also have started a mini weekly text group that I write to every Wednesday (or Thursday if I forget). I love connecting with those special people each week. I choose a passage from the Bible (generally it has to do with whatever is going on in my life) and write a small blurb of my own encouragement (or what I think is encouraging :)). If you're interested in getting on the list of recipients, feel free to let me know! There is no limit for text message recipients--remember when there was? I think my first texting plan was 250 messages per month. HA!

I am praying for anyone who makes it this far in the post. WOW. Bless you. :) But seriously, I hope this post has found you enlightened and encouraged to go spread some love and light in whatever situation you're in. I pray that you delight in your struggles and give God thanks for the blessings. I pray that each day awakens you with a warm peace and gentle smile. I pray that you love others as Jesus loves us. I pray that your hearts be opened and your minds be transformed as we move forward and that you keep going.

Keep me sane, Lord. Reveal Your plan to me clearly. Transform my heart and mind. Transform the hearts and minds of everyone around me. Unite us. Amen.

Sending all my love and the biggest hugs,
Alex :)

February 1, 2013

Life Lately

It's only been a year and a handful of months since my last post so hopefully you weren't holding your breath for this one! Life's been fun the last year...hang on to your diapies!

-Last spring I applied to nursing school here at San Diego State and naturally managed to mess it up since that's one thing I excel at. I didn't turn in my Spring 2012 transcript on time and got myself disqualified. More on that in a bit.

-All I remember about the semester was a lot of racing and traveling up and down the state with my team which made it flyyyyyyyyy by. In May I mistreated my Blackberry doing something very immature (Cinco de Mayo, take it how you'd like to) and then ended up joining the iPhone club. Dear ole dad really knows how to pull through. :) The day after that happened, part of our team traveled to Philadelphia for a regatta there. That was the trip of a lifetime and surprisingly really relaxing even though we went during finals week. The day after we got back from Philly, I moved out of my first apartment and stayed with my cousins and watched their twinsies for 3 weeks until my cousin was able to stay home and watch them. They were 8 months old at the time and SO darn cute. That was a busy month.

-Once I finally made it home to the Bay Area in June, I worked my booty off at the pool and elsewhere. I always manage to find plenty of work and I thank the Lord for continuously opening those doors! Definitely wouldn't be here otherwise. All that work in the sun really wore me out and I spent most of my "spare" time napping.

-My dear roommate, Emily, came north to visit in early July. She's from the midwest and hasn't seen a ton of California, so she was fortunate enough to follow me around for 8 days. Woo! I took her to work, to babysit, and even to hang out with my friends. ;) What a treat.

-August brought our annual family vacation up to Tahoe. As always, that was a a nice refreshing and renewing trip. I was beating myself raw by that point of the summer so it was totally needed when it came. A week later I found myself in the gorgeous Yosemite National Park. My dad and I did our usual marathon-long hike and I couldn't walk for about 4 days. Not too shabby.

-August 20th I moved into my second apartment with my same roommate ('til I die). We got to legitimately start from scratch and decorate this place top to bottom. We fell head-over-heels in love with our new place, and our third roommate just sealed the deal!

-Two weeks later, we fell out of love with our apartment when bedbugs were found. My skin still crawls at the thought and let me just tell you, it was THE worst physical experience of my life. I've never been more uncomfortable in my life. I itched from head to toe and emotion-wise: I was a wreak. I don't even cry often...but man, that was a dramatic week or so. We got treated and have been clear ever since, but they will forever haunt me. There's just something unsettling about finding a creature crawling around on your sheets.

-Fall semester was my first in the Kinesiology major. I enjoyed it but never felt like it was actually mine. I kind of felt like I was going to class for someone else those four months, but I managed to get the best GPA I've had since starting college, so that's nothing to complain about. It was also a lot easier compared to when I did nursing so I guess there's nothing wrong with that. :)

-Winter break was fantastic. I spent the first part of it in Nashville visiting some precious family members of mine. We toured downtown, stalked Jason Aldean, and just spent a few days reconnecting after so many years. I came home and then was lucky enough (cough cough) to drive back down to Orange County for a family gathering. Then drive back to northern California the following morning for another family gathering. I love my family, but 20 hours in the car in 40 hours was a lot.

-I survived the end of the world. It was really eventful...

-We celebrated Christmas by laying around in jammies watching movies and eating yummy food...complete perfection. However, I did start and finish my Christmas shopping on Christmas Eve and that was not perfection.

-Of course seeing all my amigos again was beyond wonderful. I just love those goofballs with my entire heart and soul; seeing them brings me so much delight and joy. There's just something about those people God chose for me and I couldn't be more thrilled with His pickings.

-New Years Eve was successful and much better than last year's. If you know me well enough, you'll know why. If not, just trust that statement. I'm still having a problem accepting 2013 as the new year because I really liked the sound of 2012. I just don't like odd numbers. Hurry up, 2014! But at the same time, take your time.

-I feel like I did SO much over break but I can't even remember anymore. Which is sad because it's barely been a month. When I came back to school the second week of January, I just laid around and rowed for a while. Then school had to start so naturally, that sucked. It hasn't been completely terrible, but 8am class/practice everyday is draining. I can't wait to turn off my alarm for once.

-Last weekend was the annual Athletes in Action Winter Retreat and an absolute BLAST. Holy moly, God is SO good. The community of believers is breathtaking and so encouraging. I've strengthened and started relationships and am looking forward to what the future holds. There was so much spiritual growth going on up there that my socks literally were knocked off. I just ended up duct taping them on by Sunday.

Now that most of my life is up-to-date, I can finally start preaching. This last year (and however many months) has really been a time of growth in my life. My heart has grown, my faith has grown, and my overall knowledge of life has grown. I couldn't be any happier with where God has me right now, and I know that it probably won't be like this for long, so I'm taking it in while I can. Life has ups and it has downs, but this up I'm trying to ride out forever. It feels so good to be on a Jesus high and love every aspect of my life. Back to the nursing school rejection- I'm so glad I'm not in the program right now. First off, it's extremely difficult and stressful, but I also wouldn't be able to continue rowing and that's become a piece of me. Second, it's really opened my eyes to graduate school (in nursing still) and I have the desire to go out of state and see the world. Spread my wings a bit! Without the denial, I would have never thought about leaving or reaching for something bigger. I've always been a very practical person, but now that I'm dreaming life's gotten fun! The retreat last weekend really brought me back to finding my identity in Him and reorganizing my "plans". I'm so grateful for the cross and the Lord who carried that cross solely for us. How could we need anything else?

Thanks for catching up with me! I think I had a lot more to write, but this should suffice for another year and a half. :)

October 27, 2011

Three Years

"My friend died today..." are four words I sincerely hope that none of you dear, dear readers ever have to mutter to others at any point in your lives. That powerful sentence can change everything in a heartbeat and that's exactly what happened three years ago.

Monday night my awesome roommate whom I love with every ounce of my being got to see me do an ugly cry. Ugly. It is rare that I shed any tears and even rarer that it gets ugly--meaning the whole red-eye, nose-running, deep-breathing--it definitely wasn't pretty. She was hanging out in our room reading before we went to sleep and when I walked in there to change into my jammies, the tears just poured. Before I went into our room for bed, I clicked over to Korrine's blog to read through some old posts from her diagnosis, chemo treatments, glorious triumphs and watched videos that were put up from her beginning rounds of chemo. With her death date quickly coming back around, I wanted to reminisce on the memories that I have of Korrine before she passed away. Apparently that was a bad idea...I couldn't hold it together on Monday. I first read my blog post from last year and then went and read a couple of the very first posts that were ever posted back in December 2007. It just hit me like a ton of bricks and I couldn't bear it. Thank God for roommates...as I cried into my blankets she sat at the edge of her bed waiting for me to regroup (even if it was just for a deep breath). I cried all over her shoulders while she hugged me and it was just so comforting. I think in the midst of crying I muttered out, "Why did she have to die?" and that right there pretty much sums up the evening.

Three years later is still hurts just as much as October 27, 2008 did. Actually, it may even hurt more now than it did back then. I was still a junior in high school and the death just stunned me. 16 year olds obviously know what death is and can comprehend that, but it just hurt and stung so bad, I think I was just shocked that an awesome friend of mine honestly died and I would never see her again. Ever. 3 years later, it is sinking in that she is really gone and will not be back. Korrine has left an everlasting impression on me and I hope to never lose it. I am full of joy and happiness not because she died, but because I have faith that she is rejoicing right now and free of pain. Accepting that is not an easy pill to swallow, but did Korrine ever do anything that was esay?

So, where do we go from here? As I'm in the midst of college, nursing school application time is coming up a little too quickly for my liking. In the future, I would absolutely love to work in pediatric oncology. That is my absolute passion. After visiting Korrine during her cancer days and seeing the relationship and bond between the nurses and their patients and families, that's when I decided what I was going to be. Often times when I tell people that's my desirable career, I hear, "Oh wow, that's powerful. So much life and death." Well, yes, that's true but the life and death isn't just going to stop because I choose to take a path in life that is more lively. Death is all over the medical field--I'm not going to be selfish and sit back to watch death happen to protect myself. I already lost a friend to cancer and saw so many different things during her ten month battle, I feel like to live for Korrine the way she wants us all to do, going back to help those other children that are still fighting the fight, is the least that I can do.

In fact, her parents aren't sitting around either. They TeamKC organization has really taken off in the last three years and they were actually interviewed this week about what's been happening around the organization. The funds for a TeamKC house in Oakland are in the works in order to support families that are commuting to and from the hospital daily. It would give them a place to stay during long hospital stays just to relax rather than hustle back and forth from home. This was Korrine's dream before she passed away and seeing it happen honestly warms my heart. I'm so happy to see that coming to life and I would super appreciate it if all of you amazing people would keep Matt and Dana in your prayers as they continue building her dream.

As this day draws to a close, I'm just thankful that God blessed me with Korrine's friendship for the relatively short time that I knew her. Just having her friendship for a few years has changed my perspective on life completely and it is so humbling to see how He works through different people like he did through Korrine. I hope the same feeling is touching you all tonight as your evening continues on. How did Korrine affect you? What everlasting impression did she leave on your heart?

May 23, 2011

"Just remember, there is nothing today you and the Lord can't handle together."

Those very words are what sent me on my merry way this morning after attending mass. Perfection. Good thing too...the reminder is always nice.

This morning while fighting with my alarm clock, my dad's number came up on caller ID at my home phone. I instantly knew something was wrong because my parents are divorced and don't speak...he uses my cell phone to get in touch with my brothers or me. Why the house phone? The phone call went something like this:

Dad: "Is your mother there?"
Me: Why would he want my mother? Clearly something is wrong. "No, she is at work."
Dad: "She won't answer her cell phone and I have really awful news that I need to share with her."
Me: Heart starts racing. "What happened?"
Dad: "Sit down. Mark (dad's best friend) called me and told me that Jan (his wife) had a cerebral hemorrhage yesterday afternoon and instantly died."
Me: Tears.
Dad: "I will try your mother again, but please tell her to contact me."

Jan. My mother's college roommate and best friend since then (about 30 years ago). Almost like an aunt to me. Her two boys are both near my brothers' and my own ages--almost like other siblings, but more like cousins. She passed away yesterday afternoon on her way home from Oregon with her mother and sister-in-law and I still cannot believe it. I will never see her again. I can't picture her without a smile plastered across her face or a laugh filling the entire room. She was such a genuine, kind-hearted person and she will be missed greatly. She was also my oldest brother's godmother. Please keep her husband, sons and the rest of her family/friends in your prayers.

Later on today, my own mother found out that a skin biopsy came back cancerous. It isn't a serious issue since it is on her ear and a very small area, but knowing that it is malignant cancer is not exactly encouraging. She will go in for surgery again sometime soon and have more of the skin on her ear removed until only healthy cells remain. After that, she should be back to normal. Just please, please pray. Both of these incidences are enough to send my mom to a crazy house.

But as you go on throughout your days, remember, there is nothing that you and the Lord cannot handle together.

"No trial has come to you but what is human. God is faithful and will not let you be tried beyond your strength; but with the trial he will also provide a way out, so that you may be able to bear it." 1 Corinthians 10:13

May 22, 2011

I remember...

...when I said goodbye to all of my friends one afternoon. I never thought life was going to be worth it being separated from them.
...the day I moved into the dorms back in August 2010 and the air conditioning was out, it was at least 95* outside, and I was sweating like a pig.
...when I didn't know anyone except my roommate so we walked around aimlessly and acted like we knew what was going on.
... how I thought SDSU's campus was gigantic and I would never "get" it.
...the moment my mother left me for the last time and I was officially on my own. I felt bad because I wasn't sad or sure how to react since I was pretty independent throughout high school--senior year especially.
...how my roommate cried when her mom left and I then I felt bad for not caring.
...the first weekend of school a (drunk) girl was "stuck" on my floor and kept trying to exit through the emergency door, setting the alarm off numerous times at 3:30 am.
...feeling lonely the first few weeks and especially the first day of school. I had SUCH a strong support system here at home and an awesome group of friends, it was hard to transition to nothing.
...when I met a couple friends from high school for dinner one night. It was really nice to see familiar faces and feel comfortable again.
...trying to navigate my way downtown on public transit on 9/11/10 to meet a lady who I babysit for. Needless to say, I got extremely lost (heading to Mexico), cried HYSTERICALLY for a good 45 minutes, met her for dinner, and then called my roommate to come pick me up. Traumatizing event.
...the day I turned 18 on the 18th. My dad came down to spend the day with me and it was just lovely. At this point I still hadn't bonded with many real friends (it was only the third week) and who wants to spend their 18th alone? Or any birthday, for that matter.
...when tryouts for crew started and my friendships started forming. I will never forget that first bunch of teammates.

...the first month of college...

April 18, 2011

If You Were Here...

Dearest Korrine,

If you were here, today we would be celebrating your 17th birthday. SEVENTEENTH!!! Oh my goodness, that went by fast. I remember when I met you and you were what, ten I think? Either way, you're getting old but what am I saying? So am I!!!

If you were here and I were at home today on your birthday, I would be pulling out a nice, hot, funfetti birthday cake from the oven before school started. After it cooled, I would frost it with chocolate frosting and swirl cream cheese frosting into the middle afterwards. I would show up to your house nice and early with balloons and the cake and make this day one of the best ones you've had. Chances are though, that I would still be here in San Diego chugging along with school but hey, a girl can dream right??

If you were here and I was still in San Diego on your birthday, I would call you right when I woke up and sing you happy birthday. I would then log onto Facebook and post a video on your wall praising you and going on and on about how incredibly special you are and what a blessing it is for me to have you in my life.

The only problem is that you are not here today and you aren't coming back. Those words still hurt to write and I know this is really selfish to say, but I wish more than anything that you were here living life and celebrating your 17th birthday with the hundreds and hundreds of people who love you so dearly. Instead, I will walk through this day remembering you (not that that's new or anything) and carrying your love and passion for life in my heart and spread it to all the people I come in contact with no matter what happens. You, my marvelous friend, are why I am so positive. You taught me how to love and more importantly, you brought me closer to the Savior. You are the reason I can get out of negative moods more quickly than ever and bounce back to the joyful life I enjoy living. You are the reason I smile at everything, because we never know when our last smile is going to happen. Even if you aren't here, I'm celebrating your 17th.

I sincerely hope that you are having an awesome time in heaven with our Father. I cannot wait to be reunited with you when it's my turn. Happy 17th birthday, Korrine. I love you and miss you every single day that I live.

Love always,

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