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, 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 :)

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