Monday, August 31, 2015

It's Not What You Think {A Review}

For the record, getting an advanced PDF copy of the book for being on the launch team has absolutely no bearing on anything I'm about to write. I'd love this book just as much and probably still write this post if it were October. All of this is 100% genuine.

It's Not What You Think: Why Christianity is About So Much More than Going to Heaven When You Die

It's Not What You Think is the upcoming second book from Jeff Bethke. After being a part of the launch teams for his first book and his wife Alyssa's book, I knew I wanted to be a part of this one and continue to help spread the message Jeff has to share. His first book, Jesus > Religion, is one of my favorite books of all-time and helped heal so many wounds from my past, so I feel this sense of utter gratitude for Jeff, his words, and his passion for helping others. As it turns out, though, I'm the lucky one because it feels like such a honor to be able to read this book.

While Jesus > Religion, I thought, seemed mostly geared toward non-believers, this book's message focuses on taking different concepts and ideas and showing believers what they really mean, what God intends them to be. Jeff shows such wisdom in his words, but never once does he sound like a professor lecturing you or take a holier-than-thou attitude pointing out everything you have gotten wrong. His tone is that of a friend, someone who understands where you are but doesn't want to leave you there; he shows love and grace through every word and clearly wants to help his readers understand God's heart more clearly. I would guess that this gentleness in his writing stems from the fact that he didn't go through school to study and teach this; Jeff understands the "normal, average person" because he is just a normal, average guy...who just so happens to have gotten famous from a YouTube video.

In Chapter 6, titled "Worship's Not What You Think: You Become What You Behold," Jeff details the story of breaking his collarbone during a baseball game, and how having his playing career ripped away from him rocked his world. How not being able to play helped him to realize how baseball had become his god, because he saw how his identity was wrapped up in that game and his performance. As soon as he began telling this story, I knew exactly where he was going, and I immediately thought of the fall of 2009, when having those six brain surgeries ripped away my chance to start college. Looking back, I can tell that that hurt so badly wasn't just because of the medical stress, or how desperate I was to start the next chapter of my life; it was because my education was my god. Because of my physical disabilities and health issues, school had always been the one thing I was really good at. I didn't just take pride in my grades; I beat myself up if I didn't do as well as I thought I should have. I would get serious anxiety while waiting on grades over major assignments, papers, or projects. One of my constant goals was to make my mom proud by how well I did in school. So when I didn't get to go to college that August, and when so many near-death experiences made it questionable whether I would ever get to go to college, my identity was torn to shreds. The thing I had spent my whole life worshiping was on the verge of being totally taken away from me. It's only been recently that I recognized this, but now, I can see that God used that time to lead me to the point when I would learn where my identity truly belongs.

Identity is a lesson permeating all the chapters of this book. In Chapter 4, Jeff uses the analogy of a king's guards and his children to help the reader examine who they truly see themselves as. Which picture more describes your relationship with God? Are you terrified you are going to mess up all the time, or are you playfully running around God's throne knowing your dad is the King of the universe? I'm definitely the first one. I've always been the first one, long before I gave myself and my life to God. And I'm still trying to figure out how to change that. But this chapter, and this analogy in particular, really helped me examine my heart in detail and think about why it is I see myself this way, even when I know how God sees me. Jeff references Abraham Heschel on a later page, who said, "The greatest sin of man is to forget that he is a prince." Boom. I've been dishonoring God by treating myself as a broken failure constantly trying to be good enough instead of the creation He made, His image-bearer, a child of the King. I am a princess. There's no arguing with that.

On one page, Jeff explicitly says, "Saying yes to Jesus is just the beginning." I remember the night I became a Christian and got baptized; I'd heard for so long of all the great things that would come once I "got saved" that I thought suddenly everything would get easier and better afterwards...Then I ended up in the hospital two days later. So much for that idea, right? Almost immediately into my life as a Christian, I had to realize that life was still going to be just as hard as before, if not harder; the only difference was that now, I had a new perspective on everything and a new hope to get through it. Three and a half years later, and I still have to remind myself of that lesson and the hope that comes in Jesus in the middle of the darkness.

That brings me to another point that really jumped out at me. In Chapter 4, "You're Not Who You Think," Jeff dives into the meaning of "the wilderness," and the good that can come from that which we see as simply ugly, painful, and broken. (emphasis mine) "The wilderness represented death, ache, pain, no food, and thirst. Yet God said He was going to lure them into the wilderness. There's this romance in that word lure; it's as if God is wooing them into the wilderness. He wanted to speak tenderly to them. God sees the wilderness as a special place between us and him. What if we stopped rejecting it?" That passage right there, that takes every time I've ever pleaded with God to give me a break and make the pain and sickness go away, and makes it seem silly. My friend Taylor once told me that people like him who have lived virtually pain-free lives will be envious of the intimacy with Jesus that I have experienced through hurting. Yet I have spent so much time begging for a way out. Thank you, Jeff, for helping me see that the wilderness can help me see God clearer than ever before.

Then there is Chapter 8: "Brokenness Is Not What You Think: You Must Embrace Your Scars." Oh man. I think I was about three pages into this chapter when I started crying. Scars from my past have always been something I've struggled greatly with. And I'm not talking about my many surgical scars; those have been easy to come to terms with compared to the emotional scars that still sometimes feel so raw and fresh years after the fact. Most of the time, they're healed, they're just scars. You can ask me about them and my past, and I will find great joy in telling you my story because it means I get to tell you about the God who saved me time and time again, how God brought beauty from the ashes of a very broken little girl who thought she had nothing else. But sometimes, talk of the scars seems to rip them fresh open, and guilt, regret, and pain hit me like a tidal wave all over again. Like Jeff, I begin to question why I feel that way when I thought I was healed. There's a delicate balance, because I can't always tell in advance how I will feel if someone asks me a question.

But then I remember the day I met The Vespers, and how it felt to tell my story for the first time. I laid out every detail of my past to a stranger in the middle of the dining hall. How it felt to be wrecked by fear that Bruno would think I was a freak and recoil in horror, but instead to have him look at me with grace in his eyes and empathy and encouragement in his words. That day was when I began to understand that my story wasn't as dark and ugly as I thought it was; from the outside, people could see redemption and strength and miracles. Slowly, I began to understand that, and after I became a Christian, it became even more clear to me. That's why I tell people now that sharing my story is actually really fun for me, not because it gives me an excuse to talk to people, but because I get to tell people about all the amazing things God has done. I get to show people the kind of miracles God can pull off when the world says there's no hope. I get to show people my scars and say, "Look how far God has brought me."

I think the difference between me before talking to Bruno and me after is that I understand now that scars aren't something to hide away. I don't have to pretend they don't exist. Jeff says it so beautifully (emphasis mine). "They tell a story. What's more, after the resurrection Jesus is in a perfect glorified body. (His body is what ours will look like at the end of time when everything is fully restored.) Yet he still has scars. While many of us see scars as a weakness, if Jesus has scars after the resurrection, then maybe they're not. Maybe scars make us truly human. They show we've lived." Thank you, Jeff, for the reminder that the scars of life are a chance to boast in our weakness so that we can also boast of God's power. 

Christians, let me say this very simply: You NEED to read this book. It's not that I'm telling you that you should because I like Jeff and I like supporting him. I'm telling you that you need to read this book because there is healing to be found in these pages. We all have scars. We all have identity crises. (At least, anyone I've ever met does.) Jeff's words will help you move past those and dance freely in the person you were created to be: clean, righteous, enough. For me, with this book, Jeff has brought me and my soul back to the heart of who God sees me as and the potential I have as an image-bearer and child of the King of the universe. This book will remind you to slow down in the busyness of life, reconnect with the people you love, and go back and sit at the feet of the One who loves you more than you could ever imagine. It is filled with lessons and a new perspective on what it means to be Christians and Jesus-followers in this world, and how maybe we should be helping bring God here now instead of running from it. I can almost guarantee you that there you have a perspective on and understand of something in this book that will be flipped on its head and be made bright and clear. Things that you may have become complacent in your understanding of, Jeff helps make it clear that It's Not What You Think. It's so much better. 

It's Not What You Think: Why Christianity is About So Much More than Going to Heaven When You Die by Jefferson "Jeff" Bethke releases on October 13, 2015. You can pre-order it on Amazon here or at Barnes & Noble here.

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Thursday, August 27, 2015

When Prayer Feels Inadequate

I'm guessing I don't need to tell you what has happened in Virginia.

My heart is broken for Alison Ward and Adam Parker's family, friends, boyfriend and fiancée, colleagues, and all the people in the Roanoke, VA, area who grew used to watching them on TV.

I remember how my community reacted when a popular weatherman died. There was great mourning for everyone, and that wasn't from murder. I can't even imagine what that community of people is feeling, not only to have this happen, but to have it happen live on air. So many people say that reporters become like part of the family because they're in your home every single day, and I finally kind of get that now. Alison was actually a reporter for one of my hometown's local news stations before she moved to Virginia, so the connection hits closer to home than I thought it would.

There have been a lot of questions in my head today.
Why is it always "disgruntled former employees" who do this?
Why are they so often such cowards that they'll kill themselves before they have to face what they've done?
How sick do you have to be to not just record yourself committing murder, but to do it live on-air to terrify who knows how many people?
Have we really entered a stage of social media where people can and will actually post murders on the internet and have others re-upload it and post it everywhere like it's some sick kind of entertainment?
Did anyone have a clue this guy was the kind of person who would boast of admiration for the VA Tech killer (because he got nearly twice the "body count" of the Columbine shooters)?
How did this guy go unnoticed when he called himself "a human powder keg waiting to go boom"?
How many times does this have to happen (there have already been more than 850 mass shootings since Sandy Hook in December 2012) before we wise up and get better gun laws?

Those are just some of them...but with a whole lot of expletives added in.

I'm angry and hurt and sad and in shock, and I don't even know anyone involved.

I know this is the time when I need to be in serious prayer. For Alison's boyfriend, Adam's fiancée (who also watched it happen live, because she is a producer at the station and was in the control room), their families, friends, everyone at their station, the community who watched it and knew them. And I know I need to pray for the shooter's family and friends, as they try to wrap their minds around what he's done, because chances are they're just as in shock as everyone else.

I know that prayer is the only thing I can give right now, and that it's the best thing I can give, but right now, it just feels so...inadequate.

It feels like I should be doing more, even though I know that's impossible. Even though I know that God is near to the brokenhearted. Even though I know that their loved ones have a community around them to support them, and I didn't even know them, sitting here, I feel so helpless knowing that something like this has happened and there's nothing that can be done to change it or make it better. I wish I could actively be doing something, anything, to help those thrown into the depths of grief. We can probably chalk this up to my innate need to "fix" things.

But I can't fix this and I can't make it better. I know that prayer is all I have to give, but that doesn't mean I'm happy about it. So I'll send it up to God, knowing that God has been with those grieving long before the murders even happened, and that they won't be alone as they walk this aftermath.

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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

It's been a rough few days.

Saturday night, a bunch of symptoms set in that, long story short, made me seriously question if something was wrong with my shunt because of the speed at which they grew and how intense they got.

Twelve hours in an ER, scans, examinations, meds, and lots of miscommunications later, and apparently, my migraines, which haven't really plagued me in months and never with the set of symptoms I got Saturday night, are back and worse than ever.

Which is just, you know, super timing.

So I really haven't done much of anything but sleep since then.

The good news is I'm still seizure free, which is huge progress. The ER told me to follow up with my neurologist, and I already have an appointment set up with him for next week anyway.

I just need the pain to go back down, because classes start in a week and I will be hearing back about the internship any day now which means I could start any day.

For now, though, I'm going to go take a hot shower because I had to go with Holly to do my build up of almost three weeks worth of laundry (not my fault, Holly was on vacation and then worked doubles all of last week) so now I am super sweaty and gross.

Tomorrow, I've got a psychiatry med appointment, and then I plan on doing nothing but read this book for the launch team I'm on. (Jeff Bethke's new book, stay tuned!)

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Friday, August 21, 2015

It's you they add up to.

Truth time: I've been on a bit of a One Direction kick lately. Yeah, I know. They're a lot more talented than I ever gave them credit for.

One of the first songs I listened to from them on YouTube a couple weeks ago was "Little Things." It's all about how the little things a girl doesn't like about herself are all the things that her boyfriend loves, that he loves every part of her and she's perfect to him.

Most teenage girls probably like to dream that one of the boys is singing the song directly to her, but for me, it's been a huge reminder to love myself, every part of myself, even the things that my first instinct is to cringe at and put down. To stop demeaning my beauty. To stop playing the comparison game and thinking about how other girls are prettier/better/more attractive than me.

A big part of me is still absolutely terrified that I'll never get married and have kids, that as Landon once said, he is "all I'm ever going to get." (Yeah. He did.) I still have many days where I believe that I'm never going to have that powerful, beautiful romantic love and find someone to, as cliche as it sounds, share my life with for the rest of my life. And I tell myself that if I really am alone forever, that it'll be because of all these little things that I don't like about myself.

But then I remember something Clayton once told me after the conversation with Landon back in April, when I asked him to tell me that I was going to find someone one day that didn't treat me like Landon did. This is what he said.

"I believe that as amazing of a person as you are, there's no way that you won't find a man who loves you completely and cares about you more than himself."

Friends are there to believe when you can't. To see the beauty in you when you're your own worst enemy. And remembering this response from Clayton and the message behind this song (as silly as it may be to think so hard about a One Direction song) helps me remember that there is so much more to me than the negative things I often see first. So who cares where it comes from? We all need help sometimes remembering that we are beautiful and loved just as we are. Because every little thing about us, even the things we wish we could change, add up to the beautiful, amazing creatures that we are. We're lovely just like this.

Your hand fits in mine like it's made just for me,
but bear this in mind, it was meant to be,
and I'm joining up the dots with the freckles on your cheeks,
and it all makes sense to me.

I know you've never loved the crinkles by your eyes when you smile.
You've never loved your stomach or your thighs,
the dimples in your back at the bottom of your spine,
but I'll love them endlessly.

I won't let these little things slip out of my mouth,
but if I do, it's you, oh, it's you they add up to.
I'm in love with you
and all these little things.

You can't go to bed without a cup of tea,
and maybe that's the reason that you talk in your sleep,
and all those conversations are the secrets that I keep,
though it makes no sense to me.

I know you've never loved the sound of your voice on tape.
You never want to know how much you weigh.
You still have to squeeze into your jeans,
but you're perfect to me.

I won't let these little things slip out of my mouth,
but if it's true, it's you, it's you they add up to.
I'm in love with you
and all these little things.

You'll never love yourself half as much as I love you,
and you'll never treat yourself right, darlin', but I want you to.
If I let you know I'm here for you,
maybe you'll love yourself like I love you, oh.

I've just let these little things slip out of my mouth,
'cause it's you, oh, it's you, it's you they add up to,
and I'm in love with you
and all these little things.

I won't let these little things slip out of my mouth,
but if it's true, it's you, it's you they add up to.
I'm in love with you
and all your little things.

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Wednesday, August 19, 2015

God is good.

I'm tired, so this is short.

My tuition will be paid.

The loan went through.

The check will be in the mail tomorrow.

Praise the Lord.

The interview was fine. Crossing my fingers that I get it. They need a lot of help with transcription, so I know I would rock at it. (Thank you, Dr. Steegar and Anima.)

I've got a "homework assignment" that I need to send in. I plan on doing that tomorrow.

I should hear back within a week, provided I get that done tomorrow.

I hate waiting, but that's life.

I'm thankful to have had so many people praying for both of these things for me.

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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Night-Before Jitters

I have an interview tomorrow.

My first ever professional interview.

It's for this place called The Cordoba Initiative up in Harlem. It's a multi-national organization that works with the Muslim community and works to build trust, cooperation, and peace among different cultures and religions.

I love what they stand for, so I hope I get it.

But let's be real: I also hope I get it because this is the only place that invited me for an interview out of a dozen applications, I couldn't really find anything else to apply for that I had a shot at being qualified for, and I'm running out of time.

I'm nervous. I was stuttering so bad just on the phone with the internship coordinator, and I'll be in person with the executive director tomorrow.

Gotta grow up and do stuff like this eventually, though, I guess.

Sigh. Here we go.

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Sunday, August 16, 2015


Today was one of those days where I was reminded just how thankful I am for the community I have.

Nothing super significant happened. I'm just really happy and feeling very loved.

My church family, y'all. I smile just from being around them. This is the first church I've ever been in where I feel completely safe and free to be honest. The first church community that when they say they are praying and will pray for me, I have no doubt that they're telling the truth. I have made some dear friends. I can't wait to go back every single Sunday because when things are great, my joy only multiplies being in worship with my dear community, and when things are hard, they surround me with love, will pray for me on the spot, and show their investment in my life just by the way they hug me and look at me when I'm talking to them. They are a gift.

That would have been enough good for me today, but then tonight, I was just sitting here listening to music, and suddenly Austin surprise FaceTimed me. We got to talk for about 40 minutes, and our conversation reminded me that I don't have to worry about him. This friendship is totally symbiotic, and both of us are giving of ourselves. For a change, I actually got to listen to him and give him advice and reassurance, because let's be real, it's usually the other way around. Big life transitions are hard (yay growing up) and I'm a step ahead of him on this, so I'm thankful that I was able to help him for a bit tonight.

Community is so, so crucial, y'all. I can't say that enough. I spent so long doing things pretty much entirely on my own, thinking I had to take care of everything on my own, that as much as I wanted friends, I never thought they'd come and never realized what a drastic difference they would make in my life. Friendships can be so life-giving, especially at times when your soul feels empty and your bones feel dry and weak. And the fact that I have a friend who is over a thousand miles away from me now who still plays a vital role in my life, and whose life I play a big role in, as well, I think speaks volumes to what can happen when you find those quality friendships that are built to last. It's funny what happens when relationships are focused on Jesus. ;)

God bless whatever folks at Apple created FaceTime, that's all I can say. The distance feels a little less painful when you can actually see each other's faces.

In conclusion, I am a very, very lucky girl.

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Thursday, August 13, 2015

Not Alone

I've been alone in the apartment all week. Holly went to NC on Saturday, and the roommate left to go home to her family on Sunday until the semester starts.

Too much starts to get to me. I don't do well with too much time by myself. Chalk it up to my 100% extrovert personality, or the fact that I have several things in my life right now that I'm trying not to stress about, but when I spend too much time alone, I get way too caught up in my head and either my depression kicks in or I send myself into a panic attack. Neither are very good options.

So by last night, I was more than needy to have someone to talk to (at least, about something other than Landon). So I looked through my phone thinking about who I could call up, and I settled on Christian. I haven't talked to him much because he quit working at Spiegel around my birthday, so we sort of drifted, which is easy to do when you don't have a set, given way to see each other.

It turned out to be something that I think we both really needed. It's always good to catch up with a friend, but especially so when you realize that you're struggling with the same feelings. Turns out, despite going through very different situations, we've both been battling similar issues within ourselves. It felt so good to talk it out, but also to have a distraction from it and laugh and be our usual silly selves.

And knowing Christian, I'm pretty sure he would say the same for him. He sure sounded a lot happier by the time we hung up than he did when we started.

But my favorite part of the conversation was when we decided we needed a good hangout. So we're going to get together tomorrow night and go to the movies. We're going to see some superhero movie that he really wants to see. I know nothing about it, but if it makes him happy, I'll gladly sit through it, since it means I get to spend time with him.

The goober better not cancel on me. ;)

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Wednesday, August 12, 2015


So here's what I've come to accept today: I'm an addict.

I'm an addict whose drug came in the form of a boy I fiercely loved, fought to believe loved me, and desperately wanted to fix so that things could be okay. Even though that drug nearly destroyed me and my life on multiple occasions, I kept going back to the one thing I knew was terrible for me but couldn't seem to quit.

Sure, sometimes I would think I'd beaten the addiction, but a few weeks or months later, that drug would come back, dancing in front of me with the memories of the good feelings it brought, and I would fall right back into its grasp.

Sound like anyone familiar?

Yeah. Landon came back. This time, it was to apologize for his girlfriend texting to harass and threaten me. And I don't know if it's because it was midnight and I haven't slept much the past couple of days or what, but I answered. I have no idea why I answered.

Two pieces of a conversation spread out over three hours later, and I crashed into sleep like an addict whose high has worn off. But I woke up just four hours later and my very first thought was "What have I done?" I immediately texted Ashley because I wanted a girlfriend, and because I knew there was no way Clayton would be awake yet. She tried to reassure me, but I just couldn't wrap my head around what she was saying because I was still so caught up in being mad at myself for opening myself up to being put back in the same position I spent six years trying to escape.

And honestly, as silly as it sounds, I was plagued with worry that Clayton was going to be so disappointed in me. He saw the panicked text I sent him when he woke up and wasted no time in FaceTiming me, even while he was eating breakfast. Over the next two hours (God bless him), we dissected everything that was said, everything that was in my head, and he bluntly and kindly spelled out the three options I had in front of me, options only I could make the choice between.

1: Let him back in, and try to reconcile things again.

But as Clayton said, "There is no path in this universe that option could take that ends in you being happy." And even though the conversation last night realized I still missed him and still loved him far more than I thought I did, I knew that wasn't the option I needed to make because, if it was, I wouldn't have woken up with so much regret.

2: Block him without saying a word. Disappear, essentially.

That was the option he recommended, but he also acknowledged that it probably wasn't what I would do, because he knows me and so he knows that I get stuck in a rut when there's something I needed or wanted to say and didn't. I straight up told him that I knew that if I just blocked him without saying a word, it would eat at me. Not saying what I wanted to say would eat at me. Wondering how he would react to the abrupt silence, if he even noticed it. I wouldn't be able to get it out of my head.

3: Send him one text message explaining that last night was a mistake, then block him.

He explained that the only way this option would work is if I went full on into it. I had to not just not unblock him, but should he somehow get messages through to me, not even read them and delete them immediately. A recovering alcoholic doesn't hang out at a bar. A recovering drug addict doesn't just go hang out at his former drug dealer's house. I have to put in total measures against him, or I might as well just pick the first option, because halfway measures won't stand a chance against an addiction that has been active for more than a quarter of my life.

I picked 3. The most "me" option. When my phone said it was delivered and I hit block, I guess I thought I'd be relieved, because I knew I was doing the right thing, but instead, I just felt tired. And scared. Angry. Hurt. Frustrated.

"This is detox," Clayton said. "Detox is hard. It's not going to be easy. Your emotions are going to be going haywire. You're going to be questioning and second-guessing everything. But then you'll hit recovery, and that won't be quite as hard as long as you stick with the program. You can't break. Because if you break again and let him back in even for one conversation, I don't think you'll ever stop."

Detox sucks. Immediately after it started, I got overwhelmed by this fear that I wouldn't have the willpower to stick with this if/when he comes back (and I included "when" because, frankly, I don't think he's ever going to stop trying). After many, many hours of YouTube, though, I feel more confident that I can do it....but it still hurts like hell.

But you know, studies say that recovering addicts have a much higher chance of success when they have a support system around them. And I definitely do. Clayton insisted on being my accountability, and said that if he somehow finds a way to contact me, that I text Clayton so I don't respond to him. That I can say everything to Clayton that I want to say in a response to Landon so I can get it out without cutting off the padlocks to the door between us again. I think that'll go a long way, because he knows how damaging it is for me to hold my thoughts in on something this, so at least I'll have a way to get it out without letting danger back in.

Detox is so hard and painful. But with a support system like the one I have, I feel like I can take on the world. Which is exactly what I need to feel. I know what love really is through my friends, not through the words of a boy who hasn't changed or moved forward.

So let's do this, eh? I'm ready to earn my first sobriety chip.

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Sunday, August 9, 2015


One year.

One year ago today, I got on a train, got in a cab, and found myself here.

The steps of my own apartment in the middle of the city I never really thought I'd get to live in, let alone at 22, the craziest, biggest, loudest city in America.

And so began the biggest adventure of my life.

The biggest, and the hardest.

The past year in New York has been harder, more overwhelming, and crazier than I ever could have prepared myself for. But it's also been way better.

Let's recap, shall we?

I thought living with Holly would be a nightmare. Turns out, having her here has been a huge blessing. And our relationship has improved so much. I feel like finally (FINALLY!) we're not just sisters, we're friends, too. Friends who really like each other, who confide in each other, who like spending time together. We finally have the relationship I so desperately wanted growing up.

I immediately found a church who became family to me and helped carry me through this year. I'd have been so lost without them. I made friends who have prayed for me and with me and made me feel not alone in this huge and often lonely city.

I got my first experience of living with someone other than my sisters. It's been trying and exhausting and frustrating, but lately we've come to realize that even though we get on each other's nerves, we love each other, and we have each other's back. And that's what is important, not petty fights.

Grad school classes are the first real difficult education I've had in my life. They've stressed me out beyond all imagination, but it's also helped me come a long way in accepting that I'm doing my best, even if my grades aren't as high as they could be and they have been in the past. I've found myself chilling out a lot more and not panicking about my grades. I kind of had to, with all of the medical stuff that's been going on.

Speaking of that...a shoulder injury that lasted two and a half months before I had the surgery and then a month of recovery after, on my good arm, no less. Which makes doing classwork pretty dang difficult. An awful Prednisone reaction that left me in excruciating pain all over for weeks, barely able to move. A fractured ankle. A messed up wrist. And seizures. SO MANY SEIZURES. A lot of the time, I've been in survival mode, so my grades couldn't be my top priority, as much as I wish I could've pulled it all off.

There were many times when I missed my mom more than I ever expected I would before I came up here. But what was even harder was going from having all of my best friends within a five-minute walking distance of me to being hundreds of miles away from them. The people who filled my senior year with memories I hope I never forget could no longer be with me physically. I realized pretty early on that as happy as I was (am) to be here, my heart was split in two places, and that's an awful feeling. But at the same time, I learned what amazing friends I have, because I saw the friendships that meant the most to me surpass time and distance. Clayton, Austin, my soccer boys, even as far apart as we are, I have felt them cheering me on every step of the way. And that has meant more than they know. It's meant the world to me.

I finally got myself out from under Landon's spell. As luck would have it, moving 600 miles away is pretty helpful in getting out of an abusive relationship.

I've found more self-confidence in being myself when going out with Holly. Two guys have asked me for my number, which is something that has never happened before for me. (Granted, they went nowhere, but still, progress.)

I got to meet some of my favorite dancers from Dancing with the Stars. Bucket list moment? CHECK!

And Spiegel. Oh, my dear Spiegel family. My escape from the world, and the apartment. Sure, their food is amazing, but I keep going back there because the crew there has become my family in a way I never expected them to. They have taken care of me more times than I count. They have made me smile and laugh on bad days. They have let me hang out even when I had no money to eat just because I needed somewhere to be outside of my room. I feel at peace and at home as soon as I walk in, and that is a gift.

It's been a crazy amazing year. Sometimes it still feels surreal that I actually get to live here.

I'm excited and nervous and anxious to see what my life will look like a year from now. Guess there's only one way to find out...

On to year 2! Here we go!

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Saturday, August 8, 2015

These Four

These ones.

I got to see them and hug them for the first time since Taylor's wedding. In November 2013! This was long overdue.

They came to the city for a show. I haven't been going far from my apartment really because of all the seizures, so imagine my lovely surprise when I learned that their show would be at Rockwood, a music hall that is like two blocks from my apartment. Rockwood is not air-conditioned, so it was a risk going, but I couldn't pass up at least trying. Good thing, too, because I made it through the whole night with no problems. Yay!

I will spare you the millionth reiteration of how much I love them or how they are some of the most talented (ridiculously talented) people I know. Click on the "The Vespers" tag and you'll see that all over the history of this blog.

So I will say this: Tonight was the most fun I've had in a long time. My life felt normal, and not stressful or hard, for the first time in months. I didn't know how desperately I needed to be at this show tonight until I saw them and I couldn't stop grinning the entire night.

And talking to them afterwards, it was just the encouragement I needed. Bruno and Taylor especially were so good about lifting me up when we talked. Even after everything changing so much in the four and a half years we've known each other, I know that they still love me and still pray for me and still have my back if I need them.

I'm so thankful that I got to have this night with the four people that were the vehicle God used to get me back to Him. I owe more them than I can ever possibly repay. But they know they have my love, and for now, that's enough.

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Tuesday, August 4, 2015

It's gonna take a miracle.

Aunt Dinah has no money to help me through this year.

Which means I'm out of options.

Which means we have until September 15 to find about $8500 or I'll be knocked out a year before reaching the end of everything I've fought so hard for.

It's gonna take a miracle.

Good thing we know Someone in that business.

Also, I have a concussion, which means my brain feels like scrambled eggs, so I may be silent again for a while. This blog just isn't something my heart is much into anymore.

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