"So, AG...what's next?" pt. ii - I'm Moving to LA

What I'm about to start typing out almost doesn't even feel real. In January of 2017, I wrote "So, AG...what's next?" and now, almost a year and a half later, I am so joyful to write out the fruition of that original post. I feel such an array of different emotions - gratitude, joy, bittersweetness, ambition - so let's get to it, shall we?

Since that last post, quite a bit has happened and changed. My hair is no longer bleached (and all the crunchy people and their green juice said "Amen!"). I, the girl who SWORE she'd never date someone who went to Ledford High, met in a gym, or who wasn't at least 10 years older than herself, have been in a wonderful relationship with a super cute bearded guy with all attributes from above, and for over a year now. And yes - pretty sure I love that guy a little more every day. I finished school, passed my state board, work as a massage therapist at a spa, and recently began my own practice. I stopped wearing so much dang makeup all the time (Shoutout to some classmates and my guy who literally changed my life by the power of a few words), and started letting my face go bare more. And feeling really, really okay with it. I traded pop culture radio for K-Love. I came face to face with a lot of my introspective ugliness, fears, and demons I've wrestled over the years, and saw many of them put to rest. I've faced difficult decisions, experienced a season of sheer panic and stress, heartbreak, and quite a few moments of feeling like I was merely praying to air and feeling incredulously, internally lonely. But I've also experienced, firsthand, what it's like to be pulled out of a season of absolute despair, depression, and a crippling, anxiety jaded reality. I've experienced more life, more hope, more beauty and pockets of joy than ever in my life.  I've learned that although my expectations are often jinxed by reality, that doesn't equate life in its entirety to suddenly being shitty and hopeless. I learned that those moments are temporary, and even though it sometimes feels like my spirit is being crushed by the realness and harshness of this world we live in...it's going to pass. I've learned, on that same note, that even amidst a chronically difficult season, that it also is humanly my choice as to what my perspective will be. Didn't get the job? Fireworks got rained out? Service engine light came on? Sucks for a moment, but it has 0 power to reshape my entire day and the good that I'm probably overlooking. It's my choice; not the circumstance's. I've experienced immense comfort when my soul was restless, peace when my mind was rampant, and clarity when I felt as though I was begging the Holy Spirit for answers. You know what I also learned?

...Precisely what I typed out almost a year and a half ago. Sometimes, you need to give things time to unfold, and stop expecting them to work themselves out in 1 week's time, dang it! *points to self*

 "...I made room. I gave God space. And you know what's kind of funny? Things started happening. Things started unfolding. I started discerning God's voice in ways I never had before. Dare I say - I even felt a spirit of joy, which I had not in quite a long time. I took a mere 2 week hiatus from social media, made a (desperately needed) quiet time with God priority, and essentially had to say, 'Lord, Your will be done.' I welcomed silence. I let my rapid mind relax. I had to come to a place of being okay with aspirations and strong desires not panning out. I let go of expectations I clung so tightly to, and just let things happenIf I have learned anything, it is that sometimes, the unknown is often what will mold you and shape you and force you to grit your teeth and dig a little deeper. And who knows? Stepping into the unknown just might be your answer. Give Heavenly Father space. Press into the stillness. Welcome the silence. See what happens."

That is what leads me here. For 12 years now, I have had the deepest ambition and desire to move to CA. I remember the first time that thought ever entered my mind so clearly. I was a scrawny little thing sitting outside of a shoe store, feeling almost urgently that I wanted and even NEEDED to go. And you know what happened?

More doors SHUT than I could count. It took me 7 years to go. And the first time was just a connecting flight in LAX for a few minutes. Believe me when I say I fought tooth and nail and kicked and screamed and was ready to start prying some doors open. And a few times? Things legitimately started working out in my favor. 2 years ago, I almost had a place to stay, and a dear friend as a roommate. I almost had a job. I knew a bunch of people throughout the state. I met amazing people on some more trips I took out there, and "Surely," I thought, "I will have some sort of Divine connection that will 'BOOM!' be my 1 way ticket to CA." Everything seemed almost too good to be true. And it was. The friendship deteriorated.  People found their groups, faded away, we lost contact, and felt as nothing more than acquaintances or strangers. The job wasn't promising, and if anything, actually seemed really sketchy. Doors that were swinging wide open...were suddenly slammed shut. On top of it, I had no idea what I was doing with my life. No, really. I had passions and hobbies and a sorta-kinda-fuzzy-vision...but no real game plan. I was crushed. My high of ambition and expectations turned to dust. There was so much to be done, with so little answers. I felt like a failure. I felt depressed many, many times. I wondered at certain points if this was God's way of punishing me. This almost lifelong vision and dream of mine...nothing was happening. If anything, the shut doors and pure rejection pointed in the direction that CA was, in fact, NOT where I should be headed. What a fool I felt like. I was always the girl crazily, but confidently, telling people of her plans to move to CA with much enthusiasm. And now, it felt like a joke. I felt like nothing more than a dreamer with her head in the clouds, and a failure on the sidelines watching a dream painfully, slowly, almost torturously break a part. My own life was taunting me. Nothing was happening.

But oh - everything was happening. 

A baby in utero has to grow. Dessert has to bake. Orchards have to blossom. Marathons will always take 26.2 miles.  The common denominator? Things. take. TIME. In the words of Jane Johnson (writing about her 10 year wait for her miracle pregnancy),

"...But for us, those things weren’t the miracle we were both convinced and convicted God would perform for us. And, beyond that, the heart of the matter is that Christians today have somehow gotten away from the art of waiting. Because it’s uncomfortable. Painful, even. And flies in the face of our 'get it now and get it fast' culture.
So I ask one big and bold question: Can we get back to the art of simply waiting on the LORD? Because there are beautiful promises tucked away within the wait (Isaiah 40:31 being one of them)."

The biggest life lesson I've learned, is that waiting and things taking time, is not wasted. If I had gone to CA 2 years ago, I would not have gone to massage therapy school.  I wouldn't have had a reliable car to drive across the country and throughout CA traffic. If I had gone last year, I would not have met my wonderful guy, Sully.  I think that because we cannot humanly see God working out those nitty gritty details - sometimes being that we are meant to wait for the people or happenings or spiritual "EUREKA!"s to unfold first - we often automatically assume that nothing is happening, or that our dream or lifelong ambition is a ruin. If I've learned anything, it's that time is absolutely everything, and holding back and squeamishly allowing things to unfold IS precisely what should be happening! It IS the Divine intervention. We prefer to see miracles and answers in the present, in the now, and we often like for them to be clear cut and tangible. However, I find that I personally am left with pointers, but even more so a call to step out in faith OR to step back, and in faith, allow things to unfold and simply happen. Not kicking, not screaming, not rushing to pick the fruit that isn't ripened yet; but to be actively seeking wisdom and confirmation in my prayers, planting seeds, and then the most squeamish part....waiting. Waiting for those seeds to grow; to flourish; to produce the actual fruit. I've learned that most of the things I am on pins and needles trying to force to happen in as near future as possible....usually are the exact things that I am on for the long haul. 

And so, here comes the surreal part that I still can't really believe I am typing out. After 12 years, many prayers, many times of begging God for answers and clarity, much failure, a million closed doors, rejection, disappointment, reality crushing expectation...

In August, I am moving to California. 

All I can feel is grateful. I am still in awe of how it has unfolded, and how it will continue to. My expectations have been surpassed by things I could have never dreamt of. I have a job lined up as a massage therapist. Some of the kindest, most generous friends of mine have offered a place to stay while I get settled and prepare to move out on my own. My best friend and favorite guy, Sully, was accepted into The Master's University in Santa Clarita and will be joining me in this 36 hour, cross country adventure. One of my best friends, BLESS her,  enthusiastically volunteered to drive my car across the country, so we don't have to pay to ship the other.  I'm not kidding. I am still in complete awe. I have a head full of dreams that I'm eager to begin cultivating and exploring. A lot of people comment on my life and how "adventurous" it seems, or how "exciting" my posts on social media are. I think that, perhaps, there is sometimes the idea that I just do as I please and don't have to worry about all that much, or that life is always chocolate cake. Well, let me tell you, it has definitely not come without hard work, ups and downs, and a roller coaster of emotions. I pay for all of my travel expenses. I don't ask for money from my parents or family, and if I need more money, I work for it; whether that be picking up extra shifts, or hosting photo sessions, or saving it along the way. I don't just score lucky either. I take time and scope things out, plant seeds, network, and do all of the planning. Sometimes all perfectly aligns, and other times, things fall through and I move to a Plan B and then a Plan C. Life has felt like a slap in the face at times. And like I mentioned before - remember, this has been a 12 year process. So lots of waiting. And more waiting. 

But alas - the wait is nearly almost over. In less than 2 months, I will pack my life into a few bags and road trip 36 hours across the country and become a CA transplant. While it is exciting and adventurous and like a dream come true to think about, it also is so bittersweet. I'll sometimes catch myself in my ego cloud of, "Pffft; there's so much more in CA than this small town." But you know what? Thomasville, NC, though teeny tiny and hosting a pretty scary Wal-Mart, will always be home. I've always found it to be a little arrogant when people are quick to trash their hometown, as if their new city or place of living suddenly makes them so much cooler and better than everyone else. Admittedly? I've fallen prey to this mentality before. I get it; if you had no real community and lived a shoddy childhood full of expectations and 0 authenticity, it makes sense. But this past year, I had a good ego check with myself, and honestly formed a soft spot for this small town of mine. It's the people who made it that way. There's a coffee shop I go to on the weekly, with the most offbeat group of kids/young adults who I'll often see. It was my study spot all through school, and still my favorite little haven to be around humanity, but also in my own little bubble. ;) I don't think any hipster, conventional, wheatgrass shot coffee shop in a big city could replace the community I've found here, my usual americano or cold brew with a splash of coconut milk, or the way one of the owners is quick to stop and pray for you when checking in on how your life is going. My church is full of thinkers and real, genuine community; and my pastor has set many afternoons aside to meet up with Sully and me, and make our brains explode with his wisdom. The YMCA was the first place I actually started really caring about/improving myself physically. Everyone feels like family. I've been given much life advice, and taken under many wings. I've been joined for many 4AM long runs, joined in on a marathon training group, met a beautiful, selfless soul who one day came up to me and said, "The Lord has led me to give my tithes to you to support you in your CA mission," (you know exactly who you are; and I still find myself in awe of your generosity and pure kindness and am forever grateful), been pushed and realized I could do more than I thought I could, and also fell in love with a super cute runner dude who I met, whilst swinging a kettlebell one evening. ;) That place will always hold a menagerie of memories, good people, and good times. My home, my family, where I grew up - shaped much of who I am today. My dad and my brother taught me that conversations about philosophy and religion and politics can actually be (dare I say)...fun. Enlightening. Interesting. And my mom taught me that the power of prayer, and especially the small ones, are always worth praying, and that listening to annoying 80s music while cleaning makes it go by faster. ;) Leaving home makes me reflect quite a bit on my childhood - family vacations, summer evenings spent running around barefoot in the yard, instigating and then being dumped in the trash can by the church bullies back in the day, chocolate chip pancakes being our Friday morning tradition back in school, prepping for dance recitals during the summer and stage productions during the school year, sleepovers and hide-and-go-seek tag and bike rides around the neighborhood and playing Barbies until sunset with the next door neighbors, saving my whopping $5 a week for being a "babysitter's helper" and finally buying a baby hamster, my dad digging graves for said hamsters and my mom comforting mourning kids over said hamsters, creating Barbie horror movies and slightly graphic American Girl Doll, slow motion birth videos with my BFF, life being carefree and curious. My entire family has helped shape who I am today, even though I am hardheaded and often pretend I'm *totes independent and have got this life stuff*, and I would not be who I am today without their constant love, support, encouragement, and generosity. 

It's easy to feel strong, ambitious, and push forward into new adventures and realities - but the truth is this: Leaving home is bittersweet, new territory can be a little scary, and homesickness is real thing. In a little over 1 month's time, I will be a coast away from everything I am familiar with and have always known, and begin a new chapter in my life. But you know - I also feel a strange sense of peace about it all as well. Trying out life in CA isn't an act of rebellion, my motive to go "find myself", or really even my way of trying to fill some void. It's simply an open door to many years of prayer and waiting, and so all I can do is pack my bags, take a leap of faith, and allow things to simply unfold.

"I sought the Lord, and he answered me
and delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant,
and their faces shall never be ashamed." Psalm 34:4-5


Today, I Was Supposed to Run a Marathon.

Today, I was supposed to run a marathon.

(MB Marathon, 2017. Showing my proof + token of completion. Also, never wear all black for a marathon. Or pin your bib # to the jacket you want to shed 10/26.2 miles in. Also, I hate medals. But I mean, "Everyone's a winner," sooo...;)) 

I had the date, October 21st, marked down. I put in the notice that I would be absent from school, gave the dates to my employer months in advance, so that I could road trip a day early to D.C. to try and conquer 26.2 miles once more. I stuck to a schedule, faithfully endured my weekly long run, pushed through the summer humidity, and even began to PR and progress from where I had started. My boyfriend (Who ran his first marathon in under 3 hours. Yes, he's a superhero.) created a schedule, graciously rode his bike alongside me several times as I trudged through a long run,  and was the most supportive and encouraging, even when I was totally sucking it. For once, I felt proud of myself. I even felt kind of impressible, because amidst school, work, and various other commitments, I was making room for this marathon, gosh darnit! I felt better physically than my last one (which also happened to be my first one), stayed caught up on sleep, and loved the "post long run skinny feeling" from losing water weight, and felt comforted that I could thin down within 2 weeks, just from running. I was ready for the long haul. I was ready to do this. I was ready to prove myself, because my gosh, people really admired my "dedication" to powering through such nitty gritty radness. On September 10th, I ran 18 miles. Only a handful of long runs to go to get to 22 miles for my longest...and I would be there. No matter what, I wasn't going to call it quits. Nope. Not this far in the game.

...And then the inevitable happened - life happened - and little did I know that my hard work, (literal) blood, sweat, and tears, and long miles would come to an end on that very day.

Finances were not calling for a weekend trip to D.C. to run with a $400 charity group. I had a few health scares. School was incredibly demanding, leaving little room for much else. My physical body was burning out, and the same wave of fatigue, depression, and stress began setting in, as it did 6 months prior. I was weak, not consuming enough calories (despite my immense love for peanut butter and rice cakes), exhausted, sleep deprived, and began developing a minor injury. Being a decent, functioning human felt like a chore. I felt enslaved to my own self. Soon, I experienced perhaps the biggest emotional breakdown and panic of my life. Though I tried "gently fighting" my body and the fatigue at first, some brief circumstances were my ultimate, "AG....STOP." 

And so, I did.

Physically, emotionally...there was no way I was going to keep waking up at 4:30AM and drag myself out of bed and onto the pavement, just to reach a number on my watch. It all went from feeling like I was on top of the world, to feeling like sheer torture. Over the span of about 4 weeks, it was like watching a fire that took a hefty amount of time to kindle, suddenly burn out. My endurance faded. In fact, I would probably struggle to run even 10-12 miles at this point. The triangular, distinctive "runner's thigh gap" that formed, started filling back in. I didn't have a weekly long run to feel proud about, or boast about on Facebook, or a marathon to run that I thought would be the weekend of a lifetime. Today, I was supposed to cross the finish line. I was supposed to have loved ones travel alongside me and motivate me through 26.2 miles. I was supposed to take a photo in my tight running clothes, bib #, and PR and hashtag #MarineCorpsMarathon. I was supposed to read a rush of comments and texts complimenting my achievement, and I was supposed to barely be able to take another step, because wow moly - marathons make you a little sore. I was supposed to feel fulfilled and like I accomplished something of greatness - after all, it's what feeds my perfectionist nature the sensation of feeling loved and appreciated. 

But this here little post really isn't about running, or even the marathon. You see, there's a whole lot that is not coming to fruition as I had imagined - goals I wanted to accomplish, sensations I wanted to feel, people and places I longed to see. I am only capable of giving 100% of myself, but I often feel as though I need to up it, to that humanly impossible 110%. Sometimes though? Oh my...sometimes, we humans need to back off. And I'm not just talking about physically exerting yourself. I'm talking about those everyday life kind of things: Creating the Pinterest perfect birthday party for your kid, over scheduling yourself so that you can meet every single person's minute need, feeling the pressure of being the perfect, unflawed mom to your new, wee one, falling prey to the expectations of your mom or dad or friend or teacher and burning yourself out or altering your life just to please them, beginning a diet or exercise regimen or eating method, when really you're stuck feeling like you've just signed a contract with your own body and can't mess up, eating pizza (and dipping it in ranch) after you've just begun said exercise/food regimen and beating yourself up about it or purging it or exercising it off, measuring your self worth in grades, hobbies, career majors, obsessing over your liner and brows and contour being "on fleek" because you fear others seeing the naked skin underneath, working 9-5 and then more and trying to get the raise or promotion or the thrill of "the more, the merrier" cash flow - because men - we women know that you just want to be the good father, husband, boyfriend, and over-working is often jaded for "working hard" or "dedication," and sometimes ya gotta give yourself a break (because yes - you too deserve it). Perhaps as you look at the little slice of time left for October, you feel as though you're drowning in overcommitment, social pressure, unattainable expectations, comparing your life or body or social status or experiences to the Mom or high schooler or Kendall Jenner whose Instagram's bio may as well say, "Hello, my name is _____, and I have my shit together!" when you, in fact, don't have said shit together, and feel like your life is falling a part, burning yourself out, and crawling and struggling to ring that 110% bell. 

(^^Metaphorical AG on burnout; hence bloodshot eyes and consumption of cookie the size of face^^)

No. STOP. I'm serious. Let's stick to giving 100%, ok? Perhaps it's time that you find the marathon in your life - the one leaving you bone tired or depressed or malfunctioning or stressed - and surrender the constant training and burnout over. Maybe it's the workaholic mindset. Maybe it's an actual marathon. Maybe it's feeling like a failure because your straight A flow dropped to a B or a C.  I don't know. It could be anything. Your ego and self esteem will probably hurt at first. When I made myself click the "Send" button to cancel my marathon, it literally felt like I was somehow failing others or letting them down (even though...no one else was even tackling this monster with me???). I wanted to be the superhuman who was capable; the superhuman who could juggle a million tasks, and even accomplish something demanding and difficult in the process. I didn't realize it, but as I (literally) ran myself rampant...I was trying to earn people's affection, approval, and words of affirmation, but through doing something that would be deemed "praiseworthy" (aka a marathon, in my case). I'm a perfectionist who often struggles with feeling okay with being enough - just being the 100%. But the truth is that I couldn't  humanly balance it all. Even amidst the initial red flags, I still tried to push through. And it took quite a slap in the face from life to (almost literally) take my breath away and bring me back down to reality.

Hey; you...

...Give yourself grace. We humans often struggle with this. I'm not talking about this ambiguous "self love" movement spreading all over social media either - but rather...extend yourself some space within your own life, and back away when your fleshly desires begin consuming you. We were not created to be professionals at burnout. We were not created to superhuman. We were not created with 110% defining wholeness. Because of who God is, we have an open invitation to rest in his ever extending grace and peace. It's always there, but sometimes, we must allow our human nature to surrender something over to claim it and feel it. It's sort of like needing to simply adjust your backpack to quickly resolve the dull ache and tension, and yet, you keep wearing it too low, and the tension and dull ache remain and fester (Isn't that the ugliest word?).

And so, to open the floor for you too to ponder what you might surrender, what you might reprioritize, perhaps consider what has been silently consuming you - I'll tell you some of my goals, because as I write this, I still struggle with my perfectionist, 110%, "run the marathon" nature that's been draining me for quite a while now:

i. Start breaking my "vegan" based lifestyle. 

I literally found a book called, "Breaking Vegan," that I'm going to buy. No; I'm totally serious. Kind of ridiculous, right? After almost 4 years, I've realized the most I've gotten from it is a sense of control, and feeling like an utter failure if I don't "eat perfectly",  or feel a sense of guilt when I splurge and have something with (Heaven forbid) an "imperfect", "unethical", "animal product infested" ingredient in it. While I still super love a lot of the health benefits/really do feel better without animal protein as my staple...the vegan community (yeah; YOU GUYS!) and pressure to eat perfectly (which collides horrifically with my already "perfectionist" nature) and my tendency to cling to the same safety net of certain foods can just get downright overwhelming and stressful, as petty as it sounds. Vegan obsessed blogs, YouTube channels, and Instas don't help much either. It's like this, "If you don't eat perfectly, or even dare look at a product with a trace of an animal product, PETA is going to hunt you down and lock you in prison with a bunch of Paleo Crossfitters!" kind of mindset. In all seriousness though - it's baffling how these sites that are supposedly "encouraging" and "helping you to be the best version of yourself," make you feel more like a food obsessed failure, if you screw up the diet or lifestyle. I just want to eat well, feel well, and not resort to living off of the same 5 or 6 foods 24/7. Eating pizza with pineapple and (gasp) bacon on it on the weekend has helped ;). Simply, I want to eat to survive + remain healthy and homeostatic and whatnot. Nothing more.

ii. Allow my face to be bare, and "...Quite frankly, my dear...not give a damn." 

(Bonus points if you got that reference) In September, I allowed it to be bare, but mainly because I was an emotional wreck...oh...almost every day? And so, what the heck is the point in wearing eye makeup, when it's just going to raccoon? A few classmates + my dear boyfriend, however, spoke the simplest words, "You look nice without makeup on," and just those few words gave a sense of freedom that I've felt lacked for years, kinda like how I currently feel with my "part time, vegan diet". So now, I want to just feel okay with my naked face, and only wear makeup when I want to spruce up and feel pretty on occasion. I've been allowing it to go bare, to which people either say, "WOW! No makeup? I like it!" or "Awwh; you look TIRED," or "Are you ok?" And so, I am currently working on the whole "Not giving a damn" part, because I've been fully aware that some people much prefer to see my face with filled in brows, winged liner, and the "hazy glow" that I used to wear all day, every day, no "Ifs, ands, or Buts."

iii. Stop over-scheduling myself and people pleasing. 

Like I mentioned before, I'm a perfectionist with myself. I also am a people pleaser, and crave affirmation to feel better about myself. Busyness also can easily become my drug. And so, I want to balance everything in moderation. I want to work on only committing to things that I know I can attain, and not drowning myself in busyness or always going somewhere, or doing something, just for the sake of running from my feelings and emotions when life gets messy. I want to feel confident when I say, "No," to something, and also stop feeling the pressure to give an entirely long, drawn out explanation. I want to feel peace with who God has created me to be, and to take on life with my career and hobbies and aspirations with him as my Shepherd...not an unfulfilled desire to always rely on fellow humans to be my only source of feeling whole.

Are you holding onto something that psychs you into believing it's a companion, when really it's doing you more harm than good? Does it keep you awake at night? Is it taking a toll on your sanity? And do you feel grounded? Or does your life feel rampant and like you can never do enough of anything, please enough people, or catch a single breath?

So maybe? Maybe there's a metaphorical "marathon" in your life that is controlling you. And maybe it's time to, quite simply (yet not so simply), let something go. Maybe it's time we stick with that 100%. 


Your Fear is Not Your Reality - Fight It.

"Dreams are what you want to happen; goals are what you set to make happen."

Yesterday,  my humble little class and I were pinned as seniors, and at the end of the day, got a homework assignment with what we plan to do after we graduate, and setting actual dates for those goals.

And while it's incredibly exciting to think about finally having a career basis in massage therapy as I build my life as an artist, it also is gut-wrenchingly terrifying to think about suddenly being met with a reality that I want fruition from. I graduate in December. That's only a handful of months away. I've wrestled with a great deal of anxiety and emotional stress these last couple of weeks, but yesterday hit me like a ton of bricks, for some reason. I like to think of myself as a strong, level headed, passionate go getter, but the honest to goodness truth is this:

While I love dreaming, planting seeds for my life, and watching them begin to nourish and grow...setting dates in stone to make actually happen absolutely freaks me out. The steps aren't necessarily pretty to get there. It's not comfortable. It's this metaphorical effect of taking the train alone. Don't get me wrong, the thought of finally, after years of hard work and praying and thinking and failure and trial and error and wondering when it would be my turn to begin fulfilling these things...is absolutely amazing...but it also is exhilaratingly terrifying. If I'm being honest?

Last night, I sat down on my floor, and I ugly cried. I am apprehensive. I am scared. I am afraid of doing something wrong. I don't want to waste my life. There's so much to be done. I fear leaving important people behind, but by that same token, I also fear never taking a chance and risking my comfort and stability for something that could be adventurous, eyeopening, and Spiritually quenching.  The thoughts are daunting. Writing them out literally makes my heart rate escalate, and my hands feel a little clammy. I'm processing what date to set to pack my bags, and open my new chapter in Los Angeles. Do I dare to just rip it quick, like a band aid - away from my home and usual surroundings and jobs I have and people I love - and leap into the unknown as soon as 2017 comes to an end? Would it be too soon? And so, that little voice of fear nags my brain. What if it's a mistake? What if I leave behind people who I'm not meant to leave behind? Friendships? A near and dear relationship? Potential job opportunities and collaborations? What if I am supposed to stay longer? What if I end up lonely? What if I don't find love again? What if I fail? What if I unintentionally hurt others by leaving? And if I just rip the band aid, pack my bags, and don't look back...what if I end up financially unstable? What if I don't find stable roommates, or a roommate at all, or ever have a place to call my own? What if I end up killing my dreams, rather than kindling them, and it all goes to waste? How do I juggle 3 career paths at once, kindle them, and merge them so that I love what I do, yet support myself, but also continue chasing my wild dream of being an artist FULL time? And if I stay here a little longer...what if I end up settling, never daring just to take a risk and a chance? What if I resent friends and loved ones? What if then, my visions of traveling and being on the West Coast die, and I'm bound here? What if I become stuck in a comfortable routine, seeing the same stores, same places, driving down the same roads, same intersections, smelling the same cigarette smoke at the same places, feeling the same sensations, breathing the same air, living the same old, never changing life? 

Those are the thoughts that wake me up during the night. They are what I have found myself pondering, and often feeling a sharp twinge of panic about, during the day. And I try reassuring myself that they are just thoughts, not reality...but it is super hard, because you see - the thoughts feel like they already are reality. It makes me ache the deepest ache imaginable. It's silly, because as my heart races and my jaw clenches from stress, absolutely nothing catastrophic is happening. Life is still unfolding, and yet, my mind seems to keep determining that it already has unfolded, and that the daunting, devastating worries of my mind are my reality. Deep down, I know that is not true. I know that those thoughts do not come from God, and I know that his light eradicates darkness. It's spiritual warfare, really. It makes it incredibly difficult to experience full peace and rest in simply being content with saying, "Lord, Your will be done," however, when it feels as though the mind's full capacity has been invaded by fear and assumptions and predetermined devastation. Does that make sense? Probably not. But hear me out.  

I want to be ambitious of the future, but I do not want to fear. It's hard when everything seems to be colliding at once, and I feel as though I'm being pulled in a million different directions, with a million, fuzzy puzzle pieces in my brain that haven't connected and clarified yet. I love redeeming endings, and usually try and give some sort of perspective or things that have worked for me, personally, when I write...but today? I have no, "Eureka! Here's how I fixed myself!" conclusion. The truth of the matter is that all of this is something I literally wrestle with as I write, yet I also know the Biblical truth of it all, and the fact that although I feel these intense thoughts and emotions...I 100% believe they can be overcome. Today, I'm using this little space to admit that fear is a struggle of mine, accept that I don't have all the answers and that I am struggling really, really bad, but that I also am fighting it, and know that it will not last forever. Even though fear tries to make itself known as my "new reality", I am clinging to the promises that: God does not inflict a spirit of fear upon his children. He is not arbitrary, so he therefore does not place us as humans in (seemingly) nerve-wracking situations just for the heck of it. He delights, as John Piper states, in the good that pain leads to. There is growth in the pain. There is growth in the unknown. There is growth in denying human nature, and accepting the invitation to follow Jesus as Shepherd - Yahweh Rohi.

"God loves you even though you don't feel it. He can handle your life even when you can't." -Stephen Altrogge