I Needed to See the Ocean

On New Years Eve morning I sat around in my favorite long-sleeved tee and spent the morning listening to some of my best friends reflect on 2016 and dream about 2017. It's become our tradition to do this every New Years and it's one of my favorite things about these friends--their ability to listen, lean in, and push each other forward.

IMG_0059.JPG

When it came my turn to share it felt a little more heavy than normal--heavy like picking up something that makes me stronger rather than weighs me down. I think the reality of not only turning over a year, but turning over a decade (my 20s) was setting in.

Obedience. 

The word that came to the minds of my friends after I shared that morning was obedience. They felt like in my reflecting and dreaming and praying, it appeared really clear to them that, for me, 2017 and turning 30 was all about being obedient to things the Lord is calling me to and running hard after the things that fire me up.

The ocean has always been one of my favorite things. There's something so grand, yet so calming about it. So, having the chance to live at the beach for the first half of 2017 has been a gift to say the least. God can be so present and clear in my life when I'm in the car, deep in thought in the office, or slap in the middle of the night, but standing by the ocean, it's like He's standing there too. The rhythm of the waves crashing quiets my soul to a place where my breathing matches each break of the wave. And there in the peace, He is so near. 

I think God knew how much I'd need to see the ocean this year. 

I never thought I'd actually ever leave Nashville for good. That city is so very special to me. Not only does it hold some of my family, but it holds some of my dearest friends.... well... family.  It just holds alot of family. Yes, I can also tell you how much I love its culture--its ability to house the creatives, the musical, the passionate. Its ability to entertain and feed. But really, it's the people that made me think I'd never leave.

So, Nashville to California to Dallas in the same year? Yeah, it's a little crazy on paper. Today, I wrapped up my job as the Interim Student Ministries Director in Santa Barbara and this week I start the trek to Texas to join the IF:Gathering team (well, with some time in sweet Nashville first!). It sounds like an adventure for the crazy. For the indecisive. For the wandering.

Wander, I might, but clear direction marks the path. I have prayed for clarity more in the past 8 months of my life than I ever have before. Clarity to stay or go...to say yes or say no. Clarity for discernment. Clarity for direction, decisions, wisdom. And God has granted clarity every single time.

As I've stared at the ocean so many times this year, I've wondered a few things about the waves. As I watch them roll and build like the way our favorite songs rise to the very best part, I've wondered why it breaks and crashes before it comes to rest again. And then God reminded me a little something about obedience.

With the clarity comes obedience and with that obedience there's a required need for trust. It's as if the need for clarity builds and builds and builds and builds until it rises to the top and the need for trust kicks in. The kind of trust that doesn't feel smooth at first (aka usually involves tears) but settles into a deep surrender. The kind that feels like freedom.

On paper my year may look like pen scratches across a map of the U.S. but to me it feels like the deepest breath I've ever taken. The kind that exhales in rhythm with the waves and with every crash my soul whispers, "I trust you."

I think God knew how much I'd need to see the ocean this year. 

The Air I'm Breathing

I remember walking around my condo in Nashville, dressed in multiple layers, and constantly checking every to-do list around the house. There was a lot of them. I was getting ready to head home for Christmas while simultaneously trying to prepare to move my life to California. Lots of to-do lists.

Part of my life was going to stay in a storage unit in Nashville and while I signed the papers for someone to get paid a lot of money to babysit my bedroom furniture, I started to wonder when I would actually see my favorite red bookshelf again. Would it sit here til summer or would I send for it later in the year (as if someone would magically deliver it to me while I sit on the beach)?

Me and my to-do lists could see all the steps ahead to get me from point A to point B, but we couldn't see the condition of my heart when my feet finally hit the sand.

It's been 2 months since I moved to California, but you could tell me it's been 2 years and I'd believe you. Life's funny that way, isn't it? We pack new beginnings and new friends and lots of learning experiences into a tiny calendar and time feels like it just keeps going at a speed you can't possibly keep up with. 

If I could have written one word at the bottom of every to-do list I wrote last year, I would have written, "EXHALE." I'm just thankful that God knew what was waiting for me when I arrived in California since I was so consumed with all the steps to actually getting here.

You can attribute it to the salty air or the California sunshine or the place where the ocean meets the mountains, but everything about these past 2 months have been a giant exhale and the number of times I've referred to this season as "a gift" is well... a lot. I've always heard pastors or professors talk about taking a sabbatical and wondered what that must actually be like. But I feel like I'm getting just a glimpse. 

Sure, I'm in California for a job--and it's a job I cherish--but teaching teenagers each week and playing crazy games and going to their lacrosse games hardly feels like work to me. It's a joy. And because the to-do lists and overflowing schedules were left behind in Nashville, my heart is functioning out of rest rather than reach. My head is clear and my God is so very present. He always has been. I just finally cut out some of the noise, so I can see and hear Him more clearly.

I'm in a season of exhaling and while it's really easy to already start flipping the calendar to look ahead to what the next seasons may hold, I'm working hard to keep my feet in the sand (literally) and enjoy the fresh air.

Here are a few of the things I've learned in this season of exhaling:

  • I've learned what it's like to live without my phone in my hand at all times.

This was a big problem for me. Part of it was my fear of missing something. If I wasn't the first to read the group text or first to see your news on Instagram, I may miss it completely. The other part was my people-pleasing self. I had to answer that email or message as quickly as possible to keep your trust. But the other night I ate dinner with a new friend and we chatted through every topic under the sun. Three hours later I realized I hadn't even gotten my phone out of my purse since I arrived and that felt like a deep breath and a big accomplishment all at the same time.

  • I've learned what it's like to read for fun again.

When you work in the publishing industry, every book in your hand somehow feels like work. It's been really refreshing to pick up books that I want to read JUST BECAUSE I WANT TO READ THEM. No one's paying me to read it, expecting me to give feedback or asking me to promote it. Just reading because I can. Amen.

  • I've been reminded of one of my favorite things about discipling teenagers: teaching. 

I'm highly aware that I need accountability when it comes to studying God's Word. I've always loved the cycle that happens when I'm consistently teaching: I can't teach what I don't know, so I'm held accountable to study. The more I study God's Word, the more I crave it. The more I crave, the more excited I get to teach. Teaching 2-3 times a week means lots of time in the Word and for that, I'm really, really grateful.

  • I walk on the beach almost everyday. 

This involves 3 of my absolute favorite things: the BEACH, long walks, and music. Yesterday I busted up my foot while attempting to ride a unicycle (student ministry problems) and I've been so sad that I can't get my tennis shoe on today to go for a walk. Don't worry, I just napped in my car by the beach today instead. 

I've been reminded how often God took people away to places of solitude to teach them something or prepare them for what's next. I told my friends before I left Nashville that I wanted this season to be about me and Jesus and ministry and, boy, has God met me right there. The alone time. The slower pace. The ability to be present with people. The way God reveals Himself when I actually take time to look and listen.

I exhale so that I can take in another breath and every bit of the air is filled with Him. 

 

In Every Detail

It's when he lit the candles that I knew my soul could exhale.

Goleta Beach

Goleta Beach

I moved to Santa Barbara last Saturday and boarded the plane with tears in my eyes. I had been nothing but calm and excited until the night before my move, but the reality of leaving began to sink in when my 6-year-old niece cried outside of Uncle Julio's as I hugged her goodbye. The following morning my parents dropped me off at the Nashville airport and my Mom and I both cried despite our predictions that we would be just fine. So I made my way through security and fought the tears long enough to get my shoes back on. 

Boarding alone with a one-way ticket was a bit harder than I thought it'd be.

On my flight, I slept and read and stressed over catching a train. I had booked a train ticket from Burbank to Santa Barbara because...well...I love trains. If you don't recall #TrainGames2016, I invite you to reminisce on the adventure with me.

But this time I was boarding a train alone. With 2 heavy suitcases. In an unknown city. And the reality of this grand adventure began to gnaw away at my nerves. WHAT WAS I DOING?

View from the Pacific Surfliner train

View from the Pacific Surfliner train

I found myself sitting alone on a bench beside a train track as if someone hired me for a 1960s romance. The only difference was that I wasn't waiting for a train to deliver my long lost love, I was waiting for a train that I HOPED would take me to Santa Barbara.

Was I waiting on the correct side of the tracks? If I can't check my bags here, will they let me on with 2 suitcases? Why is there no train station or employee here? What year am I in?

After I charmed the Amtrak employee who eye rolled at my 2 suitcases, I hauled them up the stairs of the Pacific Surfliner and plopped down in my seat. I was sweating. You see, packing light is not a thing in my world and carrying a 60lb (x2) suitcase up a narrow staircase on a moving train was just a whole site to see. And apparently a site that Amtrak wanted to charge me $20 for. Something about a heavy bag. Whatever. I wanted to charge them for my workout.

But I had made it. I was 2 hours from my new home and could settle in to stare out the window as we made our way up the California coast.

By the time I pulled into town, my tears and nerves had disappeared and been replaced with nothing but excitement. I stepped off the train to perfect weather and the only familiar face I knew in Santa Barbara: my friend, Alison.

And we hit the ground running. 

We ran errands, met up with her family, ate dinner, and struggled to stay up past 9pm. My body was still on central time and the 4:30am wake up call was hitting hard. I crashed that night and woke up for my first official Sunday at the church. Needless to say it was full of introductions and "nice to meet yous" and some extremely welcoming faces. But it was after church that I headed to meet the couple I'd be staying with for 2 weeks and begin to get settled in.

The Santa Barbara Mission

The Santa Barbara Mission

I moved out to Santa Barbara without a place to live. Risky, I know. Searching for a place and a roommate from across the country is a challenge, however, and the month between accepting the job and arriving just didn't bring about the right living situation (happy to tell I now I have that settled!).  But a kind couple from the church offered to put me up for 2 weeks when I arrived, so I made my way to their house with my 2 suitcases and high hopes for an afternoon nap. 

And it was when he lit the candles that I knew my soul could exhale.

After unpacking some of my things, settling into my new (temporary) room, and taking a nap, I walked into the kitchen for dinner with Steve and Molly. The table was set and as they finished cooking together they carried the plates to the table and took their seats around me. And Steve lit the candles on the table. 

I closed my eyes as he prayed over our meal and I knew that not having a place to live yet in Santa Barbara had nothing to do with lack of offers and everything to do with God's timing--everything to do with God giving me the opportunity to meet this precious couple. In all my job-losing and dreaming and praying and packing and preparing and moving and crying I embraced busy and tired as my normal. 

But sitting around a table with Steve and Molly--who welcomed me into their home and cooked for me and lit candles--meant I was home; even in a place I didn't recognize. It meant sharing meals around a kitchen table; something I had lost when I started living alone in Nashville. It meant walking in the door to welcoming faces who were anxious to hear about my first day at work. And it meant slowing down my pace to realize that God still holds even the smallest details.

Like candles at the dinner table.

 

30 and California

Having to write California in my return address is soon about to become a reality and one I never even dreamed would be in my future.

I don't think we get to create the dream and put a name on it. I think God reveals them in His own time and calls them His plan. We just get the honor of being surprised when they're better than we could ever have imagined. We don't create the dreams, we just get to live them.

...

I vividly remember my long, cotton skirt skimming the grass as I stood in the school yard of a high school in Zambia, Africa. I was on my fifth week of a six-week mission trip and I was still desperate to figure out why God had taken me across the world that summer. I was 19 and eager to experience a world outside of my own, but insecure in who I was and what God was asking me to do. While I was traveling with a group of 15, I struggled to really bond with them. I was too in my head--worried I wasn't "doing ministry correctly," afraid I'd never wash my clothes in anything other than a bath tub again, and hesitant to do or say anything with fear I'd offend someone in a country that wasn't my own.

It wasn't until I stood in front of a room full of high school students that I began to feel like myself. We had been asked to teach AIDS awareness classes and while I crammed to learn all the curriculum, I found myself so excited to spend time with and get to know the students. 

One afternoon, myself and one of my co-leaders followed a student out to the school yard when she asked if she could speak to us privately. As we stood in the grass, I listened as the 16-year-old poured out details to two strange Americans that she didn't dare whisper to anyone else before. While she entrusted those few minutes of vulnerability to the two of us, it was as if everything else in the world stood still. This is why I brought you here.

"He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners." Isaiah 61:1

I flew back to the U.S. that summer with the assurance that God had taken me to Africa to reveal to me my love for working with teenagers and His ability to work through my insecure and timid self.

I returned to school for my sophomore year and learned one of the 5000 lessons you inherit in college: Sometimes you have to give up something you love, for something you love even more. I quit my sorority and became a Young Life leader. 

I've always wrestled with the word "calling." Was that something I was supposed to list on my Facebook profile right after "Work"? Do I need to report it to my church? List it on an online dating profile (help me, Jesus). Rebekah Lyons states well something I've learned over the past decade, "Calling is where your talents and burdens collide." 

"The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,  because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor." Isaiah 61:1

I've watched God weave a story in my life that hasn't always felt comfortable, but the greatest perspective of the story is when I get to read it backwards. I can name 100 reasons why I shouldn't have gone to Africa that summer, I can name 100 more why I shouldn't have changed my major to Rhetoric the following semester. But I can name 1000 ways that God has used speaking and writing and mentoring teenagers over the past decade to reveal Himself to me and show me the beauty of the gospel.

I've worked in the Christian publishing industry for the past 8 years, and while it was the career I never wanted, it's been the career I really needed. I have been challenged, encouraged, lead, and stretched. I've had moments where I knew it was the best job ever and moments where I thought I wanted to quit and disappear into the woods somewhere. I've celebrated huge wins with authors and delivered terrible news to them all in the same day. And the whole thing has been such an unexpected gift.

But this past year, I felt the tug to begin to walk away. Sometimes you have to give up something you love, for something you love even more. On paper, I had every reason to stick with it but my heart knew otherwise. My heart knew about the day in the grass at a school in Zambia. So I left my job and stepped into a new one that allowed me the flexibility to spend more time pouring into student ministry, while still working in marketing and publishing. Seemed like a great balance!

Until I lost the new job.

"And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." Colossians 3:17

When I found out my company was closing in October, I thought, "Well, shoot!" I thought I had created this perfect little plan for myself--a job doing what I was good at that paid my bills.... plus plenty of margin and flexibility to do student ministry. I had just forgotten that I'm not in charge of the plan.

But this is where I get to tell the story--His story--and it is oh so good. 

Almost every year when my friends and I gather to talk about our dreams for year, I write down "What if I go into youth ministry? 

(Written on Jan 1, 2014)

(Written on Jan 1, 2014)

Apparently, it took God taking my job away for me to actually do it. 

I've been involved in youth ministry in some capacity since the day I returned from that trip to Africa, but I've always wondered what it would be like if I had the chance to do it full time. Thanks to a God who weaves a story even in the most restless and doubtful moments, I'm moving to Santa Barbara, CA in 4 days to do just that.

I have nothing to offer these students but Jesus. I have nothing to teach but His truth. I have no plan except to follow Him. He's the only one who's never let me down.

Somewhere along the way the world taught me to fear turning 30, but I have a few things to say to the world: I've never been more grateful. No one wants to lose their job, but as I wrapped up 2016 I realized what a gift it actually was. When the opportunity came my way to move to Santa Barbara for 6 months to step in as an interim youth pastor, I thought, "Santa Barbara's so far. That'll never work." 

But I continued to ask God to give me clarity in every conversation and every interview and slowly He continued to remind me of the day in the grass at a school in Zambia. Over and over he brought me back to Isaiah 61, a passage I've felt drawn to for years. And as I've studied His Word this year, He's reminded me that my favorite moments with Him are the ones when I'm preparing to teach students. 

You see... I can't teach teenagers about God's Word if I don't know it. And the knowing it part is both my responsibility and my joy.

So, here's to 30 and California. Here's to the day in the grass at a school in Zambia. Here's to my God who allows me to tell the story. To tell this story is to tell of Him and His story is one of great, great, faithfulness.

"They will be called oaks of righteousness,  a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor." Isaiah 61: 3

Standing in the Questions

I found myself reading over the story of Jesus turning water into wine this morning--a story about a party trick for some, a story about a miraculous Jesus for others.

So often I read this passage and am struck by the fact that Jesus literally took jugs of water and turned them into wine. How COOL is that?!

Today, however, my attention is drawn to Jesus' mother, Mary. In this story, we see Mary walk over to Jesus and let him know the hosts of the wedding have run out of wine (John 2: 3)--something that could have been potentially embarrassing for them. I mean, I freak out about having enough food to feed dinner parties of 10 people (can someone please also teach me the fine art of timing when the food comes out of the oven with your guests' arrival? BLESS.). I can't imagine being responsible for the entertainment, food, and drink for a wedding that lasts a week! If eloping was an option back in Jesus' day, just go ahead and sign me up for that.

But Mary.

She simply notifies Jesus of the mishap and then.... Check this out:

His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.” John 2: 5-8 (NIV)

Mary didn't wait around and ask Jesus "So, what are you going to do?" or "How will this work out?" She walked over to the servants and told them to do whatever Jesus was going to tell them to do. YOU GO, MARY.

Far too often when life throws a wrench in MY plan, I start the question reel:

Why? What now? How many steps is this going to take? What's the plan? What's the lesson?

It doesn't matter if I've gotten a call that something I was looking forward to has been canceled or I've walked away from a meeting with an ending I didn't see coming--my response tends to be the same. God, I know you've got this, but what's the plan?

I wonder what it would look like if I followed Mary's example? Because here's the thing: Mary KNEW Jesus. She knew his character, His heart, His promise. Her faith wasn't based in someone unreliable. Her faith was in the Messiah. 

And so is mine.

Because He is good, because He is sovereign, because He is faithful, I can make a move knowing He's already handled it. 

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow. 

Every bit of right now seems a little daunting doesn't it? What if we lived it like we actually knew and believed and trusted that God's got it all under control?

What if we lived like we believed God is who He says He is?

What if we lived as if the water has already been turned into wine?

 

 

Train Games: After the Final Ride

I'm watching the Bachelorette right now, so you're welcome for the reference in this blog title. 

We got home from #traingames2016 yesterday (Sunday), which means my clothes are half unpacked and half scattered on the floor and I had one question on my mind all day, "What day is it and what city am I in?" Fine. That's two questions.

In case we didn't use the words, "amazing, "incredible," "unforgettable" and "awesome" enough in our social media posts, then I should tell you that we LOVED this trip. It went from an admiration of someone else's trip... to dreaming about taking our own... to a reality. We couldn't be more grateful that every part of the trip (for the most part) went smoothly and we'd recommend you GO IMMEDIATELY.

Over and over again we had people tell us, "Oh, I've always wanted to do a trip like that!" YES, YOU SHOULD DO THAT. Plan the time. Save the money. Turn off your email. Take the trip.

Just for fun, we've written out some of our highlights (or low points) from the trip. Thanks again for following along with the adventure! Cheers to #traingames2016. If only we had the airbrush t-shirt to commemorate it all. 

RECAP

Favorite City We Visited

  • Boatman: San Francisco
  • Caroline: San Francisco
  • Richards: Denver

Favorite Train Route

  • Boatman: Salt Lake to Denver
  • Caroline: Salt Lake to Denver
  • Richards: Salt Lake to Denver

Favorite Thing You Ate on the Train

  • Boatman: Crab cakes (shocking, I know)
  • Caroline: Cheeseburger
  • Richards: French toast

Least Favorite Thing You Ate on the Train

  • Boatman: Scrambled eggs
  • Caroline: Breakfast potatoes
  • Richards: The microwaved hamburger

Favorite Character

  • Boatman: Favorite Staffer (The dining car attendant from San Fran to SLC. The best.)
  • Caroline: Arian (Our San Fran Lyft driver who was a total burnout + dropped the F bomb about 44 times)
  • Richards: Mildred (our precious, 80-year-old, British tour guide at the LDS offices in Salt Lake City)

Would You Recommend this Trip to Someone Else?

  • Yes from all around.

What Would You Do Differently?

  • Boatman: Spend more time in the observation car.
  • Caroline: Skip Salt Lake City.
  • Richards: Split from the group during meals to meet even more new people.

Would You Go on Another Train Trip?

I'll let the extra pictures speak for themselves.

Train Games: Denver to Chicago (Train Ride 3)

It's Saturday in Chicago and it's been a hot one. I'm pretty sure the entire country feels that way today. We just got home from our day out around the city. We started with brunch and then headed to a Second City comedy show this afternoon. I must say, Chicago knows how to brunch. I haven't stopped talking about the crab cake benedict I had this morning.

Before I catch us all up on our last train ride, I want to say thanks to our family and friends who have kept up with these blog posts while we've been gone! We truly just wanted a fun way to document the trip and central place for us to be able to go back and reminisce, but we've loved getting texts and comments letting us know how much fun you're having while reading the posts. So, thank you!

Now, let's see where we left off...

Boarding in Denver

When I last posted, we were hanging out in Union Station in Denver and getting ready to board our train at 7:00p.m. It ended up being about 30 minutes late (which isn't terrible), but we headed outside to get in line early. We knew there were going to be a lot of people boarding at the same time, but we really had no idea how many until we saw the line.

Based on the number of people we saw waiting to get on the train, this was going to be the most crowded ride so far. And Amtrak confirmed it. Every seat would be full. We tried to get as far up in the line as possible, so that we'd still have a chance to sit near each other, but it was an every-woman-for-themselves situation. 

We also were a bit concerned about a few things while we waited to board:

1). Loud Larry: This gentleman sat next to me in the train station and I could tell immediately we'd have a problem if he sat next to any of us on the train. He was nice, yes, but he was the type to launch into stories without anyone asking a question. I learned about his 4 sons and their jobs and I can tell you how much 2 of them make a year. On top of it, you could hear Larry from across the room. When we got in line for the train, he was in the sleeper car line, so we were a bit relieved to know he wouldn't be sharing our car, but we felt inclined to pass out sleeping pills to those who would be sitting next him. 

2) Bandana Boy: This kid (I say kid, but he was probably 19) seemed really, really nice, but again, constant talker. This is probably making us all sound like jerks, but when a good night's sleep is at stake, you watch VERY closely to see who might be sleeping next to you. Bandana Boy was not getting our vote. He ended up on our car, but sitting in the lower level (we were in the upper). Happy trails.

3) The Senior Citizens Group: I have nothing against the senior citizens and fully plan on traveling to fun places like they were doing when I get to be their age! It was about 10 minutes before the train arrived, however, when no less than 30 of them walked out of the station with their matching tote bags. Everyone in line had the same thought we did: "Where are they all going to sit?" Some got in our the coach line (our line), which meant they would be sleeping in their seats like us and others got in the sleeper car line. I can tell you now that despite our concern, they were all lovely and quiet (minus some snoring).

Getting on the train was a hot mess. We've decided we have a lot of suggestions that could help Amtrak take the experience from good to amazing. I'm fairly certain Richards has written out an entire business proposal for them.

They assigned us a car, but didn't assign us a seat, so dozens of people poured onto the 611 car with us and we all attempted to find a seat as quickly as possible. The problem was, however, that many parties were split up and some didn't even have seats. There was a lot of confusion about switching cars, moving seats, etc. We were fortunate enough to find the last set of seats together. Caroline and I sat next to each and Richards sat across the aisle with a woman you'll hear about shortly. Despite the chaos of boarding, everyone eventually found a seat, but it took a train attendant shuffling people around and attempting to make sure families could sit together.

Sleeping on the Train

Richards headed off to the observation car almost immediately after we left and sent CG and I a text saying, "I'll be down here. I think my seat mate is a con artist." 

This was never confirmed, but we'll circle back to Seat Mate here soon.

We kept an eye on Seat Mate and both read for a long time while the sun went down. Eventually around 11 or 11:30p.m CG and I got "sleep ready." I put on my fuzzy socks and grabbed my eye mask. Caroline pulled out her blanket. The seats recline a lot farther back than airplane seats PLUS they have cushioned foot rests, so they're fairly comfortable. Richards was still not back in her seat yet, but we texted her to check in. She eventually came back around midnight. 

Overall, I slept pretty well. I woke up a few times here and there, but it wasn't terrible. The eye mask was a big help and thankfully the temp on the train was just fine during the night. 

We all started stirring around 6:30a.m as the sun came up. We looked over at Richards, who seemed to be awake as well, and asked about breakfast. We decided to hit Waffle House (the dining car pictured above) to beat the crowd. It was at breakfast that we learned about Richards experience with Seat Mate:

(from Katie Richards)

I had a hunch my seat mate was going to be a challenge to sleep next to and unfortunately I was right. I stayed in the observation car reading and journaling until my eyes could not stay open any longer. When I arrived back at my seat, Seat Mate had laid down in my seat and was snoozing. Understandable, I probably would have done the same thing.  She promptly moved back over to her space and I settled in for some shuteye. 

Over the next 6 hours my Seat Mate proceeded to shift, groan, sigh, arch her back and flail her arms every 15 minutes. She was uncomfortable and she seemed determined I be the same (thank you?). I will give her the benefit of the doubt and assume her arm jerk was involuntary and associated with a medical condition (even though Caroline said she did not see her doing it at all when I was away) but it still woke me every 30 minutes. The low point was around 2:30am and when I turned away from her to try and fall back asleep for the 5th time and she yelled, "I don't have any room!" as her arm sat firmly in my seat space. I did not respond out loud, but had a lot to say to her in my thoughts. She exited the train at 6am and we parted ways in silence. I stayed up until breakfast and finally got some sleep at 8am. 

(back to Boatman)

The rest of the day we napped, finished books, sat in the observation car, and waited for 3pm to roll around. The scenery on this trip was not as pretty as the last, but still beautiful at times. This trip went through Colorado, Nebraska, Iowa, and Illinois. Lots of corn.

We pulled into Chicago Friday afternoon and headed to our AirBnB in the Wicker Park area. We had just enough time to chill for a bit and shower and then we headed out to a White Sox game. The weather was PERFECT for a night game. 

We all slept 9+ hours last night (WHOO!) and have been enjoying Chicago all day. Shout-out to Kanela Breakfast Club, Second City (Fast, Loud, and Funny show), Garrett's Popcorn, and Lou Malnati's for keeping us all kinds of nourished and entertained today.

We head back home tomorrow! It's bittersweet for sure. We're sad the trip is coming to an end, but super excited to get back to our own beds. This has been an UNFORGETTABLE trip and we're so thankful we had a chance to do it.

The blog posts aren't over just yet... I've interviewed the others on some of our favorite and least favorite parts of the experience (food, locations, routes, and characters). Stay tuned for that in the next couple days! Until then, it's back to Nashville!

Cheers to the train and the California Zephyr.

...

In case you missed it... You can catch the previous posts here:

Train Games: Denver

Train Games: Salt Lake City to Denver (Train Ride 2)

Train Games: San Fran to Salt Lake City (Train Ride 1)

Train Games: San Francisco

Train Games: Prep Mode

Train Game 2016

Train Games: Denver

I'm currently sitting in the train station in Denver (which I'm a bit obsessed with). Most of the stations we've been to so far have been really small and mostly consist of one ticket window and some benches to wait on. Not Denver! Their downtown station, known as Union Station, features a hotel, bar, restaurants, coffee shop, ice cream shop, couches, community tables for working, and shuffle board. I think this place is the coolest.

We arrived in Denver on Tuesday evening. We ended up being 2 hours delayed getting in (and then had to wait on the engineers to adjust the track (I don't know the real words for that), so we could pull up to the platform. By the time we got off and got to our AirBnB it was 9:15p.m and we were STARVING. We found a place to stay in the Highlands Square area and we were able to walk to restaurants and shops down the street. This area really reminded us of East Nashville. Very trendy, lots of remodeled homes, and plenty of walkable options. We felt right at home.

We found a Mexican restaurant down the street that was open until midnight, and, if you know me well, you know I was PUMPED about that. We walked up to the hostess and asked if what we were wearing was ok (we were in train clothes that we had been wearing since 3:00a.m the night before). She took one look at our yoga pants and said, "This is Colorado! Duh!" We were friends with Colorado immediately.

Night 1 at our AirBnB started off a little rocky with a broken A/C situation. It had been in the 90s that day so the house was HOT. We turned to fans and open windows. Luckily the repair man showed up Wednesday morning and got it all fixed.

We decided to rent a car for the day on Wednesday and head out to Rocky Mountain National Park. Richards had never seen the Rockies and I hadn't seen them in the summer. Thanks to Silver Car we found a last minute rental and headed out. We stopped at a visitor center on the way into the park to ask about the best options. The ranger did not disappoint with his suggestions! 

We drove up the mountain (stopping along the way) and got all the way to the top. The views were breath-taking (and literally took your breath a way a little with the high altitude). And might I mention it was chilly? Some of us (ME) had dressed for 85 degree weather and not considered the temperature change in the mountains. That chilly air was so refreshing, though.

We saw some elk, some deer, and some animal we described as a MountainLlamaDonkeyGoat. Super scientific. It rained a bit, but we sure didn't care. We couldn't stop commenting on the mountains. It's impossible for me to look at them and not see God.

Despite the fact that we went from a day on the train to a day in the car, it did our hearts good to wander through the park, be away from cell service, and just breathe in the majestic scene.

We spent about 3 hours in the park and then headed back to Denver. We stopped in Winter Park on the way home for dinner (we had Mexican--please don't be surprised).

Today (Thursday) has been a slower day. We slept in, returned our car, and made our way downtown. I got far too excited when I saw one of my favorite burger places, Hopdoddy, next to Union Station. We grabbed a late lunch and walked through the 16th Street Mall. I was super impressed with how nice the downtown area was. The street mall even included a free bus that would take you up and down the street (which was nice considering it's 94 degrees). I think Nashville has a thing or two to learn from Denver about improving downtown scene.

Continuing in our discussion on what items have been a must for this trip, I'm handing it over to Richards. She's got a few words to say about it:

Top 3 Essentials for #TrainGames2016 (from Katie Richards)

As Boatman (see what I did there?) has mentioned, I spent a lot of time reading and researching in order to be prepared for our 40+ hours of train travel.  Overall, I would give my purchasing and packing efforts an A-. I grossly overestimated the amount of books I would read and went a little too healthy with my snack choices, but other than that I've been pretty spot on with my purchases. The following are my top 3 train travel product recommendations: 

1. Travelrest 4-in1 Premier Class Travel Blanket with Pocket

 The train gets cold and temperatures vary wildly from car to car so I would recommend having a blanket no matter what.  And if you're going to bring a blanket why not bring the best-selling travel blanket on Amazon? In 2010 we would have called this a Snuggie, but it's 2016 and this blanket is known as a PREMIER class travel blanket. It's soft, it's long, and it goes over your head which means it won't slip off mid-nap.  Bonus: it can double as a pillow when zipped up. I would recommend the 40 x 72 inches to keep your feet warm too (but also pack socks!) 

 

2. Sanuk Yoga Sling 2 Women's Sandals  

I happened upon these one day when I was shopping with my mom for a travel backpack. My mom insisted I try these on and buy them and if I've learned one thing in my 30+ year--it's mom always knows. These things are legit. They stay snug on your feet,  they are stretchy, and the padding is made from yoga mat material. Best part is you forget they're on your feet. What more do I need to say?  

3. Good Jams 

Every good life experience needs a worthy soundtrack. Before getting on the train I made sure to download lots of music for the views and I'm glad I did. I've listened to lots of different artists but the following four have provided the best soundtrack in different ways for the train experience. (I would highly recommend listening to anything Shane & Shane on repeat when riding through the majestic scenery between Salt Lake City and Denver. Shoutout to Psalm 34 (Taste and See). 

Other honorable mentions include: REI Grand Tour 80 Travel Pack with detachable day bag, J Travel Pillow with chin and neck support , Anker External Battery Pack

...

(Back to Boatman)

We board our train at 7:00p.m. and head to Chicago! This will be our first true overnight trip (EEK), so we're setting low expectations for the night. We've been told there are 160 boarding with us, so having a row to ourselves is definitely not likely. This will be our last train ride, though, so we'll take it all in. We get to Chicago at 3:00p.m. on Friday and hope to head to a White Sox game Friday night (as long as the train is on time). See you soon, central time zone!

In case you missed it... You can catch the previous posts here:

Train Games: Salt Lake City to Denver (Train Ride 2)

Train Games: San Fran to Salt Lake City (Train Ride 1)

Train Games: San Francisco

Train Games: Prep Mode

Train Game 2016

Train Games: Salt Lake City to Denver (Train Ride 2)

As I write this, we're sitting on the train making our way from Salt Lake City to Denver. We're currently going through Winter Park, Colorado. I learned to ski at age nine in this town. I feel like I should stop by and apologize to the random strangers I plowed into on the slope. Let's just say the orange "Ski School" vest they made me wear was highly necessary.

There are so many stories to tell from this last round of the trip. Let's start with Salt Lake City:

Salt Lake City

As I mentioned on the last post, we got into town at 3:30a.m. on Tuesday morning. We headed to the Hampton Inn, slept til 9:00a.m and then went out to explore the city. We didn't have anything specific planned. We knew it was the kind of town made for the outdoorsy type and if you know any of us you probably wouldn't describe us as outdoorsy. We DO love a good hike, but considering we only had 24 hours in the city, we left that out of the schedule.

We found a good restaurant for lunch and immediately ordered salads. After train food (which isn't awful, but isn't ... you know ... amazing) we wanted something green that didn't come from a microwaved package or could be found in a gas station. 

After lunch, we made our way to Temple Square, the headquarters for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. We found the grounds, architecture, and scenery to be beautiful-- in fact the whole city was very clean and very beautiful and the people we met could not have been nicer. We walked through the tabernacle, went to the viewing deck on the 26th floor of their offices, and then walked through the nearby City Creek Mall.

This brings me to my favorite part of Salt Lake City: We were pretty wiped from being up at weird hours the night before and getting very little sleep. We also realized that after walking around in the 99 degree weather all day we were DONE. We resorted to our normal Monday activity of watching the Bachelorette. We ordered pizza, put on pjs, watched the show, and went to bed early. No regrets, people. No regrets.

Train Ride #2

Our alarms went off at 2:15a.m. We all asked each other if anyone had gotten any sleep. The answer: "I'm not even sure." 

Richards at 3:00a.m at the Salt Lake City train station.

Richards at 3:00a.m at the Salt Lake City train station.

We loaded up our sleepy selves and headed to the station. We were pretty excited to get back on the train. We realized how much we missed our train people. I told the others that the train feels like summer camp. Everyone's stuck in one location and at times gathered around the same table eating or playing cards. You're not going anywhere for a long time, so you might as well get to know your train mates. If this was 1995 I may even walk away with a pen pal.

We learned pretty quickly on train ride 2 that we were spoiled from our first ride. We had plenty of room to spread out on ride 1, but this wasn't the case for this leg of the trip. Caroline and I were assigned a row together and Richards ended up with a seat to herself (but only for a little while). We napped from 3:30a.m until 6:30a.m and watched the sunrise over Utah.

Richards was correct. The train is chilly and my fuzzy socks came in handy.

Richards was correct. The train is chilly and my fuzzy socks came in handy.

At 7:00a.m we headed to Waffle House (the dining car) for coffee, eggs, and biscuits. Again, it wasn't terrible, but wasn't awesome. This is also where we can introduce another character: Breakfast Bill.

As mentioned previously, we are given a table to sit at in the dining car and every table must be filled. Because we're a party of 3 and the table holds 4, we're assigned to sit with someone traveling alone.

Breakfast Bill was our friend for Tuesday breakfast. He's from Alabama which was made obvious by his accent and Alabama football hat. Bill started into his life story, which truly was a story to tell, and quickly let us know his love for the Lord. We appreciated him sharing his faith with us and making sure we knew Jesus. We got a little tickled, though, when he continued to witness to us not 1, not 2, but 4 times. We listened nicely and "amen'd" Bill a few times, but basically wanted to stop and say, "No, Bill, really--we good!" Bless his heart. He just really wanted to be sure we heard the good news. As he left he said, "I want you to know that God loves you and so do I."

We should also give a shout-out to a few other characters from train ride 2:

Lounge Car Martin--who wore a red clown nose around the train of the day and ran the snack bar.

Mr. Nancy--who wore a t-shirt reading "If lost please return to Nancy."

SheShe--whose Mom sat a few rows behind her, but insisted on yelling "SheShe, you see that?!" every time we passed a cool view (which was often).

The characters on this trip. THE BEST.

The rest of the morning we napped, read, snacked, and listened to podcasts. We got to get out at Grand Junction, Colorado and spend about 25 minutes hanging outside. The fresh air was nice (although we use "fresh air" lightly--it's also a major smoke break for the smokers on the train, so it's sometimes a challenge to find the fresh air.)

We lunched around 12:15p.m (no extra guest at our table this time) and then we headed to the observation car to play Phase 10. This is actually the first time during the trip that we broke out a game. I'm serious when I tell you it's hard to focus on what you're doing because you just want to stare out the window the whole time.

We all love the community atmosphere in the observation car. While we played, there was a table of Amish people two rows down that pulled out their Phase 10 cards and played as well. 

A family for four sat behind us with their brown bag lunches they packed in coolers and stared out the window while they ate peanut butter sandwiches. And we watched as two other tables filled up with strangers. We listened in while everyone shared where they're from, what they're doing on the train, where they're headed. It's so nice to actually stop and look people in the eye every once and while.

We traveled through Utah and Colorado all day and continuously kept thinking, "Surely that's the best view we'll see." But it just kept getting better. 

We went through canyons, rode alongside the Colorado river, drove through tunnel after tunnel and stared at snow-capped mountains. The views were INCREDIBLE.


Soon, we'll arrive to Denver (we're behind, but due in at 8:30p.m) and will head to our AirBnB. We're excited to stay in a home instead of hotel (read between the lines, we're excited to do some laundry).

Now that we're 5 days into the trip we've had a chance to really figure out what items we needed and what items we didn't. Some of us bought new things for the trip (new backpacks, shoes, electronics, etc.) Here's a quick review of one item Caroline bought. Maybe this will help with your travel shopping!


Shopping Review: What I Bought for the Trip and What I Think About it Now (from Caroline Green)

When embarking on a trip like this, or any trip, it can be tempting to purchase lots of new gear. I didn't want to buy much — that sort of negates the whole budget-friendly adventure idea — but I did want to make sure I had functional, wearable with a variety of outfits, comfortable footwear. This led me to Crocs. I know what you're thinking, but no, not the giant neon clogs of the early 2000s. These Crocs are actually pretty cute, and I'd wager unless you were told you might not even know the were Crocs. I'd read a post by a travel-savvy fashionista saying they were her must-have travel shoe, and I might almost agree. They can definitely be worn with any attire and enjoy a very cushiony sole. My one caution: Crocs kind of make your feet sweat, and when your feet are sweaty they might slip around in the shoes a bit. Not a major issue, unless you're hauling it through an airport because you have negative 2 minutes to make your connection. I may not wear my new Crocs much in my regular life, but I expect them to make regular appearances on trips where a lot of walking is expected. 

...

And that's that. This is a trip we'll never forget. Here are a few more pictures from our trip through Colorado! We'll be in Denver until Thursday evening and then we'll get back on the train and head to Chicago!

Train Games: San Fran to Salt Lake City (Train Ride 1)

Good morning from Salt Lake City! I would tell you how beautiful it is outside, but we haven't made it as far as leaving our hotel room. It's currently 9:00a.m. as I write this and we got to Salt Lake City at 3:30a.m. We're pretty tired, but the adventure was well worth it. 

I'll catch you up on our first leg of the train trip: San Fran to Salt Lake!

This is the California Zephyr!

This is the California Zephyr!

We pulled into the Emeryville train station about 45 minutes before our train was set to depart. Emeryville is just 20 minutes outside of San Francisco, so it was really easy to get to. There was a lot of back and forth about how early we should arrive at the station. Most things we read said 30-45 minutes. This didn't stop me from still being a little nervous we weren't going to be early enough. Airports have ruined me with their unexpected long security lines, boarding policies, etc.

This began our first lesson about traveling with Amtrak:

Lesson 1: It's a way more laid back experience than flying.

We walked into the small station and expected to have to get into lines to get checked in, go through security, and check our bags. None of that was true. There was one line to check bags and one line to buy tickets (we already had our tickets, so that wasn't necessary). The window for checking bags was closed and we were told to come back in a bit (we were just a little early). So, we headed outside and sat down with the other people waiting for the train. This is when our questions began to fly.

"Are all these people waiting for our train?"

"Are they all going to Salt Lake, too?"

"Why is there no security line?"

We could tell from what we were overhearing that our train was on time. It seemed that everyone sitting outside was also getting on the California Zephyr, and we pretended to know exactly what we were supposed to do. As we waited, we called our Dads to wish them a Happy Father's Day, took pictures of the station, and continued to repeat, "I can't believe we're really doing this." 

At this point, we heard over the intercom, "If you want to check a bag for train 6, the line is closing in 2 minutes."

This began a small bit of panic and an encounter with an unreasonably rude Amtrak employee. What we didn't realize is that after we went outside they opened the line to check bags. And the line was only open for a short window. After a moment of watching the employee shame person after person for being late or not getting in line soon enough, we made our way to the front of the line. Richards set her straight (very nicely) and we were surprised the only information she needed from us in order to check our bags was the name of our destination.

Once our bags were handled, it was smooth sailing. We waited outside, followed instructions to get line with the other coach passengers, and watched the train arrive. We were told which car to get on (and it was all based on our destination), so we climbed onto car 611 and made our way to find a seat. To our surprise, the car was very empty.

As we settled in, we still had tons of questions, "Where's the bathroom? Where's the observation car? Can we leave our stuff here when we go eat?" We slowly started to figure things out as we made our way out of the San Francisco area. We asked the staff lots of questions and reminded them how new we were to this whole travel-by-train thing. Some found that endearing ... others responded to our questions with eye rolls. You could say we knew who our favorite Amtrak staff members were very quickly.

We had grand plans to read and play games and listen to music, but we spent a whole lot of time just staring out the window (and talking about our foot rests). Who wouldn't stare out the window when it looked like this?

Lesson #2: The train stops alot. 

We knew the train would stop in major hubs, but we didn't realize how many small stations we'd be stopping at as well. Each stop was really quick. We'd let a few people off and gain a few new ones as well. Our car began to fill up more and more as time went by, but we still were never crowded. Richards, Caroline, and I each had a row to ourselves the entire trip.

Around 11:45a.m. we made our way to get some lunch. We didn't really know where we were going, but we knew we needed to go a few cars back. We stumbled upon the the Lounge car. In this car there are snacks, drinks, and some light meals like pizza, hamburgers, and hot dogs. 

After lunch, we spent some time in the Observation car. This car is my favorite. Not only is a great place to look at the scenery, but it's a hub for activity and socialization. There were families playing cards, some elderly men reading papers, some guys filming with their Go Pro (we really wanted to get a tutorial from them), and even a man with a ukelele. It was awesome.

At this point, we just kept saying, "We're big fans of train travel."

We eventually made it back to our seats and spent the afternoon napping, reading, listening to podcasts, and listening to music. The views for the afternoon sure didn't disappoint.

I realize the downside of train travel is the length. Why take a train from San Fran to Salt Lake that takes 18 hours when you can take a flight that takes just a couple hours? I think these pictures answer that question. I love that we slowed down and got to actually see the beauty around us, enjoy our surroundings, and get to know the people on the same journey. 

Late afternoon we learned another lesson about the train:

Lesson #3: You need a reservation for dinner on the dining car.

The guy that runs the dining car made his way around the train to take reservations. They start with the people in the sleeper cars and end up in coach (THAT'S US!). By the time he got to us the next reservation was for 8:30p.m. We obviously had no where to be, so 8:30 it was. The dining car has family-style seating. This means that every table has to be filled (4 people to a table), so they seat you with strangers to fill the space. We got to meet a lovely lady from Virginia who was making her way back home after spending 11 days in Oregon with her son and his family. We enjoyed our dinner (Crab cakes for Richards and I, pasta for Caro, and Pad Thai for our friend from Virginia) and watched the sun set over Nevada. It was gorgeous.

We hung out in the dining car for a while and let the guy in charge of the car know he was our favorite (he called us to dinner earlier than 8:30) and then we made our way back to our seats to settle in for some sleep. It was going on 10:00p.m at this point and we were scheduled to get off in Salt Lake City at 3:10a.m. They made an announcement at 10pm saying that "quiet time" was beginning. They turned the lights off, let us know they wouldn't make any more announcements, and told us someone would stop by to let us know when we were in Salt Lake. 

We each curled up with sleep gear and did our best to get some rest. I slept fairly well, but woke up every 30min to an hour to shift around. You can only sleep in a curled up ball for so long. 

We rolled into Salt Lake right on time, got our bags, and grabbed a taxi to our hotel. We climbed into bed at 3:45a.m, slept til 9:00a.m, and are (slowly) preparing to explore Salt Lake for the rest of the day.

We'll head back to the train station at 3:30a.m. to catch the next California Zephyr train and head to Denver! It's definitely more of an adventure than a vacation, but it's been a blast!

In case you missed it... You can catch the previous posts here:

Train Games: San Francisco

Train Games: Prep Mode

Train Game 2016

 

 

 

 

 

Train Games: San Francisco

The adventure began on Friday morning at 8:30a.m. and was kicked off with an unexpected flight delay. This wouldn't have been a big deal except we already had a really tight connection in St. Louis and the delay meant we had zero time to get from flight 1 to flight 2. Thankfully, the majority of the people on our plane had a connection to make in St. Louis, so they held our plane. Despite Southwest's kind gesture, it still made for a dramatic hustle situation from our gate to the next one. We were the last to board, but we made it just in time. 

We made it to San Fran. Bookbags and all.

We made it to San Fran. Bookbags and all.

We grabbed a Lyft from the airport to our hotel and quickly realized that we were STARVING. By this time it was 1pm in California and 3pm back at home and we had skipped both breakfast and lunch. We found an In N' Out Burger down the street from our hotel and spent 10 minutes talking about how it was the best meal we had ever eaten (we were just that hangry).

After exploring Fisherman's Wharf a bit (should I mention we needed a sweater for this?), we went back to our hotel for a break. While we intended to just stop by the hotel and re-group, we ended up taking naps (WE ARE OLD). None of us had gotten much sleep the night before we left for the trip and by 5:00p.m. PST (8:00p.m. at home), we were DONE. We napped and then walked to get sushi around 7:00p.m (always a solid decision). We finished out the night by sitting by a fire outside our hotel and then went to bed early. 

On Saturday we were wide awake at 6:30a.m PST, BUT we were well rested and ready to go. It's amazing what sleep will do :) We headed out to Black Point Cafe (thanks for the rec, Cheryl!) and enjoyed lavender lattes and breakfast while staring at the view you see above. Let's also talk about the weather. It was in the 60s all day and there was not a cloud in the sky. San Francisco was GORGEOUS. 

After breakfast, we made our way to Muir Woods. This was a bit of a process--longer than we anticipated--but so worth it. We took a Lyft over the Golden Gate Bridge and ended up at a shuttle in Sausalito. It was a 45 minute wait at the shuttle and then a 30 minute ride to the woods. The ride was CURVY and meant we were a woozy when we arrived (praying that's not how we feel on the train), but the forest was beautiful. We agreed it would be a blast to spend a whole day there hiking, but you know, we have a train to catch.

I should also mention that while in the woods, Richards accidentally broke the selfie stick. My only regret in life is not getting a picture of her face when it happened. You should know that strangers stopped to console her.

We ended up back in Sausalito after the woods and we fell in love with it. The city was PACKED, but we found ourselves at a pizzeria for lunch and sat and overlooked the water. Of course, we took advantage of the scenery and took more pics. I'm pretty sure the words, "This is the best decision we've made in a long time," came out of our mouths.

Late afternoon, we made our way back to San Francisco, but this time by ferry. The views were pretty amazing and the weather continued to be top notch. It was a cheap way to get back to our hotel + see the bay and the ever-famous Golden Gate Bridge.

Not windy at all.

Not windy at all.

We were pretty determined to actually walk on the bridge (why not?!), so we hung at the hotel a bit and waited for just the right time to make it to Golden Gate at sunset. It was surprisingly chilly (or maybe we shouldn't have been surprised) but the views didn't disappoint. I sang the theme song to Full House all the way across.

It was an awesome day! 

Sunday morning at 9:00a.m we climb aboard the California Zephyr and head to Salt Lake City! We've got our snacks our entertainment and our outfits picked out (it includes yoga pants--to no ones surprise). And don't worry, we stopped by Walgreens and bought Richards a new selfie stick. #priorities

New post coming when we get to Salt Lake (well, after a nap. We arrive at 3:30a.m.)!

#traingames2016

In case you missed it... You can catch the previous posts here:

Train Games: Prep Mode

Train Game 2016

The (Not-So) Secret Fear About Being Single

On Friday, I was pretty restless. The week had been really productive and I was longing for that extra day to add onto the weekend schedule, (weren't we all?) and I was anxious to nail down my long weekend plans. 

God bless my co-worker. We set up shop at a coffeeshop on Friday morning and started working through our daily to-do lists. As I answered emails and wrote my way to the weekend, I stopped every five minutes to let her know I was ready for the day to be over and I wanted an adventure. She put up with my verbal daydreaming for longer than she should have. 

First, I was going to stay in town and plan a day-trip to the waterfalls with friends. Then, I was going to jump in the car and drive home to see family. Next, I was planning a beach trip. Despite my indecisiveness, my spontaneity took over and I found two friends crazy enough to hop in the car with me and drive seven hours to Florida.

And I don't regret it for a second.

We laughed and told stories about our childhood and sang along to every good road trip song imaginable. We sat on the beach long enough to walk away with burnt feet and knees and we planted ourselves in beach chairs long enough to see the sunset. It was glorious.

As we drove down, we commented on why the spontaneity of this season of life is our favorite. Being single means we have no one to check with or answer to when we want to hop in the car and pay for a last minute weekend away. I love that about the season.

But the "decision is all mine," mindset is also what scares me the most:

My biggest fear about being single is that I've become too comfortable with being single.

The life I live is pretty selfish... at least it feels that way. How I spend or save my money is up to me. What I do for a career is up to me and affects no one else-- just me. What I do every night or every weekend? My decision. I've spent years discovering (and forcing myself to discover) the joy in being single. And I love it. I truly do. I fear, however, that I've lost the ability to share.

The world says, "Single? Totally fine. Work hard. Find you. Find success." But I'm saving for "my" house, not "ours." I'm setting up retirement plans with me in mind and no one else. Call it a defense mechanism. Call it savvy. Call it crazy. Regardless, if I'm so comfortable with singleness, can I reverse it? Can I share my space, literally my room, with someone? Can I share my time? My finances? Can I share my heart?

Twenty-nine has brought on all kinds of thoughts (possibly more than were welcome). I'm supposed to be scared of thirty and I'm not. I've watched way too many friends twirl into thirty. Instead I'm afraid I'm going to twirl and never stop. 

If this is the sweet life, can I learn to share it?

6 Reasons Why I Am Not a Savvy Traveler

I travel a good bit these days. Sometimes for work, sometimes for fun. 

I am always game for an adventure, but I can't say I'm the most savvy when it comes to strategic travel plans. I'll be good company, but don't count on me to be the trip navigator. If you're looking for a good playlist for the plane or car, though, I'm your girl. I find way too much joy in being the road trip deejay.

Here are a few other reasons why I'm not a savvy traveler:

1) If I am able to check a bag for free (thank you Southwest), I will do it. A girl has the right to pack her full bottle of shampoo and not be harassed about it. I do not care if our trip is only 1 night. I want my beauty products. 

2) I don't do public transportation alone. I would like to think I could navigate the New York subway system by myself, however I don't have a lot of faith that I would end up in the correct destination. Every time I've been to New York, I've been with other people who jump on all over the navigator role and let me sit back and follow. This is also called the Baby of the Family Syndrome. You people tell me where to go and where to be.

3) I have never conquered the Southwest check-in process. You will forever find me in the B grouping with an occasional appearance in C class. When you end up in C class you may as well have booked your ticket at the bottom of the Titanic with Jack.

4) I never have the right cords. Can I get a witness on this one? I may have an hour to get some work done on the plane. I pull out my laptop and discover I didn't bring the power cord and my laptop is dead. Let's also give a shout-out to the "Find An Open Outlet" game in the terminal. You find yourself on that unexpected long layover with a phone at 10% and that eye twitch sets in. You want to talk about Hunger Games?!

5) I never know when or how much to tip. The door man at the hotel? Uber driver? The valet that the hotel made me pay for? Listen, I always air on the side of tipping. I'm not a grinch, BUT when I'm running through the lobby at 6am to make an early flight, I'm all frazzled when the guy brings my car around. How much?

6) I am a one stop stickler on a road trip. This may actually prove I'm savvy, but road trip companions aren't too thrilled when they don't follow my same rules. Every stop must be maximized: get your gas, go to the restroom, get your food and your snacks for later. Be careful how much water and coffee you drink the car. I'm not stopping again.

I leave at 6:50am tomorrow morning for a long weekend in NYC with 2 of my best friends. I haven't seen them in MONTHS, so I'm pumped. I've fought against SnapChat for YEARS, but these friends are all about some snapping. I'm jumping on the bandwagon this weekend. If you want to follow along with my non-savvy self in NYC this weekend, you can find me under the username: katyboat. I asked my high school friends for permission to use SnapChat. They said it was ok, but I'm pretty sure they're planning to jump ship.

Cheers.

 

Source: http://katywrote.com

My Fear of Missing Out on Easter

I am the queen of good intentions. 

The trouble with all my "planning to do this," and "desire to do that" is I walk away leaving a lot of those well wishes on the table. Intentions with no follow through.

Every year when Easter rolls around, I want to do a better job at acknowledging and celebrating what it is we're actually gathering on Sunday to talk about. Even using the word "job" in that sentence feels like I'm turning Easter into another thing on my check list instead of a mark on my heart.

The events of this weekend - the death, the resurrection, and the life of our Savior CHANGED EVERYTHING.

When Jesus gave His life to save mine, I went from broken to whole. When they put his beaten body in a tomb and the world went dark, God knew that light would overcome. And when Jesus walked out of the tomb three days later, He showed us all that death no longer had a place to stand.

Despite all of it, my intentions for acknowledging the truth of Easter have turned into figuring out what to wear on Sunday and what to eat for brunch.

I made it 4 days through the devotional series during Lent.

Just 4.

So, as this Holy weekend begins and my intentions sit on the table, my heart cries out for the God who changed it all. 

I don't want to miss it.

I stood in front 100 teenage girls two weekends ago and we all talked about the fact that God says we are worth it. And forgiven. And redeemed. 

None of that rings true without the events of this weekend. And I don't want to miss it.

May I not ignore the entire purpose of celebrating, because my wandering heart is still looking at the table instead of the empty tomb.

May the realization and recognition of the cross forever bring me to my knees.

"With every breath, with every word I speak

With every word, with every heartbeat

Jesus, let it be for You, for you only

My whole life, all for Your glory."

"I Trust is All" Brett Stanfill

 

A Few Words on Adulting

1. I wear daily contacts, which means at the end of each day I throw away the pair I'm wearing and open a new pair the following morning. I've been re-using my last pair for about a month because I don't feel like spending the money on more boxes, yet I just dropped a pretty penny on another pair of my favorite jeans. I wear those daily too, people. Priorities.

 

2. I'm starting Whole30 tomorrow, which means today I feel the need to eat everything in my pantry that's not Whole30 approved. I'm pretty sure that's how this thing works.

 

3. As a kid "clean clothes" meant clothes that my Mom has just finished washing and returned to my closet. As a 29-year-old, "clean clothes" means clothes that do not smell or appear to have been worn before. (Please ask my Mom how she feels about this.)

 

4. I'm going on a cruise at the end of February, so naturally all my shopping lists for the month include things like self-tanner and razors and Dramamine. 

 

5. Note that said cruise at the end of February starts on the 26th, so said Whole30 diet is now my Whole26 diet. Staying on the Whole30 plan while on a cruise would be sacrilegious.

 

6. I think it's super responsible and courteous to respond on time to party invitations. I check my mail once a week and sometimes once every other week. Last week, I opened a invitation to a wedding shower that was taking place the next day. In another state. Clearly I didn't go or respond in time. Listen, the mailbox is 4 floors away and the mail key is in a drawer in my kitchen. It's a hard life.

 

7. In a city that is high on life and low on parking, the valet guys rule the world. The root of the problem for the residents? Having cash on hand. On New Years Eve, I had 3 people in my car and we pulled up to a restaurant where I shouted, "Guys, we're valeting because I have cash and we're fancy!" They cheered and shouted they all had cash too. We then high-fived and considered it a New Years miracle.

 

#Thisis29 

 

Source: http://katywrote.com

Top 5 Best Life Decisions I've Ever Made

Listen. I'm in this year of 29 which makes me feel like I need to evaluate my 20s and life up to this point and start planning for my 30s. It's like a bridge year. Here, woman, stand on this bridge and look behind you and ahead of you and figure out what you need to bring along. If you'd like to picture my bridge as one of those wooden types- the kind that's held together by skinny slabs of wood and some rope, that's great. Because that's exactly what 29 feels like. Confident enough to know where to place my feet, but wobbly enough to know it's scary. 

Before the obnoxious kid shows up to start bouncing on the end of my bridge, I want to reminisce together about some life choices in my 20s. These have been some of the best years. Truly. Maybe these things are why...

TOP 5 BEST LIFE DECISIONS I'VE EVER MADE

#5: Living on top of a Mexican restaurant.

There really is no explanation needed here. 1-800-QUESO.

#4: Spending my 21st Birthday at Disney World.

I brought 5 friends with me. It was magical and I wouldn't change that trip for the WORLD (see what I did there?).

#3: Hiking Poo Poo Point outside of Seattle.

You think I'm kidding. I could not stop making comments about the scenery and saying the words, "poo poo." 

#2: Singing karaoke in a trailer that's wrapped in Christmas lights and run by Santa.

Nashville, you know this. Tell me there's no better place than Santa's Pub to sing "Don't Stop Believing."

#1: Taking a spontaneous trip to the beach.

It was 4th of July weekend of this past year and at 9pm I looked at my friends and just threw out the out question, "What if we drove to the beach tonight?" We were packed and in the car by 10pm. Grateful to have friends that see my crazy and affirm it.

You thought I was going to say some really monumental stuff, didn't you? But really, guys. Being in walking distance of some queso IS monumental.

 

Playing Hide and Seek with Lonely

Think back with me to playing Hide and Seek as a kid. Can you remember? 

I will always picture a big group of neighborhood kids gathering in my front yard and the basketball goal in my driveway as our designated base. You could possibly call that a home team advantage, but I'd say it just pays off to live at the front of the neighborhood. 

I can even remember my favorite hiding spot. There was a place just behind my house where the bushes shifted just enough to form a small gap. A place for me to hide. A place for me to become invisible.

Every game had its rules, but there was also a law, and you know it, too. What ALWAYS happened as soon as you found your hiding place.... as soon as you squeeze down into your spot and close your eyes as if to make yourself invisible?

You had to pee.

SOMEONE PLEASE EXPLAIN TO ME WHY THAT ALWAYS HAPPENED? ALWAYS. As soon as I sat still, I became uncomfortable.

I spent most of this year craving room to breathe. Life felt full and busy and often times out of control. It wasn't that everything on my calendar or to-do list was a bad thing. In fact, they're all good things. Work. Friends. Family. Church. Mentoring. All things I love. But somewhere along the way, every day was maxed out, every hour was scheduled, and everything felt just a little too much. 

As summer turned to fall, and things began to change, I started to find the thing I had been craving. A new job meant a chance to start over with the way I set boundaries and how I stay organized. I found margin. Moving into a new place and living alone meant a chance to establish new routines. Choosing to say "yes" to some activities and "no" to others meant being just a tad bit more intentional with my time.

But a funny thing happened. The law of Hide and Seek creeped right in and as soon as I found time to be still, to be quiet, I got uncomfortable. All that time I wanted life to slow down and room to breathe, and all of sudden I didn't know what to do with it. 

The extra time meant extra thoughts. The extra thoughts meant doubts that tiptoed in, and doubts created even more thoughts. I felt like a crazy person. In my mind, busy meant I was productive (not always true). Busy meant I was needed and wanted and useful (also not always true). But busy turned me into a crazy person. And now that busy turned itself down a notch I was back to feeling like a crazy person for not being so busy.

This is where the professionals step in.

A ton of people in my life have been big proponents of counseling and earlier in the year I discovered what they're talking about. Counseling means I can ask a stranger these burning questions and she gets paid not to judge me for it. Slowly as we worked our way down the trail of tears, we started to unpack it all. And she asked me a question that made me realize why I pay her: "Do you think that now you have time to breathe, you're having to face the fact that you're lonely?"

It took me a second to not want to throw something. She used a word I so badly fight against: lonely. How could I be lonely? I'm surrounded by people all day at work, my phone doesn't stop buzzing from multiple group texts, I have family in town, a great group of friends, a community group. For me, the word lonely has always been so directly correlated with the word single, but the more I've let it all sink in, the more I've talked to friends, the more I've listened, I've realized that lonely has nothing to do with a relationship status. 

I am convinced that every time I find myself alone, God is waiting for me to recognize His presence. If I'm no longer able to find my worth in the busy, then maybe He has a chance to show me my worth in the still.

I have no pretty bow to wrap this thing up with. No quote for you to share. No lesson for us to text about. All I know is this:

Somewhere along the way I started playing Hide and Seek with Lonely. She invited herself to the game. While I try to find the right spot to hide from her, she's trying to squeeze in right next to me and we're all a little uncomfortable. And maybe that's ok. I bet there's a few things along the way I can learn from her. And I wonder what happens if I embrace Lonely?