Dear Daughter

I bought my first bottle of eau de parfum yesterday. After sniffing more bottles than my olfactory receptors could handle, I decided on one. It’s woody and amber-y, and smells just like I’d want to be remembered. As I swiped my card to pay for my pricey 1oz. bottle of Sensuous Nude, I felt a little more woman. I softly chuckled, imagining spritzing myself with this fragrance, letting it dry as I lean over the sink to apply mascara to my lashes before deciding what to wear. There’s something so decidedly feminine, and sensual, and adult about the ritual of getting ready especially when it involves perfume. It made me think of my mom, and how much like her I’ve become.

And I thought of you – even though you don’t exist yet – and how I hope you get to meet my mom and marvel at one of God’s greatest masterpieces. And I hoped that you too would one day celebrate, and not mourn, the fact that you’ve become more like me with each passing year.

There are many characteristics of mine which I hope you never inherit. My mostly unhelpful ability to over-analyze and dissect any situation – real or imagined – to bits and pieces, or the giant pores on my nose and legs, or  my incredibly coarse, slow-growing hair. I hope you don’t become compulsively self-reliant or mildly pessimistic like I tend to be. Instead, I hope you get my fierce determination to live a story worth telling. I hope you enjoy food – the creating and eating, the complexities of flavor and texture. I hope you love to have people around your table, feasting on delicacies from your kitchen, sharing laughter and pain over steaming plates of mushroom risotto or pasta or bacon mac and cheese. I hope you celebrate your body in all its flaws and glories, treating it with dignity and respect, and not shying away from the admiration it was created to command. I hope you love to dance, both with company and alone. I hope you are sassy and opinionated and confident, as well as selfless, generous, and thoughtful. Good heavens, I hope you love a well-put together outfit or I’ll be biting my tongue for as long as we both live. I hope you inherit some creativity – whether music, or writing, or decorating. I hope you quickly find the thing that brings you the most joy and makes your Abba proud, and spend all your energy running towards it.

I hope you are strong and courageous, resilient and wise. I know that everyone is guaranteed a share of the world’s pain and turmoil, and while I will want to protect you from yours, I hope it molds you into a woman of character who is more empathic because she, too, has been broken. I hope that whether you are the life of the party or the quiet observer, you strive to be a safe place for others to retreat to, where people leave feeling loved, valued, and inspired. I hope that your words are marked with grace and kindness, building up and not tearing down. I hope you find the balance between intellect and faith, asking your own questions and finding your own way. I hope you learn that strength isn’t burying emotions for the sake of trudging onwards, rather it is giving yourself room to break because only then can healing occur. I hope you learn honesty, patience, and love. And above all, I hope you fall madly in love with Jesus because he makes everything else so much sweeter.

If entrusting my wishes and hopes to the care of the universe were enough, I’d stop here. But everything that is beautiful about me today was once a seed planted by my mother. Everything I’ve learned about life, love, and God I have learned from the woman who nursed me. So while I certainly hope you become an extraordinary world-changer, I’ll busy myself with embodying the above characteristics and becoming one first. These passionate, purposeful days of my youth are for you, darling. I will pursue greatness so you can become great also.

With all my love,

Making Room for Grace

I’m a goal setter. That’s how I get from point A to point B. That’s how I stay motivated and keep my feet moving when everything in me just wants to stop. The goal was straight As at the end of this insanely difficult semester. And so my feet kept propelling me to the library, or a coffee shop – wherever it was that I could keep working towards that goal.

Over the last few years, I’ve learned that the process is worth far more than the end product. I’ve learned to honor the journey as a beautiful gift, just as worthy of celebration as the destination. But I can’t deny that I’m a goal setter. And once again, confronted with the endless possibilities of 7 weeks of school-free summer, I have decided who I want to be, come August 26th.

I want to be in a healthier state than I’m in right now. That means picking up where I left off about a month ago at the gym. It means sitting at that one spot by the river at the same time every morning, coffee and journal in hand, fighting to mend my broken relationship with God. It means going back to therapy, even though those dollars would make for many fun trips and copious amounts of goat cheese always residing in my fridge. It means doing something that scares me every week, like my dear old friend just challenged me to. It means reading a lot, and dancing a lot, and biking a lot, and loving a lot. To borrow the words of my new favorite author, Shauna Niequist, “I want my everyday to make God belly laugh, glad that he gave life to someone who loves the gift.”

While all of these things are reasonable and commendable, the most important thing I’m certain I’ll forget most days this summer is to give myself grace.

On the days when I skip the gym cause I’m feeling lazy and hormonal, or the mornings when I feel like God’s a no-show at our spot, or the weeks where I choose cowardice instead of bravery, I want to remember that grace applies to me. That grace is for me, and not just the people around me. That grace doesn’t keep count of the many times and ways I mess up, or the terrible decisions I make. That grace is limitless, boundless, offering chance after endless chance. That grace doesn’t demand perfection. That grace unravels the threads of shame and weaves together a story of beauty and freedom and joy.

I want to be fully present wherever I find myself this summer – in sickness and in health, in plenty or famine, in community or lonesome. No beating myself up for not being where I think I should be, at the expense of embracing where I am. At the end of this summer, I’ll ask myself – like I so often do – if I’m proud of the life I’m living. I hope I can say yes, not just because of my list of achieved goals, but because I never once left empty the space where grace should be.

Adventures of an Untethered Heart

Yesterday, I felt really tender in a way I haven’t in a while. It was in the middle of watching The Great Gatsby on the big screen with an old fashioned in hand. I’m not exactly sure what it was. I think it was the way Gatsby (played by the beautiful, wickedly brilliant Leo DiCaprio) looked at Daisy. Maybe it was his ache for her that was so palpable, so visible in his every move. I’m not sure, but I let myself get a little sentimental and soft. In the best way.

You see, I’m at this place I never in a million years thought I’d arrive at. It’s still fairly new – fairly new being a month and a half – so I’m still marveling at the greenery and the simple grandeur. It’s pretty lush, much to my surprise. What is this place, you ask? It’s the “I don’t want to be in a relationship” place. I swear, I never thought I’d say that and mean it.

I’ve said it before – many times, actually. But I was trying to cheat the system because everyone in a relationship has this terrible habit of telling single women that it’s the minute you stop wanting it that you get the man of your dreams. I find that idea very confusing and illogical. So does that work in other aspects of life? Is it the minute I stop wanting my dream job that it comes to me? Or the minute I stop apartment hunting that I find the apartment of my dreams? Maybe my problem is that I’m too logical about these things. I’d rather the old wives’ tale be that it’s the minute you realize there’s more to a grand life than a significant other that you find him.

Any how, because I was told to stop wanting it in order to get it, I tried that plan. I convinced myself that I didn’t want a relationship and I was satisfied with no hand-holding and cuddling. Since it was a lie, it didn’t last for long. Soon, I was bitter and whiny again, and I thought, “To hell with this whole sham!” and instead, talked loudly about how much I wanted it. I wanted it bad. I wanted it because it was all I could control in my life at the time. (This was pointed out to me by a dear friend recently whom I love even more for her honesty). Nothing else in my life was working so I thought I would manipulate my way into a man’s heart to prove that I was at least good for something.

Wonder of all wonders, that didn’t actually work. And here I am, many months later, thinking that my life is marvelous and I am excited to be learning and growing even in the most difficult process of self-analysis. I’m excited to one day be a therapist – at least, most days I am. I’m so excited for this summer where I’m going back to therapy to deal with the entire world of junk this past semester has unearthed in me. I am excited to read books and talk about existential/theological/psychological issues over beers that I brewed. I am excited to travel to the Pacific Northwest for the first time ever and bask in the grandeur of the ocean, hipsters, good coffee, and old friends. I’m excited to meet new people, and have the best conversations with wonderful men who are more than potential lovers. I’m so excited to dance the night away at my friend’s wedding. And for the first time, I am very content with not having someone to take me on a date.

I’m not saying this because there are no romantic prospects in my life. Oh, there are. But I’m so very uninterested at this present moment. I believe that love should be wild, and intoxicating, and breathtaking. There are far too many mediocre things in life for me to settle for a mediocre love. Until then, I’m basking in the glories of being young and beautiful and free to travel and roam as I please.

But then there are those moments like last night that remind me that just because I’m content being single right now doesn’t mean my heart has become hardened and untouchable. I still get breathless and melty when a guy looks at a girl the way Gatsby looked at Daisy. I haven’t given up on the man of my dreams – I’m just realizing for the first time that my life is still full of adventure and worthy of celebration without him. And I’d like to believe that he would be disappointed if I didn’t spend these days enjoying life in all its fullness. I hope he’s doing the same wherever he is.

As I write this at a coffee shop, a beautiful tattooed stranger is distracting me with his witty lines about my future career of manipulating people into honesty (aka therapy), and making me laugh really loudly. Maybe we’ll get a beer later, maybe we’ll never see each other again. Either way, I’m having the best damn time just living my life for me and not for the approval of another. Cheers to being young and wild and free.