Global Dating Part 2: She Said

The “she said” story begins with the array of circumstances preceding my trip to San Francisco in January (2013). The year 2012 was rough, but beautiful as I saw the Lord’s faithfulness displayed through some intense physical and emotional journeys. In pursuit of fresh escapades and with a passion to experience the truths I believed intellectually, I set out for my favorite city. It was crazy to be sure, but I couldn’t silence the unexplainable desire I had to go and adventure with Jesus. And adventure I did!

sailing in the SF BayThe four weeks I spent in San Francisco were a time of healing, of beauty, of repose. It was priceless. Jesus met His little princess there in the heart of San Francisco. He whispered His love to me again and again until its reality seeped deep into my very being. He provided for me. He sent dear friends to me to share more of His goodness. One of those friends was Joey.

And in case you suspect I was swept off my feet during that trip, allow me to set the record straight. No one did any falling (or catching). Joey and I did, however, have a surprisingly great time reconnecting and reminiscing about days gone by. In hindsight, the first day we hung out couldn’t have been a more perfect date. But we weren’t dating and I was quite persuaded we were nothing more than good friends.

Borel Hill

The San Francisco chapter in the story of my travels ended all too quickly. Then began the emails. More emails. And longer emails. And then another visit. This time Joey was in Atlanta for a mutual friend’s wedding. I was emphatically prepared to give the “we’re just friends” speech since I had suspicions that Joey was more interested than I was. But in an unexpected turn of events, lunch segued to coffee and I found myself lost in conversation with Joey. Somewhere between the drive rehearsing my speech and the end of the 3- or 4-hour chat I had trashed the “just friends” illusion and decided if Joey ever asked me out on a date, I would say yes.

Several weeks later Joey texted to say he would be in Atlanta over the 4th of July and if possible to “keep your schedule open.” What in the world?! I admit, I stressed over my response. Should I be sassy? Play hard to get? What if he was only coming to see family?

Surprised

My questions were put to rest a couple weeks later when Joey called and officially asked me out on a date. But he didn’t just ask for one date, he asked for the entire weekend! I was surprised and delighted. The weekend plan was impressive. And I had no idea the half of what was in store those next couple of days. Magnificent waterfalls, coffee, wonders of the sea, a family birthday event, a movie night, and a candlelight dinner (cooked by Joey himself) were all part of the whirlwind. It was a month’s worth of dates squished into 4 awesome days.

This time he did sweep me off my feet.

piedmont park

The adventures and stories continue as Joey and I date across the U.S. We are increasingly grateful for technology when we’re apart and savor every moment we get to spend together in the same time zone and in the same city. Long-distance challenges are real, but facing them together makes it worthwhile.

In the words of Agnes from Despicable Me 2, “I’M SO HAPPY!!!!”

minion party love

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Global Dating Part 1: He Said

I know many friends have wanted to hear more of the story behind my recent change in relationship status. And before you mark this post as spam, I’ll try to keep a balance between “just the facts” and “pass the Pepto”.

[This is a guest post by my awesome boyfriend, Joey Tyson.]

Joey and Laura

Laura and I are actually childhood friends. When I was 12, not long after moving to Atlanta, my family joined the church that her family already attended. Apart from teaming up once in an outdoor game whose rules I no longer recall, we weren’t particularly close growing up. But we reconnected while I was in grad school, and eventually found several shared perspectives and interests. By that time, I had moved to Virginia and Laura was still in Georgia. As our lives seemed to go in different directions, we lost touch for a while.

That changed earlier this year. Laura enjoys traveling, and since her current job allows her to work remotely, she decided to spend a few weeks exploring the San Francisco area while deepening her relationship with God. Fortunately for me, I had moved to northern California the year prior after taking a job with Facebook. The more time we spent time together, the more I began to realize how much we truly had in common.

After Laura returned home, we continued sharing thoughts on a range of topics via email. And through these conversations, we discovered that even our deepest values seemed to echo the same song. Our friendship continued to grow as we talked more often, including an afternoon in-person when I visited Atlanta.

The weekend after July 4th, I visited Atlanta once more, but not before asking Laura if I could take her out on a date. She not only said yes, but agreed to join me on a series of adventures while I was in town, from hiking Amicalola Falls to seeing the Georgia Aquarium to enjoying a fancy homemade dinner (although that last one was a surprise). We both had a wonderful time and endeavored to move forward with a long-distance relationship.

IMG_5736We knew that path wouldn’t be easy, but we’ve been learning to navigate it and are still very happy to be together even while we’re geographically apart. I’m continually amazed by Laura’s kindness and character; her friendship amplifies God’s goodness and joy in ways I never imagined.

We greatly appreciate the myriad encouragements we’ve received from friends and look forward to seeing what awaits us in the next few chapters of this story. 

IMG_5732

Risking the Rattlesnake for Ravishing Beauty

It was an enchanting idea. Sunshine. Mountains. And the promise of a lovely view.  Until the jog turned to a tedious hike, the trail became deserted, and the air got thin. Despite the challenges, I was still determined to at least make it to the top of Horsetooth Rock before dying. The grave of a less fortunate hiker along side the trail sent a chill up my spine as I continued my solo trek up the rocky path.

winding paths

At last the dirt trail ended and the boulders began. I was shaking from the adrenaline rush, lack of oxygen, and unbelievable vista. Crawling on all fours for fear of becoming another grave along the trail, I managed to crest Horsetooth Rock (7,230 feet elevation).

almost to the top

Spectacular. Ravishing. Beauty.

Horsetooth Mountain

Still in awe of this dangerous and yet magnificent summit and exhausted from the hike up, I stretched out my hand to steady myself. Shock and horror almost paralyzed me as I realized that within just 12 inches of my hand was a diamondback rattlesnake. I gasped for air.

rattlesnake coiled up

That’s a…….uhhhhhhhh………SNAKE!!!!! And a rattlesnake at that!

rattlesnake

[Thankfully, my little friend didn’t strike, I wasn’t bitten, and I actually managed to get a decently close picture.]

Horsetooth Rock Trail

In many ways, a life worth living is like my hike. Cliffs, slippery rocks, jagged paths, and even rattlesnakes threaten the climber who dares to reach the pinnacle. Life is full of failures, disappointments, sickness, uncertainty, obstacles, fear, and an onslaught of other deterrents that would derail you and me from pursuing and enjoying the splendor of God’s promises.

Horsetooth Rock Trail start

Breathtaking views generally do not appear at the bottom of the hill, but we anticipate them as we hike. Promises are much the same. We must take God at His Word. Believe that Jesus is trustworthy. Believe He is good. Believe His promises are good. It is by faith we conquer and by faith we receive the promises of God.

the heart of Horsetooth Mountain

“…let us strip off and throw aside every encumbrance and that sin which so readily clings to and entangles us, and let us run with patient endurance and steady and active persistence the appointed course of the race that is set before us. Looking away from all that will distract to Jesus, Who is the Leader and the Source of our faith (giving the first incentive for our belief) and is also its Finisher (bringing it to maturity and perfection)” Hebrews 12:1b-2a AMP.

Life is risky. But the reward of believing God’s promises always makes the risk worthwhile.

purple flowers and a view

The Truth About Being Shy

I’m an extrovert and I’m shy. It’s true and I’m not proud of it.

Please allow me to explain.

Most of the time, meeting people is a hobby for me. I actually thrive on encountering new names, faces, stories, and journeys. Each new friendship is an adventure.

But there are moments where I find myself surrounded by unfamiliar faces, attempting to selfishly hide behind my shy side. What will they think of me? They’re intimidating! What if I am supposed to know who they are, but I don’t? What if I can’t relate to them? What if they don’t want to talk to me? They look weird or boring… or both. What if I get stuck talking to them?

Photo Credit: Edge of Space via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Edge of Space via Compfight cc

In less than a minute I can be completely consumed with doubt or fear or prejudice. All of my excuses seem to stem from a central source: selfishness. Shyness demands that others take the initiative in beginning a conversation with me. It forces someone else to ask me questions and discover my interests. It’s easy to be shy and let someone else make the effort. Focusing on myself blinds me to the fact that the people around me are human too. They are created in God’s image. They have a story. And they are part of God’s story.

We are explicitly instructed to “do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than [ourselves]; do not merely look out for [our] own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4). What better way to begin living out this command than in conversation? We have a plethora of opportunities on a regular basis to esteem the [cashier, barista, client, coworker, professor, receptionist, etc.] better than ourselves.

It’s time to stop pretending that being shy is excusable.

It’s time to regard others as more important than myself.

It’s time to smile, say hello, and meet someone new.

Extravagantly Loved by My God

A wonder-struck hush emerged as the snow steadily covered Yosemite Valley. The massive formation of El Capitan barely peaked from behind hovering clouds and the winding road became an uncharted white path. On occasion the fog would part for few seconds to reveal the grandeur of gushing waterfalls, daunting ravines, and a variety of towering evergreens.

photo

It was the epitome of a fairytale winter wonderland. Only it wasn’t a fairytale. It was infinitely better because it was real. And I was part of it.

(Can you find me in the picture below?)

can you find me

I’m told it is an anomaly in late February to have any substantial snow in the valley. But on that epic Tuesday, February 19, 2013, God displayed a glimpse of His splendor by showering Yosemite with over six inches of fresh powder. (Keep in mind snow is a rare and exquisite phenomenon for this Georgia girl!)  I have to believe the scene unfolding before my eyes that day was just a taste of the blissful, untainted beauty we will one day enjoy in heaven.

Although God’s purposes largely remain a mystery, one divine reason for this miraculous occurrence is undeniably clear in my mind. God extravagantly loves me. And He delights in revealing His capacity to demonstrate that love in tangible ways.

Snowy drive

My God not only engineered my circumstances so I could go to Yosemite (a particular desire of mine), but also performed the impossible in sending snow in an unlikely season just because it is His nature to love and to display His love.

Jesus loves me. Extravagantly.  This I know is true. Do you? Can you testify with the Apostle John “…we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him”? (I John 4:16)

The chorus to This I Know by Jenny Simmons says it well:

Jesus, loves me, this I know
And I know it’s not because of anything I’ve done
This love is unconditional,
So at my worst or at my best,
You don’t love me less, You can’t love me more,
This I know for sure
.

Adventures in San Francisco

I recently spent 4 epic weeks in the beautiful bay area of San Francisco. The adventures, memories with friends, lessons learned, and breathtaking scenery will soon be put into words (probably a series of blog posts). But until then, here are a couple pictures to give you a sneak peek. 🙂

Cliff house

Cliff House, Ocean Beach

Golden gate from ft mason

Golden Gate Bridge from Fort Mason

Muir Woods

Muir Woods

Philz CoffeeBest drip coffee. Ever. (aka Philz Coffee)

Bodin

Boudin San Francisco Sourdough

danger trail closed

Trail to Vernal Falls, Yosemite National Park

from 36,000 ft

From 36,000 feet. I seriously ❤ mountains. Especially snow capped mountains.

Pier 1

Pier 1 / Financial District, San Francisco

Traditions, Expectations, and Love: Valentine’s Day in Retrospect

I was highly amused by my Facebook newsfeed on Valentine’s Day and felt a few observations were in order. The newlyweds were gawking over the elements comprising romantic perfection (e.g. cards, chocolates, flowers, and special dinners). The singles were contrasting this day of love with their own life by generally either mocking the holiday, eating too much chocolate, or encouraging others with God’s love.

And then a select few posed an entirely different perspective. “Why should demonstrations of love be reserved for just one day of the year?” they asked.

This question puzzled me. As a sincere romantic, I initially thought this was disgracing the legacy of love. But thoughtful consideration has generated even deeper questions.

Photo Credit: Freakysita via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Freakysita via Compfight cc

Have we allowed holiday traditions to dictate our expectations of love? And consequently, have we reduced love to chocolates and roses?

Isn’t the truest love to lay down our lives for another? (John 15:13) To esteem others better than ourselves? (Philippians 2:3) Authentic, Christ-saturated love is not bound by time or tangibles. It is perpetual and powerful. (1 Corinthians 13:8, Song of Solomon 8:7)

Flowers wither in time and chocolates vanish once eaten, but real love never fades. Let me be quick to say, I love both flowers (especially gerbera daisies) and chocolates (the darker the better). And I realize these can be demonstrations of love.

My concern is the subtle replacement of intangible, self-sacrificing charity with tangible perishables. One box of chocolates on Valentine’s Day will never mask the absence of genuine love on the other 364 days.

Love endures long and is patient and kind;

Love never is envious nor boils over with jealousy,

Love is not boastful or vainglorious,

Love does not display itself haughtily.

Love is not conceited (arrogant and inflated with pride);

Love is not rude, unmannerly, and does not act unbecomingly.

Love, God’s love in us, does not insist on its own rights or its own way,

Love is not self-seeking;

Love is not touchy or fretful or resentful;

Love takes no account of the evil done to it (pays no attention to a suffered wrong).

Love does not rejoice at injustice and unrighteousness, but rejoices when right and truth prevail.

Love bears up under anything and everything that comes,

Love is ever ready to believe the best of every person,

Love’s hopes are fadeless under all circumstances

Love endures everything without weakening.

Love never fails, never fades out or becomes obsolete or comes to an end.

I want to propose a 365-Love Challenge. It is simple: each day pick one aspect of love (listed above) and intentionally demonstrate it. Take it one day at a time. Love is a marathon, not a sprint.

My desire is to be an incessant conduit of Christ-saturated love so that by next Valentine’s Day there will be a legacy of authentic love to validate gerbera daisies and dark chocolate.

Will you join me in purposefully and authentically loving those God has placed in our lives, every day for the next year? Would you take 60 seconds to send me an email so I can pray for you and encourage you along the way?

Let the 365-Love Challenge begin!