It's Christmas, and there's no better time than today to share my adventures of being in Israel last week. My dad and I got to go on the trip together, and we visited so many places from the biblical history, most signifant for today: Bethlehem and the spot where Jesus was born! I got to sit in the cave where Mary and Joseph rested with their baby. It made this a very special Christmas.
Through the loudness of Israel, there is a message of peace that is constantly whispering to ears who will hear it. Here's the story of what I saw and experienced. At the end, read about my #1 favorite spot in Israel and what this place means to me, especially this Christmas season.
We were stuck at the Israeli border for four hours due to protests.
After spending a week in the extremely stable Kingdom of Jordan, I could already tell visiting Israel would be a little bit of a different experience. (So many posts about Jordan coming soon!)
The plan was to wake up at 5:30 a.m., leave the hotel at 6:00, cross the border around 6:30, and get to Jerusalem before 8:00. However, we were taken to the wrong border crossing, and after three conversations in broken English and a lot of pointing around, we learned that the whole border was closed. No one was getting in or out of Israel until 12:00! In four hours.
Finally, the border crossing bus came to get us, and in a flash, we were in Israel!
Our first stop in the country was the Jordan River baptismal site of Jesus. It was a great place to start the adventure because it looked exactly as one would envision it: palms, water plants standing tall, and very biblical-looking muddy water. It was FREEZING cold! Icy to the touch, but I couldn’t help but put my toes in such an historical body of water.
From there we went to Jericho (the very one from the Book of Joshua), where we explored the ruins of the city. And we drank water from the same water source in 2 Kings that was undrinkable until God used Elisha to miraculously transform it into healthy water for the people and land of Jericho.
On the way to Jerusalem, we stopped by the mountain where Jesus tempted and fasted in the desert for 40 days, and we saw the exact sycamore tree Zacchaeus climbed to see Jesus above the crowd in Luke 19.
All of these stories I read about growing up were coming to life in front of me. Seeing them in person fulfilled me so much, I would have gone home happy right then and there; but that was before I knew how eye-opening Jerusalem would be.
Because the protests delayed our arrival so much, we got to Old Jerusalem (where most of Jerusalem's biblical historical events happened within the modern city of Jerusalem) at twilight. We met a guide who took us through all of the sights.
Old Jerusalem is one of my favorite places I’ve seen. But it’s not because it’s where I saw a lot of places where Jesus walked (which does feel really surreal!). In Old Jerusalem, there are four quarters: the Christian quarter, the Armenian quarter (which is also Christian), the Jewish Quarter, and the Muslim quarter. The way they work together while reaching for what they view as holy makes this city so special to me. Read more about that at the end of the post, when I share my #1 favorite spot in all of Israel.
THE UPPER ROOM
We went in the Upper Room where Jesus and his disciples had the Last Supper, where Jesus returned to his disciples after coming back to life, and where the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples on the day of Pentecost. The room was redone by its Crusader discoverers, but the stone floor was original and the floor that Jesus would have walked on.
Many Jews have wanted to be buried on the Mount of Olives because of Jewish tradition (based in the biblical verse Zechariah 14:4) that when the Messiah comes, the resurrection of the dead will begin with those burried on this mountain. (See the solid white on the left side of the mountain? Those are all graves.) There are so many cool things that happened here throughout history. But, to me, the most significant was Jesus' time there the night he was captured. The Garden of Gethsemane rests toward the foot of the mount. According to Acts 1, Mount Olives is also where Jesus ascended into Heaven.
KING DAVID'S TOMB
I am so happy I was in Jerusalem during Hanukkah and Christmas, as I learned so much about Jewish holiday traditions! This photo was taken right after watching a group of singing, clapping men light this menorah! It was so brilliant to watch this and other fun Hanukkah festivities for the first time.
King David's tomb is in a small room, and is divided by a wall as men and women cannot touch while praying.
JESUS AND THE CROSS
This church's courtyard is where the trial of Jesus occurred.
Inside the church, the spot where Jesus’ cross stood in the ground is marked, but I feel it’s not something that should be through up on a blog. This tiled sun lays right in front of the spot, and though I touched the gold circle where the cross anchored into the hill, even just standing this close was moving too. Some of the original rock, the ground of Golgotha, around where the cross was is preserved, on either side of the gold circle, in glass casing. It’s continuously surreal to try to comprehend.
WHO HAS THE KEY TO THE CHURCH?
There are two Christian quarters in Old Jerusalem, the Christians and the Armenians (who are also Christian). They share parts of the Church over where Jesus was tried and crucified. However, every morning there is a ceremony of unlocking the church and every night, a ceremony of locking it up. But if there are two Christian groups, who has the key (or control over the church)? The answer is so fascinating. They gave the key to the Muslims to keep things fair and avoid conflict! I thought that was brilliant. I am consistently in awe of how the four religions work together.
THE WESTERN WALL
We walked to the Jewish Quarter where the Western Wall stands. The Western Wall was built by King Herod and is the location where Abraham almost sacrificed his son Isaac, where Isaac went to pray before meeting Rebecca, and where Jacob dreamed of a ladder reaching to the Heavens.
On the other side of the wall, part of the Temple Mount, is the Dome of the Rock, a sacred mosque for Muslims. But where the mosque stands today, the Jewish people used to have their Holy Temple. So the Western Wall is the closest they can get to the holy ground where their temple stood. The wall is also known as the Wailing Wall for this reason.
People write their prayers or wishes on a paper, and stick it into crevices of the wall. I got to do it, which is still so crazy to think about. I signed mine “Elisabeth Huijskens” to make sure God really knew it was me.
Going to Bethlehem during Christmas time was so special. We got to go to exact spot Jesus was born, marked with a gold ring again, and I sat in the cave where Mary, Joseph, and Jesus rested and received the travelers who ventured to welcome Jesus.
On the right side, you can see some of the original cave exposed.
Above: The view of Old Jerusalem, standing on Mount Olives.
Below: Walking down to Old Jerusalem from the top of the mountain, the route that Jesus walked.
The Garden of Gethsemane
BACK IN OLD JERUSALEM
Walking around the Jewish quarter, I got hungry and delightfully ate some yummy chicken shwarma. And then there were these donuts that are particularly enjoyed during Hanukkah. (The Jewish quarter has the best food!)
ABOVE THE FOUR RELIGIOUS QUARTERS
My favorite place in Israel is standing on a rooftop above where the four religious quarters meet. I spent at least a couple hours there, just sitting and soaking it in. It is so incredibly interesting to me how the four religions and their history intertwine and layer together throughout the city. The way they, at times, lean on each other and respect each other to ensure the social ecosystem of their shared city is fascinating. I have felt so heavy this year from so much division raising up all around. It has creeped up from all the sides of my life and has been one of my least favorite parts of 2017. If I let it, it would make 2017 one of the worst years I've experienced. But I don't like giving power to things that I don't add goodness to our world.
God knew how I needed to end this year: in a place where there is tension, there is opposition, but there is also jaw-dropping co-existence and respect. I was beginning to doubt that was possible anymore and needed to see it with my eyes and feel it in my spirit. I have believed for a long time now that the answer to many views of this world is "yes" and "and" rather than "neither" or "or". (I cannot stand "us" vs. "them" language.) When we say "yes," "and," "welcome," and "thank you" to the opposite side, the chasm then closes, the opposite side becomes our side as well, and we realize we're all just humans looking up for Someone bigger than ourselves. And that's when we find Her, because that's where Love lives -- in that closing chasm, where the quarters meet.
Most of the life lessons I’ve gained, I didn’t ask to learn. Today, I do a lot of things afraid, alone and with little direction for the future. As negative as that sounds, it looks a lot like this video! I documented my first month living in D.C., and I’m so excited to share it with you! Along with sharing this beautiful city and the journey of how I made a new place my home, I open up about living alone and taking on adventures solo. During my second week in D.C., I was driving home discouraged when this song came on the radio and the Washington Monument rose over the horizon. And I was swept away in how much good there is, regardless of if we asked for it, if it’s easy, or if it’s safe — it’s SO GOOD. Check out this
Every time this alluring season comes around, I wonder what it is about this time of year that unites most of us in anticipation and enthusiasm. What makes us gush over leaves? What is it about about autumn vegetables that possesses us to put them on our coffee tables and mantels? How can shortening of days move us inwards to new depths of reflection and creativity?
As we stand at the threshold of a new season, the earth is drawing back into itself, accepting change, surrendering to what needs to be in order to become what it was destined to be. There is a development happening; and though it looks like death and an end, it is actually growth for a new beginning. And even though the earth comes back to this place every year, and it seems to endure the same battering process, each time is an evolution forward. Returning to a similar place does not a hopeless indication.
I wonder what it is about this natural phenomenon that causes us to mimic what creation is doing around us. Turning inward. Developing ourselves. Reaching within. Enduring refinement into order to reveal more of who we truly are.
Fall captures me because it gives me permission to go through that process, to trust the process of life, of human existence, of ups and downs. It reminds me that there is so much beauty in change, so much to behold when you trust, and so much security in believing confidently that more light and new life always, always, always is restored like never before.
That is why I love sweaters, leaves, apple cider, and pumpkin spice everything -- because they're traditional, comforting reminders that even in this season, where everything appears to be ending, the stage is truly being set for life like we've never seen it before.
The earth is filled with signs and reminders and comforts whispering, "What you're going through, it's okay. It is a part of this life. We'll give you proof that hope always comes. Trust that where you are right now is a beautiful part of the process."
This week was pivotal for me, a crucial turn in the story.
I had the honor and privilege to meet with five congressmen and their staff on Capitol Hill as I defended the rights of companies like Trades of Hope and the rights of women who join them to earn a flexible, fun income! In every meeting, I found my self in an out of body experience, watching myself discussing issues so close to my heart with our country's law makers. With each persuasive word from my mouth, I felt pieces of myself falling into place. Founding Trades of Hope was the best gift and caused me to grow up quickly, leading me to feel out of place at times. But moving to D.C. has felt like filling an Elisabeth-shaped hole in the world that has been waiting for me my whole life.
Watch this fun recap video to learn more!
My goals were threefold:
1. Show my support for HR 3409, a bill to end pyramid schemes to protect the work of ethical companies like Trades of Hope.
2. Protect the rights of women who join these companies as independent contractors, so they can keep being their own bosses!
3. Share with congressmen how direct sales is a beautiful opportunity for Americans to easily be entrepreneurs and for our economy to thrive!
Thank you to everyone who has been so thoughtful and supportive as I moved to D.C. and have been able to have unbelievable, new experiences!
This event was organized by the Direct Selling Association (DSA). #DSAhillday2017
I've always been a girl with high regard for seasons. In every stage of life, there has always been a reverence deep in my heart for those that have passed and the new season ahead. While leaving a season, there is a sense of reflection, gratitude, sealing in the lessons learned, celebrating what grew, and mourning what is no more. While standing at the brim of a new season, there is expectancy, maybe fear, hope, a sea of unknown that is filled with possibility.
In June, I moved my life to a D.C. flat, quickly to have traveled back to Florida to for work, putting on a conference for 500 women in Nashville and directing the creation of our Spring 2018 fashion catalog. Five weeks later, and I'm going back to D.C. this week. I'm very excited to borough my life into D.C. and all she has to offer me, to grow me, to reveal more of the world to me. But this transition back does have me reflecting. I thought spending time in Florida the last month or so was just a practical decision for work; however, it was so much more. It was like a boot camp for inner growth: forcing me to face some fear, opportunity for loving confrontation, and directing my eyes to larger goals for the future. I love so many people here, and this summer in Florida as been a gift.
As I lift my foot to step into a new season, I have spent time this week reflecting on some of my life’s past seasons of change and transition. I have revisited full journals, skimmed old letters, and reread past blog posts. There are three truths that repetitively resurface, and I’m holding onto them dearly these days:
Making intentional decisions with aspects of life we can control makes it a lot easier to weather seasons when life throws us something out of our control.
For me, this has looked like making a list of things I have always wanted to do (traveling to a specific place, reading a classic book, watching a popular movie I’ve never seen) and doing those things within 3 months (a standard time frame for each of our earth’s seasons). Making that intentional decision of how I will spend my time, money, and awe allowed me to feel a sense of control. Recognizing what parts of my life are still dictated by myself (what I eat, what I wear, what I schedule) has brought me peace when everything around me feels chaotic.
Your experiences are yours to label and no one else’s.
Nothing needs to be justified or summarized. (It can’t be, the experience just is.) And that’s wonderfully okay and enough. Social media makes it easier than ever for people to have an opinion about your life. But your life change and how you decide to handle it is only fully known by you. It is your experience. Trust it. Own it. Claim it.
“Who do I want to be regardless of circumstance?”
I always ask myself this when change is spinning me in circles. The great thing is, because my answer to this question is a list of characteristics, I can start working on those things now. Character is separate from circumstance. I don’t grow in a linear progression – no human does. So I’ll fail sometimes at developing these traits during hard days. But as the saying goes: “calm storms don’t create skilled sailors.”
Some change is brought on by ourselves (just like my transition at hand), some change is brought on by another person (been there), and some change is amazingly circumstantial. Regardless of how you got your new season, there can be peace in the chaos, resilience in the fear, and possibility in the mysterious unknown.
Minimalist's Transitional Style, Summer to Fall 2017
This is one of my favorite summer-to-fall transition outfits. (Your girl doesn't jump from bikinis right into PSL. I need a few transitional steps.) It’s super easy to throw together and wear. The light sweater offers the cozy feel without sweltering outside. And the linen pants (bell bottoms and all) lengthen the legs in true fall fashion, but remains upbeat with the bright white fabric. They’re very comfortable but, as most white offers, still look refined.
Sweater - Thrifted
Pants - Banana Republic Factory
Shoes - Nine West green mules from TJ Max
Accessories - Trades of Hope: Northern Lights Studs and Chelsie Necklace
Photos by the gifted Joshua DeSouza
It's happened again.
Hatred and discrimination against a people group who are not the majority.
In America. In 2017.
This time with open, self-professing KKK, Neo-Nazis present.
In America. In 2017.
There's a computer in my pocket at all times. A satellite gets me everywhere I want to go daily. I can jump through time zones effortlessly in a cylinder of metal in the sky.
But there is still white supremacy.
In America. In freaking 2017.
I hate to shatter the illusion so many Americans are living in, but we are not nearly as advanced as we as a nation take credit for.
As many other Americans, I am still processing the recent, tragic events in Charlottesville. However, I do know 2 things unwaveringly:
This is unacceptable and must end, and I must do something to irradiate this evil, even if the evil does not effect me directly.
But after the "we must show love!" Instagram captions and tweets, this is where so many people stop. And yet, we are surprised when more casualties occur out of hate, discrimination, and inequality. Posting on social media does not make history.
Don't get me wrong, I love seeing people I know and don't know encouraging us to new heights of light and hope. I write those things as well! But we cannot allow ourselves to write those things and then feel we have played our part. That is the crux of social media: it is a gift for the awareness we can bring, and a crutch, giving us permission to not really act on our desire to see a change in society.
That being said, this piece is about action. So, what are tangible efforts we can do to be on the right side of history? These three steps are not EVERYTHING we can do, but it is a meaningful start.
1. Be Loud
There's a reason why I'm vocal about injustices and inequality as if it's labeled across my head. (If I had an anti-rascim hat like my feminist hat, I would wear one. Send me suggestions!)
Sending out love into the world doesn't make history. Did Abraham Lincoln tell people to be loving and then retire to his house? Did Rosa Parks pray for equality in the back of the bus? Did Martin Luther King Jr. keep his thoughts on injustice to himself to remain politically correct, to make sure he didn't offend any one? Hell no. The people who lead, the thousands who followed, the ones who actually made a life or death difference for generations put themselves out there. They stood grounded. They got physically tired. They. Were. Loud. While posting on social media about love and God and light is sweet, it's also stagnant. It's not active. It's easy and not a road block for those who have hatred and lies pumping through their minds.
I'm talking to anyone with a social media account. Yes, social leaders, celebrities, bloggers, pastors -- yes, of course. But just like your one voice matters, if you have 27 Instagram followers, every one of them deserve to be informed and their voice heard as well.
Speak loudly. Speak boldly, Speak specifically. The freedoms and opportunities you have now are results of others speaking up before you.
2. This is my favorite: Text Your Government Representatives!
Did you know you could do that? If you can share your thoughts with your social media followers from your phone, please share them with your representatives as well. It takes 5 minutes, tops! (Faster than trying to figure out what grammar rules to break to fit everything in a 140 character tweet.)
To start, simply test Resist to 50409. When prompted, you give your name, your zip code, and then the list of women and men who represent you in our U.S. government will appear. Upon choosing the recipients, you can then text a message that will be sent to your reps' offices as a fax. (I'm pretty sure my reps put their fax machine in the closet because this Elisabeth girl won't leave them alone.) But, if 2017 has taught me anything, it is that (whether for moral or bribed reasons) our representatives listen to us. Our voices have been loud, and bills have not been passed.
Some government leaders have been known to reply via email if you choose to leave the address. To learn more, check it out here. (Or just start with the text because, come on, too many nightmares have unfolded and your voice needs to be heard by our senators.)
3. Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
Please donate to support nonprofits who are working in the thick of it all. All three of these productive steps to help don't require you to leave your couch. Continue sitting on your couch and support those who are emotionally, physically, and spiritually tired from being on the front lines. Here is a list of organizations working to make sure what happened in Charlottesville will never happen again.
Thankfully, this photo is a funny, dramatic exaggeration that I found on my recent trip to Nashville (from Amelia Style's East Nashville boutique). I'm pretty sure I have more magazines than issues (because I'm a print publication fanatic).
But I have been learning a lot lately from the less-fun parts of life. More specifically, I've been letting the sad/frustrated/annoying things teach me more about ME, rather than dwelling on the circumstance or other people who I used to think were to blame. Can we just create a safe, open place here? There definitely are issues sometimes. Life circumstances or incidences with people can be really aggravating. Can I tell you something? Feeling that way doesn't make you a bad person. What matters is what you do with those feelings. If you're like me in the sense that you're big into personal development, the exciting thing is that these moments of aggravation can mold you into the most captivating version of yourself, if you choose to use them that way.
How does one use these lame/dumb/so-not-fun moments to make us better rather than just feeling icky? After reading Jen Sincero's book, You are a Badass, I stopped punching pillows while I was mad and started asking myself questions. (Far better on the heart, and the hands too.) I started asking questions like:
What story am I writing in my head when I'm upset? How am I perceiving reality? And am I making any big assumptions along the way? (That almost, usually, always is a "yes".)
While offended or confused, it's so easy to fill holes in our understanding with emotional explanations. "Everything is going to suck from now on." "She totally tried stabbing me in the back." "This is all my fault, and I can't do anything right." (Using definitive words like, "everything," "totally," "anything," "always," etc. is a pretty good sign you are writing a story for your reality.
How is writing that story adding to my life?
The answer is usually: "Well, I feel a lot crappier. I get to feel right, and I get to feel safer, but I feel grumpy and isolated, too." The knee-jerk reaction stories we write about our circumstances and the other people in them usually do not add what we thing they do to our lives. They don't make us right (as if that's even REALLY important). They don't make us safer. They don't make us "prepared" for when (IF) it happens again. And they sure as hell don't make us happier or more grateful or closer to the kind of people we want to be.
What does this say about me?
Gosh. This is the hard one. What or who gets you really upset? Like, really worked up? Now, imagining that feeling, what does that feeling say about you? What is is saying you are insecure about? Worried about? Try to avoid? Does feeling that way point out to you a trait you want to develop? Or does it indicate a trait you are happy to not have but need to be less judgmental about? Does getting so worked up about it reveal that you are too rigged or too relaxed? It's time that we own our ugly, because it is only when we do that, we can turn it into our beauty.
Lastly, I have been trying to finish this sentence in every up-side-down, totally undesirable moment:
"This is good because..."
...it is showing me that I need to work on an area in my life.
...the rain ruined my hair, but it cleaned my car. And my hair was probably TOO good anyway.
...now I realize I kind of have to be nicer to dog people and. (Not really, I love my dog.)
...the project was a disaster this time, but now I can plan for it next time around.
...even though I procrastinated and hated my life 3 nights before the deadline, I'll start earlier next time.
I'm working on owning my ugly so I can love people better and love myself better. Oh, how important the self love is, my friends. You cannot pour from what is empty. Love yourself until you are just so totally grossed out by the gushy love from yourself, and you need to cool down the self-love a little because you are making everyone else in the room uncomfortable. Bad for gross couples, good for your self-love.
PS - I found those AMAZING blush, suede slider loafers at HALF the price on Zappos (sorry, Amelia). You know your girl got a pair. Just a heads up. (;
I shared on Instagram that I had big news, and I'm excited that I can finally share:
I'm moving to Washington D.C. this summer!
I am so blessed and thankful for this next season, but in the name of true transparency, I must admit that the journey I took to get to this decision alone has grown me so much. I have been stretched and molded by choosing a path that is exciting, but hard. I have decided to move to D.C. and then decided against it 9 times in the last six months, back and forth and back and forth, solely out of fear.
And I must say, I have begun to love the sound of my voice saying "yes" to what is frightening to me but good for me, to what is difficult but right.
The journey started almost a year ago. It was August 2016, and I was surrounded by people my age beginning new adventures. I knew people who were living overseas, chasing pipe dreams, starting law school, and randomly picking places on a map and moving there simply because they thought they liked the city. You know why they did these things? Because they could. Because it ignited a fire of excitement in them, and it felt right.
My favorite people are those who seem to have lived 5 lives by the time they're 30.
I want to be one of those people.
So, it was August 2016, and I was sitting in my mom's office telling her about the people living in England and getting educational experiences and hauling their guitars to new cities. I could feel myself going on and on, and the wonder in my voice was causing tension against the grounded-ness of my near future plans. Finally, she said, "Well, then you should do something like that!"
"Uh, no. No, I could never," was my initial reply. "Trades of Hope is here, I already have my dream job at 21, and I'll figure out the living situation." (I lived in Lakeland, FL and commuted multiple times a week to our Trades of Hope offices in Palm Coast, FL -- about 2 hours apart -- and knew the arrangement wasn't sustainable.)
But my mom kept exploring the idea out loud, saying things about how I'm so young, and this is probably the best time I can do something so spontaneous, and all of the work details could be figured out because life, a really full lifetime, is so much more than working.
I was scared. I'm a planner who likes to pretend that she's in control and have comforting surroundings. I have never been a fan of change. However, through life experiences, that horrified fear has evolved into a distaste that has honesty felt the goodness that comes from shifting seasons. It has evolved so much so that I decided to bring a really big life change upon myself, even though I was (and am) terrified. I determined that I was just going to do it, even if I had to do it afraid.
From there I started dreaming: I could live pretty easily in Europe with my Dutch passport, or some mission work abroad would be so eye-open-- No, there's no way Trades of Hope could be in your life if you're in a different country. Okay, America it is, then. But where? And what? That's when it came down to graduate school.
I graduated with my undergrad 2 years early, as a 20 year-old, in 2015. Ever since I started taking college classes at 14 years old and knew I would be ahead of the timeline society has put on us, I felt I have always had a golden ticket. As Gilmore Girls star, Lauren Graham, also ahead in the education timeline as a girl, described it in her book Talking as Fast as I Can, those years ahead of the curve fell like coins in your pocket that you rub between your fingers like a secret weapon until you are ready to cash them in for a reward at some point in adulthood.
Looking back on it now, the reward was being able to have this past year at Trades of Hope full time. For the last year I have been commuting multiple times a week for 2 hours, one way, to our offices to be a part of our amazing team. It has been so good for me and such a gift. And because I was "ahead" of the game by two years, I cashed in that golden ticket, those coins, to be able to focus on helping Trades of Hope (the company I co-founded and love so much) grow without splitting my time with school, got to have amazing professional experiences before starting my master's, and still get to go to grad school "on time" (whatever the heck that means). It was definitely worth exchanging my ticket and coins to have given what I was able to give to Trades of Hope this past year without school being in the way.
After deciding grad school was what I wanted, I started studying for the GRE. I was determined to get amazing scores, so I began my studying in September 2016 for the Fall 2017 school application season. I figured I already traded in my golden ticket, so a phenomenal GRE score was my ticket out of Florida now. I studied through September, October, November, December, January, and in February, took the test. I applied discipline and diligence to studying for this exam like I never have before. (This is another area in which I saw growth for me.) I bought books, hired an online tutor from Harvard, read more for fun, ate a little better, and made sure I was going to bed at the same time every night (it helps to increase your memory, apparently).
Then, it was time to fill out applications. I completed applications for schools in New York, Boston, and, of course, Washington D.C. -- 5 different schools among the 3 cities. I have always dreamed of a metropolitan experience and decided this was the opportunity. After receiving only acceptance letters, it was just a matter of choosing my favorite city.
I was in D.C. last month and, despite my fears, knew it was the perfect city for me. Beautiful, diverse, cultural, passionate, and not too big -- no where else in the United States has ever spoken to me so gently, so powerfully, so personally. Within Washington, I received admission offers from American University and George Washington University. I am so excited to share that, this August, I will begin working on my Master's Degree in Public Relations at American University. I will be going to school part time so that I can continue pouring myself into Trades of Hope!
If you are thinking about reaching for a dream that feels impossible, let me tell you, if I found a way to move to Washington D.C. despite my personal and professional ties in Florida, your dreams are possible as well. A year ago, I never would have thought this was an option for me. The reality now is freeing and exciting, but also really scary.
I'm probably going to be afraid for a while, even after I get settled into my new home. But I'm going to do this move afraid. Sometimes choosing what is right is choosing to do it afraid, and that's more than okay. There are certain situations in which fear can be eradicated, and I'm a fan of those circumstances. But sometimes, fear stays. And that's when you start talking to it, to fear. Or at least you should, because it works:
"Fear, I understand you have a job, and you're just trying to do your job. We've all gotta pay the bills. So, you can come along on this adventure. However, you're staying in the back seat. I'm the human here, so I'm the only one who will be calling the shots. You can't back-seat-drive; you can't give directions; you can't even touch the aux cord. But you can come along and give your short-lived warnings. But the front is reserved for logic, trust, and thankfulness, and your seat in the back doesn't crowd them out of the car. I'm the one in control."
Fear is good. Its existence does not permit it to take control. You take control, breathe your dreams into reality, and create the life you actually want to live. Use it to empower people, to make the world more beautiful, to build something awe-inspiring, to create something meaningful. You will not regret saying "yes," even if you say it afraid.
A few weeks ago, I announced on my Instagram that I was working on a blog post about yoga and about my experience as a group fitness instructor. Many of you lovely hearts sent in questions for me to answer here! I filtered through all the questions (there were too many to all answer here, but if I couldn't fit them in this post, I wrote you back personally) and combined some questions to answer below. But first, a little bit of my story:
In 2015, I found myself in a place needing healing. I had just graduated from college and life was not looking the way I had always planned. (The year after college is a confusing one for most, a fact that "they" don't prepare you for.) I was in a place of re-learning everything: who I was, what I wanted, what I believed, and where I was going. I needed to heal from brokenness, and I planned to do so in the most efficient manner. (Finding efficiency is a common theme in my life -- oops.) I did everything "they" (actually do) tell you to do: I went to therapy, got a puppy, journaled, and started working out regularly.
Getting to the gym consistently has always been an issue for me. The only physical activity that retained my interest was yoga. I loved how it made my body look, how it enhanced my mind, and how it lifted my heart. I spent the summer after graduation practicing yoga on my own or with friends, and after a couple months had the thought, "Maybe I want to be certified in this someday."
That September, I met with my friend Kirstin who had just opened her women's fitness studio, The Balance Culture, in my town. As we were talking, I mentioned that I had thought about becoming a yoga instructor someday. She encouraged me to come to a certification class they were having at the studio, and I thought she was crazy!
As I mentioned, I was not a gym person. I couldn't specify any muscle groups, didn't know what was safe or unsafe in working out, and had just started becoming proficient in my yoga poses.
But the certification process was so educational, to preparing, and so easy! (More on that later.)
By November 2015, I was certified by AFAA as a Group Fitness Instructor with training in yoga. (This means I'm certified to instruct any class like kickboxing, barre, or pilates in a group class setting.) My dream became a reality so quickly! And it was one of the best things I have ever achieved. If you are considering becoming certified in any fitness, I definitely recommend pursing it!
What is the certification process like?
As I said, I was certified through AFAA, and it was very easy! For a girl who was not really into fitness at all (thanks, high metabolism!), I became a fitness professional quickly. I started studying slowly in September and took the test in mid-November (all the while being in a grad program and working with Trades of Hope). I got to study in a group of women at the studio, and that honestly was a game changer. The testing took one afternoon, all in one sitting. There was a written test and a physical test, which did not take a high amount of endurance (says the girl who wasn't into fitness!). Trust me, if 2015 me could do it, anyone can do it!
Why do you like yoga so much?
I love what yoga does to my body. I feel strong, lean, and flexible. I'm not looking to have too much muscle on me as that's not really the look I'm gong for personally. What I get from yoga is perfect. I also love what it does for my mind. Anxiety has been something I have had to learn to manage, and yoga empowered me a lot in controlling it. The concentrated energy and focus yoga requires allows one to center in and think about what is going on in that single moment. Anxiety is dwelling on the past or worrying about the future, and yoga demands all attention to be brought to the present. The mental break is relieving and has equipped me to remain present throughout most of my day to day.
What do you emphasis the most in your classes?
When I'm instructing, I always talk about listening "to your own body." We are all on our own journeys, and the only way to progress in those journeys is to focus on what we need, not on those around us. I believe in and live by this in every area of life.
What has been an unexpected gift from yoga?
Because I teach in a women's studio, I have absolutely loved the friendships I have gained through this. I love my fellow instructors and the ladies who attend my classes. I spent a lot of time with them out of the studio, and they have blessed my life tremendously in so many areas!
How much did it cost be be certified?
Being certified through AFAA, the most prestigious and recognized organization, I paid about $300.
Where do you find the training?
Thankfully, I studied for my certification at my studio with a group of women who would be certified with me on the same day. So we trained and studied together in our studio every week. But certifications occur regularly in major cities, so I would google one for training near you. I received a study guide to navigate through what I needed to learn.
Yoga and becoming a Group Fitness Instructor was a big part of my healing and coming into a fuller version of who I am. If it is something you are even wondering about, I believe it is absolutely worth pursuing. There is only fun and health ahead!
If you have anymore questions, feel free to comment them below!
Tomorrow is International Women's Day, a day designed to celebrate women and their economic, political, and social achievements around the world. What a stunning kaleidoscope of beauty, diversity, and culture the women of this world create. Even in light of our revered differences, we stand hand-in-hand, intertwined by sisterhood, respect, and the knowledge that we are better together.
International Women’s Day is also a time to focus on places and situations where women's rights, equality, health, and safety still have a long way to go.
Millions of women all around the world face the physically, emotionally, and psychologically taxing realities of slavery, sexual exploitation, slums, and discrimination.
But through co-founding Trades of Hope, I have seen women who will not allow themselves to remain oppressed.
We are in the middle of a movement: women saying, “no more” and rising to become the heroes of their own stories. They are fighting for their families. They are leading communities. They are claiming respect for their hearts, their bodies, and their minds. Statistically, for every woman who is empowered out of impoverished situations, she brings 4 more people with her.
While I have participated in peaceful protests before and respect those who will powerfully participate in A Day Without A Woman, I'm not striking tomorrow. As a co-founder of a company that creates jobs for women in 16 different countries (including the U.S.), I don't think it is the most effective route for me to support my sisters around the world.
What is another impactful way to empower women on International Women’s Day?
Buy their products.
Literally, to shop.
By purchasing their products, you are financially impacting lives of women and attributing the value that is due to their ideas and talents. This opens doors for women to reach new heights of dignity and success and equality in society, business, and politics. You are empowering women and perpetuating a sustainable solution to poverty and inequality.
Trades of Hope sells fair trade, ethically crafted fashion accessories and home décor, made by women rising up in the Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Bangladesh, Nepal, India, Jordan, Kenya, Uganda, Haiti, Peru, Costa Rica, Guatemala, and the U.S.
Buying a woman’s products positively impacts the economic nature of her life. At Trades of Hope, we believe this begins a cycle of sustainable business that will impact economies of communities and, someday, whole countries.
Hear from one of our artisan partner, Ms. Florence, as she shares how she has become her own hero through sustainable business and today is a leader in her community and her country.
“I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.”
― Audre Lorde
With relentless ambition + passion I live intentionally to take my dreams from plans to reality + empower other women to do the same. I'm a Trades of Hope founder, public speaker, and designer living in Washington, D.C. When I'm not following fashion trends, catching airplanes, or playing with my redhead pup, I'm offering up fashion shortcuts, life lessons I'm learning, and free wallpapers to remind you of how much you've got this.