If I had to guess, I would estimate that I've been to Haiti about 20 times in my 22 years. I stopped tallying the number of trips at age 13. So, when my trip to spend some time with our artisan partners in Haiti this summer was quickly approaching (amidst the height our catalog design and production, a business conference, and as I was preparing to move), I was not super stoked, if I'm being 100% honest in my humanity. I love Haiti and my friends + family who live there, but the trip sounded like a lot in the middle of a lot. But you guys, it was one of my favorite Haiti trips ever! I hugged so many familiar friends, shook the hands of my business partners, and kindled new relationships. In the whirlwind of so much beauty, I was reminded again of why I am so passionate about creating sustainable jobs to develop communities and end poverty. Here are some of my trip's highlights + reasons ending poverty through job creation is so important.
1.) Dignified Partnerships
Before Trades of Hope, I did nonprofit work in Haiti at the organization my parents founded from the age of 8 years old to 14 years old. Even while I was a kid, I noticed the awkward dynamic of adults in Haiti having less opportunities in the world than I did as a child. Today, after feeling that weird, unjust feeling for years, my favorite part about sustainable business is that everyone involved is in a dignified partnership. Everyone from the artisans, to artisan group leaders, to the retail company (Trades of Hope), to customers who buy our ethically crafted line of fashion accessories -- we all need each other! All roles are needed to develop communities and end poverty. It's a honor, full of beauty and fun, to partner with these amazing women!
Below are some artisan partners using their creativity and skill to make some of our accessories! Also below, I'm smiling with Chandler (right) who founded one of our partnered artisan groups and with Fabienne and Faby, the group's Director of Operations and boutique manager. The group photo is of the leadership team at one of our partnered artisan groups. They are all stewarding their teams in their work and guiding them in conversations about how they can contribute their time to activist projects to make Haiti better!
2.) Educating Others on How to End Poverty
I love this business because it offers opportunity to learn about and education on what is hurting the world and what we can do to change it! There was so much I didn't realize while in nonprofit work. No one told me that by donating free things, I'm actually hurting someone's chances at success, as well as the local (and national) economy. No one told me that I should think about where I buy my clothes from because most are made in sweatshops. No one told me that a woman can transform her life and the life of others when she just has a job opportunity.
Not only do I get to learn and educate others, but I get to see the lightbulb go off in others' eyes and watch them turn into educators themselves! This is the group I lead down to Haiti, who all had those lightbulb moments. And now, as they educate others about how we can make this world flourish, they are creating a higher demand for ethically made fashion. It's a beautiful and ever-growing ripple effect of change!
3.) Hope for a Beautiful Future
Without a doubt, my favorite part about the trip was meeting Jolina. She was one of the first artisans in her artisan group and today is a stockholder in the company! Jolina has so much authority and confidence while she talks about what her company does. She told me that if someone had just handed out free peanut butter to stifle her hunger for a day, she would still be living in extreme poverty. Hand outs meet a momentary need, but do not solve the problem of poverty. But because she became a part of the artisan group and consistently earned a living wage creating accessories, she bought some land without her husband even knowing, built a house, and now her husband loves the house! Jolina has the pride in knowing that she made that happen! In addition, she now runs a side business she started selling peanut butter, a business that employs other people as well! She is such an inspiration to me and a shining example of what job creation is doing: creating hope for a beautiful future!
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.
Threw together some of my video footage from my trip to Iceland to make this video for you all! If you're interested in Iceland or planning a trip, check out this post for photography and details about what I did!
Part I: Reykjavik (The Most Northern Capital On the Planet)
Part II: Scenic Adventures (Waterfalls, Cliffs, Glaciers)
Part III: The Euro Cup + Insta Pics
The pony riding company I went through: Viking Horses
Last week, a couple of my girlfriends and I jumped on planes to visit our fellow-college-roommate in Chicago where she is living while working on her Masters. We ate, drank, shopped, took photos, and were constantly in awe that we were far along enough in life where we could visit our college roommates in a pretty city like Chicago. It was such a gift, and I'm thankful 2016 delivered such an incredible one so early on in the year. I got tons of pretty pictures and some random thoughts for recent/almost college grads out there:
// ONE //
Whatever you're feeling right now - incredible fear, incredible rage, incredible loss, incredible joy, incredible contentment, incredible boredom, incredible confusion, incredible lack of fulfillment - it will fade away. Even though it is consuming your heart and lensing your vision and you can't believe it ever will, I promise it will fade away. You'll stop caring about the things you're enraged about, and you'll stop feeling that happy jump in your step so effortlessly. I don't know why it works that way, I guess it's a life thing; I've learned to trust the process. I started my post-undergrad life feeling the first three of that list above; and I don't fully know why or how (other than my concentrated efforts), but those feelings have faded into smooth, cleansing waters. The happy (unfortunately) and the hard (thank, God), it will fade. So soak up all the nutrients that whatever the currently feeling has to offer, really feel it; but do so with the intention of moving looking forward. Then whenever the next feeling comes you will be ready to face and learn and grow there.
I wrote this post in August about feeling like a plant underground, yet to be grown. What I feel now is much more acccute to a sprout; above the ground, sometimes wondering why I don't have abounding leaves and pedals like the plants taller than me, but often I'm `pretty freaking proud of my stem and of my green hue and of how far I've grown in such a small time. Like I said, I don't know why or how it happened, just that I chose to be intentional about who I was and what I did in that season.
// TWO //
You are so, completely not alone. What you're feeling, there are others (far more and far closer to you in proximity than you think) who have those same feelings beating in their chests. It's easy to be impersonal and lack vulnerability in this world. Sharing your heart, your true heart with wisdom and discernment, is the only way to discover that you are not alone. Just share little, honest, authentic pieces at a time. Sometimes people won't relate (or at least don't act like it). But most of the time that little, honest, authentic part of your heart will bring comfort and healing to other confused souls, and then in turn to your own.
// THREE //
I believe that believing you'll survive is what makes you survive. It's a scary thing to chose to believe, because what if you're wrong? But without it, without believing you will survive the pain at present, there is absolutely no chance that you will. It takes bravery, so much bravery. But I believe that believing you will survive is what makes you survive.
// FOUR //
The past's pain and the future's unknown are such small matters compared to what lies within us. Our strength to keep ourselves alive in every season, our ability to plant hope and healing in another's soul, our heart's emotional-cell-regeneration to make us feel like new again, our power to chose kindness when everything around us is screaming, "harden, harden, harden!" - it is miraculous what lies inside of us. And when we bring those miraculous things that are inside of us out into the world, it chases darkness away a little big more - for yourselves and others around you.
My driver's name was Nayo.
He seemed really polite, asked lots of questions about my family and made me feel really comfortable being in that red Toyota Corolla alone together as he brought me to the airport. But that's your job, isn't it, Nayo? To make sure I feel really comfortable and unsuspecting... I see right through you.
Nayo gets another phone call and answers, too mumbly and too Spanish for me to comprehend. That's the fourth call in thirty minutes, Nayo. I see right through you.
That's when I am once again thankful that I kept my sweater on my lap in the front seat with me. I did that intentionally, you see, just in case I need to use it fashioned as a protective glove when I punch a window open. In that moment, I'm also once again thankful I'm wearing my glasses just in case I need to break them and use the pieces to pick a lock or as a sharp weapon. And as I'm memorizing significant landmarks along our journey in case I need to give someone emergency directions to where I am being held captive, I'm thankful that I saw Taken 2 (even though it freaked me out at the time) -- because now I'm a pro at this. You should have blind-folded me, Nayo. This is way too easy. At least make it a challenge.
Unfortunately, (and by "unfortunately" I mean "fortunately") I didn't have to use any of my international kidnapping survival "expertise". Nayo brought me to the airport safely and was very sweet when I gave him the lamest tip ever because I barely had any cash. I felt bad then, as I walked into the airport to check my bag, assuming so poorly of kind Nayo. The guilt soon was displaced by an uncontainable mental laughing at myself for being so silly. It set the tone for an overall silly day of traveling as I left Guatemala. But this was a big day, a day signifying the end of my Guatemalan season. And while it was a good thing, I was feeling so much and, well, sometimes if you don't laugh you cry.
I didn't need to cry, though. Even though I was missing the Doese family like crazy, I was feeling weirdly, sillily good. I threw my luggage to the lady behind the check-in desk, spun around, whipped my carry-on and guitar over my shoulder and sang (very powerfully but still to myself), "This girl is on fire!!!!!!!!!! This girl is on fiiiIIIIIiiiiire!!!" Reflecting on my 5 weeks in Guatemala, I had never felt like myself less and had never felt like myself more.
When you're in a place completely different than the world you're accustomed to, you find out a lot about who you are. When you don't have your comfy bed, don't have a fully functioning toilet, and haven't had a hot shower in four weeks, you can figure a lot of stuff out. You realize that comfort is a luxury and something one creates, but not something to be pursued and certainly not something for which anything should be sacrificed. You begin to fully appreciate people and relationships, even the light, on-the-surface-I-probably-will-never-see-you-again-but-I-hope-I-do relationships. You realize that you're actually a pretty maternal woman and you're really excited about all of the little and big ways life has and will completely enamor you.
I've said it before:
I think the most significant reason why you go away and travel, is so that you can come back.
Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.
While I was in Guatemala, I told friend after friend, "I know this is exactly where God wants me." But now that I'm back in the States, I feel new wave after crashing wave of why it was so precisely perfect for me to live in Guatemala for 5 weeks. Perfect is a word we throw around a lot, but rarely ever truly experience, but it's a Heavenly experience when we do.
In Eat, Pray, Love Elizabeth Gilbert says this, "I've come to believe that there exists in the universe something I call 'The Physics of The Quest' — a force of nature governed by laws as real as the laws of gravity or momentum. And the rule of Quest Physics maybe goes like this: If you are brave enough to leave behind everything familiar and comforting (which can be anything from your house to your bitter old resentments) and set out on a truth-seeking journey (either externally or internally), and if you are truly willing to regard everything that happens to you on that journey as a clue, and if you accept everyone you meet along the way as a teacher, and if you are prepared – most of all – to face (and forgive) some very difficult realities about yourself... then truth will not be withheld from you. Or so I've come to believe."
I've come to believe so, too.
The tortillas are hot and the guacamole radiates lime and onion as everyone at the table (in at least four different languages: English, Spanish, Dutch or Portuguese) inquires and answers about the day’s recent unfolding. I look around at these people sitting around one table. A family of five hearts I have come to love as if I’ve known them my whole life. A girl a little older than me who is from my home country, the Netherlands, with the accent and poise to match. A married couple from South America who met in the Netherlands and abandoned anything resembling a home to now traveling the world together. I look at these people, who only two weeks ago a few were strangers to me, and I can’t imagine my life not having spent this time with them. We didn’t really go through a lot together. No, for the most part, we truly only shared meals three times a day. All the same, after celebrating Diana’s 30th birthday with cakes and songs, after quietly drinking coffee early in the morning with swollen eyes, after sharing the same dysfunctional toilet, and after making this random household in Antigua our home – it saddens me to leave this place in two days to continue adventuring in Guatemala.
The coast is calling and beckoning me to make a home there for the next few weeks. And while I am truly excited for the unknown, I think of Telma – who runs this household, not only taking care of her own large family, but then spoiling us houseguests as only a grandma-figure can. And I pray, pray, pray that through my growing Spanish that she understands how thankful I am for her, for the time she’s worked in the kitchen to prepare expectation-exceeding Guatemalan meals everyday, for her kind conversation, for her smile, for her heart. I think of this house of clay, tile, and corrugated steal roof panels – how distant it felt walking in for the first time, and now how much I’ll miss my bed’s corner, I’ll miss playing my guitar on the roof, I’ll miss hearing the rain dance carelessly on the tin outside. Home.
For the first time in my entire life, I do not crave comfort or security. They are simply not things I desire or want for my life during this season. After eradicating every idea I had of who I was and what I wanted, God is showing me how this girl – originally a homebody, a planner, a comfort-seeker – can truly make a home wherever He leads her. And it’s so freeing. To think I am excited to go to this new home on the coast, of which I know nothing about – a month ago that would be truly inconceivable. Preconceived notions are not promises or definitions or destinations. They are chapters, only a part of the story. A great, grand, beautiful story that far surpasses anything scribbled in a book, anything desired in a heart. And I come back to this over and over again: it is all grace, it is all His generosity. His pure generosity – I will never know the depths of it. That He should honor me so much to pull me into the light and dance with me. That He should bend to reach for me – through the stench and the clouding of my sin, He does not hesitate – and lift me from despair and into unquenchable joy. There is so much joy, I can hardly think and it massacres my grammar, but I don’t care because it’s joy.
Please know, this great, grand, story is for you, too. The pain, hopelessness or sadness you feel are irrelevant, not even factors, not even indicators of your future. There is always more light, more love, more hope and peace. Let today be the last day you allow something that keeps you from the beautiful life He is dreaming for you. Do not hold onto that struggle, that distraction, that him, that her, or that fear out of a desire to avoid depression or anxiety. If you have to experience insecurity or loneliness for a while to reach that beautiful life – so be it. Don’t be afraid of it.
“I think you deserve something beautiful,” He whispers, “let’s make room for the new.”
Open up your life so that your future can be filled with surprises yet to come.
I cried on the eve of my 5th birthday. Balled, actually. I was told upon turning five one is expected to go to school all day and carry more responsibility. That was all so very vague to me; therefore, I was terrified of turning five and cried in my mom’s arms. Needless to say, if I can go from being paralyzed by the unknown (as I have cried about it once or twice in the last 15 years) to excitingly making room for the new – everyone can.
Except for maybe Ireland, I’ve never taken to a new place as quickly as I have to Antigua: the ruins, the colors, the coffee shops, the markets, the hospitality and the garden courtyards. This is a new ability for me – to embrace and absorb and thrive off of that. It’s been fun and good, truly good – but this free woman’s heart is happily beating for the new, the unknown adventure ahead. Who would have thought? (;
Some more Instagram snapshots:
It's been a little over a week since I've arrived in Guatemala. My first five days here were spent with the Trades of Hope Vision Team -- a seriously beautiful group of women who are so invested in seeing lives change through job creation. We had the incredible privilege of visiting our Trades of Hope artisans here (which I’ll share more on later). Being around their hearts, their stories, their support was such a blessing and balm to my soul. I remember sitting in MonoLoco (a sports bar themed restaurant where a cartoon “loco” monkey is painted on every wall), thinking to myself, “Am I really here? At this table, with the most glorious nachos in front of me, the most inspiring women around me, and all of the sounds and smells of Guatemala enveloping me?”
Guatemala has the same beauty I anticipate Heaven will also have. There are courtyards and pockets of secret gardens everywhere. And from every flourishing garden, there are views of mountains and volcanoes surrounding. Also at every turn are fallen ruins, silently telling stories of history and destruction, but also of hope. Since being here, I have made chocolate from cocoa beans, taken salsa dancing classes, climbed mountains into the clouds, sipped wine while walking through an organic farm, and spent a lot of time working on my Spanish.
I'm really all about long-term travel now. (Not to say I would turn down a 5-7 day trip to, well, anywhere, but that’s not the point.) Already, I feel like an Antigua local. I'm staying in a sweet, old woman's home where I eat delicious (sometimes wonderfully questionable) authentic Guatemalan food three times a day. I step out of the front door onto a 10-inch sidewalk, right next to a tiny convenience store (which we tenderly call the snack shack). There are always these dudes standing in front of the snack shack, whose gross stares, which lack subtly, I always pretend to be too oblivious to notice. But the fact I see them daily makes me feel like Antigua is home. In the States, walking to my front door or drinking coffee on my couch would give such a warm feeling, but this will do.
Like any local, I know the shop that sells the strawberry and Nutella crepes, and I know where to get the coffee and bacon flavored ice cream. I also know the ”exotic ice cream” shop owner’s story and that he just got the proofs for his eleventh book back today. These places are holes in the wall, but then again, everything in Antigua outside of Central Park is a hole in the wall. I like it that way. You have to try hard to find all of the amazing things Antigua has to offer. Perhaps I like it so much because maybe that means someday someone will take the time to find out all the things I have to offer, and somehow think that's pretty cool, too. Or perhaps I just really like strawberry and Nutella crepes.
I see people I know while walking down the streets already. Some of them attend the Spanish school (even though I've really only had in-depth conversations with the lady who mans the snack booth -- Pringles: the red can or green can?). Some of them are people who work in the markets. Some of them are people who regularly beg on the street. Either way, a familiar face is a familiar face, and that does allow some home-y feelings (which is probably more appropriate that the despicable guys outside the snack shack).
In addition to the sweet old woman, her family, and the family I am here with in Guatemala, some very sweet souls are staying in the house. I befriended two girls who are 20 as well. They remind me that I, too, am still a 20-year-old girl (despite the fact I feel 40). And I fantasize about going back with them to their lives of dorms and classes at NC State in August. I long for the securing arms that college seem to wrap around girls my age. SEU kicked me out after handing me my diploma, but maybe NC State will embrace me? I coo to that part of me that longs for comfort, "Sure, Liz, you can go back with them," as if I'm telling a child, “Yes, of course Santa Claus is real.”
Also living with us is a man form Brazil who lived in the Netherlands for five years. We talk in Dutch and reminisce about all of the Dutch foods until we can no longer stand the hunger for them. We talk geography, we talk customs, and again, there it is: that home-y warmth.
My days mainly consist of playing with three of the most creative and considerate little kids I know in the morning and exploring the country in the afternoons. And I feel so blessed. I am so thankful. For this place, for its beauty, for what I'm learning. I'm realizing my biggest fear was my life not turning out the way I had always planned: making lots of money, being married in my early twenties, feeling secure. The reality of my life now is more acute to: spending all my life's saving on traveling the world's cultures alone, being single alone, feeling anything but secure alone. And it's good. I'm realizing I was only afraid of these things because I didn't plan them, and that's no reason to be afraid. It's okay to take the time to feel alone, to feel like you're floating, to feel desires unfulfilled. Don't ignore those feelings, don't let them give you anxiety. For once I'm choosing to sit with them. Make a map of them. Welcome to the human experience in its entirety.
It all started yesterday. I was in the loft of an apartment in Guatemala saying out loud how much I regretted not bringing with me a copy of Eat, Pray, Lo---
It all started last March when I watched Eat, Pray, Love for the first time. I was so captivated by frames of Julia Roberts depicting this free-spirit traveling all around the world. The film, based on a book about and written by Elizabeth Gilbert, fed my soul in a seemingly-silly but thorough way. Elizabeth (called Liz in the book and film) and I share more than a name. Her life of reckless abandonment, her spiritual and self-sufficient joy, and her fearless adventure was a life that I knew my heart was made for, at least for a season.
Two months after, I graduated from Southeastern University with a Bachelors of Science in Journalism/PR and Graphic Design. Only two days after my commencement ceremony, I packed everything I would need for at least four weeks in one suit case, and I moved to a country I have never been to before. I moved to Guatemala.
Four days into my trip (yesterday), I decided to google "eat, pray, love quotes by elizabeth gilbert" and the results fed my soul in a way that surprised me. I read and was touched by lines like:
“Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it.”
“When I get lonely these days, I think: So BE lonely, Liz. Learn your way around loneliness. Make a map of it. Sit with it, for once in your life. Welcome to the human experience. But never again use another person's body or emotions as a scratching post for your own unfulfilled yearnings.”
“I'm choosing happiness over suffering, I know I am. I'm making space for the unknown future to fill up my life with yet-to-come surprises.”
"I have a tendency not only to see the best in everyone, but to assume that everyone is emotionally capable of reaching his highest potential."
I read things like this and felt like I could have written them myself (and not just because my name is Liz).
So today, as I was walking through the markets in Guatemala, my eye was caught by four towering-tall book shelves. Being a writer, reader and overall book lover, I naturally walked over to there. As soon as I reached them, I heard God say, "Eat, Pray, Love is in there."
What? A chick flick, American best seller is in these dusty bookshelves in the middle of Guatemala? I don't know...
"No, I'm telling you, it's in there, Elisabeth," He said again. He's so patient with me.
So I looked under the G section for Gilbert, and I looked under the E section for Elizabeth. It wasn't there, and I wasn't surprised. I looked under Biographies/Memiors. Nope, but still He spoke to me, "Eat, Pray, Love is in here. You wanted it, and it's in here." I looked under Travel. Nothing. I was just about to give up when I turned around and saw it just like this:
My. Heart. Dropped. I thought it was a wishful-thinking-mirage. But after a few breaths of staring, I (snapped a few photos and) touched it. It didn't disappear or disintegrate. It was real. Miracles are real. Faith is real. Trust is real.
He spoke to me again, "See?! You KNOW My voice, Elisabeth, daughter. Never question it again. You know My voice. You knew My voice before. You knew it just now when you searched through old bookshelves in Central America for a book you've been wanting. And you will know it in the future. Never question again if you heard My voice in the past or if you will know My voice in the future. You hear Me."
Wow. So much more than a silly, girly, border-line-heretical book -- God used the seemingly insignificant desire of my heart to read that book (a book I believe He will use in my life in a myriad of ways) to comfort deep places in my heart that was wondering: do I know His voice? Yes. Have I misheard Him? No. Are our hearts as close as I think they are? Yes, perhaps even closer.
Everything is grace. Everything is His generosity.
This life I'm currently living is so crazy. I'm constantly uncomfortable -- living out of a suitcase, soaking in a very different culture, not knowing what my life will be like 10 minutes before it happens. This is very different for this girl who used to be a planner and control freak. I'm scared and I'm in love with it! I'm so thankful for it. This life I'm living, it would not be what I would have ideally wished for myself. But God wouldn't let me settle for my ideal. I always knew my heart was able to live an adventure like this of abounding trust, minimal belongings, and absolutely without a care in the world. Ever since I was 12 years-old, I toyed with the idea of living in a developing country for a season. At 20 years-old, here I am. And while I have no idea where I'm going, I do know so much:
Now I know what kind of woman I am, what kind of woman I am when my heart gets broken. I am not the kind of girl who calls him 1,000 times in a row and cries her heart out to his voicemail. I am not the kind of girl who tries to fill herself with men, alcohol or denial. I am not the kind of girl who victimizes herself, tries to make others look bad, or sulks in disappointments.
I am the kind of woman who feels it all, healthily works through every emotion, at the feet of Jesus. I allow Him to come close to me and feel it with me. I am the kind of woman who can recognize God's voice and is emotionally capable to follow it. I am the kind of woman who spontaneously moves to a country she's never been to before to find herself again. To pour herself out to show others that even when the world feels so bleak, there is always more light, always more love, always more hope in the world! There truly, truly is. And you know what? That may not mean much to many people, but I like that. I like that woman. I like God's generosity and grace. And to this woman who is losing herself in the many cultures of this world for this season, that's more enough for me right now.
Thank you so much for following whatever this thing is God has me on, for praying for me and encouraging me. For those who are interested, more details of my adventures will be photographed and scribbled here. And probably definitely tons of Eat, Pray, Love quotes in my Twitter feed. (:
Why do you go away? So that you can come back.
So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. So you can see there actually is beauty here, similar to the beauty you found on your adventure. It does not wither away when you fail to recognize it as such, you're not big enough. So that you can see there actually is purpose here. So you can see and feel that the things you thought had a hold on you, the things you thought were weighing you down, can't touch you and it was your power you were giving those things all along. So you can see that you can stop striving; you don't have to be the one to carry that big thing, you're a small piece, significant but small, in something so much wonderfully bigger than yourself.
And the people there see you differently, too. They see, just as you learned to love whatever far off skies you were under, you have the capacity to encourage their wandering hearts, too. They see that it is your spirit that is free, and it's your feet that follow -- not the other way around.
Hopefully, the farther you venture down that road, the closer you grow together. When you're moving faster than how swiftly life can throw "life circumstances", you realize the things that sometimes brew tension can't even touch you. You realize that the things that you caught yourself sillily complaining about are things that sparked your love in the beginning days. And as you see new places and grow closer, you bask in the reality that of all the places in the world you two could be, you're together in the same place, in a new place, in a sacred place.
Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.
A seven day road trip across three states was a big deal for this college senior who has been grounded for so long. Safe for a business trip to Haiti, the 68 acre university campus has been my stomping grounds for the last two years. This wanderer since birth needed an adventure (she was getting a little grumpy).
The trip was exactly what my soul needed. We packed our bags, took our places in the car, and ventured north on the I-95. The week was full of time together on the road, time with our families, listening to new worship albums, exploring what downtown Raleigh had to offer us (taking advantage mostly of Videri chocolate over and over), sitting on the porch of Donnie's pretty southern yellow home, more time on the road, a lot of Netflix when Donnie was sick, a lot of yummy food at all times, and more time on the road.
After this really, overly relaxed wandering week, my soul has never been so awake.
Here are some photos from our week: