the thief

It’s hard because you look at everyone around you (and by around you I mean mostly all over Facebook. These are the times we live in…) and everyone is accomplishing things. Getting married, having kids, getting a masters, getting engaged, having more kids, going on an adventure, falling in love, and on and on.

I’m not saying I haven’t done some of these at one point or another but for some reason, in this moment, I’ve forgotten all of that. I’m comparing my current life status with someone else’s current life status. And that’s pretty futile because hardly ever am I in the exact same life status as someone else.

But, I can’t help it, I scroll through the Facebook or Instagram feed (even though I’ve taken both off my phone, funny how those things creep back in) and wonder why I’m not having all the same exact experiences all the time. I’m an experience whore. I want them all and make myself feel guilty when I don’t get them all: the family, the exotic world travels, the kids, the love, the degree, the cool job.

I can’t have it all. Neither can you. Neither can any of us and I’m telling you that you aren’t alone. For the entirety of my ‘adult’ life, I’ve felt that I have to do it all. And, by God, I’ve sure as hell tried to cram every single experience into the past, roughly, 10 years. And while I absolutely do not regret any part of that, I still am left at 27 and 1/4 years old feeling that same feeling that I’m not enough and my life and experiences aren’t enough.

Am I kidding myself? At the risk of sounding conceited, I’m sure many friends have looked at certain parts of my life and longed to be where I am, whether that was galavanting solo around Europe or moving down to the “cool city” of Nashville from “not so cool” Indiana (Indiana, I love you and I’m not hating on you, just saying what other people might think) or finding someone who loves me back or making time for outdoor adventures.

But right now, my life in this moment: I have completely inconsiderate people that live above me and constantly make all kinds of noises (yes, and those kinds) and keep me awake at night, I’m not married, I feel exhausted all the time, I’ve magically developed terrible allergies (This is the thanks I get for being loyal to Nashville for 6 years?!?), I get very stressed out by the littlest things, I constantly feel like I’m fighting my relationship with God, just to name a few.

So this leaves me in another downward spiral of feeling sorry for myself and preventing me from seeing the joy and goodness on my life. And I hate it. I hate that I feel like I have to do everything all the time to feel like I’m doing an ok job at living life. Because, the reality is, that I cannot do everything. Hear that, Jess? Y O U C A N N O T D O E V E R Y T H I N G.

So, I write this to encourage those of you who may be in the same mindset as me, that you aren’t alone and your life is meaningful because you’re living it. And we are not required to do everything. In fact, we should probably be doing a lot more of nothing than everything.

Comparison is a thief of joy. And I’m so freakin’ tired of being stolen from. Aren’t you?

girl in the woods :: new blog

I finally got a blog up and running for all my hikes and outdoor adventures. I wanted something separate but similar to this blog, so I started: girl in the woods. There’s also a link in the nav bar of this blog.

Here you’ll find short overviews of hikes I’ve done, mostly in the middle/east Tennessee area. There have been a few people asking about hikes in the area, so everything is here in one place.

Cool. Thanks.

i don’t have sex.

At least not yet.

Everyone has sex. Right?

Sex is a given prize for being with someone whether it’s for one night or one lifetime. If you aren’t having sex, you are not normal. Right?

I do not have sex. I have never had sex. I am 27 years old and I have not had sex. I have been in a serious relationship for a year and half and I do not have sex. I am planning on getting married to that man, but we do not have sex.

I have heard too many stories of broken hearts, vacant souls, and shattering self worth to have sex before I am committed to someone for life inside of marriage. And that’s not even taking into account what my faith and God tells me about sex.

Call me old fashioned. Call me a prude. Call me naive. Call me a conservative Christian crazy brainwashed girl. But, I fully believe that God created sex to be most fulfilling and wonderful inside of marriage.

Yes, my mindset of ‘abstinence until marriage’ started because I grew up in a relatively conservative church, where you were a bad person if you had ‘premarital sex’. For a long while, I was terrified of sex so much so that I was actually scared of boys. (Not anymore guys, don’t worry…) My view of sex started off as following a rule I was told, but now has turned into a conscious life decision.

Now, this isn’t to say that the church is super great at handling sex. Because, frankly, most aren’t. But, just because the church might have screwed up and twisted the idea of sex, doesn’t mean God’s intent and commandments should be ignored or taken with a grain of salt. Again, these are my beliefs on this topic, but I also think that if you truly believe in Jesus Christ, that this should convict you.

Now, my intent is to not make people feel guilty or shameful, but I do believe many people in my situation don’t speak up about not having sex. Sex doesn’t have to be a given outside of marriage. Not every unmarried person has sex and it is normal and ok if you don’t. You are also not outside God’s love if you are a Christian and have sex. He loves you the exact same as He love me. (DUH but had to say it anyways)

I just think that the other side of the story is not talked about enough; the story where people consciously choose to not have sex and not because they think that they will be condemned to the deepest depths of hell if they do. God encompasses love.

I am not naive enough to think that waiting until marriage to have sex will will guarantee a successful marriage. There can still be terrible heartbreak within a marriage. (Just wanted to throw that in here.) I also want to let it be known that I don’t think you should get married just so you can have sex because that sounds like a recipe for disaster. What I am saying is that you should trust that God knows your heart and your struggles and still loves you.

But let’s be honest here, not having sex is hard. I can tell you that from personal experience. When you love someone, you want to show them that love in any way possible. Sex is one of those ways. But if one of the hardest things in my life is not having sex until I’m married, then I think I can handle that. I am so thankful to be with someone who feels the same way that I do.

Not having sex is hard also because your body was designed to. Our bodies want sex because sex is a natural part of human life. But it also is unlike other parts of life because it is holy and set apart by God. God talks about sex in the Bible way more than he talks about, like, lying or stealing. Because it’s important and has the capability to either bring such joy and love or such sadness and heartbreak.

I also realize that I don’t fully understand sex because I have never had it, but I do know that God fully understands it because He created it. And I trust that if He is adamant about not having sex until marriage, then that means something, even if nothing else makes sense.

I don’t have sex, but I can’t wait to either. Because, honestly, it’s gonna be awesome.

I hope this post is not taken as an attack to anyone. My intention was to tell my personal story and thoughts about the topic and to not bring judgement on those who do. Our purpose on this earth is not to judge but to love and I hope that this post has come across in love. 

a dinner in french basque country

Through all of my travels, one thing has remained constant: I eat a lot of food.

There’s something about having a meal, sharing a meal, or preparing a meal in another culture that connects you to it. Each place I’ve explored has presented itself most clearly through its food. So, when I had the opportunity to think about where I would want to spend a night having a dream dinner, my brain immediately started buzzing.

I thought that dreaming up a dinner anywhere in the world would instantly lead me to a specific time and place and experience, but it took more effort than I thought. Places I’ve already experienced will obviously alter my future ones, which is why I don’t think a destination immediately popped into my head. I weighed (way too) many options in my head and finally settled on something.

My ideal night out in a foreign city would be quaint and secluded with a beautiful backdrop. After I decided that, it all seemed to just fall right into place and three words popped into my head.

French Basque Country.

You may be familiar with it’s more well known counterpart, Spanish Basque Country, but somehow, the French side has stayed relatively under the radar, which is precisely why I chose it. If this is an ideal situation, which it is, I want to be able to be fully immersed in the culture without the distraction of a million tourists, even though I’m exactly that, a tourist. Although, I’d like to think of myself more as more of a traveler and not a tourist, but that’s a whole different story…

The Basque country as a whole has a very rich and old history, which is usually a huge positive for the food scene. Because of it’s proximity to the Spanish border, the food inevitably has influences from both countries. From what I’ve read, there are quaint farm houses and small towns with rustic food. As far as the scenery, there are gentle rolling hills that eventually will roll all the way into the Pyrenees to the east. And if you need the coast, the Bay of Biscay is to the west. I think I’ve pretty much found the perfect mix of everything. And of course I would think it’s perfect because I’m literally dreaming up my ideal night in a foreign place.

I would want a rustic French meal with tons of butter and bread and wine, preferably on a farm where they grow all their own produce and raise their own animals. They would have a huge wooden farm table outside and framing the entire scene would be the sun setting over the rolling verdant hills. Just as I finish my meal, the sun would sink below the horizon, but it would still be light enough to continue onto a dessert of canneles and more wine. And I would sit out there with the restaurant owners and they would tell me stories of their life and food and whatever else came up (hopefully they know English or somehow I magically learn to be fluent in French). And by the end of the night, we would be like old friends. Wow. Yeah. That sounds perfect. And now I’ll be right back because I’m looking up plane tickets to France…

20140730-POUR-slide-HQGL-jumbophoto source

But anyways, finding a place like that could be very difficult especially if there wasn’t a website for that completely dreamy restaurant I made up in my head that had the ability to be translated into English.

Because of my desire to be off the beaten path, most likely, I’m going to have to know some French, or at the very least, have some sort of translation to know what I’m getting into. This is where the internet would be my best little travel companion. I would want to look up local restaurants in French Basque country, and the websites may not be in English. If the site didn’t use translation software, I would most likely just find another site that was translated into English. This could be a very unfortunate situation because that restaurant site that I wouldn’t be able to read could very well be the best restaurant in the entire country and I could miss out on a lovely experience. It would be an absolute dream come true to have translation software available for websites that don’t currently offer it themselves. The problem with services like Google translate or having the internet browser do it for you is that you are getting a literal direct translation of the words on the page. Most often, that doesn’t work very well and I’m stuck trying to piece broken English sentences together. Then, I don’t get the full experience of what the food or ambiance of that restaurant would be and I would just probably have to find another. Having an online experience with a good English translation that could make my foreign dining experience better and easier would make traveling a whole lot more interesting and stress free. And I wouldn’t be missing out on any experience just because of that language barrier.

I very much appreciate the differences in language and culture as I travel from place to place, that’s one of the reasons traveling feels so thrilling. However, it just doesn’t seem possible to learn every language of every place I want to travel, so translation is absolutely necessary for some parts of travel.

If you could dream up a night out anywhere in the world, I hope you drift away into a dreamy daze like I did. I hope it makes you get excited about travel and new places and new cultures and new food because that’s one of the reasons life is so wonderful.

Asia’s different, you know.

You know, I haven’t written about my trip Southeast Asia yet. I didn’t quite know how to process it while it was happening. The trip snuck up on me. I spent the day before I left frantically packing and hoping I was preparing adequately for what lie ahead. Then before I knew it, I was on a plane home puking my guts out the entire time (different story, different time).

I always dreamed of this exotic and magical place, thinking about elephants and beaches and curry and pho and curry. Did I mention curry? I was completely enthralled with the idea of these things and the places that held them. And because of this, I committed a year in advance to traveling SE Asia with the kid herself, Mackenzie.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect because I knew trying to imagine what to expect was foolish. Asia’s far away, it’s Eastern culture. Something about the way they tackle life is just so different than us over here in the West. So, I was grateful to be traveling with someone who had lived in that culture the past year and tried not to overthink it.

This trip was so different compared them to the previous ones I’ve taken. This was the longest I’ve ever traveled at one time. This was the first time traveling while having a boyfriend. This was the farthest from home I had ever been. This was the first time traveling to Asia. This was the first time seeing so many countries in one trip. All of these combined with the busyness of life leading up to leaving made this trip feel so differently than any other.

I don’t know when that difference hit me. Maybe when I first stepped off the plane in Hong Kong. Maybe the first time I felt sick in Vietnam. Maybe when I ate my 17th bowl of (amazing) curry. Maybe when I was frustrated that I couldn’t really talk to Luke. Maybe when I was riding an elephant bareback in Chiang Mai. Maybe when I was climbing ancient temple ruins or riding in a tuk tuk along the countryside in Cambodia. Maybe when I spent all 6 hours of a flight in the airplane bathroom…

I think this trip was unlike any other because I didn’t immediately fall in love with Asia.

I’ve immediately fallen in love with every other place I’ve been, . That’s what I do. I travel. I fall in love with the place. I’m convinced I should move there. I come to my senses and realize that’s probably not the best idea. I discover another place and travel there and the whole cycle starts over. Seriously.

This was not the case for the countries I visited on this trip. And I think that’s ok. It’s unique charm took a while to really sink in. I don’t regret traveling to Hong Kong, Vietnam, Cambodia or Thailand one bit. I’m just saying that this experience was so different because it didn’t always come easily. I had to work at traveling. I was in a different place every 3 days which meant airports every 3 days, traveling to those airports every 3 days. On top of that add driving to and from other places within those places and my head is spinning just remembering it.

In a sentence, Asia humbled me.

Even while I was experiencing this trip, I felt different than other times Ive traveled. I finally grasped why it’s called a “foreign” country. I just felt so, well, foreign. I felt even a little scared, even though I wouldn’t admit it. I beat myself up about this thinking, “I’m a traveler. I’ve done this before. I’m good at this, good at fitting in. I’m supposed to be in love with every place in the world.” So, it was very humbling and confusing to actually feel foreign and so out of place. I almost felt like a failure to my wanderlustly self. How could I not fall in complete love with every place I go?

So, I would venture to say that this ‘out of place-ness’ forced me to actually be out of what’s comfortable to me. I’ve felt like this very few times in my life. But, because of this, I think I was more aware of what I was learning about myself through all of this. I had to actually ‘work’ at traveling, so I have a greater appreciation for it now (and I thought was impossible to appreciate it more than I already did). At times, I absolutely had to rely on Mackenzie and was so grateful that she was who I experienced this crazy, foreign, magical part of the world with. (Can it, Mason!) I don’t know if all that even makes sense. But, it does in my little brain. Traveling contines to surprise me.

Asia’s different, you know.




holding onto community (in the midst of community)

I’m not quite sure what to write so I’m just going to start.

Lately, I’ve been struggling with a sense of community.  I’ve struggled with it before. I felt the loneliest I’ve been when I first moved to Nashville. I had to build up a community from scratch. I’ve had times when I’d started new things and felt like I had to build up community again.

This time it’s different. I’ve been in the same place for almost 2 1/2 years. I feel secure and at home in Nashville. I know people. I recognize people around town. I feel like this city keeps shrinking. Yet, here I am feeling devastatingly lonely. Feeling like I don’t have that solid community that I’ve felt so many times before.

I’ve been beyond fortunate to have had amazing opportunities for community. Working at SpringHill surrounded by the most fun, spiritual bunch showing love to campers has been an absolutely life changing experience. Being a part of the Campus House/Greyhouse community in West Lafayette has been indispensable in my growth as a women and a daughter of God. The Anchor Fellowship brought me in with open arms and taught me genuine joy in God through joyful individuals and the reality of the Holy Spirit through all of that.

As I move to a different stage and part of life, I’m struggling. Struggling to know who are “my people”. Struggling to know which women I can regularly meet with and hang out with and encourage one another and challenge one another.

But I’m also not doing anything to change it.  I have amazing women in my life right here in Nashville (and all over the country!) but it just all feels so disjointed and at a disunion. I can’t quite figure out how to make it all work. And for some reason, sometimes I feel like community shouldn’t be work. But it is. Just like anything else. If it means enough to me, I’ll work for it and strive for it daily. I’ll make conscious decisions to pursue community, especially with women.

I also realize that this dry spell of community might be for a reason. God might be trying to grab my attention and this is one of the ways that he knows I will react to, to feel stripped of community to where all I have left is Him. I’m working through that too. I’m trying to get in the habit of journaling again. Trying to make God real in every situation.

All this to say, I just feel at a loss. I don’t know what I’m supposed to do. And I know what I should do. Pursue God with all my might, but for some reason this is the hardest thing of all right now.

Choose to be humble enough to accept help from the Helper.

how cheeseburgers made me healthy

I feel the healthiest I ever have in my life and I eat a cheeseburger at least once a week.

Ever since I started really taking care of my health about 3 years ago, it’s been a learning process of how to maintain a “healthy healthiness”. I’ve gone through so many stages of healthy eating and exercise desperately trying to find a balance that worked for my lifestyle.  Different recipes have worked for different times in my life, but I’ve found a new balance that feels like a totally different kind of healthy. I feel balanced.

Growing up participating in sports, taking honors classes in school, being involved church youth groups, and being a sister and daughter, I have never really known a life free of balance and time management.  It’s not something that is new for me, but I continue to learn how to actually make this balance meaningful and healthy.

The past few months have felt very stagnant. I had been craving change but not quite sure how to carry it out.  I didn’t want to change anything drastic like my job, my city, or my boyfriend (so don’t you worry, Luke), so I felt at a loss on how to make life feel like it had variety.

I’m not quite sure how it actually happened, but before I knew it, I found that groove again. I honestly think it had a lot to do with the cooler weather.  Running didn’t feel so deathly as it did in the 90 degree heat. I found ways to switch up roles in my job. I started eating meat at home again. All of these seemingly unrelated changes helped to regain the balance I once had.

This time, I’m not stressed out about eating 100% organic. I don’t feel like I have to run 8 miles a day, but I can if I’m feeling up to it. I am learning how my brain and body need to relax. I eat things I really enjoy, like cheeseburgers, and I don’t feel the least bit weird about it.

Cheeseburgers taught me that I can enjoy things and not feel guilty about them. Because, let’s be honest, cheeseburgers are, like, really good.

Even though I don’t maintain a strict diet and don’t exercise 5 days a week, my body still does feel really good. I haven’t gained any weight or felt gross. I think the difference this time is a healthy spirit and mind. I have mostly lost my guilt associated with eating and exercising and I do what I enjoy. Because of this, my body is happy!

Now, don’t take this to mean that I don’t eat vegetables or exercise anymore. I strongly believe that balanced meals and some exercise are necessary to becoming a truly healthy person. For me, it just means letting go of my perfectionism in this area of my life and letting myself live and be happy. Because I really love food, and it’s no use trying to deny myself cheeseburgers, right?