happy memories

Where: Frontier Ranch Colorado.

What: Young Life Camp Work Crew.

Age: 17.

Assignment: Housekeeping.

A.k.a. Cleaning bathrooms for messy high school kids every day.

A.k.a. Best summer of my life and highlight of my formative years.

So much happiness. Big big laughs. Amazing friendships. Independence. Responsibility. The great outdoors. Volunteerism. Faith. Teamwork. Silliness. Mountain top experience. Unforgettable.

because high school was all things Mary Engelbreit

Judy asked me to go through a few more boxes in my old closet tonight. I had taken a break last week after all the photo albums got me really depressed. So what did I uncover tonight? Prayer journals. Oh dear Lord. Literally.

For starters, I can barely read my own handwriting. Thank God for good typing skills. Secondly, I didn’t date my entries for some strange reason. Like there’s a date in the beginning of the book so at least I can tell when it started but I’m quite sure I didn’t make a daily habit of journaling (maybe in spurts), so I have to intuit the timeline based on events mentioned. And I must have had a deep paranoia that someone might read my journals because I leave out the salient details and even abbreviate names into initials that I cannot decipher some 20 years later. I mean I was praying to the God of the Universe in code? What a freak.

But dang if I didn’t struggle with the same damn things then and now. Almost every single entry mentions something about my insecurities about my physical appearance. I wasted so much energy feeling bad about myself. And boys. Holy cow. I might not have dated, like at all, but I sure did torment myself about them. I’m pretty sure I drank in high school for the sole purpose of numbing those two insecurities. My senior year I went to Jenny Craig with my mom and I remember it working in the short term (not that you can really tell much from the pictures). As if that isn’t sad enough, in one entry I said I hoped it worked because I didn’t want to waste my father’s money. Even at 18 years old I had guilt about accepting generosity from my parents!

I did have some redeeming qualities though, I promise. I prayed a lot for my friends. If you are reading this and spent any time with me in high school (or college), know that I probably prayed for you, specifically, repeatedly. Friends from high school in Wichita, friends from high school in Memphis, youth group, church, summer camp, etc. Well that’s one redeeming quality. I’ll have to keep reading to see if I unearth anymore.

If I could go back and tell my 18 year old self one thing… I’d probably send myself on one of those leadership trips into the wilderness to forage berries and grow leg hair and wrap bandanas around greasy hair in the hopes that maybe I’d find my inner adventurer a little earlier in the game called Life. Get out of my own way and such.

And I would definitely tell myself to include more juicy details in my journal so my future self knew what the hell I was talking about!

Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path.

There is certainly some irony in the fact that the person who gave me the Daring Greatly book in January 2014 was my then-fiance, who I would say goodbye to 3 days later, never to hear from again. So naturally I let the book reside on the bottom shelf of my coffee table for quite some time, mostly out of spite. I don’t know exactly how long it took before I picked it up but it was close to a year.

In that year I canceled a wedding, I ran my debut post-ankle surgery marathon, I sat with my mother at chemo, I helped my sister with her newborn baby, I dove head first into the triathlon world, I dated wildly inappropriate men, and I took a long hard look at my life. So naturally before the clock struck midnight to roll the calendar over to 2015, I booked that flight to Europe for a 2 month adventure that became the impetus for the whole rebirth of Emily.

Daring greatly looks different at various points in my evolution. That New Year’s Eve it was finding the courage to buck tradition and expectations, quit my job, shirk homeownership, stop seeing a perfectly nice guy. Because I wanted something more. Specifics unknown, but an independent journey. 9 months later, after proving to myself and anyone else paying a lick of attention that I could execute a beautiful Ironman debut, daring greatly was in the what comes next. The constant moving had provided a layer of emotional insulation so I peeled it off and tried to plant some roots. Another 9 months after that, some might say I succeeded, others might say I never stood a chance. Then daring greatly took yet another form. Daring to trust someone, take big chances, stop pretending maybe one day I’ll like my job…

It all happened so quickly that I didn’t do much contemplation on the front end. I wasn’t feeling that thing that I needed to feel to keep going down the path I was on so I was excited to get on a new one. There were certainly lots of scared and nervous feelings, whispered midnight confessions, and endless explanations to shell-shocked friends. I didn’t know what it was going to be like until we were in it. But once you’re in it, it’s hard to be objective about how it’s going or how it could be made better. At least for me. I have a propensity to spend a lot of energy either soaking up the moment or planning for the next, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But in a situation such as this (and by this I mean sharing <200 sq ft with another human being bouncing from campground to campground every few days), there is a lot to be said for being intentional. Intentional with each other and with myself. Somehow it seems I forgot that I’m not in this alone. I’m so used to being alone that I’ve formed some rather selfish tendencies and I was acting like this was MY adventure when in fact it is very much OUR adventure.

Time to build intention into my daily routine. Daily gratitudes. Daily reading. Daily writing.

Time to learn how to be a partner. Vulnerability. Accountability. Authenticity.

Then maybe I have a shot at the clarity.

Does 3 make a streak?

Finished my first book of the new year, thanks to my sweet condo-loaning friend Allyson for gifting me this one: Present Over Perfect. For the first half of the book I felt like maybe it wasn’t the one for me seeing as how she kept talking about she worked worked worked and was neglecting her family in pursuit of fame and fortune. Yeah, doesn’t sound like me does it. But something kept me going (I actually have quite a bad habit of not finishing books). The lack of love and fulfillment she felt in spite of her success sounded a lot like the lack of love and fulfillment I feel in my search for a passionate vocation. The bottom line is identity. Knowing it, owning it, nurturing it, cultivating it, living it. Whether one is squeezing every second out of the day flying to speaking engagements and book signings or wasting the days away binging Netflix and surfing Instagram, our souls are still unsatisfied and the ache sounded familiar. The peeling off of layers of protection is the same process, just unique to my experience, my particular defenses. I may not have a marriage to save or kids to raise, but I have relationships to repair and dreams to birth.

So how? Back to the basics.

I am loved.

So deeply unconditionally eternally redemptively gracefully loved.

Exactly as I am.

Rescued.

Saved.

Chosen.

Made.

There is a plan. Go where there is peace. Not necessarily safety or comfort or easiness, but peace. No more of the anxiety and loneliness and frustration. The next place may still be scary and new and uncertain. But it feels different from the forced tense do-what-is-expected obvious place. It didn’t work before, it’s not gonna work now.

I choose adventure.

I choose me.

Cause if I’m not truly me, how can I be any use to anyone else?

Monday morning thoughts from 30,000 feet

Sunset in Anacortes WA November 2015
Sunset in Anacortes WA November 2015 – practicing panoramic selfies hehe

A few weeks ago I stood on a rock at sunset looking across Puget Sound at the Olympic Mountains with one of my oldest and dearest friends and felt overwhelmed with relief and hope, having taken a big leap of faith towards a possible future on the west coast. I had accepted a job in Seattle and was ready to really try the city on as a new home. But since the job is seasonal and doesn’t start for 2 months I got busy confirming plans for the meantime and never got around to capturing my thoughts about this blessing that had been shaping up behind the scenes for literally a decade. I was eager to testify to God’s goodness in light of my severe anxiety around jobs and interviews and finances. And I was thrilled to tell my parents because they worry much more than I do about my stability and provision. It was a busy week hosting Karen and playing tour guide then I packed up once more and headed back east to share my news and dig through boxes of winter clothes for a work wardrobe and resort wear for a family “vacation.” (When my day to day life is really a vacation of sorts the term loses its original meaning.)

As I connected with Charlotte friends over the next 5 days I started to spread the word and was further energized by their enthusiasm. I also got a swift kick in the tail in the training department by accompanying them to computrainer classes, hot yoga, group runs, and even chased my coach around on the bike one sunny day. It seemed everyone else had gotten back in the swing of things post-ironman a lot faster than I had and it made me wonder if I’m doing something wrong and how I can build a stronger training network out west to stay in better shape when an A race isn’t looming. But I’ll put that in the 2016 Goals column for now.

Before I knew it I was rushing to the airport for our tropical getaway and despite a comedy of errors I made it to Atlanta where I met up with the whole gang and a few hours later we were toes in the sand, piña coladas in hand. I was proud of myself for keeping the workout mojo going but I’m pretty sure the weekly alcohol intake negated any possible fitness gains and I’m still pretty embarrassed about my current state and grateful its baggy sweater season. After a sunny week of pampering and digging holes in the sand with my niece and nephew, I was back to Atlanta to catch up with old friends. I honestly can’t remember the last time I visited and I hardly recognize it anymore. I spent 3 days catching up with 4 dear girlfriends and couldn’t help but reflect on how we’ve all grown up so much in the 10 years since I left. There’s been love and loss and babies and new houses but I can still sit across the table from each one and laugh like it was yesterday. Women in their 30s are remarkable. They juggle careers and children and aging parents and relationships and homemaking and fitness and you wonder how they find the energy to get up and do it all again the next day with a smile on their face. Consider me impressed and feeling a little unworthy!

En route back to Charlotte I started reaching out to schedule time with friends for what I thought would be my last visit til May. There’s never enough time to see everyone which only makes me realize how incredibly blessed I am in the friend department. I really have an amazing community that loves and supports me and the more I consider not moving back there the harder it is to leave. I am so grateful to everyone who has opened their home to me, especially last minute, and been so generous and understanding of my crazy schedule. I hope one day I can repay all the kindnesses. But even as I sit here 90 minutes from landing back in Seattle, I know I’ll be returning to the Queen City before the end of tax season. I had one super special friend hour this weekend that has really rocked me and I’ve been a sniffly puffy eyed mess since I hugged her goodbye. There are many injustices in the world these days but at least in this moment I can think of none greater than suffering at the merciless hands of incurable disease. No one can escape from it anymore. It seeks out our mothers, our best friends, our heroes, our cheerleaders. It infuriates me and it frightens me. It brings out the worst in some and the best in others. It rips apart families and shatters dreams. It breaks my heart and makes me love in ways I didn’t know I could. We throw billions of dollars and countless hours of brilliant minds’ labor at it and at the end of the day we are still completely mystified and helpless.

There are just some mysteries we will not have answers for this side of eternity. I can’t anticipate the grief that lies in my too near future. The last few months I have felt keenly aware of my emotions and perhaps spent a little too much time being present with them (a downfall of excessive free time). Whether it’s fear and anxiety or confidence and pride, longing and loneliness or gratitude and joy, I have to believe that this is the essence of life. Soaking in the moments and understanding how pieces fit together when something wonderful unfolds offers at least a sliver of solid ground when the winds of confusion and despair start howling. It’s unfathomable to me how some people can be so reckless with their loved ones when others would literally give anything for just one more tomorrow with theirs.

As I said, it is getting harder and harder to leave. But for the very reason that life is fleeting and precious, I have to keep moving forward. My people wouldn’t be my people if they did anything less than hug me and pray for me and send me on my way. And because I’m their people they know I’ll be back when it’s time. I carry them with me as I go and will pray for them as I watch the sun set over my horizon, that it will rise on theirs, bringing hope and strength for the battles of the new day, and peace in the promise of life everlasting.

sunset after a storm, seven mile beach, grand cayman, november 2015
sunset after a storm, seven mile beach, grand cayman, November 2015

 

If you would like to get some skin in the game… join me in supporting my people at the Get Your Rear in Gear Charlotte March 5th or for those of you not near the Queen City, we’ll gladly take your money too! Follow my link to the team page by clicking here:  GYRIG Blue Crew

The Blue Crew celebrating LIFE at VBGB Charlotte NC October 2015
The Blue Crew celebrating LIFE at VBGB Charlotte NC October 2015