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Just get a first down.

This is a practical post, because I meant it when I wrote that Jesus is the joy of every longing heart, but I think he’s also given us resources through which he’s the peace of every broken brain.

That perfect cloud of mental and emotional clarity from the past six weeks finally deflated.
Thankfully I hadn’t let myself fully believe that I’d permanently become a normal person, and for the first time in forever, I didn’t forget Jesus or hang all my hope on the possible end of suffering. Instead of praying that I’d always be that healthy, I prayed that I’d always be that content.

Even as depression pokes his head out of the hole I shoved him in, that’s still my prayer, and God is happy to answer. So it feels different…but it still doesn’t feel good. Everything feels cloudy and heavy like before, but not at all hopeless like every other time. And there’s still no reason for any of it, but that isn’t bothering me either. It’s so different.

But two Mondays in a row now, my favorite customer has said to me, “I hope you’re okay.” (I really like that; it’s so much less pushy than directly asking what’s wrong) This was my first clue that I must not be getting better, because it’s one thing when your friends notice that the lights in your eyes have gone out, but quite another when someone who only sees you once a week for five minutes can see it.

So, I finished my shift and went home, and I wanted to lay on my bedroom floor but couldn’t because it was a mess, and I thought about how cleaning might make me feel better, even better than crying on the floor would, and the other side of my brain said “But what if I don’t feel better?” and I said to it, “Then I’ll still have a clean room.”
And that was the most important thought I had all week.

I’m currently depressed enough for everything to be more difficult than usual, but not so lost that everything feels impossible.
I’m taking advantage of that sad medium(depression has no “happy medium”) by making myself do healthy things that have some positive result guaranteed, even if it doesn’t necessarily lift my moods.

I didn’t get this depressed all at once, so I won’t get better all at once.

Cleaning my room is always a good thing to do, and it also might make me feel better.
Running is always good for me, and it might make me feel better.
Also cooking real food instead of throwing a Totino’s pizza in the oven…washing dishes right away instead of leaving them til morning…taking out the pile of recycling that’s been growing for a month…writing about how I’m doing and hoping it helps someone else in the world.
Even if none of those things fix depression, they’re STILL good decisions in their own right.

And if I do enough of them for long enough, I WILL feel better. Or so I’m theorizing. This is the first time I’ve ever tried this. As long as I do something each day to work towards getting better, that’s enough.

You don’t have to make a touchdown every day. Just get a first down.

If you’re reading this and you’re at a deeper level than I am, this still works. Your yards and downs are just defined differently.  I get to say that because wherever you are, I’ve already been; for a long time in 2016, my first down would have been simply staying alive and not making myself bleed. I’m well acquainted with the depths where you flop on the floor with your eyes closed and listen to The Office, because you don’t even have the energy to sit up on a couch and look at the TV(then when it pauses and asks “Are you still watching?” you just stay on the floor until you fall asleep because picking up the clicker and hitting “Continue watching” is too much). I really do know.

So maybe the idea of getting up and getting dressed and running or even walking is too much(typing that sentence made me tired). Maybe today it’s enough to just get up, take a shower, and get right back in bed. Or if you’re not at the getting out of bed stage, then it’s enough to just lay there and read a chapter of a good book instead of scrolling your Instagram feed(social media is one of my top triggers when I’m not doing well; it might not affect you the same way).
Define your first down, do the thing, and don’t let anyone say you aren’t trying.

Pray for God to heal you, but don’t be surprised if he does it by giving you strength to take tiny practical steps like this.

You can do it and you’re going to LIVE and this will pass even if it takes a few weeks or months longer than you hoped.

Onward, brokenhearted soldier, into the great unknown…
Hear the golden trumpets sounding, calling the tired soldiers home. (Branches, “To the Desert”)

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Joy of every longing heart

First: go listen to Meredith Andrews’ version of Come Thou Long Expected Jesus.

Done? Good. Now you have the end of the story.

Friday made two and a half years since I landed back in America. It feels like longer, in the best way possible.

The first year and a half was mostly made up of longing. Longing to feel like a normal person again, to not be single anymore, to have a job that meant something, to get out of debt, to be healthy again. All the longing. And even if I got just a hint of anything I wanted, things still wouldn’t get better; because of course, I didn’t know yet what I was actually longing for.

But 2017 has been nothing but seeing how God has filled all of it. The first big one was in March, but I already wrote about that. The other one has been taking shape over the past month, like putting together a puzzle without the picture on the box. God handed me the last piece today.

A week ago I started feeling off, after being okay for weeks, and this morning I really wanted a peppermint mocha frappuccino from Starbucks(because IT’S CHRISTMAS TIME), forgetting that caffeine does bad things to my brain(it makes me anxious and drowsy at the same time, so I’m wildly panicking but also too tired to use any of my coping skills or even remember that they exist). Thankfully I have incredibly patient friends who didn’t mind that I was half a wreck for a little while.

We were singing, and I had leveled out enough to laugh at myself a bit, and I thought about Christmas and my brain and how weird and beautiful life is, and then we sang,

Israel’s strength and consolation, hope of all the earth Thou art
Dear desire of every nation, joy of every longing heart.

Did you hear it too? Read that line again.
Said like Lucy does in A Charlie Brown Christmas: THAT’S IT!!!
Jesus=joy.

Other good things=bonuses that point back to Jesus.

We’re all longing. And we all have a list of things that we’re convinced will make the longing stop.

(the sermon went on to flesh this idea out a little more. You should listen to it here; I feel like it was planned.)

So many times over the past two and a half years, my prayer has been, “God, my brain is broken. Please fix it.” And that’s fine to ask; you can and should ask God to heal you, because he totally can and maybe it’s his will, and asking for it shows that you trust him.

BUT. It’s easy, while I’m longing for healing, to forget that it’s not the ultimate answer. What I’m really longing for…what literally everyone is longing for…I already have. And you can have it too.

Because the only way I can find real peace is to rest in this: my life was broken and God already sent Jesus to fix it. I have eternal, abundant life because of Jesus. Even if he never fixes anything else for me, that alone is enough.

At the start of this year, rest and joy seemed like far off things beyond an invisible finish line. Something I’ll only find either a)when God finally does fix my broken brain or b)when I get to heaven.
I don’t believe that anymore. Now I believe I already have them. I believe I’m fully satisfied in Jesus and he has a better story for me than I can write for myself. God will only fix me if it makes me better able to serve him, and for now, what I see as a roadblock, God sees as an asset. Anxiety or depression can’t stop him, and my theory for the near future is that he’ll let them hang around as long as it takes for me to believe that.

So yes. I still want a brain with all the right chemicals in it, and a job that makes me as happy as the World Race did, and a dog…and I’ll keep believing that God can give me those gifts and will give them to me if they’re the best thing he can give me. I’ll keep asking him for them now and then. But I’ll spend much more time thanking him for what he’s already done and living in a way that shows off that hope.

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Huskies and Psalm 103 and asking God for more

Ordinarily, the last week of October and the first week of November are two of the best but hardest weeks of the year.

This year they were only the best.
The thing is that most often, when good things happen, there’s a chunk of my brain that reminds me of the fact that eventually more hard things will happen. It’s called foreboding joy. (Brene Brown taught me that)
So every year while I’m enjoying the MLB postseason and the last week of football practice and the whole day of the CIU Bowl and the fall colors that have finally sprung up, I’m also feeling frantic and sad about soon not getting to play a sport for another year, changing the clocks back and having to put twice the effort into finding time to run, cold weather coming, and five months without baseball.
Then a surprising number of good things happened the last week of October, more than the ones that were already planned, and I was(still am) too busy thanking God for all of them to even wonder when it will get hard again.

October felt like it lasted three months because I was so excitedly waiting to go to the beach at the end of it. This short trip was sandwiched between these two beautiful weeks, so Jesus and I had a lot to talk about.
That Sunday morning I woke up to watch the sunrise, and I walked about two miles counting how many of my favorite things he’d given me the week before and all the ones that were right in front of me…and then I said “Can I have more? I can’t seriously have more…” And then I looked up and there’s a HUSKY walking down the beach in front of me. An actual real live husky.
(Virtually everyone reading this knows I want a dog as badly as every other woman my age wants a baby. But huskies and German shepherds get me a whole other level of jumping and squealing)
I looked at the sky and laughed out loud. I mean I was already at the beach, in idyllic weather, wearing my Red Sox hoodie and bursting with joy over all of it. It was close enough to perfect. God had already given me so much and didn’t need to give me anything more; it was like he just wanted to show off how much he likes me and wants to give me good things. I said to him, “I feel like my favorite things are raining from the sky,” and then it literally started to pour down rain. Because rain is my favorite too. It was truly perfect and I’m still laughing about it now.

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After a bad bout of depression that lasted for most of August and all of September, I had set out on a mission to make October better. But I couldn’t have even tried to plan everything God did.

I think God is a good, good Father who loves to give us good things and he’s delighted to hear us trust him enough to ask him for more. My default reaction when he surprises me like this is to briefly thank him(mostly so he’ll see how good I am and that I deserve the good)and then turn to white-knuckling said gifts and wondering how long they’ll last and when I might get another one.
I want that to change. I want to respond to all his gifts(big or small, dire needs or little wants) like the husky on the beach in the rain. Praising him for the goodness that led him to give it to me, more than for the specific gift. Believing that there’s more coming. Asking for more.
Trusting him like this will take practice…I’m pretty deep in the habit of anxiously begging him for the bare minimum rather than joyfully asking him to bless me.

I’ve been soaking in these verses for a few months now and my heart is finally catching on to the truth.

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases,

who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
(Psalm 103:2-5)

He satisfies me with good. Not always the exact good that I may ask for(I can pretty confidently say that if I asked him for my own husky right now, I would not find one on my porch tomorrow), but always the best good.

So the smaller point is: Whatever your personal husky on a beach in the rain is…ask God for it today. He loves you and he’s fully capable of surprising you and he wants to give you good things.
And then…ask him for more. Because he always has more and he never stops wanting to give it.

And the big point is: God IS good. The best. Even if he says no to every other good thing you ask him for…and he’ll only say no if he has something better…you still get HIM. You have all you need in him. The Giver is bigger than the gift, and he’s never leaving or changing. Neither are those Psalm 103 gifts.

It’s all good.

…indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance. (Psalm 16:6b)

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God actually gave me everything

The short story of how I ended up in my church family is that when I was in Cambodia, I got typhoid fever, and while I was lying in bed recovering, I was scrolling Twitter and saw that Brandon had recently posted that Midtown was planting a church in Lexington.

The long story starts my sophomore year of college and continues through the fall of 2015. That’s not what I’m writing about today.

Recently I pulled out all of my journals from the World Race and reread them from beginning to end, and found myself sobbing as I read my prayers from months 10 and 11 about what I hoped post-Race life held for me.

Because God answered every. single. one. All through this unbelievably close to perfect church.

In my re-entry packet I wrote that the most important thing was finding a church. “Community before a career” was what I told myself and anyone who asked what my “Month 12” plans were. I wanted both of course, but I knew that after eleven months of living and serving with people who loved Jesus and each other and the world, I couldn’t live without that. But I was so afraid that a community like F Squad could never exist in “real life”, that this was the best that life would get. I thought I’d peaked at 23.

It’ll be two years tomorrow, and these people are it. God outdid himself. Life finally got better.

Our sermon series right now is breaking down exactly what we mean when we call ourselves a “Jesus-centered family on mission.” Last Sunday it occurred to me that that’s also exactly what my World Race squad was. I told God I needed to find F Squad in America and he dropped them right into my lap.

Midtown loves everything I love. Living real life together. Ministering in small, ordinary ways. Loving the people around you in practical ways. Speaking the gospel everywhere. Equipping families to disciple their kids. Preaching hard truth about hard places in life. They even love orphans and foster care. Seriously. Everything.

Getting here was the hardest thing I’ve ever done but I did it because God kept promising me that it would be the best thing…and it was still hard for two months but I kept going and when I finally broke and told my Lifegroup as fast as I could in one long breath “The thing is that I have severe social anxiety that borders on agoraphobia and I CANNOT come on Sunday mornings,” not one person asked why I’m this way or how they could change me. All of them all at once said things like “How can we help? Can we walk inside with you? Or drive you there?” And the first time they ever heard me say more than three words quickly became the first time they saw me cry, because how could these practical strangers hear how irreparably weird I was and still want so badly to have me around them that they’d do anything to make me not scared?
They did exactly what they offered; for months people would either pick me up from my house, or wait in the parking lot and walk me from my car into the big crowd of strangers, and then stand around me like the Secret Service men so nothing could get me. No one thought I was ridiculous or ever asked when I’d be ready to go in by myself or hinted that I was any kind of a burden. Even today if I have a rare and random relapse and can’t go inside, they’ll still jump to help like this is a totally normal issue.
It’s still not easy or natural to talk to people I’m not already friends with, but it’s easier and I can do it now, because I want to love everyone the way my original Lifegroup loved me and welcomed me.

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I still have no idea where life is going career wise, but that still matters less to me than my people. It does matter more than it did two years ago…but when I do get stressed out and sad about that, I’ve got people who care and want to see things get better.
A job that sounds adult-like at parties isn’t as important as friends who see me and know me and love me and want me, and pastors who love their church and are vulnerable and do real life with their people, and a place to serve that gets me excited to wake up on Sundays.

Most people hate Mondays because they don’t want to go back to work; I only hate Mondays because it’s the furthest day of the week from another Sunday.

I love you, Midtown Lexington. Happy 2 years going on 20.

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It has pockets

Yesterday I saw this picture.
pockets

And I laughed. Because I never realized that anyone but me did this. (Really though, how can you not point this out? It’s important. POCKETS. There are hardly ever pockets. When there are, they need to be celebrated)

Then I scrolled through the comments and found dozens of people also saying “I thought this was just me,” and I laughed even more.

Sometimes you don’t even realize you needed a “Me too” until you hear it.

I’m not the only one.
Neither are you.
We should all say so, because nobody should be left to believe they’re alone.

And yes, there was a point when this post stopped being about the pockets.

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Thoughts on forgiving and being loved

Recently I found this that I wrote in my journal a year ago: Jesus has felt a deeper shame than any of us ever will, because when he was on the cross holding all of our sin(the past, present, and future sins of the WHOLE WORLD), God LITERALLY turned his back on him. We just FEEL like God can’t look at us when we’ve sinned…but it’s not true. Because of Jesus. God looks us right in the eye and sees Jesus. Always. No matter how deep we’re buried in sin. Because of Jesus. None of it’s because of me.

A few weeks ago my Lifegroup was studying Psalm 103.
Most of us have heard verses 11-12 by themselves. This time verse 10 hit me.

He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities.

And then verse 11 begins with “For…” which means it must connect with verse 10…

For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; (12) as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.

God doesn’t forgive us because we deserve it. Or because we apologized enough times or did enough good things to outweigh the wrong. He forgives us because he loves us.
If God, the perfect sinless God of the universe, can love us that much, horrible selfish sinful crazy humans, and love us enough to save us and forgive us…can’t we love other people that way too?

Of course we can. We should. We have to. If all of us who say we’ve been loved and forgiven like this would love and forgive everyone around us in the same way, think how much easier it would be for them to believe that God loves them even more than that?

That’s what it takes. That’s how the world will change. Not everyone has to turn their life upside down and move across the world, but all of us have to love whoever God’s put around us.

And that’s hard to do when you aren’t letting yourself receive love and grace from Jesus. If you’re striving for perfection and trying to earn the grace that Jesus already bought for you, if you’re spending all your energy proving that you’re worthy of love, people aren’t going to see Jesus in you. They’ll see the same frantic, imperfect version of love that the rest of the world has to offer.

Jesus didn’t die for us so that we could accept it and say, “Thank you, now watch me pay you back for it!” It’s a gift. He died so we could be free. (see Galatians 5:1, Ephesians 2:8-9, and probably several others)
This kind of love is something to rest in. We don’t have to strive for it or worry about losing it. When we’re loving people from a place like that, that’s when Jesus shines out of us.

I’m talking to me more than anyone else. I don’t do any of this perfectly, or very well at all. These are all places where I’ve been painfully convicted lately and where I’m praying for God to grow me now, and sometimes I think out loud in case I’m not the only one who needs it.

Your life is a thank you note. Not a payment plan. Jesus took care of the bill. You just pass on all the goodness he’s given you and show others how to get in on it.

He’s good. So good. The best.

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Oh happy October

I can’t remember exactly when I chose the Red Sox as my team(just sometime in elementary school), and I don’t remember at all why, but I know exactly when I fell in love with baseball.
I always liked the idea of it(I think I started claiming it as my favorite sport the first time I watched Daniel play t-ball, when I was three or four), but this is when it became my favorite thing.

It was October 2003 and it was the first time I’d ever watched the entire postseason. I was a kid and didn’t have my own TV, plus when you live in the south and don’t get cable you NEVER get a chance to watch baseball whether you want to or not. We didn’t have smartphones and apps that let you pull every game out of your pocket.
I’d been to minor league games before(because what’s now the Greenville Drive used to be the Capital City Bombers, and they used to be in the Mets’ farm system, not the Red Sox) and loved them. But this is when my dad really taught me how to watch the game, and I actually understood it and was so proud of myself. I still can’t understand any other sport; everything in baseball always makes sense.
And whatever reason I’d had for picking the Red Sox before, now I loved them because my dad insisted they couldn’t win and I believed they could. I was right…for a while. I threw a tantrum like a five year old when my mom made me go to bed before the end of ALCS game 7, and an even bigger one when she told me the next morning that the Red Sox lost. I chose the Cubs(I wasn’t allowed to like the Braves, because Dad said that Ted Turner didn’t like Christians. I didn’t want to like them either way because everyone in the south likes them)…and they lost their LCS too…but I couldn’t cheer for the Yankees in the World Series, so I grudgingly picked the Marlins, and watching the Yankees lose somewhat made up for not getting to see my team win.

And so I became addicted to October. Especially after the next October, when we won the most impossible series that had ever been won, the first win that Boston had seen in 86 years.
I like October better than Christmas. Me on the day after the World Series ends is like anyone else in America on December 26th.

When I came home from the World Race, all I had was Jesus and baseball. I was jet lagged and stayed up all night reading news and watching highlight videos and learning everything about every other team, and then I had PTSD and depression and threw all my feelings into games and it was one of the only things that made me feel alive. We ended the season in the basement of our division, but it didn’t matter; it was almost like a mirror of where I was at in life at the time.

It’s lonely being a baseball fan in the south. But I like what I like, and I can like it by myself…and I can also be happily surprised whenever I meet someone else like me.

October is TOMORROW! Cue the Green Day jokes…and the Christmas Eve level of excitement.

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Okay Jesus.

(Recently I realized how often I begin big and important prayers with this phrase, and how much it sounds like “Okay Google”. I laughed.)

The past three weeks haven’t been my favorites.
Sometimes when life is surprisingly wonderful for a while, I start to panic because I know it won’t last forever. This time I didn’t. I felt such a solid peace that I was hardly even aware of it.
And then suddenly everything got dark again. I was not at all prepared. (Depression is stupid. And unreasonable. I don’t like it.)

Wednesday night I started feeling better just as suddenly.
Ever since then, I’ve had this song stuck in my head.

Whatever you’re doing inside of me
It feels like chaos, but I believe
You’re up to something bigger than me
Larger than life, something heavenly.

Y’all. We’re terribly small.
That’s hard to remember.
And God is so big and so good.

Almost a year ago, when I had that complete mental collapse and my friends forced me to go to Recovery because they didn’t know how else to keep me alive, they would constantly tell me “We love you, and we’ll still love you even if you never get better.” Even if you never get better.

So, Friday morning I woke up, still feeling mostly better, still so confused as to how things got so bad so fast in these past weeks, and I was done. As in, done waiting to get better and stay better forever. Not done with life. Calm down.

“Okay Jesus. I trust you even if I never get better.”

In the past I’ve only ever thanked him for getting me out of another episode and then begged him to never let me fall in the hole again.
But I flipped the script because my brain is broken, and we live in a broken world, and I’m very possibly going to deal with this forever. I may have months or even years without a bit of anxiety or depression, and I may struggle every February, and I may actually be better for good this time. None of that is the point because it’s not where my hope comes from.
Hope isn’t found in never going through another dark season on earth; hope is knowing that Jesus already suffered worse than I ever will, so that someday I can spend an eternity with him where there’s no more pain. No matter how much pain or joy my tiny little life down here holds, none of it will touch what Jesus has stored up for me when it’s over.

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33.
It doesn’t say “In the absence of pain you may have peace.” He says “in me.” And he says we WILL have troubles. BUT it doesn’t matter because he’s already beaten it all for us. (read the whole chapter if you have a minute. It’s full of this stuff)
Your struggles don’t contradict God’s goodness.

I don’t know how to finish this because I don’t usually write from the middle. I wait til things are finished and sound good and look like a story that people want to read.
Being vulnerable is probably more helpful.

I also can’t write a post without using the word “I.” I’ll never be Ann Voskamp. This needs to be okay.

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My brain needed exercise.

What animal would be cutest if it was scaled down to the size of a cat?
An elephant. I love elephants the most even when they’re big but if it was cat-sized, I could realistically have one of my own.

What movie can you watch over and over without getting tired of?
Ocean’s Eleven. Hoodwinked. Mean Girls.
(It should be noted that none of these are in my top ten favorites. There can be too much of a good thing; my favorites are deeper and heavier and need to be savored only once in a while. The above three are a few of many that I love but can watch every single day for a long time)

What’s the spiciest thing you’ve ever eaten?
A terrible frozen meal in Thailand; we obviously couldn’t read Thai and our host(who was Filipino) looked it over in the market and thought it said mild. It was not.

What are you interested in that most people are not?
Baseball.

What movie quotes do you use on a regular basis?
I sing “okay byyyyyye” from Frozen every time I leave my house, and whenever someone else leaves either “Bye Buddy, hope you find your dad!” or “Have fun storming the castle!” and if you ever happen to eat mashed potatoes with my family, someone will say “These mashed potatoes are so creamy” in a Chicago accent.
I’ll wait for people to identify those last three movies.

What’s the most ironic thing you’ve ever seen happen?
A biker who got hit by a Dodge

What movie, picture or video makes you smile or laugh every time you see it?
Oh gosh always this…

What artist or band do you always recommend when someone asks you to suggest new music?
The Oh Hellos, or depending how well I know you, Mike Mains and the Branches. Never any of my absolute favorite bands unless we’re very very very good friends and don’t live together.

What’s the most pleasant sounding accent?
Wherever Jack Davenport’s from

What’s the funniest word in the English language?
Farctate. It’s an adjective meaning “full,” but it sounds like a verb or an expletive, so we use it as both in my house.

What’s the weirdest food combination that you like?
At Moe’s whenever I get a kid’s meal, I dip my cookie in my queso. (I’ve been doing it for ten years and was so happy when I started working there and found that our catering manager does the same thing)

What did you last Google?
“How to embed Youtube video in WordPress”

What’s the most annoying noise?
Snoring, closely followed by people chewing with their mouth open.

What odd smell do you really enjoy?
My soccer jerseys after a game.
And I guess clothes that I’ve worn at a campfire, but I don’t think that one’s odd. If they made campfire scented perfume I’d buy it in bulk.

What always cheers you up when you think of it?
Hippos and yellow birds

What two things are terrible when separate but great when you put them together?
Chocolate and milk

What’s your favorite holiday movie?
Die Hard

Just kidding. It’s a Wonderful Life. But Die Hard is absolutely a Christmas movie, and it’s in my top five.

What seemingly innocent question makes you think “It’s a trap!”
“What are you doing this weekend?”

What have you eaten so much of that you now hate it?
Nutella, except I don’t hate it, I’d just only eat it anymore if I had nothing else to eat.

What’s your “and then it got worse” story?
The time in that public restroom on the way to Thailand. But I only tell that story in person.

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26 goals for 26

I’ve been dreading my birthday since January.
25 is the last time that getting older gets you a reward(the ability to rent a car, and a whopping $9 off my car insurance).
26 just sounds old. 25 sounded perfect. Just old enough to be absolutely not young, but just young enough to not FEEL old. But 26? No. That’s older than any Camp La Vida staffer I’ve ever worked with and that’s not okay.

And I just don’t like the number 26; it’s Wade Boggs’ number and it shouldn’t have been retired, because he finished his career with the evil empire and that negates every good thing he ever did for us.

26 is the 20-something equivalent of turning 19. But my 19th birthday was the best birthday I’ve ever had, so it makes sense that 26 topped it.
The other day it struck me that since there are 26 letters in the alphabet, this gives me SO much potential for list making.

So if you’re still reading and wanted to continue, here’s the most important of several lists(don’t worry, I’ll only publish this one, and one more later).

26 Goals for 26-year-old Linda
Because a couple years ago I started making New Years resolutions on my birthday instead of on January 1st. [like this one] This year I couldn’t think of one big goal to work on, so I’m making 26 small ones. And I’m lettering them instead of numbering them, because this is the only year that I can.
(Also some of these are things I’ve done before, and many are things I want/need to start doing and do multiple times. If you’re thinking of a bucket list, this isn’t one)

A. Leave the country
B. See the Red Sox in two new ballparks(Rogers Centre for sure, and then either Nats Park or Citi Field; we play the NL East in 2018 so there are plenty of easily doable ones)
C. Read 35 books(if I can read 54 on the World Race, I can do this)
D. Read a whole Harry Potter book in Spanish(a better test of fluency than Duolingo)
E. Run a race longer than a 5k
F. Write something important
G. Find an offseason hobby(I’m a really boring person from November to March)
H. Run 100 miles(I made a resolution to run 365 miles in 2017; I’ve run 12. I’m being more realistic now)
I. Watch The Bucket List
J. Memorize the first 4 chapters of Mark(because I want to learn the whole book by my 30th birthday and there are 16 chapters)
K. Eat at Flight Deck(because how have I lived here for ten years and never been there?)
L. Go to a Blowfish game(because again, ten years and not once)
M. Watch a whole season of Friday Night Lights(I want to like it, I’ve tried so hard to)
N. Complete half of this list(because Jon Acuff always says to cut your goal in half)
O. Sell that bridesmaid dress I’ve been meaning to get rid of for two years
P. Make more of an effort to like football(it’s lonely being a baseball fan in the south; football opens up more conversations)
Q. Write to my Compassion child at least four times
R. Learn to cook something new(alfredo sauce and Linda Brownies aren’t enough to live off of)
S. Visit at least one new state
T. Go on a date
U. Write at least one blog post a month…preferably two or three, but again we’re going for realistic over ambitious.
V. Stop letting anxiety keep me from going to things; unless I know for a fact that zero friends will be there, I have to go and I will be all right. (Maybe I’ll tackle wading into a hoard of strangers with no life boats when I’m 27. Or 30. Or maybe never…I’m not Wonder Woman and I need to accept this)
W. Save more money
X. Spend more time reading books than reading my Facebook feed
Y. Go to the beach(it’s been way too long)
Z. Work out at 5am ONE time(so that Abby and Brittany can stop asking me to ;) )