Chasing Him

Overwhelmed. All I can do is smile and look on in awe. Tears stream without relent from my already swollen eyes. I sigh as the view before me becomes blurry. Hundreds of miles of Atlantic Ocean lay before me, as still and smooth as the glass like water of a small countryside lake in the early morning. The roaring engines and propellers of both departing and landing of 22’s is drowned out by the silence of this moment, this serenity, this suspension of reality. Normally standing here on the gallery decks that jet out over the water just below the flight deck, it is pitch black, but tonight the entire sky is illuminated by a glowing red full moon that sits high and majestically above billions of stars.  You can clearly see the white splashes of Milky Way and Sirius gleaming. Somehow here we are passing through miles of ocean waters at 15 knots, yet the world and night sky are unchanging. No matter where we are at, what part of the world we are traversing, every single night the moon rises as it was made to, the stars shine as they were created to, and the beauty and glory of all that God has orchestrated paints the skies, just as it was designed to. That fact alone astounds and humbles me where I stand. And it never gets old. I have stood here in this same spot every night these past two weeks, and rather than grow tired of this view, instead the wonder and reverence has only intensified. The splendor of God’s glory has only become more grandiose.

I still cannot believe deployment is ending. I can’t believe the unbelievable growth and maturity God has done in me throughout these past six months. I can’t believe the amount of unreal experiences God has blessed me with or the number of truly incredible relationships he has entrusted me with. I can’t believe the beautiful, world-spinning love he has poured into my heart or the joy he has overfilled my cup with. I thought I knew what love was when I looked into the brilliant blue eyes of the love of my life at 18 years old. I thought I knew what love was when I cried my heart out saying good byes before departing Bahrain. I thought I knew what love was when I sat in a bus full of complete strangers who despite being lost in translation had become a family driving back from the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland. I thought I knew what love was as I said the hardest goodbye of my life with a hot pink Scotland soccer jersey clutched in one hand and a carry on bag in the other. I thought I knew what love was as my arms wrapped securely around a recon Marine as the dive and jump devices pressed into his bare chest and his lips pressed firmly against the top of my head. I thought I knew what love was until I stood there looking out at all that God had created and through the sobs, God’s voice overcame me and cut through the sorrow. The words of MercyMe’s “Even If” drowned out all pain, all fear, all hurt, and all the noise around me. All I heard was the comforting voice of the Lord reminding me that even if all else fails, even if the sun doesn’t rise tomorrow, even if nothing in life works out the way I want it to, he is my hope alone. He is everything. His love, His presence, His grace is sufficient.  I don’t deserve any of what I have but still here I am. I have squandered so many good gifts that He has blessed me with, yet He continues to work in and through me, though I don’t deserve any of it. God loves to use the broken to make something beautiful and my life is surely a living testimony of that.

some of God’s greatest gifts

One of my favorite songs of all time, and at the moment, is Garth Brook’s “Unanswered Prayers.”

How true is it that sometimes are greatest blessings in life are those phone calls that God lets go to voicemail; it is not because he is ignoring us, but because he knows something that we just simply can’t yet understand. Other times, God does answer our prayers. We just fail to see it. But God sees the bigger picture.

To say I have been blessed would be an extreme understatement. Every single moment of every single day is a living testament to God’s unending grace at work in my life. Less than ten minutes ago I was sitting around a table full of wonderful humans that I adore, playing Taboo, laughing hysterically, eating delicious snacks, and making memories that will long outlast the time we’re here on this ship together. Just before that I was down in my office; it was full of sailors and Marines using the library computers, watching SiteTV movies, and just hanging out to not feel alone. One of my Marines brought his dog, the MEU’s bomb sniffing dog, Spidy down to say hi. He laid his large, furry German shepherd body down in my lap and gave me kisses while I patted his tummy.

When I am walking up and down the P-ways of this ship and I get the opportunity to interact with hundreds of sailors and Marines every day, I am honored. When I get to stop and have a conversation with an FSA or ship store worker, I am humbled. When I am walking on the flight deck, overlooking thousands of miles of glistening seas under the sweltering Middle Eastern sun, I am taken aback and reminded of a God that is so much greater than anything I could be facing. If he can call the oceans to still and the waves to cease, he can surely calm any storm in my life.

Every minute of every day, there are billions of creatures lurking in and around the waters that we traverse as we sail these eastern seas. Families of dolphins, schools of fish, flocks of birds, shoot even a falcon made its way into a stateroom of this vessel (that’s another story, for another day). All of these animals go about their lives seamlessly, effortlessly, whimsically. All the while, we are hustling and bustling, working and moving and planning about. The birds fly as they were made to, the fish swim as they were made to, and we live – we attempt to live in such a way that we were made to. Sometimes life flows and everything seems to go according to plan. But more often than not, it feels as though we are fighting against the grain; doing anything we can to stay afloat.

Sometimes I get frustrated. I get upset with God and ask him “why.” I think most of us do that. We question much of what he does. We harass him and forget that he feels our pain, he knows our hurts, and he cares for each of us. Each wound to us, is a wound to him. When we feel sorrow and loss, he feels it too. When our hearts are broken, his breaks for us. Sometimes I pray selfish prayers. I set conditions to my requests. Rather than trust the craftsman, I question his craftsmanship. Rather than worship the creator, often times I find myself pining after his creation. Despite my shortcomings, despite my vain, my pride, my arrogance, God still stands by my side. Though the world hears my wants, God hears my heart.

Can I ask you something? When was the last time you hit your knees in complete surrender and submission? When was the last time you poured your heart and soul out to the Lord? When was the last time that rather than turning to a distraction, to an addiction, to a substitution, you turned to God?

We live in a society that has allowed prayer to become a last resort rather than a first priority. It is not our last option when things are tough, it is our greatest weapon at all times.

I lay in bed at night and think about the way he has orchestrated my life. All of the unanswered prayers that led to this path. To this place in time. So many disappointments, so many heartbreaks, so many tears, so much pain, so much confusion. Somehow it all led to something better than I could have had planned on my own. Every piece so strategically placed. Every season so intentionally endured. Every experience, every phase, every opportunity shaping and sculpting me and this path. Each step has been perfectly set. Over the last five years God has taken me on a wild ride. Something I never would have envisioned in my craziest, most out there dreams. Seriously. I have gotten to experience more in 23 years than most people will in a lifetime and for that I am both humbled and grateful. I have laced up my spikes on a NCAA Division 1 track; I have flown in Chinooks before an air assault then spent hours pulling security in the pouring rain. I have lifted and competed with some of the biggest names in the fitness industry, won national and world championships, and gotten paid to travel the globe doing what I love. I have had thousands of followers on social media and done segments on local news networks. I have won Spartan races in the 110 degree deserts of Dubai and weeks later in the frigid, sleek mountains of the Scottish highlands. I have traveled solo to the Middle East and across Europe with nothing but a backpack and my weightlifting shoes. I have stood atop the Cliffs of Moher on the breathtaking coast of Ireland and cried tears of overwhelming compassion at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem. I have rode camels through Jordan, walked the footsteps of Jesus in Israel, and been to one of the Seven Wonders of the World. I have flown countless hours across the open skies and spent the entirety of this year sailing the vast seas. I have found and lost the love of a good man, and been swept away by the sweet talk and allure of others. I have learned that the more you live and think you know, the more you learn that you know less than you think. The more you listen to those who have been where you have been, the wiser you become. We are made to be lifelong learners and the journey is actually the destination. I never knew I had been seeking out all the things that I have done, but each one has been an answered prayer in one way or another. Each serving its purpose at that time to get me to where I am here and now.

Recently, I had been questioning my purpose here quite a bit. What was I doing? What was my role? Why was I here? And tonight, that became crystal clear. God put me here, for everything that has occurred up to this point. Every life I have interacted with, every person I have come to know. And every ounce of love that I have to give. All a part of his perfect plan. Tonight we were given news that no one really foresaw. That no one wanted to hear. News that even broke my heart. And as I felt my heart sink for what I knew I was losing, God replaced it with something much greater. A sense of purpose. This deployment had gone terribly wrong in a plethora of ways. We went from supposed to be having port calls every three weeks to none at all. We went from hopeful to hopeless. It has been a rollercoaster of emotion and a steady stream of blue seas. But at least we were on the countdown back home. The entire crew, drained from reoccurring disappointment just wants to get home. Then we were told that less than two months after we get home, we will be deploying again.

My heart dropped because I knew when I heard that announcement that many hopes and plans in my heart were over before they started. I knew that road trips and concerts and Spartan races and plans for the remainder of the summer and fall were cancelled. I knew that my mom’s heart would be breaking as she once again watched her little girl vanish to a foreign land. I knew that men who missed their newborn baby’s birth would now have to kiss them goodbye again. I knew that the pier that should be full of joy for our return home in August would really be full of apprehension for our looming departure in September.

And I know that this is why I am here. With Chaps leaving and so much change and disappointment on this ship, I am supposed to be here. God spoke a sense of assurance over me that my purpose on this boat was for a time like this. A time like not getting any port calls and being disappointed over and over again these past few weeks. A time like going home then being pulled away again. What if my role here has less to do with being the “Fun” Boss and is more about being able have the position and ability to love on these sailors and Marines? What if it is not about Bingo and Fitness Challenges and Iwo Idol nights but about being a source of joy and light? What if my job has nothing to do with the paycheck but is all about the impact? None of this is an accident.

As Garth puts it, “Some of God’s greatest gifts, are unanswered prayers.” I never prayed I would be here. I definitely never imagined my life consisting of living on a ship 8000 miles from my California home. I never foresaw this life. I prayed for so many other outcomes. So many other dreams and destinies. I prayed for God to save my hurdling career, to save my relationship with John, to make my life look a certain way that I thought to be the surest way to happiness. But in hindsight, I am comforted with the reassurance that as much as my plans changed, God’s plans never wavered. He always stood firm and confident in the path he laid out for me. In the fall of 2016, I was getting ready to graduate college. I was, once again, at a crossroad in my young life. I had plans, I had aspirations and God interjected. Two weeks before graduation he put before me the opportunity to serve as an intern for the United States Navy MWR. I was supposed to go to Germany. But he sent me to Bahrain. I was supposed to be the Teenage Recreation and Fitness Coordinator. But he made me be a preschool teacher. I was offered many prestigious jobs, but he told me to wait. I thought I found love, but he told me it wasn’t right. I was supposed to go to the Ford, but he sent me to the Iwo. So many plans changed, diverted, rearranged.

I prayed one simple thing that fall before graduation: Lord, please let me be a vessel of love for your Kingdom. He may have left many prayers unanswered, but that is surely not one of them. I can’t tell you the exact course that God has set, but I know that for every shift in the winds and every maneuver, I am learning to trust him more and more. He has never failed me yet. I may veer myself off course every now and again, but the God that loves me always makes sure to pull me back in. I don’t know where the good Lord is taking me, but I am happy to follow.

leaves are changing

Oh autumn. It’s taken me a decade or two to come to value your beauty and worth. I never appreciated you in adolescence. You meant that summer was over, school was in full swing, days were getting shorter, and studying was getting longer. You meant that the street lamps came on earlier and games of tag and lava monster became shorter. You meant no more pool days, no more camping trips, and the worst of all – you meant pants. I often fought with you long into the depths of November, when finally the rain and wind would become too much, and inevitably my cold, barren legs would be forced to shelter themselves beneath sweatpants or denim. You were my least favorite season, even behind spring, which brought terrible allergies and bipolar weather forecasts. You robbed me of my freedom to run around all day without a care in the world, basking in the sunshine and falling asleep under starry skies. But time changes us. Just like time changes you.

Time changes your leaves from a vibrant green into the most gorgeous oranges and reds and yellows. Time changes the blistering California heat into cool fall breezes that make walks along the river the most relaxing morning endeavor. You bring the joy of dancing in the rain and long, mind cleansing runs. You bring warm sweaters and a plethora of hot espresso drinks. I mean how would most of us survive without PSL’s and Ugg boots in our life. So thank you Autumn. Thank you for holiday cheer. There is nothing like the excitement of corn mazes and pumpkin patches and Thanksgiving turkey and picking out Christmas decorations. You bring about the most breathtaking drive up Highway 50, from Placerville to Pollock to Kyburz to Lake Tahoe. I have never seen such a mesmerizing sight.

Life is a lot like you. We as humans are creatures of habit, reluctant of changes that we don’t find necessary. We go through stages of fighting change. First we go through this denial, a denial that something is changing. The weather isn’t really getting colder, that relationship isn’t really growing apart. Then we feel optimism. It is getting cooler but that’s just an opportunity to appreciate the fall – oooh pumpkin patches, yay! Oooh, this is an opportunity for us to explore our differences and grow closer in the end. Then we become depressed. I’m not ready for summer to be over, I’m not ready for it to get dark early, and I certainly don’t want to even think about writing Christmas cards yet! Why is it like this? I’m not ready to walk away. I still love him.

But just like the leaves must change, the thermostat must drop, and our attire must change, sometimes we have to accept the inevitable. Sometimes we have to realize that growing apart is a part of growing up. It’s not easy to say goodbye to our favorite pair of daisy dukes and Ray Bans, nor is it easy to say goodbye to a person who is no longer helping us grow. But that is life. Change is difficult, but necessary. If the person you are with doesn’t make you feel loved, cared for, and cherished each day, it’s okay to not be okay. If you make them a priority and they make you an option, it’s okay to know you deserve better. If you are investing your heart into someone who doesn’t court you like their future wife, it’s okay to know you deserve more.  Change is hard. But you deserve to feel the sun shine on your face. You deserve to feel like the most beautiful, most sought after woman in the world. You deserve someone who wants to be with you just as much as you want to be with them. You shouldn’t have to question it, you shouldn’t have to worry about it. You should be scared of the unknowns together. You should be a team. You should be partners. And if you are not, then walk away. Turn the page. A new season is coming your way.

Endurance Training

I’m a runner. I didn’t really believe that when I was younger. My mom had always pushed me to pursue a running career. She always said “you were born to run.” And if you look at home videos from when I was a toddler and young child, I was always running. Don’t ask why, I just had to go. I played soccer for 17 years. I was the center midfielder my entire career and if you are familiar with the sport, you know that a midfielder’s sole purpose is to run the length of the field, all game long. Most of my career, I played all 60 to 90 minutes, depending on length of play. I ran all game long. But I hated running. When my mom invited me to go for a run with her, I would look at her like are you crazy. Why would I want to go for a run?

Ironically, I wound up lacing up my soccer cleats for the last time during my senior year of high school and traded them in for track spikes and trail shoes. Yep, I became a mid distance runner and hurdler, and cross country athlete. I lived and breathed running. It became my entire life. I had a goal, and I ran after it full speed. Everyone told me I was crazy. They said that by leaving soccer, I was giving up my chance to play a collegiate sport. I was told over and over that there was no way I could run collegiate track. After a season plagued by injury after injury, I was offered two track scholarships to NCAA D2 schools and the opportunity to run Division 1 at Sacramento State. Their doubts only fueled me to work harder, to run faster, to chase my dreams.

I run fearlessly towards the things I want. I have tunnel vision. When I set up in the blocks, the only thing I could see was the hurdle in front of me. It was my race. Me versus me. When I am on the start line of a Spartan Race or 10K, it’s just me. When I have a goal in life, it’s the same way. I don’t see the obstacles, I don’t see the things that try to lead me astray, I just see the end goal. But I run away from things too. I run away from things I am not good at. I run away from things that hurt me. I may be fearless in pursuit of my dreams, but I am fearful of failure. When my faith is tested, when my heart is shaken, I run away. When I feel guilty and convicted, I run to the shadows in fear of judgement.

But what I need to do, is run to the light. Run to forgiveness and run to freedom. When life gets hard, when temptation seeps into our lives, it is easy to seek isolation out of fear but we need to run towards God, not away from Him. Here’s my proposition, let’s build our endurance. Let’s not just be sprinters in our faith. Getting those quick, passionate bursts of faithfulness followed by exhaustion, but instead build a foundation of lasting and enduring faith. 

You know what happens when you are a runner for a long time? You get aches and pains, and eventually you wind up injured. Shin splits, sprained ankles, then one day a torn miniscus or ACL. When running is your life, this is devastating. Same goes for our faith. We will constantly be tried and tested in ways that are annoying and frustrating but minor. Then eventually, as our faith grows, we will be faced with something bigger. And something more difficult. Our endurance and ability to overcome our greatest obstacles will be tested. Doctor, women’s leader, and best-selling author Lina AbuJamra put it this way, “The test of our faith usually comes in the areas you care the most deeply and struggle the most.” Simply put, the enemy is not going to try and break your spirit in things that don’t matter. He is going to attack you in the areas that you care about the most, the places that you are most invested. This is where we feel that chasm. That distance. That doubt. That void. This is where we begin to question everything. This is where we question God. AbuJamra continues by saying, “It is only as you learn to identify the most common obstacles in your life that you will be able to stand strong in the heat of battle.” Rather than lose hope and faith, we have to realize what is going on, what we are struggling with, and then begin to combat that. For where your treasure lies, there your heart will be also.  

Your endurance is going to be tried in the place that your heart is most deeply rooted. For me, I have battled the same giants over and over since I rededicated my life to Christ almost three years ago. At first, things were easy. The fire was there. The yearning and desire to grow was insatiable. It seemed everything that I prayed for came into fruition in one way or another. But the deeper I dove into the Word, and the more mature I grew as a follower, the more challenges I began to face. I am a pretty straightforward person and if you meet me you almost automatically know where my purpose lies and what my passion in life is. Fitness and loving others. That’s it. Every facet of my life in some way goes back to my love for fitness and my desire to love people with reckless abandon. The problem is those two areas have been my Achilles heel. In regards to fitness, I have been plagued by torn ligaments, chronic injuries, ego conflicts, eating disorders, and finding balance. In terms of love, I have been taken advantage of by people I thought I could save, I have given my heart blindly to men who end up breaking it without regard, and I have isolated myself from people that care for me the most out of fear of disappointing them. I have allowed the opinions of others and the doubts in my head telling me that I am not enough, to pull me away from those things I so dearly love. I don’t have a medium, I am a high or a low person. I am an extremist by nature. I am a runner. So when I fail, when I am rejected, when I lose, I am distraught. I feel like a failure in life. Satan knows that sending in a negative customer to my work, or draining my bank account, or having something happen to my car, isn’t going to affect me or steal my joy. He knows I can brush that off. But what will crush me? Not being able to compete at the American Open. Not finishing in first place in a race or a competition that I trained my butt off for, not because I wasn’t the best, but because my knee gave out on the last obstacle. A relationship that I have prayed about, given all of my love and energy to, just to be left feeling like an option, or worse, knowing that I was just a part of a sick game. Feeling like I let down my parents or my friends or my Bible study. Knowing that someone I love is going to down a dark path and not being able to save them. Those things, those are what gut me. Those are what pull me away from God. Those things make me question things. Those make me doubt. When I feel like I am not enough, when I feel like I am not worthy, that is when I begin to slip away.

I have actually been in that season recently. Struggling. So much change, so much uncertainty. Fear and doubt. Trying to get back to where I need to be as an athlete. Trying to fight for a relationship that is crippled by distance and hurt. The first two major life events I ever faced were track career ending knee surgery, and breaking up with the man I planned to spend forever with. And recently, it has felt pretty similar. But friends listen. When I was first hurt, when I stopped looking for him, I found myself. When I stopped loving that man with all of my heart, I was able to love God with all of my heart -and that my friends, is true love. That is the greatest love of all. I learned that when you lose everything that you want, you gain everything you need. When you reach the point of being able to walk away from what you think you want in life and walk down the path God created for you, that is when you begin living. When you work to live so that you can serve others, when your sole purpose is to experience life and enrich the lives of those around you – that’s when you are living. Your idea of success and happiness is nothing compare to His.

So let’s run. Let’s run towards Him. Full speed. But let’s not burn out. Let’s build up our endurance. Through the trials, let’s lean on His promises, His faithfulness, His goodness, not on the seemingly lasting things of this world. Reflect on God’s faithfulness, identify the areas you struggle, clarify your goals, set your direction, and live out your purpose. You are never alone in this race. God is running it with you. He is your biggest fan, your greatest support. Set up a solid foundation based upon the Word of God and seek to live a life like Christ. Surround yourself with other believers and love on every person that you can. But never lose sight of that end goal. Chase Jesus Christ with all you’ve got. It’s going to be hard. There will be trials. You will get tired. But that is all a part of the journey. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

10 Keys to Happiness in Your Life

  1. Throw Kindness Around like Confetti

    Don’t hold back. Be kind to everyone you come into contact with. Say hello, hold open doors, pay for the person behind you in line, give genuine compliments, and set the mood of the room. Positivity is contagious!

  2. An Attitude of Gratitude Changes Everything

    In all circumstances, rejoice! Be grateful for everything and your life will change drastically. The moment you begin to see everything you HAVE rather than everything you lack, you will experience true joy. Like attracts like, so be grateful for what you have, and more will come to you.

  3. Be Present! Wherever you > Be there!

    Live in the moment. If you are with your friends, family, coworkers, at a game/concert, or out in nature. BE THERE! Experience it, take it in. Leave your phone in the car or in your pocket, and fully take part in life.

  4. Give love unconditionally

    Don’t attach strings. Just love. Don’t hold expectations over people. Just love. The more you give unconditional love you give, the more love you will feel.

  5. Always Adorn a Smile

    It is true that the prettiest thing you can wear is a smile. One smile can ultimately change someone’s entire day, and maybe their life. Spread some joy and give the gift that is always free – a friendly smile!

  6. Make Time!

    You are NEVER, EVER too busy for people and things that matter. If you are, then you are doing too much. Make time for friends, family, hobbies, and self care.

  7. Talk About what Matters – Passion fuels passion!

    Live with purpose and talk like it. Your passions and ability to share it with others motivates others. When you love something and it shapes how you live your life, other people will be drawn to you. Passion ignites passion.

  8. Take a Deep Breath

    Breathe! Take a step back when you are overwhelmed. If you are stressing, breathe. Take some alone time to pray or meditate or go for a walk. The best thing you can do when you are stressed, is step back.

  9. Get Outside & Get some Sunshine!

    Get outside! It is essential to your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health to get some fresh air! Sunshine and Vitamin D actually increase your quality of life and make you feel happier. So go for a run, kick a soccer ball, or walk your dog. You will not regret it!

  10. Help others & Give Freely!

    It is far better to give than receive. No truer statement. It invigorates the soul to help others and to give back. So whether it is volunteering with animals, the homeless, at risk youth, supporting a ministry, building homes, mentoring after school, or being a missionary – serving others actually serves you. When we help others, they help us. They help us internally. Nothing refreshes the heart and soul more than being the hands and feet of God.

Loving deeply and learning slowly

I’m independent. A woman in pursuit of God and all He has for my life. I am happy lifting weights, and praising the Lord, and playing with my dogs, and adventuring solo. I enjoy filling up my backpack and boarding a plane or a train all by myself. I don’t mind being alone. But I love love. I love the idea of love, I love being in love, I love being loved, and I love loving another. I love writing letters and leaving little notes. I love doing the little things, and cuddling, and doing partner WODs, and hiking both the mountains of Northern California, as well as, the mountains of life with my adventure partner. There are many beautiful things in this world – from the Grand Canyon, to Lake Tahoe, to the Swiss Alps, to the Cliffs of Moher, to the countless other wonders of the world – but to me, the most beautiful thing to see (and to feel) is real, unconditional, tangible love.

I may lose some of you here, but just bear with me. God is love, and not a subtle kind. He is the love a mother feels for her newborn baby, the love a husband feels as his wife walks down the aisle, the love a community feels for its neighbor after a fire burns down everything in sight. He is the love for a child suffering in a far away land, the love we feel when we see the dogs and hear the music of an SPCA commercial. He is real, raw, true pure love. And his love for us, is the love we should expect in our relationships, and our eventual marriage. Throughout the Bible, our human relationship with our spouse is used as an analogy to our relationship with God. If His love is unconditional, endless, never judging, full of grace, forgiving, and relentless in pursuit, should our marriage not be just that?

I have been in one serious, long term relationship, and I have been in two short term serious relationships. In each situation, I had fallen deeply in love. In the first of these, it was the love I described as above. That unconditional, real, true love. It was built on a solid foundation of respect, and admiration, and friendship. We were crazy for one another, and I was determined that this man was my first love and my last. Perhaps, I was too young. Perhaps, I would have never been able to grow. Perhaps, I just needed to experience the feeling of deep loss. Whatever reason there was, that relationship ended and I felt the deep, cutting, pain of heartbreak. I really don’t think there is a worse feeling than true sorrow after a loss. It changes you. After John, I took a lot of time trying to reassess my life. I eventually found Jesus and began slowly redefining my life. I tried my best to stay the course, and though a few guys popped up here and there, I made a vow to stay single, and not as much as kiss a guy, for the next year.

As time passed, there was interest in a few guys, but pursuing a man just wasn’t in the agenda. I became empowered in my path to God’s plan for my life and made some pretty drastic life decisions, including moving to the Middle East to live on a Navy base for 5 months. In those five months, I felt God’s tangible, unconditional, amazing love in more ways than ever before. And I prayed one thing over and over: God, allow me to live a life of love. Let me love the way you love. To feel deeply. Break my heart for what breaks yours. Let me be a vessel for your Kingdom and to be a light to all. And boy, did He let me live a life of love. Like never before. The soldiers, the sailors, my coworkers, my kids I worked with,the locals, everything and everyone – I loved. And it was in that time that I fell in love for the first time since I was 18. I never had a chance, and I didn’t want one.

When John and I had met, it was expected. Our fathers had set us up. Our families had history. We had everything in common and our lives overlapped in every way imaginable. The moment my eyes had locked on him at the 4th of July party while he played horseshoes, I knew I would love that man. And when we spoke, you’d have thought we were long lost friends. The playful banter, the instant inside jokes, the chemistry that hung thick in the mid summer air, we were a force to be reckoned with. Paddy on the other hand was completely, totally unexpected. I had never seen him before. Here I was, this random MWR intern on a US Navy base in the Middle East, surrounded by thousands of U.S. sailors, just trying to get my snatch percentages in when my eyes fell upon him. This bearded man wearing Virus Int’l leggings, Reebok shorts, a C&K hat, and a Battle of the Beasts competitor tee, front squatting 405 for sets of 5. I knew I would love that man. And when we spoke, I didn’t understand a word he said because I was lost in his thick, and incredibly tantalizing, Irish accent. Oh yeah. Jackpot baby. The only thing I remember was us talking about doing Crossfit together, followed by him asking for my number. And just like that, the girl who had been wild and free in her independence, in her pursuit of the Lord, was suddenly 6 feet under, gasping for air. Falling deeper and deeper in love. Days turned into weeks and weeks turned into months, and before I knew it, I was head over heels, in a way I had all but forgotten until now. We were the talk of the town – the poster children for the US Navy and Royal Navy. The power couple of Crossfit and Olympic Weightlifting. Spending our days lifting heavy, killing WOD’s, eating good food, seeing pretty places, drinking all the coffee, and losing ourselves in one another. I could see it all. All those hopes and dreams I once had of a future with John, I now saw reinvented with Paddy. All the partner competitions we would dominate in the U.K., all the adventures we would have along the Irish coast, all the love we had to build. And just as quickly as that love grew, so it got taken away. A few weeks before my return to the US, our relationship changed drastically. It became cold, distant, and impersonal. Our differences became vividly clear. And my heart began slowly breaking. And I had nothing to hold onto. My support system was thousands of miles away, my friends on base were all disappointed me because they had warned me of falling so hard for a guy just because of an accent and his status as an athlete, and I felt lost. He played me hot and cold for weeks. He loved me, he loved me not. Romantic weekend together, followed by ignoring me for days on end. Things got bad. Toxic. And then he gave me the best last week in Bahrain I could have asked for. Deep conversation was had, tears were shed, love was shared, and I truly, whole heartedly believed we would make it. I couldn’t wait until my trip to Ireland and the UK in July for us to be reunited. And then I discovered the truth. That he had been cheating on me all along. The real reason that we would never work. And I sank. I returned to the States with a gaping hole in my heart. I had allowed myself to fall in love for the first time since John, and my heart was completely broken – and I was left picking up the pieces once again. The difference this time? I had God. I knew no matter what, I had a God who loved me more than any person ever could and that was enough. I loved and I lost, but I learned so, so much.

Fast forward. Time heals all wounds. From May to July, I rebuilt my heart and my life. Stonger and better than ever. Ready to take on the Crossfit world and have the adventure of a lifetime on my solo trip to Europe. Just a girl, her backpack, and her weightlifting shoes. I knew noone, had no plan, no agenda, just travel dates and a very minimal savings. And I prayed. I prayed that I could love the way Jesus loves, and be a light. And I met the most incredible, hospitable people of my life. From Iceland, to Ireland, to Scotland, I fell in love with the people, the surroundings, and everything I experienced. I never have been subject to so much kindness, generosity, and hospitality from complete strangers! I trained at some amazing Crossfit gyms, I went on some unbelievable solo adventures, and I met the coolest people. I got to see places that look like I had jumped straight into a picture book. I was reunited with old friends, and made lifelong new ones. And after weeks of being strong in my singleness, after the funnest and most terrible athletic endeavor of my life, the Spartan Beast in Edinburgh, Scotland, a boy came along and blindsided me. A rescue mission to save me from the pouring rain and freezing cold, a team BBQ, fully equipped with your o’ so typical Saturday night Scottish knight fights and a couple pints of Guinness, a perfect weekend of adventuring and surprises that led to a story book first kiss atop Arthur’s Seat mountain with a professional photographer who just so happened to be there to capture the moment, and two more wonderful evenings together, once again, Jessy had fallen in love. For a girl who didn’t get thrown off balance often, within less than 6 months, here I was, trying to make a long distance relationship work with a boy with a silly accent. And once again, I thought it was real. It felt real. It felt genuine. It felt true. He had given me the sweetest, going away present, he sent me the most heartfelt messages, and within a few weeks, he had booked his trip to California to do the Spartan Race with me. We Facetimed almost daily and sent each other silly gifts. He remembered the little things. He restored my faith. He reignited my hope. I loved this man. I trusted and believed in him. My family and friends were eager to meet the silly Scottish boy that had won over my heart. I looked forward to our silly jokes and our daily conversations. I couldn’t wait for our road trip and for him to experience the awesome life us Californians get to live. But suddenly, I felt a very familiar distance settle in. Emotional distance is extremely more painful when there is 4000 miles of physical distance in the way as well. Days passed, weeks passed, phone calls became few and far between, text messages became impersonal and sporadic. When I would once wake up and go to bed being the first thing on his mind, suddenly I would see him viewing my Instagram story but ignoring my texts. Suddenly, minutes would turn to hours, which would turn to days without us speaking. And my heart was breaking. I tried everything to find middle ground. And all it did was cause deeper wounds and further tension. For weeks I prayed and hoped that something would give. That somehow that amazing man I had met and fallen in love with would come back to me… but he never did. When we did talk, it was pointed and hurtful. Defensive and cutting. My heart was breaking every day. And I was falling into a pit again. Like I did after John, like I did after Paddy, here I was. Lost, alone, and hurting. And so, so sad.

In this year alone, I have had my heart, completely, utterly, broken. I have cried more than I have in two years. I have binged, I have isolated myself, I have prayed, and I have been frustrated. I have felt more pain than I can remember. But you know what? I have felt more love than I ever have. With each relationship, I have loved deeper than before. With each experience, I have learned more than ever before. With each heartbreak, I have grown more dependent on God than ever before. God has taught me to love deeper, feel deeper, and hurt deeper than ever before. You better believe that I rather love deeply and feel everything, than whatever may be the alternative. I rather risk my heart and grow, than to be too afraid to ever know. Love may lead to pain, but pain leads to growth. Pastor Ray made a poignant point last weekend, he said we must never stop growing, never stop caring, never get distracted, and never get complacent. Without the pain, the heartache, guess what? We can easily stop growing! And when we do get our heartbroken, we can easily stop caring! And when we are in a relationship, we can EASILY become distracted, and we can easily become complacent! We need a catalyst of change in our lives to keep us on the right path! Sometimes that catalyst may come in the form of a major life transition, a new job or moving countries, but it may also, and usually comes in, the form of HEARTBREAK. In the #1 best selling hardcover book of all time, Rick Warren’s “Purpose Driven Life” there is an ENTIRE chapter dedicated to how we are “Transformed by Trouble.” He says, “God has purpose behind EVERY problem. He uses our problems to draws us closer to Him.” Listen to me friends, it is only in suffering, that we “know Jesus.” Warren goes on to say, “You will never know that God is all you need until God is all you’ve got.” It is in our pain, our suffering, our hurt, that we pray our most authentic prayers, that we allow ourselves to be vulnerable to others, that we can truly face the things that are holding us back. Romans 8:28 reminds us “We know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love Him.” Let that sink in for a moment. It does not say everything in life will be good. It doesn’t say that bad things will not happen. It doesn’t say that you and I won’t be hurt. God says, that ALL things in our lives will work together for God’s plan. He will bring good out of any situation. Every single situation that we face, that we overcome, allows us to learn and grow.

I have loved deeply three times in my life. And I have had my heart, absolutely, completely devastated every time. Each time, I have wondered why it couldn’t work out, what was wrong with me, why I wasn’t enough, but each time has been an amazing opportunity to learn. Throughout each relationship I learned so much about life and love. I learned what I want and don’t want in a significant other, I learned things about myself that I like or dislike. Each time I have been able to look back and ask myself “did I stop growing? Am I going to stop caring? Did I get distracted? Am I becoming complacent?” And then I can answer those and say “no.” I am grateful for my struggles and the heartaches because they have shaped me into who I am.  I have to remind myself that at the end of the day, I have Jesus and that is more than ENOUGH. I am enough. There may be pain in the night, but joy comes in the morning (Psalm 30:5). Our painful situations lead to self reflection and personal growth, dependence on God, gratitude in spite of pain, and opportunity for new and better things to come.

Would I grab coffee with any of those three men if they reached out to me? Absolutely. Do I still love them? I always will. Would I ever change my time with them? Not a chance. But would I go back? No. I wouldn’t. Even now, I still find myself wondering why I had to end things with John. Why I couldn’t have just been happy. Would we be happy now if we had gotten married? Would I have ended up doing all the amazing things I have had the opportunity to do these last 2.5 years? Would I have given my life to Jesus? I wonder why God allowed someone like Paddy into my life if all that would come out of it was hurt and destruction. But at the same time I still smile knowing I had the best training partner in my life and I would love to go back just to share Crossfit with him. And even now. I still have bad days. Days where all I want to do is text or call Johnny and ask what happened? What changed. And you know what? All of those thoughts are okay. It’s okay to wonder. It’s okay to be sad. It’s all okay because it is all going to be okay. Learn. Grow. Plant yourself in fertile soil and watch the beauty that emerges. Don’t stop loving. Love deeper, live more. Guess what, one day, you will meet someone. The right someone. And you two will love together and you will grow together. Just keep chasing God. ❤

To the one I once loved, thank you (Part II)

To the one I once loved:

It has been awhile, and I hope you are doing well. It has been a little over year since I wrote you last and just over two since we closed the book that was the story of our life together. Oh how time has flown. We are both done with school now, and living out the lives we always planned. You were always so driven and so focused on school, it honestly pushed me to succeed more than you ever knew. You inspired me every day to be a better student, a better athlete, a better person. So thank you.

It’s crazy, you know. I truly believed I could never love again the way I loved you. I never imagined meeting anyone who could live up to the standards you set, the expectations that you far surpassed. I never intended to take you for granted, and after losing you, it seemed like all I could see in others, is all that you had and all that they lacked. I hope she sees those things too. The girl you love now. I hope she makes your coffee with the Coffeemate flavors that you like and always has your breakfast waiting on the kitchen table when she wakes you in the morning. I hope she appreciates your freckles and the crow’s feet lines you get when you laugh. I hope she appreciates the corny jokes that you get from your Dad. I hope she sees the beauty of your heart and the amount of compassion you show even those who don’t deserve it. I hope she notices the way you look at her. And sees all the love in the world in those blue eyes. I hope she loves you the way I did. I hope she loves you better. That she loves you the way you deserve.

Thank you for everything you gave to me. For everything you did for me. For all the ways that you loved me. Thank you for setting the bar so high. In two years, I never met anyone that compared to you. Not even close. I never met anyone who gave me butterflies or made me think to myself this is someone I want to build a life with. To the one I once love, thank you. Thank you so much. Because of you, I think that I have finally discovered the love I have been looking for.

It’s not what you’re thinking. I am yet to meet the man who stops time when we kiss and brings cramp inducing laughter when we joke around. I am yet to have found the one whose arms I yearn to fall asleep enveloped beneath every night. But I have found love. Real, genuine, authentic love. I have fallen in love with beautiful places around the world that have taken my every breath away. I have swooned in the sights of glorious mountainsides and become giddy over one too many Guinness in dimly lit pubs. I have rode camels across deserts and eaten haggis for breakfast. I’ve ran Spartan Races in the 108 degree heat in Dubai and in the pouring rain and low to no visibility fog in the Scottish Highlands. I have fallen in love with accents of plenty and people from all walks of life. No, I don’t have someone who makes me laugh more than anyone I know. I don’t have someone who gives me butterflies and makes the little hairs on the back of my neck stand tall. Someone who opens doors, and pays for meals, and remembers the little things. Someone who puts in effort every single day and always makes me feel beautiful. But I do have loads of people who speak truth and have hearts that are genuine and pure. I have friends who push me to be better and to do more everyday. Who listen when I speak, and understand my hopes and dreams. Every single day I fall harder and deeper in love with this life and all of the people in it. I can’t imagine ever wanting anything else. Sometimes I feel like my heart needs to come with a warranty. Or maybe a return policy. That way if someone accidentally breaks it, or realizes once they get it home that it doesn’t fit quite right, they can bring it back. I have tried to fall in love a few times and it has just led to my heart becoming collateral damage. But sitting here now, it makes all the heartache, the pain, the change in directions, the change of plans, worth it. The glory of God, the love of my friends, and the beauty of this world, give me hope for the future, encouragement in the present, and peace for things of the past. It’s like every right choice, every missed turn, every step has been leading me closer and closer to this, and I didn’t even know it.

To the one I once loved, how amazing is it that something could go from beautiful to tragic to even more beautiful than before? We may have broke each other’s hearts but we prepared one another for something better. You taught me more than anyone ever had and gave me two beautiful years of life, love, friendship, and endless adventures. You gave me some of the best days of my life and for that, I am forever grateful. You were my first love, but I know one day I will meet a man who will be the last. To the one I once loved, thank you. Thank you for breaking my heart and introducing me to my faith, teaching me patience, and allowing me to grow into the woman I needed to become. Thank you for playing an integral role in my growth as a person. Thank you for loving me, teaching me, and pushing me. Thank you for teaching me to love life like never before.

If we meet again in the future, I will smile, and I will thank you.

Love,

Me

shades of green

I am frankly living the most stereotypical writer scenario at the moment. It is early in the morning and I am in sitting in a quiet corner of a coffee shop on a cobbled street in Dublin and rain is gently pattering against the glass panes before me. There is coffeehouse rock humming in the background and scattered groups of early birds are speaking in various European tongues as they patiently await their flat whites. I will not lie, I am absolutely knackered right now. I have been up all night, preparing for the 15 hour travel journey that lies ahead. However, I much rather stay awake now to read, write, people watch, and walk around and be able to sleep on the nine hour flight from Reykjavik to San Francisco, than sleep now and be awake for that entire trek.

This strategic decision has given me a plethora of time to really begin to process and take in the past four weeks. I still can’t believe it has been real. Every single day better than the last. Every place more beautiful than the previous. Every town an incredible community of people. I can honestly say every person I met on this trip has impacted me in a positive way. I was given an absolutely humbling and amazing opportunity to interact with the most hospitable, welcoming, loving, like minded individuals I have ever encountered. From Crossfits to AirbnBs to train conductors and bus drivers, to fellow travelers, to my personalized tour guides and everyone in between. I shared deep, authentic connections with such a wide range of people, it still baffles me. I can’t quite wrap my head around it yet.

If there is one, distinct feature of this trip, it is that there is nothing more beautiful than the color green. Everything is better in Ireland green. This downpour of rain in front of me is the cause of the unfathomably beautiful landscapes. From day one, I fell deeply and madly in love with the bright, lush, inviting shades of green that cover the entire country. It is not just the earth though, it is the people. Everyone just embodies that essence – the natural beauty and rawness, the warmth and sense of home. Green just continued to follow me too. Almost all of my shirts are green, the Crossfit gym I trained at in Dublin was called Crossfit Green, the views from all my bedroom windows was green. And it wasn’t just Ireland, it was Scotland as well. So green. So lush. So inviting. So much like home in my heart. Even the Spartan Race took place in the rolling and relentless green hills outside of Edinburgh.

And then there was a boy. And his favorite color was green too. And he embodied that green that I so dearly love. He completely blindsided me like the gusts of wind that blow along the curvature of the Cliffs of Moher. He took my breath away like every turn and new view along the Bray to Greystones walk. I had no intention, no expectation, and no idea that this was coming.

I won’t lie to you all. I met loads of lads over the course of this trip. Some of them quite handsome and kind. A few offered me a night out or a nice coffee or a cold Guinness and it was all flattering but I had no intent on getting involved with any guys. In fact this trip was for the exact opposite, to grow as a person and to feel true freedom in all of God’s glory and grace. Granted, I enjoyed making some wonderful new friendships and being in the company of some lovely humans, but falling in love was nowhere listed in my agenda. Heck, even kissing a boy was not going to be allowed on this trip. Well I reckon some people would joke that the colliding of our lives and hearts was nothing short of fate. I don’t know about all of that, but I certainly do know that an awful lot of things did not go according to plan to end up aligning he and I just right.

I was only supposed to be in Edinburgh for one night. For the Spartan Race. I was supposed to be in Clare then Manchester then Glasgow. I was supposed to be with a group of guys from Bahrain. Well, plans fell through in Clare. I ended up staying in Dublin a few extra nights. Then plans fell through in Manchester and Glasgow so I was going to stay in Edinburgh for three nights then spend my last few days in Dublin. I Yelped a nice Crossfit to train at whilst in the area and figured it would be a nice place to hang out at for a few days. As time passed and more plans changed, flight prices shot up making it impossible to return to Dublin before my last day.  I wound up having to stay in Edinburgh for five nights because booking the extra nights in an AirBnB was cheaper than booking an earlier return flight. I was devastated that I would not make it back to Dublin to spend more time with my dear friends there. In a matter of days, I went from having a very well thought out itinerary, to a blank slate, wandering aimlessly around Haymarket Street with no idea where I was going or what I was doing in this 18th century looking Scottish city. With my backpack and dufflebag in hand, and a few wrong turns on the way to my AirBnB, I wound up in front of Crossfit Murrayfield. Not the gym I had planned to go to, nor a place I even knew existed. With a smile, the owner trotted over, “You here for the noon class?” Little did I know, that place, and those people would become everything. I nodded my head, plopped down my bags, and hopped right into the class.

The people welcomed me like family and Will, the owner, went out of his way to accommodate me. My flat wound up being one street over and by some random chance, a gym I didn’t even know about, became the focal point of my stay. That same first day, I was sitting outside my flat wearing a Rogue T-shirt when a lad, who ended up being my neighbor, walked up with his dog. We instantly clicked and found out that we both competed at the same meet in Las Vegas two years ago. What on Earth were the odds? To go from knowing not a single soul, to having so many friendly faces welcoming me, it all felt like things were actually falling into place. As I wandered the picturesque streets in search of a local pub and a proper pour of Guinness, I started to think maybe there was some purpose to this twist of events and change of plans.

The next day, after a brilliant morning exploring the gorgeous city that looks like a snapshot of simpler times, I headed over to Crossfit for the 5:45 PM class and barbell club. I was so excited to do my favorite thing – lift heavy things and hang out with awesome people. We had a great training session – meaning I annihilated all the lads at the WOD, and I got to help some of the members with their Olympic lifts after class. The sense of community and camaraderie in the gym was amazing and I felt so at home.

I really got on well with a group of four boys, all completely unique in character. I couldn’t help but notice that this one goofball was as hyperactive as me…. And that doesn’t happen. Ever. He was swinging on the rings, muscle upping, and flipping about. But he was hilarious. Somehow, he and one of the other boys ended up getting into a bar battle across the rig and all they accomplished was properly destroying the palm of their hands. It was quite quality entertainment for the rest of us though. That same boy offered me a ride home. I didn’t think twice about it.

Saturday. The Edinburgh Spartan Beast. What I had came here for. Once again, plans did not go accordingly. The bus I was supposed to take wasn’t coming until 8:20 and I needed to be on site at 7:30. Found out Uber was helping with the event so after a restless and mostly sleepless night, at 6:30 am, I booked an Uber and off to the mountains I went. The weather was horrendous, it was freezing cold, and I was in no way mentally prepared for the 14 to 16 miles that loomed ahead. I tried to get a lay of the land and see what I was getting myself into. I met a few other Americans and chatted up with some other competitive racers. I watched on as couples hyped each other up and groups of friends prepared for battle. As much as I love my solo travel endeavors and doing these things on my own, something in the air stirred my heart and all I could think was how much I wished I had an adventure partner, crazy enough to travel across the world with me to do things like this. My start time drew near, I shook off the thoughts in my head, and stripped down to shorts and a USA top. Time ticked down, and it was time to go.

I could likely write an entire novel on the plethora of intense emotions and thoughts that ensued over the course of all those miles. From actual, paralyzing fear in the freezing cold water dunks, to the freedom of flying down mountain hills in the rain, to actually not being able to take another step up a hill with a bucket filled with rocks, to leg cramps that seized up after every few meters. There were two distinct times where mid mountain ascent I just wanted to quit. I was cold, hungry, in pain, tired, and just plain over it. I couldn’t understand how or why myself or anyone else would do this. Then I would catch a second wind and find myself sprinting with a huge smile plastered across my face, hurling myself over 8 foot walls, and pushing past rows of guys on log carries. So many times the fog was so thick I couldn’t see but a few feet in front of me, so many times I fell flat on my butt and thudded down a muddy, wet hill. Multiple times I stepped in the wrong place and ended up three feet in mucky, stinky mud pits. Through all the burpees, all the cramps, all the frustration, it was the absolute best thing I had ever done. There were so many times I got to encourage and push others to not quit and not give up, there were so many obstacles where I got to bring a smile or laugh to the poor, freezing volunteers. It was the most accomplishing and fulfilling feeling crossing that fire jump. I already cannot wait until next year.

The joy and sense of achievement I felt faded quickly. The longer we stood around after the race, the colder, rainier, and windier it got. At one point, I was shaking so much that a paramedic came up, wrapped me in a blanket, and showed me to the changing tent. Not even putting on fresh clothes could stop the shivering from the bone chilling cold. I found a tent to sit under with my fellow Spartans, while we all struggled to pull out our phones and get an Uber. As if finding out the post race beer was Coors Light not Guinness, wasn’t disappointing enough, Uber wasn’t responding. Here, in this torrential downpour thirty miles outside of town, myself and tens of other freezing racers, had no way to get out of the cold. Right when I was at the point of asking some random lady for a ride back to Edinburgh, my phone lit up. It was a message from the silly, hyperactive boy who I had gotten to do olynastics with me the night before. Through the misery, his message brought a warm smile to my face.

Little did I know, his sweet check in to see how the race went, would turn into a rescue mission. This boy, who didn’t know me from Adam, drove 40 minutes outside of town in the downpour to pick me up with a towel, a heating pad, and a four pack of Guinness. I thought the race would be the highlight of my trip, but it was actually what followed.

As we drove through the winding narrow country roads, I smiled in awe of the rolling green hills I had just ran across. All of the sheep and cows and goats, widened my grin from ear to ear. I couldn’t begin to put into words my gratitude for this boy’s kind gestures.  What was looking like a disastrous end to my afternoon, turned into an absolute blast. We went to the gym for a BBQ and to watch Scottish knights battle to the death. Yes – actual knights fighting with armor and swords. Hands down the most bizarre sporting event I have ever witnessed but an awesome night cap after a hectic day. With a Guinness in hand, and my mini me Jess to my side, I was so thankful. How could so many failed plans turn into something so perfect? I never imagined myself in this room with this group of people, laughing hysterically, drinking Guinness and watching giant men hit each other over the head, but here I was. It was sometime around that point that something changed. I looked up, to see that same silly boy, smiling at me from across the room. And really, since that moment, not a thing has been the same.

Even through the grey skies, my whole world lit up. All the beauty, all the lush and lovely shades of green, filled my eyes and heart that night. The only thing I wanted, was to know the boy. When he came and sat next to me, I don’t think a smile even once left my face. We laughed and teased and got lost in translation repeatedly. Little Jess drew us and we got giddy on Guinness. So many times when our eyes met, I just wanted to hug him, and hold his hand. It was a feeling I hadn’t felt in so long. And it felt so right. Four years ago was the last time a boy did this to me. And I liked it.

I wasn’t supposed to like any cute, sweet boys on this trip. But thanks to Uber, there was no stopping this. Peanut butter pancakes, petting goats and seeing sassy sheep, walking along the shoreline in the pouring rain, wasting time in a museum, hiking up a mountain (that was really just a tall hill), listening to fire alarms while waiting for food, drinking loads of coffee, and laughing over pints, all led to the most perfect day in a city I wasn’t even supposed to be in. I can’t even put into words the amount of sheer joy that consumed me as the hours passed by. Hugging turned into holding hands, and holding hands turned into what will always be my favorite first kiss. Somehow in a matter of 24 hours, this silly, Scottish boy melted my heart.

I am so grateful for all of the unforeseen events, all the failed plans, all the chance encounters that led me to right here. As my thirty days abroad come to an end, my heart is fuller than it has ever been. I have traveled before. I have met amazing people before. I have seen breath taking sights before. And I have fallen in love before. But nothing like this. I have never fallen so deeply in love with God and life every single day. I have never been inundated with so much love, joy, and sincerity every single day. The people I met and built authentic relationships with, the places I saw that never ceased to leave me in complete awe, and this twist of fate that led me to this boy, all accumulate to make this the hands-down best experience of my life.

I can honestly say many of the friends I made here, will be friends for life. The Crossfit gyms I trained at, will be frequented every time I visit. The rolling green hills and endless countrysides will forever guide me home. And as crazy as it sounds and it may be, that silly, Scottish boy still has my heart. And hopefully he keeps it safely. I have learned more in my last 7 months through traveling, particularly in this last month alone, than I have in 22 years of life. I have seen God in new and unthinkable ways, I have gained so much insight and perspective that has broken down stigmas and misconceptions, I have been challenged and pushed physically and mentally, and most of all, I have learned that there is so much more to life than the preplanned agendas we create for ourselves. My goal for this year was to chase God and chase life with reckless abandon. To be fearless in the pursuit of all that life has to offer. My sole purpose is to bring joy and love into the lives of those around me and all that I can reach. My adventure to Europe may be coming to an end, but the journey of an impactful and full life is just beginning. There is so much love to be shared, so many races to run, meets to compete in, places to see, and people to touch. My hands are open for God to take or place in them whatever He pleases. All I seek to do is be a vessel for His endless love and grace. I am excited to take on the new challenges back home with working, training, getting my business and ministry going, and building authentic relationships there, as well as preparing for my next stage in life. I pray that God can use me to impact and influence others through fitness and a positive life, as well as allow me to help restore a sense of love and adoration through faith in places that have lost sight it. I hope I can bring some California sunshine and some light to those going through the depths and darkness of even the gloomiest of days. Right now my heart is full and my smile is wide. I am in love with shades of green and I am in love with life. Thank you God for this incredible part of the journey, and thank you for so many twists of fate. Ireland, you have my soul; Scotland, you have my heart.

sunshine on a sunday

Currently sitting atop a rooftop deck under the warming sunshine of a late Sunday afternoon in Dublin with Ed Sheeran humming in the background.

Gratitude? Peace? Awe? Complete contentment? My mind simply cannot seem to fathom words that adequately describe the way my heart and soul feel at this moment. This morning I took the train into city centre and grabbed some coffee and French macarons on Grafton street where I got the pleasure of enjoying a live acoustic cover of “Say You Won’t Let Go.” I picked up some lovely postcards to mail back home and some food from Dunnes to get through the week.

The weather was absolutely perfect for a nice run through Leopardstown. I stopped at the neighborhood park for a quick workout and couldn’t help but smile as young children filled the playground, mothers pushed strollers down the footpath, dogs fetched old tennis balls, and fathers tossed a rugby ball around with their sons. It was so refreshing and encouraging to see the simple things in life being enjoyed. 

Right now there is a row of neighboring families barbequing burgers in the front yard and the smell is intoxicating. I am sitting here looking at the rolling green hillside of the outskirts of Dublin, looking back at the past week in this gorgeous country and it all feels surreal. If you asked me what the best part of the trip has been, I truly could not tell you. Every single day has been incredible and left me speechless. Yesterday I went hiking in Glendalough and there were so many times throughout the trek that I just had to stop and stare at the unreal scenery displayed before me. Endless rows of trees, green mountains, purple and yellow flowers, hillsides full of goats and deer and sheep and cows – it was so beautiful to see God’s handiwork laid before me in such a raw way. Not to mention I literally had ALL of my favorite things in one day – Crossfitting with good people, hiking in a beautiful place, petting dogs and seeing goats, eating delicious food, drinking ice cold Guinness, and laughing hysterically in the company of a handsome Irishman. 

The day before I trained all morning and hung out with the guys before heading down to the beach front of Bray and accidentally climbing a mountain that overlooked all of Dublin and Wicklow counties. It started pouring down rain and all I could do was laugh because how Ireland is that! It went from beach weather to a downpour in a matter of minutes. I ran back down the hill and took the cliff walk to Greystones. I don’t think my breath has ever been taken away so many times. The glistening sea to my left, the mountainside to my right, and a changing path of fields, hills, trees, and flowers guided me along for just over an hour. It was during that walk that I really, really began to understand the beauty and significance of solo travel. I have experienced so much personal growth, such freedom, such maturity and open mindedness, learned so much about people and places, made so many incredible relationships, and have completely, unexplainably fallen in love with life and its Creator. I have learned more about how to love unconditionally, how to be vulnerable and trust others, how to be completely dependent on God, and how to see the world with news eyes in the past 6 months through travelling than I ever have from sitting in a church pew. I have felt God’s presence in coffee shops in the Middle East and on mountain tops in Ireland, I have fallen head over heels in love with people, places, and moments shared.

In a matter of one week, the Airbnb hosts I am staying with have become like family, the Crossfit gym I train at has become a second home, guys I’ve just met have become lifelong friends, and complete strangers have become loved ones. I have gotten to see so much of this beautiful country that I never would have had the chance to thanks to these newfound relationships. I can’t even think of a way to thank everyone here enough for their downright hospitality, kindness, and abundant love. Blessed and grateful do not even come close but surely I am that. As I sit down to eat a home cooked meal of banana deep dish pizza with my gracious and welcoming hosts, all I can do is say thank you to them, to everyone I have met here, to Ireland, and to God. What a journey the past week, the past month, and the past year have been. Thank you God for leading me here and filling my life with so much love. Ireland, thank you for leading me to where I belong.

The Best Day Ever

Sitting here, listening to the lull of chanting in a quaint living room overlooking vast expanses of farmland and the valley, it is quite impossible to be overcome with anything but a tremendous sense of gratitude and contentment. I have spent the past 6 weeks in and out of peaks and valleys with my fitness, highs and lows of emotion, and the many trials and tribulations that come with a season of change and uncertainty. As someone who has always had a plan, always been completely driven and set on an exact path, spending 6 weeks without a routine, a career, without school, without a set training regimen and diet, and without obligation really – I really had to dig deep, lean on God, and start to open up to those around me.

These past couple days have been some of the best of my life. I’ve probably said that a lot this year though. I’ve said that such and such event was the best experience of my life, or that this and that were the best times of my life, and in each case, it has been the truth. What I have come to realize, and the astounding truth that occurred to me at the top of the mountain (literally, at the top of Maggie’s Peak in Tahoe), is that every single day of our lives can quite actually be the best day of our life. And it should be. Obviously not every day will be spent sitting in complete peace and tranquility on the shores of South Lake Tahoe as water glistens in the summer sun and snow blankets the caps of mountains across the way; not everyday will be filled with world class travel endeavors, handsome Crossfit men falling at your feet, hitting PR’s on the national stage under bright lights, endless laughter and memories made with good friends and family; no, not everyday will feel like the best day of your life, but that doesn’t mean that its not. Every morning that you wake up, that you have people who love you, that you have something that you are passionate about, is a blessing. We’re going to have bad days. We’re going to lose competitions, we’re going to have our hearts broken, we’re going to not get the job, we’re going to be broke, we’re going towalk through the deserts sometimes. But boy am I glad for those sand filled shoes out there. I am so grateful for the difficult times because they make everything else that much sweeter.

A little over a month ago I was pretty caught up in self pity. Things didn’t work out with the man that I loved and looked forward to building a future with, I left behind the life and relationships I had built 8000 miles from home, I couldn’t run or lift because of my knee, I was binge eating and drinking almost nightly, and I honestly felt like everything I had gained in Bahrain was taken away from me. I came back to Sacramento without a house, without a car, without a job. But here’s the thing, even without all the things I wanted, I had everything that I needed. I had a supportive, loving family. I had a father who housed me, prepped my healthy meals, and gave me a car, an uncle who paid for me to have a gym to go to, brothers who did whatever they could to get me out of the house and lift my spirits, a mom who wiped away the tears and reminded me of who I am, best friends that checked in on me everyday and brought joy back into my heart, and most importantly, I had a God that was relentlessly, passionately pursuing my heart. As soon as I stopped looking at all I had lost and all that I lacked and recognized the value of all that I had, everything changed. My entire worldview refocused on gratitude. I’ll admit I am so blessed. I have far more than most and I can never do enough to thank my parents, my family, my friends, and God for that. I have gotten to do some incredibly humbling and down right bad a** things in my short life and for that I am so grateful. Heck, here and now I am sitting in a gorgeous home on the hills of Moorpark after spending an amazing day doing what I love with people that I love. I spent the past weekend in gorgeous Lake Tahoe with my brother, his girlfriend, her wonderful family, and some awesome Aussies. I got to spend my last days training back home at a phenomenal gym with some great people and a freaking rockstar of a weightlifting coach. I’ve got three best friends that seriously complete my life. And upon arriving here, I’ve already been welcomed with open arms at a box with some hardcore (and hardbodied) guys, spent the day relaxing at the beach, and enjoyed an absolutely lovely evening with relatives I hardly get to see. Not to mention I’m heading to freaking Ireland in 8 days. Talk about freaking blessed. How could every day not be a great day with life looking like that?!

I guess my point in all of this is that we always have the choice. We have the choice to either see the glass half empty or half full, or honestly as completely empty or completely full. I don’t know about y’all but a completely full life sounds pretty good to me. That doesn’t mean having a spouse or a house or a perfect body or perfect job, it doesn’t mean traveling the world and being debt free. It literally just means that everyday, wherever you’re at in life at that point, choosing joy. Choosing gratitude. It means valuing what you do have rather than looking for what you lack. It means taking life as it comes and just enjoying the ride. Appreciate what you have, find peace, take chances, drink that beer, eat that burger, buy that ticket, fall in love, jump out of a plane. Whatever you do, LIVE. Be fully alive. Make every day the best day of your life