Old Thing Back

In June 2008, I took my first trip to New York City. I remember being overwhelmed by all of the architecture, the sights, the sounds: three days just wasn’t enough. Here are some of the original photos I had developed from the trip (and brought them to New York and have them 9 years later… can you say “sentimental much?!?”)

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I was on a double decker bus when I snapped a photo of Times Square. The colors, the lights, the advertisements: everything just popped out at me all at once. I was taken aback by the detail of all that was happening in the photo. It was like a real life page out of an ISpy book.

A few months later, well into my junior year in high school, I took a beginning art class. One of the pieces we had to complete at the end of the year aimed to encompass many of the techniques we had learned throughout the year (and experiment with our favorite medium). The subject was landscape. Although I do love a good Cezanne pasture scene, after visiting New York the previous summer, something about cities had really tugged my heartstrings. I knew I had to paint that image of Times Square as a cityscape, and I wanted to paint it in watercolor.

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Although it’s been a few years since I have drawn and painted regularly, I was recently inspired to start working with watercolors again. For so long, I felt that I had to be as detailed, or as good I once was. In reality, I was just “out of practice.” To start something new, to pick up something from where I left off, I didn’t need experience, I needed a stepping stone.

I can’t let the fear of not being good enough prevent me from starting in the first place. Because if I fail, there’s grace for that. 

And just like that, I got my “old thing back.” That painting I mentioned earlier now hangs in my apartment and only recently have I admired it as a reminder that you (and the world) don’t have to qualify yourself to creative and achieve wonderful things. Only God can do that.

Here’s a little Spotify playlist I made to get you in the mood to start creating new things.

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Passion Over Distraction

Essentialism

I recently finished reading the book Essentialism and the core of the book could be summarized in the following sentence:

“Less but better” over “everything to everyone.”

So often I get caught up in saying “yes” to responsibilities without thinking because my emotions get involved. In reality, the emotions felt when you say “no” are merely temporary; and what is leftover is respect.

My current struggle is that I am haphazardly juggling too many things at once. (Living in New York City gives me a constant arbitrary pressure and guilt for the need to “keep up” and “be something” to everyone I know – or at least appear that way). I try to justify the so-called benefits to these opportunities. I say things like “but it’s more practice and experience,” “but this is a personal contact and friend, so I feel obligated to…”, or “it will look great on my resume.”

Before I know it, I have taken on more than I can handle and have left no time for me to think about my own goals, what I want, let alone spend time perusing those things with all my heart. Greg McKeown put a little chart inside the book that can be extremely helpful when it comes to making decisions:

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The top row is blank to fill out with an opportunity that could be presented to you. (This could be either personal or work-related). The second row is blank to fill out three minimum requirements and non-negotiables you have already established in order to take on the new opportunity. The second row is for three “would likes:” things that are secondary-tier requirements. Greg suggests that in order to take the opportunity, it must meet all three “must have” requirements and two of the three “would like” requirements. If the opportunity presented doesn’t meet the criteria, then it is not in line with the clear vision you have for your life.

Essentialism by Greg McKeown

If I feel like I have lost my vision for my life, I meditate on this Bible verse: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (Phillipians 4:8). It gives me joy, challenges me and sparks creativity that is rooted in the heart of truth and the heart of purpose. It provides me with a clear vision.

I don’t often read a (secular) book that alters the way I think, but Essentialism is one I will definitely be revisiting. Over the next few months, I will be sharing some of the lessons I’ve learned and how it has challenged my life.

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Starting this week I am asking myself: Am I letting the distractions of this world get in the way of my clear vision and passions I have in my life? What can I say “no” to today, to help alleviate pressure? When presented with a new opportunity, does it align with my requirements? “If it isn’t a clear ‘yes,’ then it’s a clear ‘no’.”

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On Finding Home

My Drawing Spot

There is a reason that people say there is no place like home. While often this does refer to a physical place for some, I do think that home has so many different connotations. I think that home is more of a feeling than a place.

For some, home can be a place of hurting, a place of pain: a physical place that is not desired to return to. Others may not have felt the feeling of home. Perhaps home connotes a restless feeling from moving from place to place and having to uproot a livelihood, a workplace, a lifestyle. I believe that true home is found in security, rest, and community. While a home can be a physical place, it is so much more than that: it really can feel like a safe haven. I know that when I walk through the doors of my home, I am fully relaxed, restored, and protected.

When I was a high-schooler, my mom introduced me to the movie “The Saint.” I will always remember this one scene taking place in Russian during the Cold War. One of the protagonists has to make a run for her life to the American Embassy so the Russian Mob would not kidnap her. She is able to break away and sprint towards the embassy (in dramatic fashion of course becuase… #movies). As she gets closer to the gates she starts screaming “I’m an American, open the gates!” (Watch the scene here).

Although this is obviously an extreme example, I feel that whenever I rush home and make it, I’m able to guard my heart and mind from the any battles or struggles that I’ve been fighting through the day. Once I am home, when I’m truly home, I can pray, read, journal – whatever it takes – for me to shake off the day. I know that God wants us to live in peace and He truly desires that for each and every one of us. Isaiah 32 says “My people will live in a peaceful habitation, And in secure dwellings and in undisturbed resting places.”

Home is a place where I can fight my daily battles, and fight for the things that matter most. It is a place of creation, inspiration, motivation, and determination. Home resets, recharges, and rejuvenates me. It is more than just a physical place, it is a state of mind.
Matthew 11 invites us to turn to Jesus when we need to rest “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” I need to fix my eyes and set my mind on the one who can give me rest, that true feeling of home.

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Once I found my home, my sanctuary, I have to do everything to maintain it. I can’t just let my guard down. Proverbs 24 says “By wisdom a house is built, And by understanding it is established; And by knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches.” It is through the wisdom of the choices that I make every day that my house (both my physical space and that feeling of home) is built. It is a continued understanding of The Word that my home becomes a place that is established and deeply rooted in truth. And my continual thirst for knowledge – and keeping my faith fresh – that my “home” is filled with true and precious riches. It is then that I will feel safe, secure, and grounded. It is then that I will find my true home.

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About a month ago, I thought I was going to have to move out of my apartment I have lived in for the last 5 years of living in New York. It broke my heart because I have such an emotional attachment to my physical home; and it is my first place I called home in New York. It is where I hosted a Thanksgiving meal with close friends, where I received a phone call that I got a job after searching for months. Through a miracle (and a ton of posting on Craigslist) I got a new roommate just in the nick of time when I needed to resign the lease (praise the Lord, amirite??!). To say it has been a blessing would be an understatement, because I really do treasure the aspect of home. It may seem silly to say this, considering this is a rental apartment, I have invested so much time making my place somewhere I feel comfortable and safe, where I can shut the door and lift my eyes to Heaven, where my help comes from (Psalm 121:2).

So I ask myself the following:
What can I do to make sure when I come home, I am delighted to be there?
What can I do now to make my home feel safe for not just me but for others?
How can I bring that feeling of home, of peace, of rest out of my physical home and into the spheres of influence where I live my daily life?

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Livin’ the Mundane Life

More often than not, life seems very monotonous, very routine. I often find myself trying to break out of routine becuase I get bored with doing the same thing over and over. Although I am a planner by nature, I thrive on the unexpected and variety.

I have looked at monotony the way that I feel most people see it: for its negative, repetitive connotation. I’d say to myself “I’ll be stuck doing this same thing for the rest of my life,” or ask the question “what good can come out of just repeating yourself and not learning anything new?”

What I seemed to have been missing over the years is that monotony can be seen as a discipline. By doing the same task over and over (and doing it well), I have the opportunity to build a reputation for consistency, for accuracy, for reliability. Practicing the same task over and over again can be healthy, becuase it builds habits so that you have room to grow in other areas of your life. When you become disciplined through repetition, you then gain that skill and then can graduate to bigger and better things (while retaining all that you have learned). If you move on before you mastered a skill, it can feel like you’ve lost your sense of direction.

Now, I have some new questions for myself. I’ll challenge myself by asking “is there anything I’m doing now that seems mundane or tedious, but is actually building my character and/or my skill set?”

Here are some close images from one of my latest drawings. While drawing each individual square seems tedious to me at first, without each window of the building, it would be incomplete.

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Life-Giving Life

When your mind, body, and soul are operating on the same page, meaning, there is a common goal, beautiful things happen. If you put your mind into a cause or a project where your heart is and your actions follow, passion ignites and things actually start to get done.
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What’s more, when you are operating within God’s will, you are on an accelerated path for the Kingdom, and you become an unstoppable force to be reckoned with. When your goals align with kingdom destiny, your goals become on a fast-track.

Philippians 1:21 says “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” I paused for a moment to meditate on the “to live is Christ” portion. “Is” in this context is a direct metaphor for life. Nothing you do can separate you from God, so why would you try? I am reminded of that Steven Curtis Chapman song, Jesus is Life. “The air I’m breathing, Why my heart is beating, Everything I’m needing, Jesus is life, Jesus is life.”

Jesus IS life. All encompassing, ever-dependent life. The goal is to operate as one mind, one body, and one spirit: totally and completely in sync with your God-planned purpose. “Be no longer conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test God’s will. His good, pleasing and perfect will.” -Romans 12:2. Just rest in those thoughts, knowing that God WANTS you to know His perfect and pleasing will for your life and He WANTS to be involved. 

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Quality Alone Time

On the surface, I come across as a highly amiable and social person. Which is mostly true: few things delight me more than spending time catching up with a friend over a latte (or breakfast – I love a good avo toast). But so much of my life has been going going going that sometimes I become anxious or lose focus or I find myself saying things like “It’s almost July and I still can’t believe I haven’t finished (fill in the blank).”
I’ve slowly learned the importance of “me” time. This could be spent reading, praying, writing, walking around the city, painting, or even sleeping. All I know is that my body and my mind need rest and space.
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I’ve recently made a routine of “me” time by making matcha lattes and doing my morning reading. I look forward to it every day: it’s quality time spent reading and praying. It’s my time I don’t have to answer emails, texts, or calls. It is an important way to start my day to reset my heart, mind and spirit so I can go into the day filled with encouragement and joy,
Here is my recipe for matcha lattes (adapted from @LeeFromAmerica).
2 Teaspoons of Jade Leaf Matcha
1 scoop of Vital Proteins (optional)
A pinch of Brain Dust (yes, you read that correctly) (optional)
A dash (or four) of cinnamon
1 cup of heated almond or coconut milk
1 TBSP of coconut butter (I like Artisana Naturals)
Set aside the matcha in a small mixing bowl. Heat up the almond milk in a saucepan over the stove on low to medium heat. Put some boiling water in a tea kettle. Once boiled, let the water cool down for a minute, then pour the water into the small mixing bowl with the matcha. Whisk the matcha with a bamboo whisk (like this one) to get out any matcha clumps. Let sit for a minute. Add all ingredients to a blender (including the heated milk and matcha mix). Blend for 1-2 minutes so you get MAXIMUM foam from the coconut butter and milk froth. Pour into a mug, sip and enjoy your “you time.”
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The Power of Perks

Staying focused is hard. Really hard. Short term, long term, I struggle with both sometimes. Coming up with a reward system for yourself or little perks when you reach certain milestones is key to keep going, for me.
When I was little, maybe 8, I had to write this research paper on an invention of my choice. I could have picked anything, and mine was the ballpoint pen. Something simple, something you use almost everyday. Anyway, all that is to say that every time I wrote 100 words of the paper, I was rewarded with 5 M&M candies. It was an incentive for me to keep going, even when I didn’t feel like it. Because, let’s face it, I wanted M&M’s.
Right now, I’m on a “mega savings plan.” “Ummm, what is that?” you might ask. Well, it’s a plan I made up myself to save as much money as possible as quickly as possible. It’s hard to give up old spending habits (ie cabs everywhere and going out to eat), so I made myself a savings incentive list, so that I have a motivation to keep going (besides the obvious: having a substantial savings). When I save “$X,” I can take a weekend solo trip. When I save “$X” more, I can take a language class I’ve been wanting to take. So on and so forth.
Yes, self-discipline is good. It is necessary. But unfortunately it is not all that is part of the equation. One of my best friends Louisa has recently lent me a called Accent of Leadership by Steve Kelly (I haven’t finished reading it yet becuase I’m letting all of the concepts sink in- but I couldn’t wait to share with you what I have learned so far). He made a good point in saying the following:

“Some people think if they were more self-disciplined, problems would go away. Yet until we develop a vision that is bigger than simply being more disciplined, the change we seek will never become permanent.”

Completely cutting yourself off from everything won’t improve your habits or quality of life, and you may just find yourself right back where you started. As you go into this week, ask yourself: what are your perks to keep you going? What is your greater vision, the bigger picture you have for your life? How do you or will you create a reasonable reward system for yourself to get you closer to your goal? And how will the decisions you make every day get you closer to your end-goal? (Edit 6.25.2017)
If I find myself habitually drawing on the go, I have so much joy by integrating that into my daily life. It’s almost like it has become a part of what I do daily: and I love it! Above are some drawings I recently made on the go, in an Lyft when I was in California this past weekend. Enjoy!
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The Importance of Rest

This weekend, I had the opportunity to take a quick trip out to the beach with some girl friends. For me, the goal whenever I go somewhere for the weekend, especially the beach, is to “force” myself into a slower-paced and relaxing environment. Whether it be diving deeper into reading and prayer time (or – let’s be real – a full 8 hours of sleep).

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If I’m not careful, I end up filling my schedule with back to back activity. Don’t get me wrong – I love a good full filled social day. In fact, that is what is most tempting for me: to fill my schedule with coffee-dates or rooftop cocktails with friends. When my agenda steers from the core value or rest, I am not able to reconnect with God and feel more restless when I return to the city. Matthew 11:28-29 says “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Consciously setting aside quiet time allows me to rejuvenate and revitalize my life.

Now, I can’t always take a weekend trip, but I can make sure I set aside a day or two for rest and re-connection in my daily life. I’d rather give 100% effort for 5 days, than 70% for 7 days. And in case you were wondering about the math, it’s 500% v. 490% ;).

I’ve included some snapshots of Ocean Grove and Asbury Park New Jersey, where the weekend trip was. Last Saturday morning, we stumble upon a mod 60’s – 70’s era type coffeeshop called High Voltage. The decor is very East Coast beaches meet the Pacific Northwest. I recommend the iced latte. Enjoy!

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1 + 1 = 7

Things aren’t adding up.
So many times in my life I have got a great momentum going and then I’ll stop for a bit and ask myself how I got there or where I am going next. I’ve reached a dead end and suddenly everything I have been doing doesn’t seem to add up. I have reached a point where my sense of direction is a bit cloudy. Anyone else with me on this?
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Well, first I am reminded of the story when Jesus first meets His disciples and asks them to drop everything they are doing to become “fishers of men.” Without questions, the disciples stop everything to follow Jesus, to complete their mission. But fish for men? That doesn’t make “logical” sense. To me. Let’s talk about the time when Jesus told the disciples to fish on the other side of the boat even after they had not caught anything all day (as if that would have changed something – and it DID! They caught so many fish that their nets began to break). Or, my personal favorite, the time He asked the Israelites to walk around the city of Jericho 7 days in a row (including 7 times on the 7th day) until the city walls fell down. On the surface, on paper, it just doesn’t make total and complete sense.
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If what you are doing today doesn’t make sense, it’s okay. If your vision is cloudy, ask for God’s wisdom. His eyes and His guiding hand for will provide discernment over your life. You will often experience months, even years of life where things don’t add up. It is only when your kingdom assignment is complete that you will be able to understand more the cloudy seasons of life.
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You have to have blind trust: even when the outcome isn’t quite clear or you really don’t see what is happening, you trust anyway. Becuase on the other side of blind trust, is the promise.
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