Follow the Trailblazer

Maker:S,Date:2017-9-26,Ver:6,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar02,E-ve

This past Saturday, I took a little day trip to go hiking in Cold Spring, NY to spend some time in solitude and nature. As I set out for the day, I decided I wasn’t going to listen to any music. 1- partly because I wanted to get “the most” our of my experience and 2- I didn’t want my phone to die in case I needed it for a emergency. Plus, nature and Spotify don’t really “go” together.

When I arrived at the trail head of Blue Hill, I read the directions for the hike several times and even took a picture of the map to bring with me. As I started up the trail, I saw this couple not too far ahead of me that had on their full hiking gear (special boots, backpacks, and sunglasses – I didn’t even know there were special hiking sunglasses!). I felt that because they had the right gear they clearly knew what they were doing. (As a newbie hiker, this is a totally logical explanation. Meanwhile, I’m still in my pearls and I’ve got my matcha to-go in a thermos tucked away in my backpack.)

So we set off on the hike (they didn’t know it was “we,” but I did!) At the beginning, the trail was clearly marked and there was only one way to go. Then, we reached a clearing after the first mile uphill and took a break for some water. I decide to continue on; and started walking the first direction I saw. I had an internal voice saying to me “wait a minute, there were a few forks in the road, how can I be sure this is the right way?” I hadn’t been paying attention, but there was a sign that had pointed me in the opposite direction of which I was walking. I quickly turned around and started proceeding on the right path; and, once again, following my newfound friends.

Maker:S,Date:2017-9-26,Ver:6,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar02,E-ve

I followed them all the way to the top until we hit a sign pointing in two different directions that said “short loop” or “long loop.” I wan’t sure on how much time I had before I had to catch the train, so I ended up taking the shorter of the two loops (which still had a great view). I rested on the mountain, taking in the view and enjoyed just being still.

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After the wind started picking up, I decided to head back down the trail. There were many hikers who were on the trail before me; and because it had just rained the previous night, so many of the paths were covered in mud.

I was about halfway down when I saw some hikers coming up a steep rocky path, so I started making my way down there, assuming they had come from the bottom of the trail. This path was awfully muddy and I found myself slipping a little more than usual, moving really slow, and gripping onto tress to get my balance back. After the two hikers past me, one of them shouted “the trail is actually back up this way, we just took a shortcut and went straight up the rock.” Relieved that I didn’t have to continue the steep descent I replied “thank you,” and proceeded back on the trail.

The path on the way down was marked with white tokens nailed to the trees; and I had to keep looking ahead to see which was the right direction to turn. As soon as I had passed a marked tree I immediately looked for the next token. If I kept looking at the ground for footprints where people had gone before, it was near impossible to tell which way was the right way, for so many hikers and made their own paths and gone through shortcuts.

Maker:S,Date:2017-9-26,Ver:6,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar02,E-ve

That is how our relationship with God is on our path of life. As an expert guide and trailblazer, God has already gone before us, laid out a path for us to take, and marked where we need to go with trail-markers in order to keep hiking through life. It is my job to keep my eyes open and head up in order to keep checking in to see where the marked path is. Like life, hiking is not exactly based on intuition alone and following other people’s “shortcuts” doesn’t always lead where I need to be going: it could in fact lead to the edge of a cliff. As long as we’re on this path of life, be sure to check in with the One who marked the path for us in the first place.

He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.

Psalm 23: 2-3

Looking to God has a guide, I let Him lead me on a path of righteousness & peace. I am called to be vigilant, aware, and constantly in contact with God. When I forge my own path because I think I’ve found a shortcut, the trail can be a lot more difficult than I had anticipated. When I follow other’s footsteps, I can find myself getting lost, or even putting myself into danger. Only God knows the perfect path for me because He has made it just for me and He has gone before me.

 

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I Get By With a Little Help From My Friends

I have lived in New York for over 7 years now and I cant even believe just how fast the time has gone. When my parent first dropped my off at my dorm room in college, we kind of gave a quick hug goodbye and then I didn’t even think about seeing them again until I was home for Christmas. I never got homesick at all when I was in college, didn’t feel lonely or left out (like the way I felt in high school, but we will save that story for another day).

I have to give all the credit (well, to God of course), but also to the community He had placed me in from such an early stage in my life in New York. Now don’t get me wrong – I love my Mom and Dad, but they can’t always physically be in New York City and sometimes I just need some person to person contact / realness in my life. So I had quickly made friends with some of the people who lived on my floor freshman year of college and have been friends with them ever since. I even met my best friend Isabella within my first couple years of living in NYC. And, if we didn’t live on the opposite sides of the United States, we would be inseparable. Even now, after a couple of year of feeling lost and a couple of years of missing God-centric friendships and relationships in my life, I came to Liberty Church (by way of a referral of a friend of a friend). I’ve met some of the most incredible people of my live there (including my best friend Louisa) and I know it as not by accident.

Throughout the years, these friends have been speaking LIFE into me. By encouraging and challenging me, I have stepped out of my comfort zone and into a place where I am living life to the fullest. Just recently, I took a solo trip to Paris, which wouldn’t have even been dreamt up if I didn’t have my two best friends lead as example.

Long story, not so short, if it wasn’t for these incredible, encouraging and nurturing people in my life, I would not be doing what I am today. This year, I want to remind myself of the power of a word of encouragement towards someone and how much that can have an impact on someone’s life. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 reminds us: “Therefore, encourage one another and built each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” I want to challenge myself (and everyone who wants to take part) to do a year long writing challenge, inspired my my letter writing friend Rhea Abramson of Devoted Diarist and Mail More Love. The challenge will be to write 1 letter of encouragement a week. Now, if you’re anything like me, 1 letter a week doesn’t seem like a lot, but the challenging part will come when I have to be consistent about sending out 1 each week. To help out, I’ve made a little bit of a guide / how to / organizational tip (but seriously… the organizational tool is mainly for myself).

Rules: send out 1 letter of encouragement (snail mail) to someone every week. This doesn’t have to be a close friend. It could be anyone: your next door neighbor who just had a baby, an old classmate you used to study with, one of your coworkers who is seems to be in a bad mood all the time, the guy (or gal… this is the 21st century after all!) who mows your lawn every week, your super who legit refuses to fix your radiator (totally hypothetical situation… not at all true), or even that relative you haven’t spoken to or seen in 5 years. Remember, it doesn’t need to be fancy, it just needs to be thoughtful.

Tips:
-Set a reminder on your calendar (on a not busy day or the week), in the morning or evening to sit down a write your letter. It could be a short as a postcard, or it could be as long as a 5 page letter. The most important thing for me to remember is being able to take the focus off of myself to think about the future of someone else. The well being of someone else, their talents, and the potential that you see in them.

-Go to USPS (yes, the Post Office. No, not everyone is as grumpy and slow as they seem if you smile). Buy 2-3 sheets of FUN stamps (not that there is anything wrong with the American Flag Forever stamps), but you can get some fun Oscar De La Renta stamps too for the same price. So why not? 3 sheets (60 stamps total) will last you until the end of the letter writing challenge.

-Plan ahead. Make a list ahead of time of the people you want to send a little letter to. Then you have to do “the ask” aka “the address ask.” It’s sometimes weird to just send a text saying “what’s your address?” It can seem awkward. So if you’re not on that level of comfortability yet, you can say “what’s your snail mail address?” Or if you want to sneak up on them, you can ask someone close to them OR if you know where they work you can send it to their work address. (If they work for a financial services company, investment bank, accounting firm, law office, they will probably have a compliance department to read / sift through the mail so bear that in mind too).

-Make it fun. Decorate your envelope. Add some stickers. Draw on a smiley face. Buy a hilarious, beautiful card that the other person would really appreciate. (I currently justify my card budget by saying that it is technically a gift for someone else, so I’m not really spending the money on myself- lol).

Where: I’ve made a little guide to where I like to go shopping for cards! (Stores are based in LA, OC, & NYC). There are a range of different price points, so there is something for everyone!

Everywhere: Target & Michaels: Both of these stores can sometimes have a great selection of boxed cards (around 8-10 cards) for around $2-$3! I personally like the thank you ones the best, but I have gotten some generic greeting cards there as well.

Online: Etsy, The Social Type, Egg Press. You can find some great deals on Etsy for cards, especially if you are looking for something rather specific. Also, The Social Type and Egg Press both have sample sales every once in awhile (i’m talking letter press cards for $.80 people!!), so be sure to sign up for their mailing list and follow their social accounts to be the first to know about their sales.

LA: The Social Type is great (as I mentioned before- they have awesome sample sales), and they have a store-front in Los Angeles as well Another great suggestion from @writebella (aka the card whisperer in my life) is La Familia Green as well as Urbanic and Lundeen’s).

OC: Surprisingly I don’t have too many OC suggestions, but I do love Sugar Paper even though it is on the pricer side. They have a great selection of beautifully crafted cards and small gifts for any paper lover. Posh Paper in my hometown (Yorba Linda) is also excellent: they have a great selection of stationary as well.

NYC: Oh gosh. There are so many great shops here I don’t know where to begin. But I’ve narrowed it down to my favorite 2 shops Pink Olive and Paper Presentation. Pink Olive is the perfect place for any paper lover, gift lover, cute things lover (and there are 5 locations in total – including the cutest and latest addition to the family – the Cold Spring store!) There are beautiful cards for every occasion (I LOVE the selection of Rifle Paper) as well as their in house collection featuring the phrase “You Are Loved.” What incredible words to live by. Paper Presentation is a one-stop-shop. You can pick up everything from greeting cards, to wrapping paper, to custom stationary, to stickers with unicorns on them to dress up any card. I often stop here when I am running errands in the Flatiron District.

Montreal: If you happen to be in Canada, Boucle Et Papier is a a great shop. They have a wonderful selection of Sugar Paper, as well as Liberty London, which I have had a hard time coming across in the past.

Lastly: Tell people and encourage others to do the year of encouragement too! Share on your social pages and accounts with the #YearOfEncouragement to get others inspired to also send encouraging letters. The one a week letter is just to be a guideline. If there isn’t anyone to send a letter to that week or if you forget- don’t worry about it! You can always pick up from where you left off. Remember that sending even one letter out is better than not sending one at all.

I can’t wait to kick off 2018 with words of encouragement for others and taking the focus off of myself for a little while. I hope you join me in this #YearOfEncouragement

Relationship Test

I wrote this post on a flight to Paris connecting through Iceland. While I hadn’t officially started my trip, I had some difficulty getting there and wanted to share my experience.

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People say that the ultimate test of a relationship is to travel with said person. Say I’m thrown into (perhaps) foreign territory. I have endless options to choose how to spend my time: under definite time constraints (and probably money constraints). Bumps in the road are inevitable and sometimes unavoidable. It is how I choose to respond to the events of my travel experience that determine the healthiness of my relationships.

While this is all straightforward when traveling with others, what about the event that I go on a solo trip? (Like the one I’m currently on in Paris? Well, I’m still on the way, I have a layover in Iceland- we’ll get to that part in a bit). I firmly believe that how I respond to the events of my solo travel (be them good or bad) can reflect some underlying characteristics.

So I’m on my way to Paris. I booked this trip a couple of months ago because I found a reasonably priced airfare and have had the itch to go to Paris every single day since I left the city 5 years ago. (Not kidding: every single day). The hype is so real at this point: I had a full itinerary planned down to the hour (including things like picking up vintage postage stamps for my postcards that I preaddressed- YES PREADDRESSED). I was listening to my Parisian-themed playlist, featuring the likes of the Ratatouille & Midnight in Paris soundtracks. AND I was wearing the perfect minimalist athlesure outfit I could pull out of my closet for an “effortless chic” travel look. I did all of the things.

Then, things turned from 100 to 0. Real quick. Real freakin’ quick. Long & tiring story short, our flight was delayed for more than 48 hours total. Luckily by this time I had amazing friends who took me into their home, took me rock climbing, fed me, prayed with me, and acted as my travel agents to help me to book another flight to Paris. (THESE are the kind of people I like to have in my life).

During this whole process I felt so much distress. Why tho? Whyyyy?! Disappointment? Sure, of course. Sad? Absolutely. But by the time I had received that fourth delay text, my body was physically shaking and I felt ill. Part of me was torn and sad and not even wanting to go, after all this time. But the other part of me was picturing myself having an almond croissant at Cafe de Flore. It was that simple image of what was to come that kept me going, that made me wipe off hours of tears and drag my sore body to the airport on the other side of town to make this flight.

When I’m under distress- what am I saying over myself? Am I crumbling under the stress? Or am I saying that despite the circumstances that have come my way I can see the finish line and get through this with God’s patience and strength. How am I treating myself and the people around me? Am I snapping easily? Or am I the example of peace to comfort others who are under distress. Traveling alone is a relationship test for my relationship with myself and with that with strangers.

 

I can tell you right now, these last 24 hours were not hours of peace for me. There were many tears, lightheadedness, confusion. Not to mention several passive aggressive tweets (and active aggressive ones) at the airline I had originally booked.

Yes, I need to be practical. I don’t have unlimited resources to get to Paris. But I do have a will, a way, determination, and a God who is able to provide opportunities & deliver me from the stress that had consumed me. Right now, I am living out that example: I’m at peace knowing that every person I meet on this trip is a new opportunity to overwrite the stress that came earlier.

When I was waiting for the first flight, I wrote in my journal (as one does when needing to relieve some stress): “200 years ago, leisure travel wasn’t a thing. I’m so grateful that I am able to travel the world for fun because back in the day it would have taken over 2 years to get to Paris.” Whatever life throws at me, I have the choice to respond in a proactive and constructive way. I can see obstacles and a stopping point, or I can view them as another way to get a new “skill” under my belt.

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