Hello Procrastination, My Old Friend…

Greetings, dear ones! I, along with a fellow writer/blogger friend, have been trying to share fresh content at least once a month on our respective sites…which shouldn’t be all that challenging in the grand scheme of things, you know? Yet here I am, two days before July’s end, and I’m scrambling for something to share. I have a more substantial post that’s still cooking on the back burner, but in the meantime I thought it would be nice (read: faster and simpler) to combine a handful of photos from recent-ish travels and ventures with bits of my already written poetry.

Sunset at Dane Street Beach—Beverly, MA

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there are times when words won’t do justice
and all you have experienced
must simply sit with you, and in you

maybe it’s enough that you passed through
you are alive
you made it here

then there is the way the moon casts its glow
on the rippling waves
muted orange warming steely grey

there are waters that give
waters that take away
and we find ourselves carried along by those tides

Morning walk through the Urban Forestry Center—Portsmouth, NH

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when the shadow comes knocking
remember this

there is an old magic still humming about in the world
sunlight waiting to warm your cheeks
sparrows flitting and chirping in the bush
a sharp wind blowing right through your bones

there is darkness and light
and every shade imaginable in between

Roadside pitstop—somewhere near Cuba, NY

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can you make room for those parts of you that say,
“I don’t know
I’m afraid
I used to have the answers
but now the answers have fled” 

kiss them tenderly
and whisper,
“that’s quite alright”

go ahead
and welcome them home

Statue of Diana & her dog—Newton Free Library

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I called upon you
my sisters
wild,
loving,
and wise
we spoke next to the river
the trees as our witnesses 

your arms enveloped me
as I asked for your guidance, your gifts
and you ever so gently reminded me,
“we are with you always,
and everything we have
has already been born
within you”

Another sunset, another walk—Guymon, OK

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it was when I entered the darkness
instead of running from it
that at last, I set myself free

Mount Auburn Cemetery—Cambridge, MA

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You are the one who comes to me
when the ice cracks beneath my boots
between meditations on gravestones
and birdsong in the trees above them 

in the night, as the psalmist wrote,
when I lay down in my bed of tears
on a couch of sorrow
lamenting with fear and longing

on cobblestones, on painted houses
the blue glass bottles catching sunlight
books that are dog-eared and yellowing
the scarf around my neck in winter 

is this why they call you Holy Ghost?
unseen and seen, in everything
haunting every corridor without invitation
I cannot understand, yet you are not unwelcome

Brant Point Light—Nantucket, MA

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morning light turns my cheek
its warmth a magnet
beckoning me to look up, look up
and when I finally do
I’m caught in the fine dance
of specks and particles in the air
invisible at so many other angles and attitudes
seen here with the blinds pulled down
watched with a curious gaze
a reminder that there are lives
worlds
galaxies even
existing and thriving
laughing and waiting for us to look up, look up

xo

[all photo & poetry credits are mine!]

On Speaking to Fear

This has been an ongoing theme in my life and kinda came out in my last post, so I’d like to go into more detail about it now. Ready? Okay!

I have this insidious Fear Creature dwelling in my brain that’s been speaking a series of bizarre, hateful messages to me for the past year or so. And maybe It has roots deep in my past, but It’s also playing a particular role in my present. The messages have to do with me deciding who I am, what I believe, what I like or dislike, and what I’m here for. Since I’m doing all of that in a profound and thorough way outside of the sphere of Christianity for the first time in my life, I often feel some combination of lost/curious/overwhelmed/amazed. And scared. Paralyzed to the core. On a regular basis.

Note- if that last bit came out of left field for you, then please read this. Call me or message me if you would like to have a respectful, loving conversation about it. But let’s continue.

So there are times when The Creature comes to me and says, “This is wrong. That’s wrong. You’re wrong. You shouldn’t like this or them or subscribe to that idea. Wrong, wrong, WRONG.” Etc., etc. And it can apply to absolutely anything and anyone, from authors and speakers I admire, books and music and movies I’m into, where I choose to live and work, right down to the food I eat, how I dress, the people I’m friends with or interested in romantically, and what I think is funny. What I write about and choose to share online is one of the biggest things. The Creature likes to shoot me down, undermine me, and make me second guess pretty much everything all the time. It likes to tell me I’m a fraud and a sellout and a total weirdo loser.

Get the picture? The Creature is a real jerk. A big, fat bully. It reminds me of that mean kid in grade school who found the dumbest reasons to pick on you and make the other kids laugh, when really all they wanted was attention. Bullying and teasing made sure people heard whatever it was they had to say. The meaner and louder, the better.

So I’m here with a message for my personal Fear Creature:

How do I put this lightly? Stay in your fucking lane. Thank you.

giphy

[via GIPHY]

I hope you know I say those words in a kind, yet firm way with a bit of Southern twang and a placid, professional smile on my face. This is the manner in which I practice tough love with myself. Maybe it would be “nicer” and “more ladylike” to coddle The Creature and give it googly eyes and speak to it in a voice barely above a whisper, and politely ask it to please go away please instead of declaring it out loud with the use of expletives, but that’s not my mood as of late. (It might also be considered more sane to not talk to an anthropomorphized part of my psyche, in general, but I crossed that bridge a loooong time ago, folks.) Anyway, I’m over the whole being a doormat for my fear mode of living. I’m over being a doormat, in general.

I’m not sure why I felt like typing all of this up and putting it here on my blog, to be honset. But here’s what I can tell you based on my experiences up until this moment:

The Creature has as much power as I’m willing to give to it. And I’ve given it a lot of power for a long, long time. I allowed fear in its various manifestations to rule so many parts of me: my faith, my personality, my relationships, my sexuality, my creativity, my views on humanity and the world at large. Fear of failure and rejection were paramount (still are, to a degree), and I thought that if I made myself small enough, quieter, meeker, more likable and palatable, then I’d be okay. I’d fit in. I’d be safe.

FYI- That strategy didn’t work. It actually backfired on me so hard.

And I have to add that there are plenty of times and places for fear (see: navigating rush hour traffic on I-93), because it’s hardwired into us as a protective measure for a reason, but when it continually takes the wheel? When it becomes the place that we live from and make all of our decisions from? Nope. No bueno. No mas.

Y’all, I know the world can be a mean, frightening, and unfriendly place. I’d like to hold on to the hope that there’s an arc of cosmic justice and redemption operating in our universe, but…what if there isn’t? I falter. It’s hard for me to read the news or want to stay informed because I usually end up horrified and disgusted by what is happening on a national and global level. It’s hard to find the bits of light amidst too much darkness, but I know they exist. I know, because those bits are what keep me going day to day.

There are about a thousand and one reasons to stay cemented in any given mindset and/or community, one where the outcomes are relatively predictable and all the people around you think similar thoughts and talk the same way and love and hate the same things that you love and hate. I get it. I was there once. I’m not even bashing it. There’s a level of solidarity that can act as a shelter in the midst of a continual stream of perfect storms. Maybe that’s what truly works for you and brings you comfort and meaning. Maybe that’s where you want to raise your family. Maybe you don’t even have the luxury and privilege of choice. But I also wonder if oftentimes we stay because we’re so frightened of the unknown, because we worry if we try to branch out, we’ll get knocked around, beaten up, and scorned. It’s possible we’d be worse off for trying. I counter: does remaining static and tribal allow our hearts and minds to expand and help us to live in all the fullness that life has to offer? Even, and especially when, that fullness is sure to include the vast spectrum of human emotion and experience in all of its agony and ecstasy?

What am I trying to get at here? I guess, that in all of this, it’s not about becoming fearless. It seems so admirable, right? The total eradication of fear. But if fear is absent, then there is no need for bravery. Courage wouldn’t exist as an option, because it wouldn’t exist without fear. What do we do then, if The Creature stays with us, whether it looms large or lurks there in the background? The best thing I know to do is speak, and speak, and speak again. This voice was not made to remain silent.

I don’t know, y’all. I don’t have answers. And this has turned into more of a ramble, a string of thoughts that frayed at its ends. Ultimately, it’s an open-ended discussion that I welcome participants to join in so we can work through this and be here together.

“We are very afraid of being powerless. But we have the power to look deeply at our fears, and then fear cannot control us.” -Thich Nhat Hanh

xo

On Road Trips & Being Present

Well, hello there, beautiful!

I’ve just wrapped up a two-ish week journey, in which time I flew to both California and Texas, then drove my car solo all the way from Texas to Massachusetts, THEN took a weekend trip to Vermont. It’s been busy and wonderful and chaotic, and I slept a deep and dreamless sleep for about 10 1/2 hours last night at the end of everything and woke up feeling brand spankin’ new.

I’m still in the middle of writer’s block. Blog posts are irregular. Journal entries are sparse. Poetry is nonexistent these days. Sitting down to create this post is causing me a bit of physical pain. I can’t even tell you why, and I’m sure that special rainbow has a treasure chest full of fascinating psychological and emotional reasons at the end of it. For now, I’m gonna go with a baseline, “It is what it is.”

But…there is a but. I had a lot of time to think and process while I was traveling. Uh-duh. I also listened to a lot of great music and podcasts, and had some fantastic conversations with different peeps who kept me company during my 4 day drive. I’d like to share some bits and pieces of that here.


The first mini-life lesson from this road trip: know when to stop. Envision the hand-clapping emoji in between each of those emboldened words for added emphasis. I was trying to get from Springfield to Cleveland on my second day of driving, and it just wasn’t going to happen. I was exhausted and still about 3 hours out when it started raining. Hard. As in, torrential downpour hard. Oh, and it was already after dark. Fun times. My good friend K called to check on me and advised me to stop, but I was all, “Nah, I got this.” I had a reservation for a hotel and there wouldn’t be a refund if I cancelled, but mostly I wanted to be a badass and prove to myself and the world that I could drive close to 12 hours in one day and make it to my destination, no problem. So yeah, Mother Nature had other plans and I really had no choice but to stop, which made me unreasonably angry. I pulled over on the highway about 20 miles from Columbus, along with most of the other cars on the road, because it was next to impossible to see and it was, how do you say, dangerous? I smacked my steering wheel and started yelling at the sky. Like, “FINE, is this what you wanted???” Yep, I threw a fit. I’m sure I cried a little bit in there, as well. The unnecessary drama was real. The fighting against common sense was real. I gathered my wits, said a prayer for myself and all the travelers around me, and safely made it to a nearby Holiday Inn. I griped about the whole thing on my Instagram stories and went to bed in a huff for being thrown off of my precious schedule. Overnight, my head somehow magically removed itself from my rear end and I realized that things could have been much worse, and I just needed to be thankful that I was okay. I made peace with being a day behind, and guess what? Rivers didn’t start running backward, and it kinda led into what happened next.


My last leg of the drive home wound me through upstate New York. It was all lush greenery and rolling hills, a true pastoral fantasy. There was one point in time when I turned off whatever was blasting through my speakers and just sat there. In my car. Watching it all go by me and letting myself pass through it. I had been freaking out about a number of items: not having enough money to get by, trying to figure out clever ways to change the fact that I don’t have enough money to get by, especially since I’m in school and shouldn’t school be my primary focus and the thing I’m devoting most of my time to, feeling like a garbage adult because I’m not making enough money to get by (do you see a theme here?), knowing that I probably wouldn’t make it back for book club that night even though I said that I would be there and oh my god, I’m such a flake, and also I feel like I live in so much fear and I make decisions that are fear-based and why do I keep doing that, I’d really like to stop doing that?!

Good grief, Charlie Brown. Then out of nowhere, a little voice spoke to me and said,

“You have nowhere else to be except here right now. So be here.”

And by golly, I listened. Even if it was only for a few minutes, I listened. It didn’t solve all of my problems or make them go away, but it made the problems more manageable and less like they were going to grind my bones to make their bread.


Last but not least, here’s what I was listening to during my travels. All come highly suggested by me, because you know, I have impeccable taste and only give my time and energy to the most worthy of causes. Links included. Enjoy.

The Fundamentalists— hosted by philosopher Peter Rollins & comedian/YouTube personality Elliott Morgan // These guys are a hoot and a half…I appreciate everything they’re churning out, but “Protestant Muslim vs. Catholic Muslim” is a standout for me.

Spiritualish— hosted by Meadow Devor & Laura McKowen // Real fun, and there’s some especially good content about setting boundaries…highlight episodes include “How to Make Everyone Like You” and “The Cost of Being Likable.” 

On Being with Krista Tippett // One of my very favorite podcasts ever, in the whole world…so many interviews with so many incredible people…recently tuned into “The Inner Landscape of Beauty” with poet/theologian/philosopher John O’Donohue.

Music? Clean Bandit was on repeat, I brushed up on the Fleet Foxes discography before seeing them in VT this past weekend, ~T-Swift 4ever~, the Black Panther soundtrack, Arcade Fire, Darius, and I did my best to brush up on my Spanish and memorize the words to Despacito…so there’s that!

As always, thanks for reading, friends.

xo

// this post was originally published on my Medium account, which you can find here!

[photo cred: Esther Tuttle @ unsplash.com]

A Before & After Tale

“You don’t handle change very well,” said G. I looked up, shocked by the frankness, but not stung by the truth the words carried. I had just finished part of a long rant of my frustrations and confusions to this new friend of mine. It was one of those long-winded talks where your heart starts to pour itself into listening ears and the words refuse to stop flowing out.

“It’s okay, I don’t either,” she followed up with a smile. So I breathed a sigh of relief and gave a nervous laugh.

Truth be told, I don’t handle many adverse situations well. Hooray for being human!

These are my confessions (just try to get the Usher song out of your head now, I dare you): I run from pain. I shut people out to lessen my chances of emotional suffering. I don’t like asking for help. When I am hurt by others, I tend to hold mean, nasty grudges. And no, I don’t handle change very well.

Which would probably explain why a little over a week after turning 26, moving from rural West Texas to the greater Boston area, jobless, and in the middle of a freaking scary and unsettling faith shift, I was crying in my closet on the first night in my new room.

*side note- It’s a nice closet to cry in. Plenty of space to stretch out and roll around in my misery a little bit if I so choose.

I don’t know when or why I started doing this – not crying in closets…that’s been happening since middle school, and can be cathartic in good measure – but I began to view the metaphorical glass of my life as half empty. Thoughts like…

“You’re not good enough, and no matter how hard you try, you still won’t ever be good enough.

You’re unlovable.

Nothing will change, and nothing will get better.

People suck and can’t be trusted.

Don’t even think about getting your hopes up,”

…started to pervade my mind and shape my worldview. And let me tell you guys, this is a NASTY headspace to be in, because you start to hate yourself, and then it makes you hate other people and life in general and then you’re in a swirly dark vortex and not even fistfuls of dark chocolate paired with a bottle of Arbor Mist Strawberry Moscato can help you. Oh man, now I’m craving dark chocolate and Arbor Mist Strawberry Moscato.

//

Switching gears. It’s been several months since I wrote ^^all of that^^ and I’m now in a different place in my life, which is wonderful. Because guess what- Things did change! Things got better! Wow! I could go into my whole process and blab about that for the next 25 years, but I’ll spare you…at least in this post. *smirks* What I want to capture here is where I’ve come from and where I’m at today. Some of you who keep up with this blog/my life in general, bless your souls, know that I’ve been writing poetry again. It’s been a massive part of getting back in touch with my creative energy, and it’s also been way therapeutic and healing for my soul. Win-win situation. I’ve mostly kept those writings private, but I’m ready to share at least one poem with y’all now. Whew, palms are sweating. This is called “As Water.” I hope you like it (and if you don’t, hey, that’s cool too).

xo

3.14.18 As Water

[photo cred: me // taken in Orange, CA]

A Late, Late, Late Night Ramble

It’s nearly 2 in the morning and I’m wide awake. This isn’t unusual for me. The witching hour and I have been well acquainted for several years now, and insomnia is my homie. My habit has been to stay in bed, tossing and turning and feeling like total junk because I SIMPLY CANNOT FALL ASLEEP. But earlier tonight—I guess it would be yesterday if we want to be technical—a woman older and wiser than I was telling me that she struggles with the same issue, and that finally she started to get up and do things around the house, knit, etc. instead of also feeling like junk because she simply cannot fall asleep either.

I decided to follow her lead and be at least a little productive until my body decides it’s ready to crash. So far, I have filled in my planner and gotten a head start in figuring out how my week will look, started listening to Mat Kearney’s Just Kids album, wrote a poem, and now I’m here. Working on a blog post. It’s a bit of babbling, but there’s also something I want to talk about. It struck me earlier when I was brushing my teeth. One of those things.

My life has changed a lot in the past couple of years. I also think that I have changed a lot. Like, not a lot, a lot. I’m still ~me~ and all that. It’s like this, y’all: I’m in my mid-20’s and I thought I had all the things figured out until I realized in a rather harsh and unpleasant and mean kind of way that I had next to nothing figured out. Which sucked on an exponential level. And then over time it sucked a little less. Now it’s becoming exciting. Still confusing, but I’m learning to live and thrive in what I call this “tension of not knowing” instead of despising it or wishing it away.

Am I making sense? Did I mention that it’s nearly 2 in the morning and this is almost pure stream of consciousness? You’re welcome.

But here was the thought that came as I was teeth brushing. As I was going through my personal rollercoaster—think Texas Giant at Six Flags—a lot of the relationships in my life were affected by the crazy ride. Friendships were tested. Majorly. Some are still present with me, and some are not. And I guess I wanted to write about this because I wish that Me from two years or even a year ago had some kind of resource or voice to walk her through that time. I think a lot of us are well-versed in how to deal with romantic versions of heartbreak or loss, or at least we know there are magazines and blogs and books aplenty that broach the subject. But, the loss of friends? Of people I thought would be in my life, you know, more permanently? I didn’t know what to do at all when the rubber met the road. I was so ill-prepared. I made mistakes. I was hurt, and I most certainly was hurtful, whether any of it was intentional or not.

In a sense, I guess this is like a letter to my younger self, even though of course she won’t read it and it’s fruitless to try and change the past. Maybe this is more important, that I’ll have a reader who needs to see this and it will be like a digital hug for them.

What I’m trying to say is, at some point in your life, you’re gonna go through something tough, or maybe a fair number of tough somethings. I’m not even attempting to scare you here. It just is what it is. Keep breathing. And when that time comes, you may feel like the world as you know it has shattered and you’ve lost all your bearings and you might be wondering who you can trust and who could possibly understand what’s happening inside of you. That’s normal. It’s awful, but it’s normal. It’s not wrong, and there’s no need to feel ashamed. I would like to encourage you to start with trusting yourself, but I know that can be shaky and next to impossible. If you have a relationship with God, pour into that. If not, that’s alright too. Really, it’s alright. There’s still yoga and iced lattes and butterflies and night drives and babies to cuddle. Go for a run, even though you hate running and you think the runner’s high is a load of utter BS. Let the run turn into a walk, and pay attention to how the sun feels on your skin. Take it a day at a time, or in even smaller increments. One hour at a time, one minute, one moment. Binge watch New Girl and laugh until you cry, and then cry just to cry and know that it’s not against the law to do so, especially when your heart is broken. It’s okay to be angry, too, even though I know that particular emotion frightens you. If someone asks how you’re doing, be honest. You don’t have to divulge everything that hurts, but you might be pleasantly surprised by their response. You might also be super offended and realize that’s a person who isn’t on the same frequency as you. I repeat, that’s okay. You don’t have to force it. It doesn’t make you a jerk, and it doesn’t make them an enemy. Know that certain bonds were only meant to last a given amount of time. This is the hardest lesson, the one about impermanence. Finally, know that you have people who will love you through some of your ugliest, nastiest moments. You won’t understand this. You don’t need to. Tell them, “thank you.” Tell them, “I love you.” While you’re at it, tell yourself, “I love you” too. Spoiler alert- you’re gonna make it through this.

xo

[photo cred: me // this was taken somewhere in Middle of Nowhere, New Mexico a few years back]

(nearly three months later) Greetings from New England!

*flips light switch*

Oh, good! My blog is still here. Boy howdy, I’ve been busy. School, work, lyfe. You know how it goes. But I realize I haven’t shared like, anything, here about my time in Boston thus far. So I’ll fork over some bits and pieces of things I’ve seen and places I’ve gone.

By the way, I have to mention that I am in love with this place. Absolutely smitten. I love the excitement of the city, the history and the culture. The restaurants and coffee shops are out of control, and I’ve barely even scratched the surface of either scene. I’ve been able to meet some super fun and awesome people through my program and local events. I feel like I can be myself…whoever that is…which is kind of a big deal. I’m happy, and I’m grateful. Pass me some confetti, please.

All the poems scattered throughout are by Mary Oliver. I’ve been slowly making my way through her writing since the spring. She’s really something else. I’m slightly obsessed. It’s fine. Now, without further ado…

The Emerald Necklace kissed by shades of autumn

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There is a heaven we enter
through institutional grace
and there are the yellow finches bathing and singing
in the lowly puddle.

Widener Library at Harvard University…gotta live up to the blog’s namesake here!

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“It’s not the weight you carry

but how you carry it—
books, bricks, grief—
it’s all in the way
you embrace it, balance it, carry it

when you cannot, and would not,
put it down.”
So I went practicing.
Have you noticed?

The Green Monster peeking over the walls of Fenway Park

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Everyone should be born into this world happy and loving everything.
But in truth it rarely works that way.
For myself, I have spent my life clamoring toward it.
Halleluiah, anyway I’m not where I started!

A Saturday afternoon viewing of Watson and the Shark by John Singleton Copley

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If God exists he isn’t just churches and mathematics.
He’s the forest, He’s the desert.
He’s the ice caps, that are dying.
He’s the ghetto and the Museum of Fine Arts.

The rather intimidating stare of Alexander Hamilton

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Oh, let there be a wedding of the
mind and heart, if not today
then soon.

Meanwhile, let me change my own life
into something better.

Can you see why I always wanted to take the long way walking to my babysitting job?

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Oh, Lord, how we are all for invention and advancement!
But I think
it would do us good if we would think about
these brothers and sisters, quietly and deeply. 

The trees, the trees, just holding on
to the old, holy ways.

And this is the long way to my other babysitting job…hehe. #spoiled

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the whole afternoon went on
that way until I thought
I could feel
the almost born things

in the earth rejoicing. As for myself,
I just kept walking, thinking:
Once more I am grateful
to be present.

The Liturgists Podcast, live from Reservoir Church in Cambridge. FUH-REAKING amazing.

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Let me keep my distance, always, from those who think they have the answers.

Let me keep company always with those who say “Look!” and laugh in astonishment,
and bow their heads.

Boston Common–Like I even need a reason to spend time in this part of the city, but wowww. 

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Someone I loved once gave me
a box full of darkness.
It took me years to understand
that this too, was a gift.

Somewhere in scenic Beacon Hill…the heart eyes abound…

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I believe in kindness. Also in mischief. Also in singing, especially when singing is not necessarily prescribed.

As for the body, it is solid and strong and curious and full of detail; it wants to polish itself; it wants to love another body; it is the only vessel in the world that can hold, in a mix of power and sweetness: words, song, gesture, passion, ideas, ingenuity, devotion, merriment, vanity, and virtue.

 Keep some room in your heart for the unimaginable.

xo

Southern California Revisited

“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” -Søren Kierkegaard 

I first came across the texts of Kierkegaard when I was cataloging books in a research library a few years ago. I haven’t read any of his works; he was a theologian and an existential philosopher, and to be honest, I’ve never been able to navigate the topics of theology and philosophy with much finesse. But when I came across this quote of his, courtesy of Google, I found it fitting for the topic at hand.

What I will share with you regarding those two years I spent in California will come mostly in the form of pictures. What happened while I was there? What changed? I don’t think I’m all that different from the nervous yet eager 22-year-old who drove into Orange County during rush hour back in 2013. But I’m not the same either.

I will say this-
God came to me in many ways, shapes, and forms in those two years. (Three, if you count the gap year when I returned to Texas for an important selah.) His visitations ranged from the commonplace to the awe-inspiring. When His voice was quiet within or I felt that He was far from me…and those times were severely uncomfortable…I can reflect and see how He was faithful to meet me and love me through people, and through a kind word, a hug, a listening ear, a joke, a card from my mom, a phone call from a faraway friend, a verse, or a song. He met me through flowers and sunrises and a warm breeze on my skin. He met me during early morning walks with my token cup of coffee and during countless rants and tears and questions as I drove up and down the 5. He made, and is still making, good of His promise:

“And behold, I am with you all the days until the consummation of the age.” (Matt. 28:20b)

I hope you enjoy these snapshots from my sojourn in the Golden State.

xo