Lessons From My Cross Country Road Trip

I can hardly believe that it’s already been just over a month since I made my cross-country drive from Nashville, TN to my hometown in the San Francisco Bay Area.  It was a six-day, 2,600+ mile road trip in my packed-to-the-brim Prius that included staying with friends (or friends of friends), a stop at the Grand Canyon, and a day at Harry Potter World in Hollywood.  It was quite the adventure, and there were some key things I learned along the way about how to make the most of a long road trip, so I figured I'd share a few of those tips with you!

  • Here is the most practical tip I’ve got: definitely get your car checked out before you head out to drive long distances, especially your tires.  Get the oil changed, replace wiper blades (if necessary), and make sure that there are no critical issues with your vehicle before you take off.  Also, be sure you have your insurance information ready to go in case of an emergency, whether that means printing it or downloading it to your phone for offline use.  I did alllll of the things, and am glad I did because my trip was so smooth as a result of being prepared.
  • Having a bag full of snacks was and is the best idea, and for a few reasons: 1. If you are supposed to avoid certain foods (hello dairy and gluten), having snacks ready to go can help you stick to your dietary restrictions; 2. You will stop less and spend less money on the road, and 3. If you get sleepy, chewing on something can help you to stay alert.  Trust me.
  • Load up your phone with playlists, podcasts, and/or audiobooks.  I had over 40 hours of drive time and find it easy to get sleepy driving for long distances during the day, so I made sure to get all of the recommendations for things to listen to that would keep me engaged on the road, and I downloaded them in case I lost service at any point (which I totally did).  My favorite listens were “S-Town,” “FunTherapy,” and “My Favorite Murder.”  The latter was the podcast I listened to most (it’s amazing, but if you’re not a fan of consistent f-bombs I would find another true crime podcast), which was awesome minus the fact that it made me a little paranoid since it’s about murder.  But Karen and Georgia quickly became my best friends on the road.  #SSDGM
  • Personal safety starts with awareness, so remember to be aware.  As a woman, I believe there are so many reasons we need to pay attention to our surroundings and think a few steps ahead (just in case).  Fortunately, I'm a pretty self-aware person who typically tends to have a grasp on what is happening around me — I even prefer to stick to the outskirts of any social gathering so that I can see everything and everyone — but I still made it a point to be even more intentional in my awareness on this trip.  For example, I always parked my car somewhere I could see it when I stopped to eat, get gas, etc, I flipped my visors down and to the side windows so that any potential creepers couldn’t stare at me while driving, I always had my keys in my hands ready to go when walking around (a.k.a. I wasn't distracted by my phone or searching for my keys), and I walked confidently with my head up high.  Maybe some of that sounds silly, but hey, I'd rather we all be safe than sorry.
  • Never be ashamed of asking friends if you can stay with them or if any friends have connections in certain places.  In Dallas, I stayed with a friend of a family I’m close with back in Nashville, and it turned out we were kindred spirits and had the sweetest night drinking wine and sharing stories.  In Albuquerque, I stayed with my grandmother’s friend Darlene, who made me a homemade dinner and then watched This Is Us with me (I got her hooked).  And in southern California, I stayed with a few friends from college, which meant we got to catch up on all of the things and it was so good for my soul.  Not only did it make the drive more fun knowing I was going to be seeing people, but it also helped me feel a lot safer knowing they were waiting for me to show up.
  • Make sure to plan some fun things along the way... I sure did!  I made a detour to the south rim of the Grand Canyon to spend a few hours marveling at its beauty and taking a hiking trail or two, and it was absolutely worth it.  And a big part of my plan while in southern California was to go to Harry Potter World at Universal Studios Hollywood, because of course I would.  It's only about  half the size of the one in Orlando, but I still had the best time walking around Hogsmeade, drinking butterbeer, and riding the Forbidden Journey ride 15 times (the single rider line is where it's at).

My road trip was an absolute whirlwind, full of car snacks and tumbleweeds and sweet hospitable friends, and I'm honestly just so proud of myself for going through with it because, if I'm honest, I was a little scared... and not just of the drive.  Taking to the road meant that this whole new season was really beginning.  It meant putting so much unknown into God's hands and ultimately trusting Him with the outcome.  It has been and continues to be scary and exciting and full of lessons in humility and embracing hard things.  And yet I'm so glad it kicked off exactly how it did, because I can reflect now on that trip totally convinced that if I can drive across the country by myself, I can probably do anything — maybe even solo-travel across Europe next year.

So here's to the big adventures and God-sized dreams.  May we refuse to settle for anything less.


Turning Twenty-Eight

Gosh, even just typing out the title of this post freaks me out.  Twenty-eight?  How the heck is that possible?  Something about that number just feels so much older, and so close to thirty, and like maybe I should have my life together a little (or a lot) more than I currently do, ya know?  Which is why it's so ironic that I am here to share some exciting, scary, and all around bittersweet news, because it all feels a little haphazard and crazy and like I don't have anything together at all. but hey, I know God loves to move in that space.  So here it is:


Yep, it's true!  After four wonderful years of living in Nashville, I am getting ready move to move back to where I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area.  But I want you to know that I am not moving for a new job or career opportunity.  I am heading back to California namely to be closer to family for a few months, and also to start planning for my next big adventure.  And let me say, I think that the word "adventure" often tends to elicit feelings of excitement, awe, and wanderlust, and while I feel these things from time to time, I'm also in the middle of some of the less glamorous feelings of sadness, fear, and anxiety.  There is a lot of risk involved in this next season, but I also have the strongest sense that I am doing exactly what I am supposed to do.


Let me backtrack: during the almost two years that I was working through my debt snowball (aka paying off all of my consumer debt), I told myself that my reward at the end of that journey would be a two-week trip to Europe.  But about 18 months ago, I started getting the feeling that it was going to be longer than those few weeks I had planned, which at the time made zero sense to me.  I mean, my job only allowed for three weeks of vacation per year, so more than two weeks wasn't really a feasible thing.  And while the idea of traveling around Europe for an extended period of time sounded awesome, it just didn't line up, so in true Gennean fashion, I ignored it.  I stuffed that thought down and went about my 70 hour work weeks like it was my job (oh wait...).  I kept saying yes to work to make the money to pay off the debt... and then I burned out, and it was ugly.  Right about the time I was burning out last summer, I was getting ready for yearly trip home to see my friends and family.  Once I had run the circuit up in the Sacramento area, I made my way down to the Bay to spend some time with my spiritual mentors.  When they asked me how everything was going — work, friends, family, Nashville in general, etc. — I broke down in tears, partly due to exhaustion, and partly because that nagging thought about Europe had not gone away.  It kept popping up in the most random of places, ruining my days because it just continued to not make any sense:

"Me, travel Europe?  For like, months?  What?  How?  That's crazy.  it's irresponsible.  It doesn't make sense."

So, again in true Gennean fashion, in the midst of my emotional break down (for real, it was a mess), I blurted out for the first time to another human being all that was going on in my head and my heart.  I made excuses, I justified why it was a stupid idea, and then waited for heads to nod along with me.  Instead, though, I heard, "Well first, it's really not that crazy.  You're single, in your twenties, and will have no debt.  And second, remember when you felt like you were supposed to move to Nashville?" *nodding my head* "Remember when you said it felt crazy, irresponsible, and didn't make sense?"  *crap. yes.*  "And looking back now, you stepped out in faith and didn't everything work out?  Didn't God provide for you?  Haven't you learned and grown in ways you couldn't have imagined?" WELL SHOOT DANG, they were absolutely right.

That was four years ago now, when I felt deep in my bones that I was supposed to move to the South — more specifically to Nashville — and I stepped way far out of my well-cushioned comfort zone to move across the country with no job (what!) and nowhere to live (double what!).  And what happened when I did it — when I chose to do the "stupid" thing and move in faith?  It was really hard, but really worth it.  I questioned my choices, my sanity, and my God a lot.  I struggled to believe I had made the right, wisest, and most responsible decision, mostly because I am Type A and love any semblance of order and control, and everything at that time felt out of my control.  And yet, as I can see now looking back, everything worked out just as it needed to and, more importantly, far better than if I had tried to plan it myself.

The last four years here in Nash have been a myriad of things, but mostly it has been so good.  I've been challenged in countless ways: in my work ethic, my ability to let go, my willingness to step further out of comfort zones, and my core belief system, namely my faith in Jesus and His goodness.  It has been hard and beautiful and messy and wild in the best of ways, and I wouldn't trade it for anything.  I have, without a doubt, made some of my best friends and sweetest memories in this city.  I've been able to work at an awesome company with some of the most talented people around; I got to live and travel with a sweet girlfriend from college; I paid off over $28k of debt in 21 months; I've seen countless friends get married and start their families; and I have grown in ways I never could have thought possible, and only one word describes how this season has made me feel: grateful.  So immensely grateful.  Which makes leaving all the more difficult.  I love my people here (you know who you are), I love the changing of the seasons in Tennessee, I love the southern hospitality and fireflies and sweet tea, and I freaking love Burger Up (this is not a joke, I love this restaurant with all my heart and am in major denial about having to say goodbye).  And even as I have been slowly telling my friends about all the things God and I are up to, I'm still been waiting for someone to tell me it's all a terrible idea.  But to no one's surprise, I am sure, I haven't heard anything of the sort.  In fact, most reactions have been quite the opposite (and good on God for that because I'm pretty sure if I heard it once I would have forgone this crazy dream and settled for less than His best for me).  So here we go.  I mean, I sold all my furniture and moved in with friends a few months ago and now everything I own fits in my Prius so, yes, it's happening.  Holy crap.


And I'm sure you might be wondering what's next?  That's a great question and I won't hesitate to tell you the truth: I'm not totally sure. Here is what I do know: I am starting my drive back to California at the end of October, and will be stopping to see the Grand Canyon and spend a few days in LA seeing friends from college... and also going to Harry Potter World in Hollywood because of course.  Then I will drive up to the Bay and settle into a new and both familiar and unfamiliar life in my hometown for a few months.  I have a few other trips planned, am set to spend a good amount of time in the Sacramento area with family and friends, and will start planning this crazy, exciting Europe trip for next spring.  I'm simply trying to be obedient, one step at a time, as I sense God lead me, and that's kind of all I'm going on.

But really, what I am going to spend most of time doing is... nothing.  If there is anything God has shown me in this season it is that ya girl right here does not know how to rest.  Like, at all.  Hustle has been my middle name — and comfort zone — for as long as I can remember as I have pretty much been working full-time or more for over 12 years.  I have realized that I'm really good at relying on myself to make money, whether that means using it to pay off debt or save up for a big trip; I am not so good at relying on God to provide for me.  I err so far on the side of responsibility that I end up leaving so little room for God to do anything, and even if He does (or has), I chalk it up to me being responsible.  Gross.  And so I sense Him calling me into a season of rest; a season of being and not doing; a season of entering into His presence and learning contentment in that place.  And I am truly so excited for it.  My heart and my spirit have been craving something like this for so long — something I just didn't have words for — and I am so ready to enter in.  Am I scared, too?  Heck yes, one-hundred percent.  But even as I was working just a few days ago on my future budget and the numbers just weren't adding up, I sensed a whisper that said, "you have never not had enough."  PREACH!  So yes, while I will still be working part-time with a few side jobs, it won't be much more than that, and I'm pretty sure that I am going to be okay.

So to sum it up: I am moving from Nashville to the San Francisco Bay Area at the end of October, where I will be entering into a season of rest and trust, and then I will be heading out on a multi-month long European adventure next Spring.  I do not yet know any of the deeper reasons why I am feeling the need to do any of this, but I am trusting God every step of the way, much like I did four years ago when I felt like I was supposed to move to Nashville... but with a little more wisdom, discernment, and experience in my suitcase.

I have found, time and time again, that the things God calls us to do can often look very foolish, and I am so good with that in this season of my life.  I am all in for this adventure with Him, so here we go.  


Leaning Into Healing

The last week has been a tough one for me, both emotionally and spiritually, and despite coming across as calm on the surface, I've felt anything but.  On top of some current and looming life changes which are both exciting and terrifying, I have found myself thinking more deeply on a few different topics, namely the idea of family and my own personal experiences with both my biological and spiritual families.  And it has been challenging to wade through all of the newly-discovered yet unresolved feelings I've encountered.  In the middle of all of this, I happened upon this post and just about lost it.  The line that really hit me was:

"Healing parts of your heart that you’ve once put to the side—whether to survive, to be strong, to avoid pain or take care of others—may be the most powerful act of faith that God is calling you to make today."

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Ugh, yes.  Feelings put aside to survive, to be strong, to care for others?  Check, check, and check.  I haven't talked about it too much, but I definitely have some wounds from my childhood, as I am sure that most of us do, and while I believe that I have worked through a number of them over the years through introspection and counseling, the truth is that there are always more layers.  I've been candid in the past about my struggle with depression and self-injury as a teen (the latter of which whose urges I still deal with as an adult), but it wasn't until more recently that I started to really connect the dots between some of the feelings I'm currently walking through and situations from my childhood; things like role-reversal and co-dependence, having to be independent and self-sufficient at a young age, and even being verbally disowned.  They have all left big, gaping emotional wounds, some of which I realize I've only just begun to work through as an adult, which were left untouched for years because I simply couldn't deal with them as a child who was living in survival mode.

Now that I am meeting those feelings head on as an adult, I'm disgusted to admit that I've felt a sense of shame, like I shouldn't feel sad or angry or disappointed in what I've had to live through... which simply isn't right.  I believe I've been under the false and very detrimental impression that I should be beyond feelings of or bouts with depression, because "I love Jesus and He loves me and so how could or why would I be depressed?"  Even just typing that out makes me want to throw up, because I flat out do not believe that.  Becoming a Christian doesn't erase problems — past, present, or future — and it sure as hell doesn't make the crap situations from childhood go away because "now I have Jesus."  Is He able to give me strength to help get through the hard stuff?  Absolutely.  But that doesn't necessarily mean that it's going to be easier or less traumatizing.  What believing in Jesus does do, however, is provide a more sure and steady foundation, a greater sense of hope, and Someone to walk alongside through the pain, especially pain from the past.  This I know and believe with all of my heart.

I sense my Father beckoning me into a season of major healing, starting right here and right now.  I feel Him tugging on my heart, drawing me deeper into those dark, hard places; the ones that make me cry and cringe and curse.  But the beauty in this is not only that He can handle it, but He knows it all already.  He has shown me that, in spite of myself and the many years I denied His existence, He was there, and He wants work with me through those things that have not only broken my heart, but His, too.  So I am choosing to lean into my healing, one step at a time, no matter how difficult, because I know that Jesus is right by my side every step of the way.  

Also, a little PSA: depression is not a dirty word, and should never be treated as such in the Christian community (or any community, for that matter).  As a result of living in a broken world, we have all unfortunately walked through hard things and will undoubtedly encounter more, and while we may have Jesus, that doesn't mean we should ignore or suffocate our feelings.  If you are sad, feel it.  If you are angry, feel it.  If you are disappointed, disillusioned, or depressed, feel it.  Talk to your loved ones, and definitely talk to the Father.  But don't disregard those feelings or buy into the lie that you're not allowed to feel them.  Remember that our God is a good Father who is able and desires to walk with us through all things, especially the hard things, and that you have it in you to make it through because you are fiercely loved.

Lastly, if you think that you might be clinically depressed, check out the PHQ-9 Depression Health Questionnaire, and please consult a physician and/or trusted loved one if necessary.

NYC Part 2: What To Do

Now that we've gone over some of the amazing places you need to eat at in NYC: Part 1, I want to share with you some of the things you can and should do when visiting New York City.  I had almost five days in the city when I visited, and while there was definitely a solid list of things I wanted to do, I wanted, even more, to just enjoy the city for what it had to offer.  I wanted to wander, explore, and  stumble upon anything that was already happening, and I can honestly say now that I did just that.  I mean, I ended up being a part of a random photo shoot in Bryant Park when I was waiting for my friend to meet me!  So my first piece of advice would be to just let New York City happen to you, because that's the best way to experience one of the best cities in the world...

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