What I'm Most Grateful For in Year 26

I was sitting in class last week tuning out just a bit until something my professor said drew me back into the conversation, striking a deep chord in me. She was talking about gratitude and suggested that ingratitude comes dressed in restlessness and concerns about self-fulfillment and entitlement. Is there too much of a cultural emphasis on growth and success and getting our own way in the world that we forget to be grateful? 

I don't know about you, but I definitely identify with restlessness in my own life. It's so easy to focus on the unknowns and the not-yets. And to be honest, that's where my head has been at for a majority of my 20's so far. When is _________ going to happen? Why is _________ happening to me? Where am I going next? What does _________ have to do with me? 

Can you relate? I wish those questions didn't make up a large percentage of my inner dialogue, but unfortunately they do. In the last few months I've started practicing gratitude more regularly and it's totally changing the story for me. Instead of looking at what I don't have and focusing on the questions I don't have answered, I started listing the things I did have. And you know what? I've come a long way. I feel more settled, more me. 

Last year I wrote a post about 25 things I learned in my 25th year, but this year I'm going to list 26 things I'm thankful for in my 26th year. I turn 27 tomorrow and I'm full of anticipation of what it will hold.

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I'm grateful for... 

1. My parents - I'm amazed at the strength, mercy, and resilience they've fought for and displayed this year. I've learned so much from them. 

2. Fuller Seminary - I was honestly a bit turned off by the idea of seminary at first, but this school has been such a gift to me so far. I love getting to learn alongside such a diverse group of people who challenge and encourage me. 

3. A summer abroad - Every time I think back to my summer in Peru, I smile. All the adventure, exploring, living daily life in a new country made me feel at home, doing / being what I was supposed to be. 

4. Modern air travel - Though I moved several time zones away from all of my family and friends, I am grateful they are only a plane flight away. 

5. Sunshine - Thank you SoCal!

6. A running buddy / new roommate - Betsy is running a half marathon with me this weekend! 

7. A new church home - It took me a while, but once I got past my own fear, I've been really grateful for the people at Epicentre Pasadena. Already feels like family to me. 

8. Class Pass - YA'LL. This app totally changed my fitness game. You can go to hundreds of different studios and classes with ONE app (plus it's cheaper than a monthly membership at places like Pure Barre and Core Power). 

9. My own room - I've shared a room the past few years (and loved it), but having my own space has been so refreshing to me. 

10. New friends - It always takes a while to transition to a new place, but I'm starting to feel more settled, largely due to the people I've met so far. 

11. Free cable - I haven't had cable since I lived with my parents in high school, so it's quite a treat, especially as March Madness begins this month. :) 

12. An all-knowing, ever-present God - This may sound cliche, but knowing the God I am relationship with knows all things and brings all things together brings me peace and allows me to rest. I don't have to know because He does. 

13. Trader Joe's (and the distance between my house and the nearest store) - Grocery shopping will never be the same. I live for TJ seasonal items. 

14. The intimacy that follows risk - I could write a whole post about this, but even when risk is hard, there's always a sweet side. I never want to stop leaning in. 

15. The Rose Bowl - I've trained for all my long runs here and it's been quite good to me. It's also only 2.25 miles from my house (mostly downhill) which is always a good mood booster to start off the long milers. 

16. The food options in LA - Nothing against my old town of Waco, but it literally cannot compete with LA food wise. I could eat any type of food imaginable within an hour of my house. 

17. Social media - I took a month off in December (which was really good, by the way), but since being back, I've gotten to see the power of using social media to build a platform and to connect with people. 

18. My sweet lil laptop from college is still plugging along - I'm praying it doesn't give out before I can afford a new one. It's survived a lot (including a major coffee spill last Spring). 

19. The time and space I've had this year to settle into myself - I've had a lot of time to think and be intentional about my next steps. Looking back, I'm realizing how rare that is and what a gift it's been! 

20. Going blonde - I just feels like it fits me. 

21. Open doors - Though there have been several closed doors, I can't ignore all the ones that have opened. I've been given some incredible opportunities, like travel and education. Each closed door has gotten me closer to where I'm supposed to be. 

22. Momentum in my writing - I can't believe I just went for it and am about to self-publish my first work guide. It comes out in less than two weeks! 

23. The confidence I've gained this year - I feel way more secure in who I am than I did this time last year. I really like who I am and I know what I bring to the table, and it feels good. 

24. Kombucha - My newfound love and beverage of choice. Call me basic, but I'm obsessed. 

25. A body that moves and changes with me - I've experimented a lot this year with different foods and options and I'm grateful God gave me this body to grow in. I still don't understand a lot of things, but I do know that what we put into our bodies matters and how we move them does, too. 

26. Finally, I couldn't close this post without thanking my dear friends. To those of you who have carried, prayed, loved, and encouraged me near and far - I cannot say thank you enough. In the midst of unknowns, pain, disappointment, new beginnings, and what-if's, my people have loved me so well. I am entering 27 reminded of how rich in relationship I am, and even though I live far away now, I know I am valued and seen. 

Thank you for making 26 a year to remember. Here's to 27! 

There's No Place Like Home

Maybe it's because my team has started to feel like family, or maybe it's simply the charm or character of the city that's drawn my little heart in, but Cusco has started to feel like home. And for this Kansas girl, there's no place like home. With less than three weeks left, I want to capture my favorite things about this city and share them. Perhaps some of you will get the chance to visit some day and feel the same. 

As I'm writing this, our taxi driver who drove my friend Ben and I around to look at apartments four months ago sat down next to me, remembered my name, and asked me about our team and our time here. These people are so trusting, so generous, so family

I think that's the word I'd use to describe this culture compared to others I've interacted with before. From our landlords across the street, to the ministry partners we're working with in the city, our team has felt so included (almost to a fault), valued, and welcomed. Our landlords come over nearly every day - sometimes with good news, sometimes with bad, or sometimes just to say hello. Last week they even invited me to join their family vacation! 

After experiencing this culture (and weighing lots of options), I am so excited to start my Master's at Fuller Seminary in Intercultural Studies with a concentration in Race, Culture, and Reconciliation this Fall. I've always wanted to go back to school, and for the little explorer inside of me, this seems like the perfect fit. 

Traveling for me isn't simply about enjoying new places or adding to my bucket list; it's much more than that. It's about learning new things, challenging myself and ways of thinking, appreciating things about people I am different from, and developing a more holistic picture of our world and how we were made to function in it. 

Cusco has been no exception. I've learned to embrace people quickly (and quite literally through their familial greetings) and let my walls down. I've learned to allow more time for people and for tasks. I've learned a little Spanish and explored so many local gems. Though I will be sad to leave, I'm excited to step into what's next. 

Cusco feels like home, but soon, so will Pasadena, California. Next I'll be stepping into another culture, similar to my own, yet much different than my little Midwest hometown or my six years in the South. For me, experiencing new cultures is a way to keep learning, growing, and challenging myself as I step outside the box, explore, take new ground, and become who I was created to be.