Yielding Our Hearts to God.

“I have a non-work related question for you. Where can I get a Book of Mormon?”

That’s how a coworker started an IM conversation with me at work one day when I was still in Florida.

Hmm…oh, I don’t know. Let me see if I could possibly figure that out…you want one? You want twenty?? Want to meet with the missionaries?? Wanna come to church? Get baptized? Gahhh! Play it cool, PLAY IT COOL!

“I think I can find you one…”

This coworker was a committed Baptist who was highly curious about religions while holding VERY strong opinions about the validity of everything he learned. He studied the Bible devotedly, had read the Qu’ran, and was having lunch regularly with another girl at work who’s a Jehovah’s Witness. Apparently it was now my turn for cross-examination.

He did read the Book of Mormon, he did meet with the sister missionaries (ironically, the only friends I had left in Jax), he did write a 22-page treatise on all the reasons he thought the LDS church couldn’t possibly be true that eventually found its way to the mission president, and (in fairness) I once sat him down and lectured him for an hour on the principles of faith and belief and their superiority over historicity in testimony building.

He didn’t get baptized.

The missionaries and I spent more than 6 months with him talking about the things that we believe and in what ways it was different, and not so different, from what he affirmed — amicably, if you can believe it. We covered topics that ranged from the means of salvation to the archaeology of the Book of Mormon, from the Trinity to The Godfather and what it teaches us about grace and works. In the end, he totally adopted our teachings on eternal families, respected the organization of our missionary efforts, and valued our genealogical resources, but still thought Joseph Smith was a charlatan. Right before I moved away he thanked me for our open discussions and told me that, through them, he had come to realize his dogmatic assertions were not always correct. Now if that’s not the Spirit of God hard at work, I don’t know what is. Praise the…ah, nevermind.

Throughout this investigative fervor, my sister missionary friends and I concocted a plan to get him and some of my other coworkers to church. The sisters were going to be speaking in sacrament meeting and we thought it would work out great if I could give a talk with them. They got permission, I invited everyone, my coworkers all cancelled the morning of, and the three of us mostly talked about how much we loved each other. So, all in all, our scheme was a wild success.

Regardless, I thought I’d post my talk here for posterity’s sake. For someone’s posterity’s sake.

God Yielded His Heart to Us
In Moses ch. 7, from the Pearl of Great Price, we learn of a vision that Enoch has where the Lord shows him all the inhabitants of the earth. He sees Satan veiling the earth with darkness and “angels descending out of heaven; bearing testimony of the Father and Son” [v. 27] and then we learn something really interesting: “The God of heaven looked upon the residue of the people, and he wept.”

And Enoch’s really confused. He asks, “How is it that the heavens weep, and shed forth their tears as the rain upon the mountains?” [v. 28] And Enoch continues, on and on, about how great God is and what great things He’s done and then he concludes saying, “Naught but peace, justice, and truth is the habitation of thy throne; and mercy shall go before thy face and have no end; how is it thou canst weep?” [v. 31] Or, in other words, what in the world is going on here? How are your tears even possible?

The Lord’s response is this: “Behold these thy brethren; they are the workmanship of mine own hands…and unto thy brethren have I said, and also given commandment, that they should love one another, and that they should choose me, their Father; but behold, they are without affection, and they hate their own blood…and misery shall be their doom; and the whole heavens shall weep over them…wherefore should not the heavens weep, seeing these shall suffer?” [v. 32-37]

God knows the fate of the wicked. It is not their disobedience that causes Him to weep, but their suffering.

We know the precise cost of His investment of love in His people. Not only did God choose the path of vulnerability – opening himself up to pain and disappointment – when he enabled us to come here, allowing us to be “free to act for [ourselves]—to choose the way of everlasting death or the way of eternal life,” [2 Nephi 10:23] but also, as written in 1 John: “In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.” [4:9]

This was obviously a great gift and sacrifice by the Son as well as the Father since the act of Atonement was one freely chosen by Christ Himself whose whole life was one of supreme vulnerability. He came to earth as a helpless child, He relied on and befriended imperfect people, He was betrayed, ridiculed, and ultimately crucified as a common criminal. Can you think of a more fitting title than Lamb of God for a Savior such as this?

Teryl Givens, an LDS author and professor said, “In the vision of Enoch, we find ourselves drawn to a God who prevents all the pain He can, assumes all the suffering He can, and weeps over the misery He can neither prevent nor assume.” [The God Who Weeps]

WHY???
Why does God yield His heart to us in this way? Or, in the words of Job: “What is man, that thou shouldest magnify him? and that thou shouldest set thine heart upon him?” [Job 7:17] Seriously, why even bother with us at all?

Since God made us in His own image, we may be able to glean a partial answer by studying our own natures.

For that, I will defer to the work of a qualitative researcher named Brené Brown that Sister Aure actually introduced me to when we first met almost 10 months ago. Brené Brown has spent over 13 years studying vulnerability, courage, worthiness, and shame. Through her research, she’s concluded that vulnerability is the birthplace of joy, creativity, belonging, and love. It is what enables us to connect. She also states that the only people who don’t experience vulnerability have no capacity for connection or empathy.

It follows that in order for God to be a God of love and to experience a fulness of joy, He must also practice vulnerability. But unlike the rest of us, who can only give imperfectly, God is free to set his heart upon us without personal risk because He doesn’t love us in order to fulfill a need for Himself but for a need He wants to fulfill on our behalf.

A couple years ago I had a friendship that basically dissolved into all sorts of unhealthy and negative behaviors and emotions and for a long time I was trying hard to love my friend in order to get our old friendship back. But it just wasn’t going to happen, and I was completely unwilling to face that. So I was caught in this frustrating cycle where I would try to be generous and loving and then I’d hit a wall where I wasn’t getting an adequate return on what I thought I was investing and I would get upset and lash out and then I’d feel bad and try to be generous and loving again…it wasn’t good, and it wasn’t fair for either one of us. Finally, I decided that she meant enough to me that I was willing to accept whatever she could offer me – that I would love her and be her friend regardless of how it seemed she felt about me or our friendship. I wish I could tell you that I was even remotely good at it or that it worked miracles, but I wasn’t and it didn’t. HOWEVER, it did change things for me. It gradually replaced the pain and the struggle I was experiencing with a better love and compassion than I was capable of feeling before. This is by no means the solution for every similar situation, but in this specific instance, it was very empowering.

Power in Empathy
William Placher, a Presbyterian author and professor expressed: “The God who loves in freedom is not afraid and therefore can risk vulnerability, absorb the full horror of another’s pain without self-destruction. God has the power to be compassionate without fear; human beings now as in the time of Jesus tend to think of power as refusal to risk compassion. But God’s power looks not like imperious Caesar but like Jesus on the cross.” And I would add, like Jesus in the Garden.

We learn from Nephi, a prophet in the Book of Mormon, that Christ lays down his life in order to “draw all men unto him.” [2 Nephi 26:24] And drawn to Him we are. We seek out those who have experienced what we’ve experienced. People we can connect with on a deep level. Those who win us over with their constancy and sublime compassion and generosity.

Alma, another prophet from the Book of Mormon adds that Christ takes our infirmities upon Him “that his bowels may be filled with mercy…that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.” [Alma 7:12] Christ was supplementing His cerebral knowledge with experiential knowledge.

In the same vein, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German Christian and vocal critic of the Nazi party, one who was imprisoned for 2 years during WWII and ultimately executed, noted: “Christ helps us not by virtue of his omnipotence, but by virtue of his weakness and suffering…Only the suffering God can help.”

His Purpose
But God doesn’t do these things just so that we have a shoulder to cry on, divine though it may be. He does this because in his infinite goodness, He wants us to have all that He has and He wants us to be all that He is: “Partakers of the divine nature,” [2 Peter 1:4] “Joint-heirs with Christ.” [Romans 8:17]

Givens also said that, “God’s desire, so manifest in the texture of the created order, is to enlarge the sphere of human joy, and we discover the marvelous truth that our joy is His joy.”

So God provides us with a plan of HAPPINESS. Which isn’t merely a cute name. It’s not clever advertising. The purpose of the plan is for us to obtain joy. Life abundant.

Sister Neill F. Marriott, in this most recent General Conference said, “Yielding to the Lord’s way is the only way to lasting happiness.” [Yielding Our Hearts to God, Oct 2015]

God knows the way – He IS the way – and He wants us to follow Him. But God does not coerce. He does not demand. He invites. He pleads. And He loves. He establishes commandments to guide us. He provides methods of communication through prayer, scriptures, and revelation. He calls prophets to warn and bear special witness. And He gives us His whole self, not only to overcome the effects of sin – to bridge the gap between what we are and what He is – but also that we may be more assured in “trusting [our] all to [His] tender care.” [Hymn 270: I’ll Go Where You Want Me To Go]

Christ has earned His empathy. And His empathy earns our trust. We want a god who has suffered alongside us. Who’s been in the trenches and experienced our traumas. Not an armchair god sitting aloof in his gilded pearly white tower, directing things with his impartial yet all-powerful finger. We can’t connect with a god like that. Save us he might but it wouldn’t be much of a reward to live with him afterwards.

God’s sacrifice is a clarion call to the best that is within us. The idea is that “we [WILL] love Him, because He first loved us.” [1 John 4:19]

Yielding Our Hearts to Him
But such love does require a yielding on our part. A vulnerability. “A broken heart and a contrite spirit.” [3 Nephi 9:20] It requires faith like Adam and Enoch and Noah, Abraham and Sara and all those who “died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them,” as Paul notes. [Hebrews 11:13] It requires placing our hearts on the altar, offering our independent wills, acknowledging that we need help – that God might make a better navigator than our inconstant consciences.

My first experience driving a car happened when I was 12 – coming back from Girls Camp, actually. We were on this dirt road in the middle of nowhere, my dad sitting next to me. He gives me a brief overview of what to do and then we’re off. I’m probably going 5 miles an hour…because I’m terrified. I have no idea what I’m doing or how any of this works. My dad assures me we can go a little faster. So I go a little faster – probably 15 miles an hour – really flying down the road at this point, and we come to a T-intersection. So I stop, cautiously look both ways, start to go…turning the wheel, we’re doing good, we’re doing good…but then I forget to straighten the wheel again and suddenly we’re seemingly careening off the road into this shallow ditch where I run over a tiny pine tree. At which point my dad decides that I’ve probably had enough experience driving for the moment.

Sometimes I feel like my life is just like that. I’m attempting to operate this complicated piece of machinery I don’t fully understand. I can barely reach the pedals or see over the steering wheel. I’m obviously not qualified to be doing this. All I know is that my dad is sitting next to me, giving me pointers, guiding me, reassuring and encouraging me, helping me understand. And because of that I know everything is going to be ok. Even if I end up in a ditch mowing over pine trees.

Sister Marriott pointed out, “The result of sacrificing our heart, or our will, to the Lord is that we receive the spiritual guidance we need…When we open ourselves to the Spirit, we learn God’s way and feel His will.”

And God will not lead us astray. Paul assures us “that all things work together for good to them that love God.” [Romans 8:28] It may not be the good we expect, or hope and pray for. It may not come when we think we need it most. But it will come and it will be the best good for us. We must not give up on Him. And He will not abandon us in our sincere, though halting, efforts.

As Sister Marriott puts it: “If we earnestly appeal to God, He takes us as we are — and makes us more than we ever imagined.”

Story of Jairus
One of my favorite scripture stories is that of the Daughter of Jairus as contained in the book of Mark. Jesus is going around doing what He does – healing people, casting out devils, preaching the Word – and there’s a great press of people surrounding Him. The scriptures describe the scene, “And, behold, there cometh one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name; and when he saw him [meaning Christ], [the ruler] fell at his feet, And besought him greatly, saying, My little daughter lieth at the point of death: I pray thee, come and lay thy hands on her, that she may be healed; and she shall live.” [Mark 5:22-23] So Jesus goes with him and all these other people follow Him and crowd about Him.

Well in this great horde is the woman with the issue of blood who touches the hem of Jesus’ garment and is healed. And in the time it takes for this whole episode to occur, people from Jairus’ household show up and tell him, “Thy daughter is dead: why troublest thou the Master any further?” [v. 35] And this could have been the end of the story – listen, bud, it’s too late for you, stop pestering the Savior. You’ve made too many mistakes. You’ve waited too long. Your chances are no longer lying at the point of death but they’re dead. No one can help you now.

But, “As soon as Jesus heard the word that was spoken, he saith unto the ruler of the synagogue, Be not afraid, only believe.” [v. 36] And Christ goes to the home of this ruler and raises his daughter from the dead.

Conclusion
God has yielded His heart to us, in so many incredible and seemingly impossible ways, and He does it so that we might have joy. “All that [the] Father hath.” [D&C 84:13] He offers us the most compelling evidence for why we should trust Him and He asks that we yield our hearts to Him so that he can guide us to the best possible outcome. Let us set our hearts upon Him as He has upon us, so that we may say, with Isaiah, “But now, O Lord, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand.” [64:8] It’s not too late.

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10 hours in RMNP.

I had heard about elk rutting season almost since the moment I moved to Colorado. In September and October, the elk come down from the mountains in hoards and take over the valleys of Rocky Mountain National Park and the nearby town of Estes Park to do some major mingling. So, come mid-September, when my coworker showed me a video of his Saturday trip up to the Park with an overwhelming number of elk casually ambling around, combined with tales of giant elk strutting right past him and his family, I knew it was time for my own pilgrimage.

Based on his information, I headed up early Saturday morning for my own version of dawn patrol. Arriving sometime around 9 — ok ok, 9:30 — I started my search. I drove all over Moraine Park, Sheep Lakes, Upper Beaver Meadows and even partly up Trail Ridge Road and back again. No elks.

Determined to make the half-day journey worth it, I decided to scrap the elk hunt and go on a hike. I trekked 2.5 miles into the mountains past a 30-ft waterfall and beautiful yellow aspens to a sub-alpine lake.DCIM106GOPROGOPR8824.20160917_13033220160917_131321

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Lake life. Who forgets a hair-tie for a hike? Obviously I do.

Feeling quite satisfied with my experience, even despite my failed attempts at elk spotting, I decided to head back home. On the way back down to my car I happened to run into the coworker of the inspiring video! He let me know that he’d been misinformed about wildlife viewing at dawn. Apparently it’s more common to see the elks at dusk. In fact, they’d had their experience sometime between 4 and 5…so…I didn’t have to wake up early(ish) to wander around aimlessly all morning? Thanks a lot, chief.

Dedication renewed, I staked out a spot just above Moraine Park at around 3:30. Cars started to line up, photographers set up their gear, people got out their binoculars, and I just sat there and waited.

And waited.

And waited.

Finally, close to 5 – STILL NO ELK HOARDS – I overheard a conversation about a large bull elk who wandered through THE VERY AREA I WAS OVERLOOKING. Literally overlooking, I guess. I mean, how in the world did I miss that?? According to these people, this elk ninja was now hiding out in a grove of aspen trees close by and they could still hear it bugle. Bugle? Uh huh. You mean that weird, plaintive, toddler’s cry we just heard? Not very manly at all. I threw up my hands and left.20160917_172257Cars were still stopped above the aspen grove so I wandered over, crept as close to the  sneaky beast as I could and just sat and watched it for a minute — this giant elk, pointy antlers and all, moping audibly like an infant.P1130589Having fulfilled my purpose, I decided to really head home this time.

Alright, maybe after checking out OOONE other spot…

I paused at the vantage point above Sheep Lakes and seeing no crowds, debated turning back. Pressing forward, I started down the hill and immediately ran into parked cars and crowds clustering on the side of the road. Hurriedly abandoning the Subaru, I got out to see a whole GANG OF ELK.

THIS. THIS IS WHAT I CAME FOR.

Women’s rights notwithstanding, I watched delightedly while a single male elk herded his harem. Another elk bugled nearby and I realized there was a second fellow with his lady crew just on the other side of a small berm. The dudes continued taunting each other and, soon enough, the challenger stalked over. Expecting a Planet Earth worthy throw down, I was slightly disappointed when all the shorties suddenly abandoned their boy for the apparently muskier fox and instead of putting up a fight, the jilted male merely skulked off into the woods.P1130604Finally, I left. For real this time.

THEN, on my way through town I came across yet another elk party. This time in the parking lot of an apartment building. And in the middle of the road.20160917_185206P1130633 2I SAW THE ELKS. So many elks. And it only took 10 hours.

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Moab.

Way back in September I met up with baby bro James and cousin Erika for a Labor Day weekend in Moab. I think we planned it the week of. And by “planned” I mean we decided to get together in Moab for the weekend. We arrived late Saturday night and then unintentionally did everything there is to do there in one day. Our final itinerary ended up like this:

Day 1

  • Delicate Arch
  • Devil’s Garden – Landscape Arch, Pine Tree Arch
  • Drive by Double Arch
  • Dead Horse State Park
  • Canyonlands – Mesa Arch, Doom Dome (formerly known as Upheaval Dome)
  • Schaffer Trail – Musselman Arch
  • Dinner
  • Delicate Arch, midnight edition

Day 2

  • Fisher Towers

Baby bro had never been to Moab so we knew we had to show him Delicate Arch and Dead Horse Point at least. Before we left Arches he suggested we go through Devil’s Garden. Naturally we complied. Then we were so close to Canyonlands after Dead Horse Point we decided to check that out as well. It was the only National Park in Utah I hadn’t been to yet.  We hit some of the highlights including Mesa Arch and Upheaval Dome, which is either an eroded salt bubble or an impact crater from a meteorite. We took a look, decided it was DEFINITELY an impact crater and renamed the site “Doom Dome”. #DinoLivesMatter.

While we were there, Erika mentioned an off-road trail back to Moab that she had done years and years ago. I had just purchased my Subaru and was ready to take it to the next level. We basically drove down the side of a cliff then almost got lost in the dark because we underestimated how long it would take. There’s an arch along that trail Erika swears she and her sister walked across. We were excited about the prospect until we took a look at the 4 inch thick arch and decided it’s either changed drastically since they were there last or they had literally lost their minds. Needless to say, we chose life. We got back to Moab around 10pm for the most delicious meal of our lives/our only meal of the day…then promptly took off to hike Delicate Arch at night…because, why not? I thought I could get an epic shot of the arch with the Milky Way…except, it turns out my pictures don’t look as good NOT on my camera. We went to bed at 3am and hiked Fisher Towers the next day before parting ways and heading home.

img_20160906_140445Family. Isn’t it about…meeting up in Moab and doing ten hundred things in 1 day and getting back to camp in the middle of the night?

The many shades of Delicate Arch.

20160904_190005Death.20160904_193333Death. And mini-Erika.

20160904_162938Dead Horse Point. (See that road way down there? We drove that — boorakasha.)

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Life thus far.

Spoiler alert: I didn’t buy a house.

I tried. I really did try. I made 5 offers. All above asking price. Sometimes up to 10% above asking price. And nothing. Still not good enough.

There’s a life lesson in there somewhere, I think.

Instead, I moved into a new apartment, bought myself a car, and gave up on house hunting for a year. Finally, 5 months after moving to Denver my living room is unpacked.

I’d really hate to rush this transition.

In truth there are still a million boxes in my bedroom, the walls are totally empty, and my kitchen lacks a microwave. BUT I have a bookcase full of books so things are all right.  img_20160712_195345When I moved to Florida, I bought a surfboard and a wetsuit. When I moved to Colorado, I bought a Subaru.

Then I promptly put 600 miles on it in the first 2 weeks.

I’ve been to see Tim Howard debut for the Colorado Rapids, A-Rod take on the Rockies, and the Broncos play in pre-season. I even bought a Broncos shirt. They are the reigning Super Bowl champions after all.

I have 3 Denver area library cards. I’ve been to Rocky Mountain National Park twice — once with family, including my 91-yr. old grandmother. She would’ve summited all the mountains but we elected not to. Buncha buzzkills.img_20160616_211403I’ve had several other visitors since I’ve been here too — my Saturday Adventure Club compatriot, a friend who wanted to see a concert at Red Rocks Amphitheater, and a couple coworkers from Jacksonville. None of them actually came here for me, but I’m willing to overlook that, especially since one of those visits enabled me to go rock climbing.20160718_194339-01img_20160730_111153708-01I’ve even conquered my first 14er (that’s local speak for 14,000 ft. mountain…apparently there are 53 of them here). And in flip-flops no less! I mean, we drove…but we still made it to the top so…that counts, right?
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This is my life now.20160821_193826img_20160704_225210-1

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DenCO.

My mouth is always dry.

That’s the first thing I noticed when I got here. That and the mountains. Oh, the mountains. Sometimes I would forget they were here and then I’d round a bend and bam, mountains in my face.

Except, not really in my face because they’re kind of far away.

Mountains on the horizon.

Elevation, period.

My first 30 days in Denver were spent staying in a hotel. Someone made my bed and washed my dishes and I watched Stanley Cup Playoff games (???) and a lot of reruns of Criminal Minds and Modern Family. I never watch hockey on TV. I never watch hockey at all, really. Though apparently my hometown was named Hockeyville USA this year so…super proud o’ that. Also, I could totally relate because I did this one time:

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Breaking sticks and taking names.

Apparently I was desperate for entertainment. Not desperate enough to start Jane Eyre again. Instead I read Slaughterhouse Five…because that’s a lighthearted novel. (What is it with me and my post-move book selections?) Luckily I made it through this one with zero emotional breakdowns. In fact, one quote seemed particularly apropos:

“Lot’s wife, of course, was told not to look back where all those people and their homes had been. But she did look back, and I love her for that, because it was so human. So she was turned to a pillar of salt. So it goes.

***

People aren’t supposed to look back. I’m certainly not going to do it anymore. I’ve finished my war book now. The next one I write is going to be fun. This one is a failure, and had to be, since it was written by a pillar of salt.”

I think about Florida all the time. More than I anticipated. Once, soon after I got here, I actually found myself wondering if a certain small body of water had alligators in it. So it goes. Then I remember it’s been 90 degrees there the past month and I’m satisfied again.

Plus, downtown Denver isn’t dying. It has music and style and history. It has a whole host of disyllabic super trendy urban neighborhoods. Wanna go to LoDo? Let’s try LoHi. RiNo? SloHi? SoBo? Let’s go.

Yep…my kind of town.

So I decided to buy a house.

Me and my household goods moved into an apartment with a 3-month lease 2 weeks ago. There are no condiments in my fridge, my clothes are still in boxes, and I have no idea what’s going to happen at the end of those 3 months. But at least I have my couch.

That’s how Denver’s been so far.

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Documenting Florida.

It’s strange moving on from a place. I’ve often wondered if there was a specific reason for me to be here. And, if so, if it was ever fulfilled.

All I have are hypotheticals.
And suppositions.
And sentiments.

Unfortunately I never really documented my time here in Florida.

I never told you about how I tried to read Jane Eyre after I first moved here and how the sad and lonely start was too much a reflection of my sad and lonely state so I ended up crying inconsolably, closing the book at chapter 4, and never going back to it again.

I’d like to see you try reading that book after moving to the far reaches of the country without a shred of confidence in your decision and no friends or family close by.

The words in these introductory pages connected themselves with the succeeding vignettes, and gave significance to the rock standing up alone in a sea of billow and spray; to the broken boat stranded on a desolate coast; to the cold and ghastly moon glancing through bars of cloud at a wreck just sinking.

That was from page 3…

You didn’t get to share in the disappointment of my failed dream to become a surfer girl. I was so determined in the beginning. I have such perfect hair for it. So shortly after I moved to Florida I bought a surfboard and a wetsuit. And made friends with people who surfed. And I went to the beach sometimes. With all of those things. IMG_20130330_135047_371But then I found that once I had worn myself out trying to get past the break, I mostly wanted to just sit and look for dolphins. Also, this happened:

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Which was enough to make me wary about surfing but not about getting scuba certified. SharkieI never bragged about the day I became an aunt. When my sister had a beautiful, slanty eyed, alien baby boy. All 9 lbs and 22 inches of him. There was one picture of the three of them that I couldn’t stop looking at — that tiny new family. It was the infinite. It was summery sunlight and cloud blankets. It was a beginning and I was in love. Unbreakable unquenchable love. My very own nephew.

The precious

I didn’t tell you about the trip I took to Aruba to celebrate my friend’s fake destination wedding that he won on The Price is Right with a girl he never dated — before or since.
IMG_1014IMG_0085_2IMG_1188Congratulations you two. I don’t know how your actual weddings won’t be a disappointment after this.

I didn’t tell you I decided I wanted to live in a small town someday so I could take a scooter everywhere I go. I imagine it would be like this all the time:

Scooter Augustine

I never really shared the details of my ACL reconstruction surgery. How I took the whole month of December off work and had to wear a giant leg brace every day every day every minute every hour every day. Unless I was exercising. Which mostly meant trying to lift my leg off the ground or bending my knee past 140 degrees. Impossible things for the first week or so. The first time I got on an exercise bike I whimpered the whole time and was pumping so slowly that the autostart never even autostarted. It took at least 6 months for my leg to fully bear my weight going up or down the stairs and I was benched from sports for a year.

It was a hard year. Mostly for my sanity. But also my waistline.

You never got to hear about ex-Jason who I started dating after a whirlwind weekend in the spring and who broke up with me a couple months later over the phone because he didn’t have the heart to do it after I drove him 2 hours home to Orlando.

J: “How do you think things are going?”
L: “Listen, the last 4 weeks with you have been pretty miserable but I’m willing to give it a shot. Whatever it takes.”
J: “We’re traveling so much over the next 3 months that we’re not going to be able to see each other at all.”
L: “Valid point buuuuut….?”
J: “I think we should break up.”
L: “Ok. Byeeeee.”

Our 10 minute conversation went something like that.

Only half of our relationship went something like this.

I also never told you how anxious it made me feel to stay in town alone during holidays while vacation time went underutilized. Combine that feeling with my rabid taste for exploration and the outcome is about 24 trips in the last 2 years, not counting day trips to Orlando or Cape Canaveral or Okefenokee Swamp or Tampa or Cocoa Beach or any number of springs in the area…

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Spaaaaaaaaaace.

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Spriiiiiiiiings.

In one such instance I manipulated one of my friends to travel to the Dominican Republic with me over Thanksgiving. It was a magical experience. We got a flat tire, our car almost flooded, it also sometimes wouldn’t start, and we were held up at gun point on the side of the road. Those hoodlums got our phones. I kept my face and the SD card from my camera. Also, the camera. Oh, and we hiked down a cliff face to a waterfall we thought was from Jurassic Park. It wasn’t. At least the island was pretty…?

T-Rex not pictured.

He’s already told me he’ll never travel with me again.

I guess the most important detail from my time here is that I saw alligators. Lots and lots of wild Florida alligators.

Wild Florida Me.

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North Carolina changes lives.

Six months ago I took a trip that had a profound effect on my life. Literally.

[There will be a lot of similar, seemingly dramatic statements in this post. None of them are overstated.]

For about the last 18 months I have been considering moving out of Jacksonville. I already told you all my friends moved away. And for about the last 12 months I told myself I would do something about it. And I kind of looked and I kind of applied but I never really devoted myself to it.

Then I went to North Carolina in October with mah frenzzz.

The first time I went there – just the year before – it also made quite an impact. North Carolina in the fall changes lives, OKAY??

I mean, LOOK AT THIS PLACE:

I made the pictures extra large so you could fully appreciate them. Fall in your face.

That time, I drove up with friends from Jax and we stopped every 5 minutes to take pictures. That’s not even an exaggeration. I took 300 pictures. Also not an exaggeration.

There was one guy in our group. He mostly laughed at us, but he’s confessed several times over the last year that it was one of the best trips he’s ever taken. Not surprised. You’re welcome.

Us. The whole time.

Everywhere we went it LOOKED LIKE THIS:

I meeeeaaan…this is exactly what I was taking a picture of from the bed of that truck.

Okokok. Fast forward a year. Back in North Carolina, this time with my girls from SLC.

These girls:
And it was equally beautiful.

And we mostly ran around singing the theme song from The Last of the Mohicans [for reasons I shouldn’t have to explain], but one night we got super serious and shared our souls and set goals for ourselves for the next time we would be together — during the annual springtime trip to Newport Beach.

Since actually moving out of Jacksonville seemed a farfetched stretch goal, I committed myself to at least applying to jobs. For real. And figuring out where I wanted to go. For real.

Aaaaaand I did. Aaaaaand I got a job. Aaaaaand I’m actually moving. Whaaaaaat???!?!???!!!

Boom. Over. Achiever.

Thank you, North Carolina. I’m moving to Colorado.

Denver, Colorado. I start April 25.

I’m just going to let that sink in for a minute.

Now, this is how it happened: Never had I ever thought about moving to Denver and never had I ever thought about applying for an internal job with my current company. But one day after entering in vacation time I stumbled across our job page with potentials in Denver and Boston. Boston actually was a location I was interested in and Denver was a site I had contacts at. But I got scared and I hastily closed the page without doing anything at all.

Then I talked to my coworker about it. My favorite coworker. Who has known that I have been looking at jobs almost the whole time I had been looking at jobs. With her selfless support I applied. Two weeks later I had a phone interview. Five weeks and one baby later the manager flew me out for an in-person interview. One week after that I had an offer. And I mostly have other people to thank for it. One of my other coworkers used to be based in Jax but now has responsibilities with Denver that no one really understands. So I sent her a brief email and she took care of the rest.

It’s weird but I actually have zero doubts that it’s what I want to do. Which is quite a unique feeling for me. Most of my decisions are fraught with so much uncertainty that I make myself sick trying to navigate through them and in the end I rarely feel satisfied. It’s possible that it’s taken me 6 months to buy a TV before. It’s also possible that I broke down in one of the bathroom stalls at work the other day. So apparently I’m an emotional basketcase either way.

The good news is people seem to think this means I’ll find someone to marry. I, however, would be grateful if I could just find people to hang out with again.
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