Who Run the World? Girls!

A few weeks ago I started volunteering with Girls on the Run, an incredible organization that teaches girls in 3rd-5th grade life skills while they train to run a 5K.  As with 99.9% of my volunteer experiences, I went in thinking I was doing something to “give back” and turns out I’m the one who is receiving so, so much.

On Tuesday and Thursday afternoons I leave work at 4pm, which is sometimes really, really hard to do – not because of my boss or my job [who are beyond accommodating and supportive] but because of my own unhealthy perfectionistic tendencies.  One of the other coaches said she volunteers partly as a forcing mechanism to get her to leave the office and I’m starting to empathize with that. Knowing that a group of high energy, loving, silly, irrepressible 8-10 years olds is counting on me is all the accountability I need to get me out the door.  I don’t want to disappoint them, and I don’t want to miss one moment of time with them.

I’ve pretty much gotten choked up at every practice.  A few weeks ago the lesson was on self talk, and we had the girls pair up to practice turning negative self talk to into positive.  One of the little girls ran towards her partner and said in a small voice, head downcast “I’m ugly and stupid.” My heart stopped in that moment – hearing a precious 8 year old voice such ugly thoughts  aloud made me feel unable to breathe and I struggled with what to say in response. I didn’t need to worry, because before I could say anything her partner looked at her and piped up in a cheery, matter of fact voice “Audrey, you’re not ugly! Everyone is beautiful in their own way!” Audrey’s face lit up with a smile as she skipped back to her place in line, and I tried to hold it together and not burst out crying at the beauty in front of me.

The girls aren’t saints – they push the boundaries and test limits and seem incapable of listening for more than 5 seconds at a time.  But that makes me love them all the more. They are beautiful in their humanity. There is a raw honestly to them that breaks my heart.  They haven’t grown all of the creative, complex layers of self-protection we adults do, so the things they say and do are often breathtakingly raw and honest.

One of the girls twisted her ankle during practice, and got a piggy back ride back to school.  One of the other little girls was walking behind and looked at me, sighed and said matter of factly “Sometimes I like getting hurt because I get attention and comfort.  I don’t think people like me very much, so it’s nice when people are nice to me.” Again, before I could speak another girl standing nearby piped up “Olivia, I like you! You’re my friend!”  Olivia beamed, and I severely regretted not wearing waterproof mascara that day.

Spending time with these girls fills my heart with so much, and also gives me a glimpse of how terrifying parenting is.  I’m used to chubby two year olds whose biggest problem is tantrums. These girls are full blown, undeniable people, figuring out who they are and how they fit in, navigating bullies and hurt and friendships and self worth.  I’ve heard the quote that parenting is like having your heart walk around outside of your body and given how much I already care about these precious girls I’ve known less than a month, I can only imagine how true that is.

A few days after Kavanaugh was confirmed, as I was still processing the deep hurt and anger and sense of betrayal of all women that his confirmation and the surrounding conversation stirred up, I found myself standing in Washington Square Park cheering these girls on as they ran laps. They were all trying their best, pushing themselves beyond how far and fast they had run before, and I yelled encouragement at them as they ran by.

“You are so strong!”

“You got this girl!”

“You’re trying so hard! I’m so proud of you!”

“Finish strong! You can do this!”

Speaking those words of love and truth and encouragement over these precious girls felt like a sacrament, a holy moment, a benediction.  Words matter, and every woman I know, myself included, has a tape in her head of the discouraging words she’s heard in her lifetime. “You’re not pretty enough, strong enough, smart enough.  Girls can’t run, Girls can’t do math, Girls can’t be the boss. No one likes you, you have no friends, you’ll never be enough.” As I stripped my throat raw yelling and cheering and making a total fool of myself in the midst of tourists, dog walkers and homeless folks in North Beach, I felt such hope bubbling up inside of me.

I can’t change the Supreme Court.  I can’t change the toxic narratives floating around that minimize and diminish women’s stories. I can’t convince every woman that she is strong and beautiful and loved, that she matters and that her story matters.  I can’t do all of that, but I can do this.  I can stand in a park and yell my heart out and high five a dozen strong, smart, kind girls who are going to grow up – God willing – into strong, smart, kind women, and change the world in their own ways.  I can front-load words of encouragement and love to the lifelong narrative they are accumulating in their minds and hearts.

As I stood there cheering wildly, one of the girls ran past me, glasses askew, long hair flying behind her, her dress flapping in the wind, limbs akimbo as she ran with her whole heart, and I just thought “This.  This is the future, this is hope, this is the very best of what I want for our world and every child and girl and woman in it.”

One of my most treasured possessions is a rock that sat on my dad’s desk,  inscribed with the Mother Teresa quote “Do no great things, only small things with great love.”  That’s what I’m doing on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons in Washington Square Park. I’m not changing laws or changing the world.  But I’m loving and encouraging 12 precious little girls, and praying that my words stick with them as they navigate this big, broken yet still beautiful world.

Because to quote a very wise 5th grader I know, we’re all beautiful in our own way. 

Love Conquers All

What a week.

This week made me want to alternately throw things against the wall and curl up into a fetal position.  This week I have felt rage like I’ve never felt before. And deep grief. And utter helplessness. I am spent, wrung out, exhausted.

I wore a shirt today that says “Love Conquers All”  – because I believe with all my heart that’s true and because it felt so deeply untrue this week.  I needed a tangible reminder, something to hold onto – small, indelible, cursive red letters stitched across my weary heart to cling to and publicly proclaim in the midst of a week that made me rage and scream and cry and mourn.  

Watching the hearing was excruciating, but I couldn’t look away.  Listening to Dr. Ford testify I marveled at her courage and her grace, the sacrifice she was making to, as Kamala Harris put it “do what she felt was her civic duty, to tell her truth.”

Contrast that with Brett Kavanaugh, whose full scale meltdown at being asked to respond to credible allegations as part of a job interview for one of the highest positions in the government was the most informative vision of the entrenchment of straight, white male privilege I’ve ever seen.  

I believe Dr. Ford.  I believe her because she had nothing to gain and everything to lose by coming forward.  I believe her because the incidence of women falsely reporting sexual assault is miniscule.  [The incidence of women not reporting true assault, however,  is high, and based on this week it’s not hard to see why so many women remain silent.]  I believe her because what she said just makes sense, and is consistent with the evidence of Brett Kavanaugh’s behavior in high school.

Putting aside for a moment whether or not Dr. Ford’s story is true [ honoring “innocent until proven guilty” as hard as that is for me to do in this case] what I want in a Supreme Court justice – in any elected official, really  – is integrity.  I want someone who will say “I didn’t do this thing I’ve been accused of but this is too important, so I’ll calmly answer questions and submit to an investigation and do whatever I need to do to help uncover the truth.”  

What happened instead was a full scale meltdown of someone who has spent their entire life operating in a world that was built for them, free from any checks on their power and privilege.  Someone dared to challenge that power and he lost his shit.

When I read on Friday morning [before Flake reversed] that the senate was going to move forward with a vote, I started crying and I couldn’t stop.  The message I got from that decision was clear.

Women’s stories don’t matter.  Your story doesn’t matter.

A credible witness with nothing to gain and everything to lose swore under oath and told a credible story about a man trying to rape her – and we don’t fucking care.

We don’t care enough to investigate, we don’t care enough to take her claims seriously.  We don’t care enough to second guess nominating a man who has been accused of sexual assault by four women to the Supreme Court.

That’s what is hardest about all of this – the message I’m getting crystal clear from every senator who is pushing this nomination forward is you don’t matter.

I think of the women I know. I think of my friends, colleagues, bosses, neighbors, cousins, aunties. I think of all of the stories. So damn many stories.

Of being molested at 12. Assaulted at 14. Rape at 20.

Of being attacked by a stranger. A trusted friend. A first date. A boyfriend. A husband.

At their office. At home. At school. In the park.

On a run. On a walk. Sitting at home. Sleeping in their bed.

Of being locked in a car by an abusive boyfriend  – whom she met at church.

Of being molested at her preschool.  

Of being attacked in a parking lot in college.

Of being assaulted at a party. At a church camp. By her priest. By her uncle. By her father, her brother, her stepbrother.  

Of being pinned on a bed. In the backseat of a car. Her mouth being covered, muffling her screams. Being slapped. Punched.  The tears leaking out between his fingers clamped on her face.

These are the stories, these are the lived experiences, this is reality for so many women I know and love and admire and a group of people who we elected to uphold the ideals of justice just told me and everyone I know and love that they don’t care.  They just told us our stories don’t matter. Our pain doesn’t matter, our assault doesn’t matter, the way our lives have been shaped and twisted and contorted and altered by violence and abuse and assault doesn’t matter.

I’m calling bullshit.

I’m calling bullshit because they matter.  Every one of these women matter. Their stories matter. Their trauma matters. They matter. We all matter.

There’s that well known quote that “the opposite of love isn’t hate, it’s indifference” and that is the evil, insidious thing that it making me want to scream and rage and sob.  The indifference to injustice and abuse and suffering when it is literally looking you in the face, telling you what happened.

I can’t fix this.  I want to desperately and I can’t.

But what I can do is shout at the top of my lungs, with every breath in me, that this is not fucking ok.  I can a look in the eyes of the strong, resilient, beautiful women I am privileged to know and say with fierce and tender love “You Matter. Your story matters. It matters to me, it matters to the people who love you, it matters to the God who created you and sees you and loves you. You are loved and strong and valuable. That is the truth.”

Love is such a tricky word.  It can have soft, fluffy connotations  – puppies and pink hearts and sappy poems.  And sometimes Love needs to be soft and tender, warm and cozy, comforting and calm.

But I believe that love is also fierce.  Love stands up for what’s right and fights like hell to protect the beloved.  Love doesn’t back down no matter how hard and dark and discouraging things get.

Love conquers all.

Love never fails.

Love wins.

I’m sad and angry and discouraged this week, but I am choosing to believe that there is still hope, and that there is work to be done.

I’m donating to organizations that are advancing the cause of justice and helping victims of sexual assault to be heard, believed and cared for.  I’m standing up for myself and for the women around me. [A man at the Mission BART station looked at me yesterday like he was going to make a comment and in my head I thought “Oh I just dare you to try man. You cannot even fathom the fire and fury I will reign down on you. Not today. Not fucking today.”]

I’m refusing to sit down or shut up or go along to protect men’s egos or feelings. I’m done.  I’m done letting my silence add to to the pain and suffering of women.  

We’re all fucking done.

I’m done playing nice and I’m ready to love fiercely.  

Bring it on.

New Beginnings

New Beginnings

I spent last week celebrating a dear friend’s wedding outside Toronto and my heart is still full of all the feelings that go along with watching someone you love be so happy it radiates off of her, like a glow no makeup can reproduce.

Marianne and I have know each other for less than five years, which I realize isn’t long in the grand scheme of things, but it feels like we’ve been through a lifetime of “capital L” Life together.  We met when we were both single and in our twenties and newly moved to the Bay Area. We met for the first time at her birthday party, and bonded over gluten free cupcake recipes. From there we had coffees [tea for her – Canadian to the core] and dinners [we tried every gluten free vegetarian pizza on the Peninsula] and took long walks around downtown Palo Alto and hiked the Stanford Dish together.  We had long, deep conversations about love and life, family and faith, and helped each other navigate the bewildering and often bizarre world of dating and relationships. I teased her about creating a spreadsheet of her online dates – scientist to the core, she wanted to track her progress and mine the data for patterns.

As she’s been planning her wedding over the last few months we’ve been joking that wedding planning spreadsheets have replaced dating spreadsheets, and I marvel at the magic that happens when you walk through important, profound life stages with someone.  Bearing witness to the journey that brought her to her wedding day is an honor and a gift. Five years isn’t long, but an abundance of learning and growth and formative life experiences have been packed into those five years. As we sat together at the rehearsal dinner and took silly bridal party photos and danced to Taylor Swift, I watched her and Ambrose together and was struck by the undeniable, quiet, profound moments of love between them. –  pure, beautiful love. They both looked so happy – radiantly, peacefully happy.

One of the most beautiful moments of the wedding ceremony was when both sets of parents stood at the altar to pray for the couple.  Marianne’s parents stood behind her and placed their hands on her shoulders, and Ambrose’s parents did the same for him, and the image of their two families of origin standing behind them [literally] and praying for them as the two of them formed a new family was beautiful and moving.

The whole group gathered together at her family farm the next day, and it was so special to be with them on their first day of married life.  To witness the before and the after, of two becoming one, choosing each other to walk hand in hand into the future together, whatever joys and sorrows and challenges and adventures life brings.  It was an honor to watch them take the first of many steps on their new journey of life together.

New beginnings.

I have four best friends from growing up, affectionately nicknamed “The Guild.”  We all grew up together in Saratoga, and different pairs of us have known each other since preschool or elementary or middle school.  The five of us bonded in our high school youth group, and that bond has endured across different cities and countries, through graduate school and boyfriends and break-ups and cross-country moves and marriages and babies.  Whenever people ask me if I have siblings I say that while technically I’m an only child, I have four “sisters from others misters” – sisters by choice, bonded by a love as strong as blood.

Marissa and I met in middle school, and now she has three precious and spirited and wild and wonderful little girls.  Her husband flew me out to Texas for a surprise visit when her when her oldest, Claire, was just a month old. I visited a few summers ago and sat at the dinner table next to Alice, her then-3 year old, as spunky and spirited as they come.  Marissa told some wild tales of Alice’s independence and strong will, and when I got back to California I told everyone that while I knew I shouldn’t play favorites, Alice might be it – a strong, independent, future #girlboss if ever there was one.

Last week Marissa texted The Guild to tell us that Alice was having surgery and might have kidney cancer, asking us to pray.  I got the text at work and at first I thought I misread it – it was so surreal and outside the ordinary of what’s possible, I must have misunderstood.  I read it again, and as more details unfolded over the next several days – Stage 2 cancer, chemo ahead but a good prognosis – I just keep thinking “but we’re not grown up enough for this.”  I understand that three of us are married and two of us are moms – I was there at the weddings and the baby showers and the hospital.  I know all of that, but this – your child having cancer – this happens to people I don’t know on Facebook and on heart-wrenching stories on Good Morning America.   This doesn’t happen to your friend that you had tea parties with and remember with her braces on and singing songs on a bus to Mexico with.

One of my favorite writers, Glennon Doyle Melton, reminds us that crisis means to sift, as in to let all that isn’t essential fall away and keeping only what matters most, and I’m imagining this playing out in Marissa’s life, magnified times a hundred to what it’s doing in mine.  I’m imagining the fear and pain and sorrow, yes, and I’m grieving and hurting with her, but I’m also imagining the gift in all of it, strange as it sounds. The gift of being reminded that all of the stuff we start to believe matters pales in comparison to the precious gift of the people we love.

My heart is hurting with Marissa’s, because I love her and when someone you love is in pain you are in pain, but I also know we share the same hope, in a Love bigger even than a mother’s love [as impossible as that seems to believe.]  I know we share a belief in a God big enough to sustain and encourage and bring beauty from ashes and light from the darkness, even in the midst of all this. I know that as Marissa and Rob and Alice and Claire and Evelyn walk into this scary and painful and hard new reality together, they are surrounded and bound together and sustained by a Love that does not flinch in the face of pain or grief, but always hopes, always trusts and always perseveres.  They are sustained by a Love that never fails.

New beginnings.

I’m turning 33 tomorrow, and this birthday feels different.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m still looking forward to celebrating with friends and eating #allthecake and thanking God for another year of the precious gift of life, which it absolutely is. But it feels different in that I’m finally learning some lessons about letting go of my expectations of what this new year of life will bring.

The lead up to this birthday has been hard.  I’ve wrestled deeply with how different my life looks than I thought it would look at 33.  I’m missing my dad, and grieving celebrating a decade of birthdays without him – it feels painfully final in a way I didn’t anticipate it to feel.  I’m wishing that so many things were different, and grieving that there’s nothing I can do to change it.

And yet.

And yet I think a confluence of events is finally, finally, making me accept something that I’ve fought against tooth and nail for my whole life, especially the last decade.

I’m finally accepting that I don’t have control.  

You don’t need a PhD in clinical psychology to see the link between standing by helplessly while my dad died of a heart attack and spending ten years believing that if I just tried hard enough, I could stop bad things from happening.  I really believed that if I tried hard enough, if I was responsible and organized and on top of life enough, I could control the pain, minimize the damage, prevent the loss.

It makes my hurt heart as I type that – because I know how much I’ve honestly believed that and how painfully misguided it is.  I know I’ve made hard things in my life more painful by believing that if I just tried harder I could fix them.  I’m grieving how little compassion and grace I’ve had for myself over the past ten years, compared to the inexpressible riches of the compassion and grace God has for me.

I’m finally starting to accept that I can’t make things happen in my life that I wish I could.  I can’t stop my friends and family from feeling pain. I can’t control other people’s decisions. I can’t prevent losing the people I love.

And the truth is, I’m exhausted.  The “trying harder” all the time is wearing me out, and I need a new way, a different way.

Usually I approach my birthday with sky-high expectations of what the year will bring.  “This will be the year that I fill-in-blank” has been my motto.  As in, “This will be the year that I find my dream job/meet the love of my life/get my own home.”  And before I know it, another year goes by, along with the crushing disappointment when another birthday rolls around, and turns out it wasn’t the year.  

To be clear, I’m not letting go of my dreams, but I am letting go of clutching so tightly to the how and why and what and when of my life that my knuckles turn white and I feel like a failure when my best laid plans don’t turn out like I thought they would.

So, this year I’m trying a different way.   I’m letting go of control, which is excruciatingly difficult for me, and learning  – falteringly, slowly, inch by inch – how to let go. I’m going to let go of my white knuckle grip on my life, and open my hands to receive whatever God has in store for me this year.    I’m practicing the spiritual disciple of trust. Because I might not know the details yet of the how and why and what and when of what this thirty third year of life will bring, but I know through experience that God gives good, good gifts.  Like joy. And hope. And peace. And love – so much love.

So I’m giving my dreams, my birthday wishes, the deepest desires of my heart back to God, and trusting Him to fill in the details.

Because as much as I love to write, God is a much better Author than I’ll ever be.

New Beginnings.

Ten Years

Dear Dad,

I don’t know how to write about this day.  It’s been ten years since I lost you – since so many people who loved you lost you – and it’s surreal and scary and heavy and hard.  I want to run away and not face it, to find some place to hide where the pain can’t touch me, where I can be safe. I’m scared of the magnitude of the grief, the weight that comes from marking a decade without you in my life.

But that’s not what you taught me.  You taught me that to feel deeply means we are alive.  You taught me that tears aren’t a sign of weakness, they are a sign of strength.  You taught me that life is painful but it’s also beautiful. You taught me that I was strong enough to face anything life brought my way.

You taught me to be brave.

So I’m going to be brave and I’m going to #feelallthefeelings today.  I’m going to feel all the feelings and try – imperfectly, faltering, oh-so-humanly – to put into words what is in my head and heart as I process this milestone of a decade of life without you.  I’m going to try to use my words to honor you and what you meant – and still mean – to me.

I miss you every day and I know I’m not the only one.  I miss your laugh and your bear hugs, your big smile and your kindness.  I miss your enthusiasm for the little things, your ready joy, the way you made people feel so seen and valued and cared for.  I miss your dad jokes, your energy, your zest for life, your willingness to be silly and open-hearted and live life on purpose.  I miss how you would insist on giving me $20 bills when I left the house, “just in case,” despite my protests that I didn’t need them.  I miss your generous spirit, the way you gave to everyone so lavishly, generosity as your default mode. I miss how much you delighted in kiddos and the sweet and silly things they did.  I miss your love of learning, your thirst for deeper understanding of God and yourself and the world. I miss your voice, the Southern lilt that lingered years after you moved West – dropping the “t” in Saturday and pronouncing naked “nekid.”  I miss your love of food, how the first dish you taught me to cook was grits, scrambled eggs and Jimmy Dean sausage [I hate to break it to you, Dad, but I’m a vegetarian now – I guess Mom feeding me tofu as a baby won out over the breakfast meats].

You passed down so many pieces of yourself to me.  Your smile, your curly hair, your love of words and quotes, your Greek heritage, your passion for social justice and loving folks on the margins, your heart for service.  Whenever someone who knew you tells me that they see a bit of you in me, I take it as the highest compliment I can get.  “George’s daughter” is one of my proudest titles.

This day hurts but I’m also so, so grateful for the pain.  After you died someone gave me a card that said “Never forget that we mourn because we lost something good” and that is so true.  I know how lucky I am to have had you as my dad for 22 years. I feel like it wasn’t enough – but I also know it’s so much more than so many people get.  The older I get, the more stories I hear, the more life I live, the more I know the kind of father you were to me is a rare and precious gift.

The memory of you that is seared into my heart, that sums up our relationship so well, is from one summer when I was home from college.  I remember standing in the hallway of our house, between my bedroom and your office, talking to you. A close friend had hurt me, badly, and I was pouring out my heart to you, telling you all about it.  I talked and talked and cried and cried, processing what had happened and the pain it caused and the way forward, to repair this precious relationship that meant so much to me. You nodded and listened for a full 30 minutes, just letting me get it all out, and finally, when I stopped for breath, you looked at me with so much love in your eyes and you said “Mary, I love the way you think.”

At the end of the day, Dad, I think all us humans want the same thing  – we all just want to be known and loved. You gave me both. You knew me – you got me – and you loved me so well.  As much as today hurts, as much as I mourn the loss of having you in my life, I know that your love is still here. Your love is a talisman I carry with me, always.  You spent 22 years showing me that I’m loved, just as I am, and I feel it deep in the marrow of my bones. Death can’t take that away.

When I spoke at your memorial service, I said that the greatest compliment I could give you was that you, as my human father, so accurately modeled the love of my Heavenly Father.  That is as true today as it was then, and I feel the full weight of it more with each passing year.  The longer I navigate life without you, the more I cling to that Divine love, and find hope and peace and rest in the midst of the pain and uncertainty.

A few years ago I had a necklace made from your signature on a card you wrote me – it says “love” and I wear it every day.  I know other people get tattoos to remember loved ones they’ve lost – this is your needle-phobic daughter’s way of keeping your memory close [based on your reaction when I wanted to get my bellybutton pierced at 16, I think you’d prefer the necklace to the tattoo, anyways].  

That word – love – sums up perfectly the legacy that you left me.  You poured so much love into my life, and I know your hope for me was that I would pour it out again – to be as generous with my time and resources and love and compassion as you were.

People tell me “if your dad was here he’d be so proud of you” and I know that’s true.  I also know you wouldn’t be proud of me because I work at Google or live in San Francisco or pay my taxes and am a law-abiding citizen [ok you’d also be proud of all of those things, too].  But what you’d really be proud of is how I love the people in my life.  Because you’re the one who taught me that that is all and everything.

You’re not here, physically, anymore but your heart still beats.  It beats in the lives of the people you loved so well, in the memories they have of you, in the ways you showed us how to love others more deeply.

I’m sad, today, yes, but I’m also so thankful and so proud.  Thankful that I got 22 years with you as my dad, and fiercely proud to be your daughter.

I love you so much and I miss you like crazy, and all I can do is promise you that I’m going to keep trying every day to live my life with more love, just like you did.

I love you dad.

Love, Your Kid

Being > Doing

The month of July has been busy –  busy to the point that I keep making Freudian slips and saying it’s June because I am straight up in denial at how quickly this summer is flying by.  The thing is, I’ve been busy with mostly really wonderful things – traveling, attending weddings and anniversary celebrations, throwing parties and organizing social events, filling out applications for volunteering and fellowship programs, working hard at a job that I genuinely like and am thankful for – all really good things.

All really good things, but I’m also been feeling exhausted and overwhelmed.  I’ve been waking up at 3am with my brain running a million miles a minute, thinking of the plane tickets I need to buy and the emails I need to send and the fact that my mattress is too short and I should probably buy a new one, and I wonder where I can buy a mattress in San Francisco and should I get one of those hipster Caspar ones and…

Busy, busy busy.

Busy isn’t bad, and again they are mostly really good things I’m busy with, but I’ve been reminded lately that the very real downside of being so busy is that it leaves me feeling disconnected from my own life.  When I’m so busy doing and not being I start to feel worn out, scraped down, disconnected – I feel like I’m missing my own life, like I’m skimming the surface and covering a lot of ground, but not going deep and being rooted, having the time to be fully present and actually experience my life. When that starts to happen I know I need to make a change – not overload my schedule, practice saying no to some invitations [really hard for me], build in time to do nothing. 

I need to practice being over doing.  

I used to think I was 100% an extrovert because I love people – more and more lately I’m realizing that as much as I love people, I also need time alone to recharge, to reflect, to think about the experiences I’ve had.  I need time to go deep and not wide. To reflect and not react.  To be and not do.

I remember throwing myself a big birthday bash a few years ago.  I invited 40 of my closest friends and gathered them all in a house, expecting it to be a fabulous night – and I hated every minute of it.  I hated it because I spent the whole night going wide and not deep – talking to each person for 5 minutes then flitting to the next.  I wanted to sit down and have a 2 hour heart-to-heart catch up with everyone in that room but I couldn’t – and I felt deeply unsatisfied. Like being starving and presented with a buffet of food, only to be asked to spit out each bite as soon as it passes your lips.

Contrast that with my 30th birthday celebration, when I spent the weekend with my three best friends and one darling baby [my friend’s baby not just some random baby :)] in an AirBnB in San Luis Obispo.  We slept in and drank coffee and colored in one of those “calm” adult coloring books. We lounged in our PJs until 10am, passing baby Sadie around like a sweet party favor, blowing raspberries on her tummy to make her giggle.  We wandered around the streets of the town we spent so much time in in college, feeling old as we passed college students, reminiscing about Bali’s frozen yogurt and the BBQ sauce at Firestone.  It was far and away my favorite birthday, marked by being and not doing.

On Monday I’m flying to Mexico to spend a week with those three best friends and three of my fave kiddos [again, one of their kiddos, not just some random ones] and what I’m looking forward to most is simply being together (with pina coladas in hand which doesn’t hurt ;)).

I’m yearning for long, lazy, uninterrupted conversations, no time pressure that we have to be somewhere – just being together, soaking up the sun, passing sweet baby Teddy around like a party favor [and getting in a great arm workout while we’re at it because that kiddo is heavy!].

Being not doing.

I worry often about how fleeting life is- I feel time’s hot breath on my neck, reminding me that the days are long but the years are short and I feel self imposed pressure to make every moment count – to always say “yes” to experiences and conversations and opportunities because “tomorrow isn’t promised to any of us.”  

The thing is, I want to prize quality over quantity.  I want to live a life marked by depth, not width.  I don’t want the stories people tell at my funeral to be about how many tasks I crossed off my to-do list, the volume of things I accomplished, the accolades I earned .  I want the stories to be about how deeply I loved, how I made people feel seen and known and cared for, how present I was.

One of the sayings I cling to is “every no is a yes to something else.” Every time I say “no” to skimping on sleep or exercise or healthy eating, I’m saying yes to more fully enjoying my life because I feel my best.  Every time I say “no” to squeezing in one more social commitment, one more fun thing, I say yes to more fully enjoying the ones I’ve already committed to and being fully present. 

The people in my life whom I love are the greatest treasures I have and I want to do what you’re supposed to do with treasures – marvel at them, soak them in with awe and wonder. That’s not something you can squeeze in between meetings, or multitask at while responding to email or checking Instagram.

So I’m thankful for a busy month so I can course-correct a bit – to remind myself that saying no is a spiritual discipline, to build in more margin, more time for being and not doing, more time to dwell deeply with the ones I love and thank God for every day I have on this earth to do it.

A Broken Heart

I don’t remember where I first heard the quote “a broken heart is an open heart” but I’ve been reflecting on it a lot this past week.

Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain’s suicides are heartbreaking – they both left behind young children, and thinking about them, about how they are going to cope with losing a parent in such a tragic way, takes my breath away.  

I have nothing but empathy for both of their struggles – like so many people I know, I struggled with clinical depression in my early 20s.  I remember too well the feelings of utter hopelessness, the sense that nothing would get better and that I would be better off not living.  I remember walking by a river in Lyon, France where I was studying abroad and thinking I should end it all – which gives me chills today, to remember how dark things had become, that I actually believed there was no hope, that things would never get better.

By the grace of God, with the love and support of family and friends, a lot of really good therapy and medication, I got better.  I got better and I am deeply thankful – that there is hope and that depression doesn’t have to be a life sentence. There is always hope.

I talked to a colleague this week who got a cancer diagnosis two months after graduating college and starting her new job at Google.  She studied public health in college, and she talked about how going through chemo opened her eyes to what it’s like to be a patient, and gave her new wells of empathy and understanding she never would have had otherwise.  I was stunned by her ability to view her experience that way, and told her so. That capacity to find the hope and the beauty in tragedy, to open your heart to more deeply care for those around you instead of shutting it down out of fear or anger or bitterness at the hand life has dealt you – that is the most brave and beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.

I’ve come to realize over the years that the most beautiful people I know are the ones who have been through the most heartbreaking tragedies.

My best friend lost her mom when she was two years old.  She grew up without a mom, and now to watch her parent her three children is to be in the presence of the most loving, patient, gracious mama I’ve ever seen.  I watch her as she talks to her kids, listens to them with love and kindness and a truly divine amount of patience [I love those munchkins but they are a handful!!] and it is a beautiful thing.  Those kids will never know a day of their lives that they aren’t sure, deep in the marrow of their bones, that they are loved unconditionally, unequivocally, forever and always.  They are loved and delighted in the way God intended for us all to be loved – and I don’t know what greater gift a parent can give, what greater gift any of us can give to one another.  She is giving her children what she didn’t have – a mother’s fierce and tender love – and it is a beautiful thing to bear witness to.

My dear friend Liz lost her mom to cancer when she was 16 – she had to walk through an experience that would break most adults when she was just a teenager.  To be with her is to experience Life with a capital L. She is a fount of “Lizdom,” deep and wise and hilarious and joyful – every time I talk to her there is both laughter and tears – the hallmark of the very best kind of conversations. She was the one who initiated me into the Dead Parents Club [our motto is “you laugh so you don’t cry”] and was my guide navigating the weird and hard realities of losing a parent at a young age.  Together we brainstormed how to respond to the question “where do your parents live?” and how not to punch someone in the face when they complained about their [loving, kind and very much alive] parents wanting to spend time with them.  Liz is a radiant, deep, wonderful person not in spite of her loss but in many ways because of it – it has shaped and molded her into this beautiful person I am blessed to call my friend.

My mom cared for her mom [my grandma] for over 10 years as she struggled w/ Alzheimer’s, flying up to Washington state twice a year to take her to her doctor’s appointments, until she passed away in 2003.   My dad was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s in 2008, and died later that year from a heart attack, leaving my mom without her husband of 28 years.  A few years later, after flying back and forth often to upstate NY to help care for him, she lost her brother.  These losses didn’t make her bitter – if anything they only increased the depth of her love, her ability to care for those around her. My mom is one of the most loving, kind, generous-of-spirit people I know. She is always looking for opportunities to give of herself – her time, her attention, her energy, her hard work.  She gives and gives and when she’s done she gives some more. People tell me often that I look like her or sound like her – I pray w/ all my heart I’ll be as generous as her someday, giving without a second thought.

I could keep going, listing people I love who have struggled with miscarriages and losing children and abusive family relationships and sexual assault and all sorts of grief and loss and pain – and have chosen to keep their hearts open, to grieve and rage and feel all of the feelings, yes absolutely, and also to allow their hearts to be enlarged by suffering, not made smaller.

They say you become like the people you spend the most time with, and when I look around at the people in my life, I pray to God that’s true.  Because I am surrounded by people who have endured great loss and pain, and have emerged from it stronger and more tender, beautiful of spirit, with a deep empathy and love for those around them and a deep compassion for the world.

Life is short and precious, and weeks like these, with headlines of tragic deaths and lives cut short too soon, are reminders of that.

Father’s Day is this Sunday, and I know I’m not the only one who approaches this day with a heavy heart.  I know so many people who are missing their dads this week, who were deeply blessed to have a loving, close relationship with them,  and that the hole that leaves brings pain.  I know many others whose father is still living, but they mourn all the same – for a father who couldn’t or didn’t love them the way they deserved, who wasn’t there, present in their loves, cheering them on.  That wound, that pain, of what could have been but wasn’t, stings too.

As much as it hurts, I’m trying to remember that the blessing of a broken heart is that it’s an open one-  open to dwelling more deeply with the suffering of others, open to deeply treasuring the beauty of the world all the more because there is also pain, open to loving with more courage and boldness because we know the days are short, and that tomorrow isn’t promised to any of us.  So instead of running away from the pain, I’m going to lean into it, and let the brokenness become a conduit for more grace, more gratitude, and most of all for more love.

Home

I spent the past eleven days traveling around Paris and London, and it was delightful – as in chock full of delights.  I wandered aimlessly around the streets of Paris, discovering charming cobblestoned streets and picturesque alleyways at every turn.  I sat in cafes sipping cafe cremes and enjoying perfect baguettes and watching the world go by.  I had drinks at the Ritz with my roommates, which turned into drinks at the Hemingway bar, complete with a full rose decorating the side of each cocktail.  I sat in a charming London theatre theatre watching Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, and the best part was the little girl to my left, chatting with her mom at intermission about what she thought would happen next, and the little girl to my right, cuddled up with her dad and declaring after the play was over that it had been the best birthday ever, and that she wanted to a be a writer when she grew up #feels.

As in all of my life, the highlights of my trip were the people  – making funny faces for selfies in a charming English garden with 18-month old Caleb, savoring late night Nutella crepes in a cafe with my dear friend Stephanie as a warm summer thunderstorm rained down outside, waving at my roomie’s mama on FaceTime as we wandered along the Seine.  Thanks to the magic of Instagram, I met up with a friend I hadn’t seen since college, and got to meet her precious baby girl, Mathilda, as close to a living doll as you can get.  I had dinner with the very first person I ever worked with at Google when I started nearly four years ago.  I sat in a living room sipping tea with my Airbnb hosts, a couple who is American [him] and British [her] and talked nonstop for two hours about Mormonism, British culture, losing parents, dating and how to build a life of meaning and love.

I am grateful beyond words for these experiences.  I know that having the ability to travel is a privilege – I am deeply grateful for the gift of the means and health and time to fly across the world, make precious memories with people I love, and meet new, amazing people who open my eyes to new ways of thinking and being in the world.  To me the ultimate gift of travel is summed up in one word – perspective.  Perspective on my own life, as I step away from the day to day, and can see the forest for the trees. It’s like all of beautiful works of art I saw in Paris and London – sometimes you need to step back to see the full picture #pun intended.   It was perspective on my own life, yes, but also on the fact that there as many ways to make a life as there are people in the world  – and being reminded of that is a breath of fresh air

Paris was full of hipster barber shops and man buns and apparently veganism is all the rage in London, which made me smile – I feel like I was back home in San Francisco.  Both cities were full of clothing stores, Mexican restaurants and acai bowl/smoothie joints advertising the “California lifestyle” – it was ironic, that I lived in a tourist destination and was leaving it to come there.  A good reminder that the grass is always greener.

A friend left a message on one of my many besotted  “I heart London” Instagram posts, teasing me that it looked like I had found my happy place and wasn’t coming back.  My response was unequivocal – London is lovely, but it’s not my home.  I remember when I decided to leave NYC – after years of blood, sweat and tears building a life there my best friend [one of my “sisters by another mister” as I lovingly refer to my dearest friends] was about to have her first baby back in California.  There’s no amount of charming city life that can compete with that. Home is where your people are.

Last year I wandered the streets of Paris and daydreamed about moving there – about how much richer and fuller and better my life would be if only I lived somewhere else.  This year I woke up on my last day in London like a kid on Christmas morning and thought “I get to go home today!!” and felt pure joy.  That is a gift.

I’m deeply grateful for travel, for the gift of exploring this big, beautiful world and I’m even more grateful for a home I can’t wait to come back to.  It was magical and surreal running around Hyde Park – and I can’t wait to wake up tomorrow and do my standard three mile loop around Dolores Park, where the view from the top of the hill catches my breath in my chest every time  [literally and figuratively – that is a steep hill!!]. It was such fun sampling every croissant in Paris and scone in London, but I can’t wait to get back to my lovely Google kale salads and homemade sweet potato bowls.  It was a treat meeting new people, and having time by myself to wander and explore –  but I can’t wait to sit on the couch next to my roommate and in my cubicle with my buddies at work and across the bar table at happy hour with my dear friends and talk to the people I know and love, to catch up on their lives and hear what they’ve been up to, to share laughter and tears and connect deeply because those are the experiences that full up my heart.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what I want out of life – what I am willing to give up and what I’m not, what sacrifices and trade offs I’m willing to make.  At the end of the day, what I want most is a life of depth and meaning – and I find meaning in relationships, in pouring love into people’s lives and receiving that love right back.

So I am thankful for my trip, and I have no shortage of funny stories and beautiful pictures and lovely memories to show for it.  But I am one hundred times more grateful for a home to come back to –  for a life to come back to.  And that is worth more to me than all Berthillon ice cream in the world [and that’s really saying something because OH MY GOSH that ice cream was delicious].

Crisis

I don’t know how to write about this week.  I wasn’t going to, but writing helps me process and cope and think [#cheaperthantherapy] so I need to try.  

When I walked in the door last night my roommate took one look at my face and asked “Oh my gosh, what is wrong??”  This week is wrong. This week has been terrible and terrifying and heartbreaking and surreal. Monday feels like it was a month ago, truly.  I pray to God – literally – that this is as bad as it gets, that this week was rock bottom for our community, and there will never, ever be another week like this one.

I don’t even know anyone personally who works at YouTube, anyone whose safety I feared for.  I didn’t have to endure the minutes or hours of waiting for a friend or colleague or loved one to confirm they were safe, like so many people I know did.  This week has felt like walking around in a dense fog of confusion and tragedy and sadness, of navigating so many layers of work to do and action to be taken and new realities to be processed.  I’ve alternated from hyper-productive panic mode to stunned lethargy to deep grief – and that’s in about the span of an hour. I have felt – and I know I’m not the only one – off-kilter and scattered, like I’m on the sloped floor of a boat on stormy seas, pitching back and forth struggling to find my footing, to regain a sense of balance and control.

The upside of any tragedy, always, is the way it brings people together, and this week has been no exception.  There is a sense of community, of closeness that feels palpable and real – beyond anything I have felt before. There has been a stripping away of the small talk, the water cooler chit chat that comes with work environments and a returning to what makes us most deeply human.  Professional, executive people have shed tears and hugged and used words like love and thoughts and prayers. I’ve received notes and emails that are clearly people struggling to find the words to convey the depth of their sorrow and fear and solidarity.

One of my favorite authors, Glennon Doyle Melton, taught me that the word “crisis” means “to sift.”  As in to separate what is essential from what is not. I have found that deeply true this week. The things that seemed so important on Tuesday morning felt completely trite and irrelevant come Tuesday afternoon.  This is, I realize, a trivial example, but I sent an email to 100 people yesterday with a glaring typo in the subject line – normally that would trigger embarrassment in my Type A, perfectionist self – when I realized my mistake I literally shrugged my shoulders and didn’t give it a second thought.  Part of me is incredulous that ever seemed important.

I’m ashamed, in some ways, that it took this shooting to make it real, to affect me so deeply.  As I watched parents walk their kids to school on Wednesday morning I thought “Is this how parents feel every time there is a school shooting?  That sense of ‘it could have been my child’s school? It could have been my child, or their friends?’” I was saddened, of course, by Orlando and Charleston and Sandy Hook and Parkland.  My heart broke and I was angry and grieved and couldn’t imagine what the victim’s families were feeling. The difference is now I’m not having to use my imagination. This has hit so close to home and the feeling of intense vulnerability, that this could happen anytime, anywhere, to any of us, is so real.

I’m also angry.  I’m angry that this keeps happening.  I’m angry that there is a non-zero chance that someone with a gun could walk into my office  – or a school or park or church or playground or mall – and start shooting. I’m angry that I have to add this to the list of emergencies to be prepared for at work – fire drill, earthquake, active shooter.  I was talking to a friend who was speaking matter of factly about the drills her company has for this type of situation and I felt like screaming “THIS ISN’T NORMAL!” I refuse to accept this as normal – fire, earthquake, active shooter- one of these things is not like the other.  One of these things is an unnatural disaster.  One of these things doesn’t happen in other rich, stable, developed countries like it does in the US.  I am angry and I’m determined to channel that anger into action – through voting, through protest, through signing petitions.  I refuse to accept this as the new normal.

Easter was less than a week ago – it feels like a lifetime – and I wrote a blog post about how the cornerstone of my faith is hope.  To be completely honest, I’m finding that belief deeply tested this week.  I imagine it’s like loving your spouse or child deeply, but hitting a rough spot in a 30 year marriage, or having your child test the limits of your patience – that feeling of “I know I love you but I’m not feeling it right now.”  I know I have hope, that the world has hope, but I’m not feeling it right now.

But I know I will.  I know it will get better and less scary, that time will heal some of the shock and sadness, and make it easier to figure out productive, helpful, life-giving ways to respond to this and how to move forward with deepened love, compassion and grace.

So, I’m taking some deep breaths, and I’m doing what I can – to help, to reach out, to find those glimmers of hope and light and beauty and love in what right now feels like deep, deep darkness.  Because I know the truth, even if I can’t feel it right now – that light shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it.  I know that the greatest forces on this earth aren’t hate or anger or bullets.  They are love and compassion and community – the reality of our shared humanity.  I’ve experienced that shared humanity in profound ways this week, and I’m walking forward with a renewed sense of gratitude for the people I love, and a clear-eyed vision of what matters most in this world – loving each other well.

Christos Anesti

I grew up going to Christian churches of every denomination, from Episcopal to Presbyterian to Lutheran and from ages 8 – 12, our family went back to the church my dad grew up in – Greek Orthodox.

I loved my time in the Greek Orthodox church for so many reasons.  I loved the warm sense of community that came from a bunch of loud, passionate Greeks getting together every week. When I saw “My Big Fat Greek Wedding’ I felt like I was watching a documentary – I recognized every one of those characters, loud, loving, deeply involved in each other’s lives and always trying to get you to eat more.  

As an eight year old, I found the repetitive, liturgical nature of the Orthodox service boring but looking back I am so thankful that those words, spoken aloud week after week after week, are embedded so deeply into my memory that I can never un-know them.

I loved the deep sensory experience of the service – the ashy smell of incense, the plumes of dust just visible against the rays of light piercing the dimly lit sanctuary, the priest’s robes, heavy ivory silk, swishing as he walked, chanting and swinging a silver urn full of incense. 

My dad’s side of the family is Greek, and I have a special place in my heart for Greek culture – since he died, it’s become even more meaningful to me, a part of my story and my family’s story stretching back across time and oceans and traditions.  The fact that the food is freaking delicious doesn’t hurt, either.

A few years ago, on Father’s Day,  I stumbled into a Greek Orthodox church and as soon as I walked through the doors, the smell of incense hit me, and I began to weep.  That smell evoked deep memories of community and belonging and family and history.

For all the Greek Orthodox church’s faults – and there plenty, which is why we left – that richness and depth of history and tradition and meaning – the cultural and the spiritual, fused together – it was a special and precious thing.

The Orthodox Church follows a different calendar than the Protestant church, so Greek Easter was often a week before “regular” easter. Regardless of when it fell, we celebrated the same way – with a midnight walk around the church on Easter Eve carrying the cross, silver urns of incense being swung about by the priest, a large luncheon together after the service, with plenty of red-dyed easter eggs to go around, hitting them against each other to see whose would crack first, and greeting each other with the Greek version of “Happy Easter” which is “Christos Anesti!” [meaning “Christ is Risen!”] to which the response is “Alithos Anesti!” [He is risen indeed!].

My mom still texts me that Easter greeting every year – “Christos Anesti!” and I text back immediately “Alithos Anesti!”

My life  – and my faith –  have changed dramatically since I was sitting in those wooden pews at St. Basil’s every Sunday.  My faith has always been a significant part of my life, but the way I embody and express that faith has shifted dramatically over the last decade of my adult life.  The last few years, especially, have been a process of questioning so many beliefs that the broader American Christian Evangelical culture drilled into me, and trying to find a way to embody my faith in way that feels right and good and true – marked not by dogma or religiosity or exclusivity but by radical inclusivity, grace and love.

Today is Easter, and as I reflect on what this day means to me now, as an adult, what my Christian faith means to me, I can sum it up in one word: hope.  Today for me is about Jesus literally defeating Death, not just for himself, but for all of us.

We sang a hymn in church this morning called “Christ is Risen,” and there is a verse that says “O Death, where is thy sting? Oh Hell where is thy victory?” and it caught my breath in my chest, as it always does.  I thought of my dad’s death, and the death of other people I love, but also of all the kinds of death – of pain and suffering and loss – in this broken and beautiful world we all live in together.   That is what my faith is about – it’s about a belief in a God who defeated death, in all it’s forms, and replaced it with Hope.

The faith I celebrate today is about that simple and powerful and life-changing Hope  – not optimism, not the power of positive thinking, not a denial of how utterly broken and deeply painful life can be, but a belief in the real, true, blood-and-guts God who became human, died and was raised to life for us.  All so that we may have hope – that this isn’t the end of the story, that death doesn’t get the final world, but that He is at work among us making all things new.

Let no one caught in sin remain
Inside the lie of inward shame
We fix our eyes upon the cross
And run to Him who showed great love
And bled for us

Freely You’ve bled for us

Christ is risen from the dead
Trampling over death by death
Come awake, come awake
Come and rise up from the grave

Christ is risen from the dead
We are one with Him again
Come awake, come awake
Come and rise up from the grave

Beneath the weight of all our sin
You bowed to none but Heaven’s will
No scheme of Hell, no scoffers crown
No burden great can hold You down

In strength You reign
Forever let Your church proclaim

Christ is risen from the dead
Trampling over death by death
Come awake, come awake
Come and rise up from the grave

Christ is risen from the dead
We are one with Him again
Come awake, come awake
Come and rise up from the grave

O death, where is your sting?
O hell, where is your victory?
O church, come stand in the light
The glory of God has defeated the night

Sing it, o death, where is your sting?
O hell, where is your victory?
O church, come stand in the light
Our God is not dead, He’s alive, He’s alive

Christ is risen from the dead
Trampling over death by death
Come awake, come awake
Come and rise up from the grave

Christ is risen from the dead
We are one with Him again
Come awake, come awake
Come and rise up from the grave

Christ is risen from the dead
Trampling over death by death
Come awake, come awake
Come and rise up from the grave

One Year

One year ago today, I moved to San Francisco.  

Technically this is my second tour of duty.  I lived in SF briefly in 2007-2008 – barely a year, and the city, and my life, couldn’t have been more different then.  SF and I had a rocky relationship ten years ago – Lyft and Uber didn’t exist yet, and getting around the city was a pain and involved lots of quality time on the 38 bus up and down Geary.  I was also working as a waitress at an old school Italian restaurant on Fillmore, applying to grad school and trying to figure out what to do with my life.  My transposition situation and my life both felt uncertain and tenuous, full of the angst of being in my early twenties and trying to figure everything out.

Fast forward ten years, and after a stint in New York and moving back to the Bay Area suburbs near my hometown, I’ve circled back to San Francisco, and my experience this go-round couldn’t be more different.

Before moving up to SF last year, I had mentally steeled myself for it to be hard – really, really hard.  Building a life in New York took Herculean amounts of time and energy, and I was prepared for the same experience in SF, starting over in a new place, building community from scratch.  What I found instead was that instead of me rolling up my sleeves and pushing boulders uphill to build a life here, everything fell into place with a gentle tap of my finger, like a full, rich, beautiful life in San Francisco was already set up and waiting for me, eager to welcome me with open arms.

I fell in love with the first church I visited, and City Church continues to be a cornerstone of the connection and community that mark my life here.  I often say that the two halves of my heart are Jesus and social justice, and while I’ve been part of many communities that do one half of that equation well [churches, grad school, workplaces] for the first time in my life I’ve found a community that reflects both of those.  I’ve found “my people”  – who want to live out their faith by loving others radically and well, and working towards dismantling systems of injustice and oppression – and I couldn’t be more grateful.

One of the things I treasure most about San Francisco is that it is undeniably a city, yet still feels like a small town.  Two of my dearest friends in the world live less than a ten minute walk away from me, and I run into people I know all the time – on Muni, in the cafe on the corner, buying butter and eggs at the neighborhood market.  On a recent walk around my neighborhood with a friend I know from Google, I ran into a gentleman in his 60s whom I met singing Christmas carols in the Tenderloin with my church and a young mom of a toddler whom I met at a one year old’s birthday in Duboce park.  That diversity – of ages and experiences and people from all corners of this city and aspects of my life – add up to this beautiful, rich San Francisco experience that I am profoundly grateful for.

I’m a Bay Area native, so San Francisco  – with it’s chill California vibe and proximity to the ocean – feels like home, yet it still has the energy and culture and grit of a city, which I love.  If New York was too chaotic, and Mountain View too quiet, San Francisco is just right – the proverbial Goldilocks-and-The-Three-Bears city of my dreams.  

This place feels, deeply in my bones, like home.  

As I type that, I get choked up, because home is not a term I take lightly  – for a long time home was the house I grew up in, with my parents – a family that made up for being small in size [just the three of us] by being rich in love.  After my dad died and we sold the house I grew up in, there was a long time when I didn’t feel like I had a home – a place of stability and rest, a place to be known and loved and cared for, to find rest and refreshment and be fortified to take on the world.

San Francisco  – my apartment, my job, my church, my friends, the richness of my life here  – has become that home, and all I can do is be thankful – for the ways God has brought together threads of faith and friendship and life experiences from the last decade, and woven them together.

One of the verses I love is Romans 8:28  “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” and when I reflect on my life over the past year, I see God at work in beautiful, profound, shake-my-head-at-God’s-providence ways.  There are still plenty of loose ends in my life that haven’t been tied up, but when I reflect back on how far He has brought me over that last ten years – especially this past year – I have no doubt that He’s got a plan for the rest of those threads and will keep working “all things for good.”

Time is a funny thing, and the older I get the more I find myself reflecting on it’s mind-bending nature.  My best friend is about to welcome her third child into the world, and last weekend as I placed my hands on her belly to feel the baby kick I remembered doing the same thing with her daughter, now a three year old, and her son, now five, both of whom were running around and having conversations with me about sparkly nail polish and trains.  It was her son’s birth, in large part, that brought me back to California in the first place – as an only child, I view my best friends’ kiddos as my nieces and nephews, and I didn’t want to miss the chance to watch him grow up.  Now he’s in Kindergarten, and the fact that I remember feeling him kick in utero blows my mind.

The cliche is true, that time passes more quickly as you get older.  I’ve heard the quote said about parenting that “the days are long but the years are short” and I feel like that also applies to life in general.  Parts of this past year have felt impossibly long, but as I sit here I’m incredulous that I’ve already lived in SF a full year, and part of me longs for time to slow down, so I can savor every moment.

So, San Francisco – here we are.  When we first met our relationship status was complicated – we had our fair share of ups and downs.  Then we took a long break, and frankly I didn’t think about you much for years and years.  Then we found our way to each other again somehow, and those first few weeks and months were a  happy blur of smitteness.  Things stabilized over time, that first infatuation faded and I saw your flaws more clearly – but I still loved you, and now I can honestly say I can’t imagine my life without you.  

Thanks for being you.  Happy Anniversary.