six months without paris.

Today is October 1, 2015, which means it's been 6 months since I left for Europe. A HALF OF A YEAR? I still haven't even uploaded my photos or written about half the places we visited or fully figured out this freelance thing I nosedived into upon my return. Shit, can somebody find the pause button on 2015 for me? Are we sure it's October 1? HAVE WE CHECKED WITH THE ROMANS?

It's an emotional realization because I've come to know this season of life as before-and-after Europe. I couldn't sense it at the time, but getting on that first flight to London would eventually (now) feel like entering a sort-of time warp, where I was picked up from a steady life at home, taken somewhere unknown to discover my old life was no longer an option, and dropped back off in a place that felt like home, but had become something completely different. 

That month away was filled with equal parts heartache and awe, the latter essential to my healing. It was mournful and mesmerizing, carrying the sensation of having fallen off a bike and been set upright again by angels of the Old World. And these five months since have felt a lot more like having to learn how to ride a bike all over again—humbly, steadily, and patiently, all while feeling a little dumb and helpless. I came home and entered a new work life, started counseling for the first time, moved into a new house, and found myself, unexpectedly, entering into a new relationship. Each of these things has been a gift, but has also been hard work—teaching me that I didn't (and don't) have nearly as many things figured out that I thought I did pre-Europe. 

But what's been great about starting so many new things at once is rediscovering my need to be a student. I'm learning more about what it looks like for us to grow and honor our gifts by becoming better students of each other, of our craft, of our mentors, of our own weaknesses, and of grace. I'm also finding becoming a student often looks like falling on my face, wearing a little dirt, and learning to accept the outstretched hands that are offering to help me up. 

I'm still teetering on my figurative bicycle, and in no way are my bearings set, but I'm showing up and putting my butt in the saddle every day. And slowly, but surely, I'm gaining momentum with my gifts. 

I still haven't downloaded my photos from Europe, or properly organized my taxes, and today I am mourning 6 months without Paris, but in this current moment, I feel more known, capable, and hopeful for what's to come than I did standing at the foot of Notre Dame some 24 weeks ago, and to me, that is just as lovely to behold.

Slowly, but surely. Let's keep being students.



Playlist: Indian Summer.

Happy Labor Day weekend! I made one last summery mix to keep us company on our day-off adventures and through the rest of our warmer days, however long they may last (I'm lookin' at you, October in California). These have been my go-tos over the last month. Enjoy







In early April, I was sitting in a coffee shop in London writing an email to my parents. It was a rainy Monday, fittingly, and I was writing to let them know I was leaving my job, and no, I didn't really have a plan yet. I was emotionally exhausted and nervous, and every time I looked over at my friend Mikaela, she was visibly worried about me. At some point, I took a deep breath, looked up, and saw this Marcelina Amelia illustration hanging above me with the words "I'm fine" written at the bottom. It immediately made me laugh, because for many of us, this is as far as we get in processing things with not only our parents and our peers, but with ourselves. I'm so often that secretly scared girl pedaling the three-tiered bike with postured (and prideful) independence. But I was reminded in that moment of what I had been a few times before and have several times since: People can tell when we're not "fine", it's OK to be not fine, it's human to fall, and i'm better off if I've kept my friends and family close enough to spot me.

I'm still learning that the art of trying to convince myself and everyone else that "I'm fine" doesn't actually fix anything. And most often what I (and they) need most is a window into my brokenness. 

So here's to better owning the unknowns and scary stuff we're navigating. May we start by admitting to someone close to us that we don't feel fine, but that we're figuring it out, and we'll take their prayers, wisdom, and shoulder as we do. And may we begin to find the words "I'm not fine" are what truly make us family.



Paris, in film.

Thirty-two years ago, my Dad was studying abroad in Paris. He'd spend the year documenting bits and pieces of his life there using 35mm film—everything from a photo of his drafting table in his apartment, littered with sketches and a half-eaten baguette, to a photo from the top of Notre Dame. I don't know if he fully sensed it happening then, but that year in Paris changed him. I know, not because I knew my Dad prior to 1983 or in the six years after, but because I've spent all 25 years of my existence since listening to him, in some way or another, referencing that year in Paris. Things he saw. Afternoons in Luxembourg Gardens. Hemingway. French films. French art. French culture. The carbs—bread, couscous, crepes.

I've always been amazed at the way in which a relatively short time in a place can leave such a lifelong mark on a person, much like Paris left on my dad. And as I got older, I found myself longing to visit to Paris. I longed to know my Dad's old daily routes. I longed to understand his love for Paris at night. I longed to fully experience the city that's so greatly inspired the man who has taught and inspired me the most. So I finally packed my bags and got to it.

I brought my Dad's old Canon film camera he used in 1983, but uh-hum.. forgot to make sure it still worked. Soo I uh, hunted down a good ole Kodak disposable film camera to use instead. These few photos came out totally imperfect and incomplete, but I love that about them. 

Along with these photos, there are a dozen stories to tell, not only in the retracing of my Dad's steps, but in the taking of my own steps, and the sweet surprise of completely falling in love with Paris myself. In time, I hope to share more of those stories and other photos with you.

Until then, a quick film flipbook through Versailles, Provence and Paris:



Mind the gap.

Photo by  Mikaela Hamilton

I woke up at home in my own bed on Monday with no next destination in mind, without a familiar sense of needing to see something, to find a ride, to pack a bag, or to book a flight. And oddly, the absence of no next thing felt less like relief and more like a hole—the inevitable dent made from 50 wonderful, yet consuming days of travel. Truthfully, the only real thing that got my travel-tranced butt back to Tennessee was the longing to see the faces of my friends, and you know, less exciting but necessary motivators like bills, house plants, commitments, and a quickly dwindling (it's gone) travel budget. As my return home got closer, I knew the transition would be tough—an acclimation to several changes that had taken place while I was gone. 

Let me back up a little bit. In April, I took a month-long trip to Europe with one of my best friends. More on that later (I HAVE SO MUCH TO TELL YOU, IT WAS AMAZING). In that same time frame, I watched my life at home change quite a bit. When I was in London at the beginning of the month, I was faced with a tough decision that led to me leaving my job. While this was for the best, the timing wasn't great—it turns out a salary is really nice when justifying a Pimm's Cup budget. Throughout the rest of the month, I experienced the highs and lows of an ending relationship, which, emotionally, was not unlike my past experiences of undertow (i.e. get hit by tidal wave, pulled under, released back up for moment of air, swim frantically to shore, repeat), and by the time I was preparing for my return to America, the relationship was over. I was sad and exhausted, but I was also out of the ocean. 

In one of my lower moments, I found myself bursting into tears in an airport security line like an ornery toddler, gladly accepting the pity of a horrified TSA Agent, who quickly exclaimed in her British accent "Oh, Lovie! What ON EARTH is wrong?" Which made everything better. To be fair, this particular incident could mostly be blamed on horrible sleeping patterns and hidden travel fees, but that wasn't the whole of it. I was going through a lot. 

I would hit several more stumbling blocks. However, in my best moments, I was able to make the choice to not let changes back home, and the fears that accompanied them, get the best of me. I could worry about the future, busy my mind with doubt, stress out about finances, stay inside my Airbnb, curled up in a ball of self pity, or... I could keep my eyes on what was in front of me and enjoy this trip. 

If you've ever ridden the tube or a train in the UK, you've likely heard the phrase "mind the gap." At each stop, a British woman's voice comes on over the intercom asking passengers to "mind the gap" as they board and exit through the doors. The phrase is a gentle warning, one meant to help you acknowledge and step over the space between the train and the platform, and a subtle reminder that if you don't, you'll fall on your face rather than move forward. All my stumbling blocks—the unanticipated events, changes, disappointments, fears—they were my gaps in Europe. If I didn't acknowledge my gaps, I gave them the power to eventually swallow me whole. But if I thought about them for too long, gave them too much power, I'd be paralyzed and unable to move forward, stuck on the platform or in the train, going nowhere. But if I minded them, if I acknowledged the gaps but refused them the power to hold me back, I could get to where I needed to be next. 

We rode dozens of trains during our time in the UK. These relatively silent, still and seated rides were our sanctuaries during a month of constant movement and unpredictability, and they likely contained the minutes I reflected, processed, and prayed the most. When we'd arrive at various destinations, I would begin to hear "mind the gap" as a personal invitation to come up from the depths of my thoughts, take a deep breath, and move forward with my day. And while the choice to be present may have costed me the chance to feel prepared for my return home, I've felt great peace knowing I will never look back on Europe wishing that I would have worried more about the future. Sure, coming home to a new reality is tough, but I'm grateful to be navigating the challenges here than to have spent 50 days trying to do so abroad. I got comfortable being on the go, and I was feeling anxious about coming home—but man am I glad I minded that gap to get here. I'm finding the only way to get through anything tough is to acknowledge it, trust that the best is yet to come, and make a confident step forward.  The unknown doesn't have anything on those willing to step into it. 

More soon,


P.S. If you haven't heard Liza Anne's new album, Two: 1) Hurry up and do that. 2) You can hear that infamous London train intercom voice playing in the background of "Oceans," the last track on the album. And it's perfect.