If your nerve deny you, go above your nerve.

I got baptized this weekend.

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I was so nervous.

The girl who quit her job to go to Iceland, the girl who woke up one day and decided to dye her hair blue, was trembling, shaking before she got baptized.

I’ve been attending The Summit Church (Blue Ridge) for about… 2-3 months. This past Sunday was different. I went to church carrying something I hadn’t in a long time.

Doubt.

It seems the closer I grow to God, and the stronger I get in my faith, the more I’m testing.

Yes, I said testing and not tested.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been tested. I’ve succeeded and I’ve failed. I’ve been thrilled at the wins – the moments where I’m faced with temptation, or faced with a difficult decision, and I make the right choice. I’ve been humbled by the failures, and at times, devastated. I’ve asked for forgiveness, and tried to move forward.

But I’ve also been testing. Testing my feelings, testing how I feel about the plan that God is has clearly laid out for me. Testing how much control I can give up, and how much faith, I can possibly have.

I try to remind myself of the moments His presence has been so strong, it’s rocked me. Moments of undeniable truth.

Almost a decade ago: after the dream I had about my deceased Aunt. She relieved me of my guilt about her death, after she told me I couldn’t have saved her. I felt Him then.

A few weeks ago: when I prayed for a good night’s sleep, after days of restlessness. That evening, it rained – creating such a a gentle, soothing sound, I passed out. I felt Him then.

On Sunday afternoon, (and during a lot of pivotal moments in my life): when he inspired me to get baptized, and then played me a song.

During one of my first trips to The Summit (with Rachel, of course), people were invited to go up and get baptized. I felt the twinge then, but ignored it. It was too soon, I wasn’t “Christian” enough – there were a million reasons I could think of to say no.

On Sunday, when the same invitation was extended, and I saw one solitary girl walk up, I felt the twinge again. And again… there were reasons I could think of to say no. Mostly because it scared me. A lot.

I knew it was a public declaration. I worried that God wouldn’t think I was close enough to him yet. I thought about the friends, family members, and co-workers who would know.

But then I thought about the woman that God had clearly prepared me to be. I thought about all of the wonderful blessings I had in my life. In the few seconds I had to make a decision, my thoughts and feelings swirled like a swarm of bees in my stomach – a very uncharacteristic feeling of me to have.

Then, a moment of clarity, and the exact words I needed to hear popped into my head:

“If your nerve deny you, go above your nerve.”

So I stopped thinking, and took a huge leap. I moved across our bench, passing a surprised but excited Rachel, and asked to be baptized.

About fifteen minutes later, I was dressed in an over-sized t-shirt and shorts, standing backstage, waiting for it to happen. Then, I was in a huge bathtub, with a tall, bearded guy I had never met.

I was still so incredibly nervous. He asked if I believed if Jesus Christ was my Savior. I said yes. He asked if I believed in all of the promises Jesus had made.

It was that moment, exactly. I felt a huge wave of relief, joy, happiness wash over me. I’m fairly certain that my friend Allison captured it:

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I felt His presence.  I felt so calm, as I enthusiastically (as photographed) said yes. Then I let this stranger (who to be honest, looked a lot like Jesus), dip me under the water.

I wasn’t scared anymore.

God has already brought me through the deepest waters, and I’m so grateful for my relationship with Him. I’ve begun to understand that we really don’t have much control over what our plan is. Only over our actions, only over our struggles, and at the end of the day, only the people that we decide to be.

Despite the doubt or anxiety that might push us to fear, there’s always a stronger, more persistent feeling: love. Love for what we have, and who we have to thank for it.

After church, Rachel and I went to celebrate at Tazza, a brunch place that Grace introduced me to. As I sat there with soggy bangs, I wondered about God’s plan for me. I thought about how sometimes, it’s so clear, and other times, I really have to pay attention.

Then, a song started to play.

I listened, for just a moment, to make sure it was the right one. It was. It was the song that had brought me extreme comfort in the past, that I had never heard played in public – not even at an Avett Brothers show.

And I knew – in the same way any of you would know, if you heard that *one song* that everyone seems to have, that I didn’t have to worry about the plan for my life. I just had to keep living it.

To keep moving forward.

Austin.

“To have your things and wait there for a plane ride,
No one there to sit and hold your hand in flight,
But everyone I know out here is lonely,
Even those that have someone to lie beside at night.”

- Pretty Girl At The Airport, by The Avett Brothers

Buenos Aires Cafe: Empanadas & First Impressions

“That’s Marceline,” I say, mid sip, not even trying to hide my enthusiasm.

Our waitress smiles and nods, proudly displaying the small Adventure Time tattoo on her forearm. I muse about Adventure Time for a moment, by far, one of my favorite shows, while trying to detect whether or not the red wine I’m drinking was stored in an oak barrel.

It’s a humid Thursday night in Austin. For our first dinner out, we decide on a small Argentinian restaurant, appropriately named Buenos Aires Cafe.

I couldn’t resist the empanadas.

It’s funny that I ended up in an Argentinian restaurant in Austin, seeing that Argentina is high on my bucket list of places to go, as Austin has always been. Shana and Kate seem to be enjoying it, as we all struggle to pull off pieces of the melted provolone appetizer we ordered.

I’ve known Shana for about a year now, but I had only met Kate that day. I start asking her interview-style questions, ranging from how she sees her career evolving, to what type of guy she’s into. Shana sits and enjoys her wine, seeing that we already know everything there is to know about the other.

Dinner at Buenos Aires Cafe.

Dinner at Buenos Aires Cafe.

When there’s pause in conversation, I gaze out the window onto 6th Street. Bikers ride by, slightly blurred by the view from below my wine glass. Across the street, people gather around the various food trucks – that sell everything from Philly cheesesteaks to New Orleans inspired beignets.

It’s the first phase of the trip, where I’m just trying to figure out Austin. It’s kind of like when I met Kate earlier, at the airport. I heard good things, I heard nice things, but I was still trying to piece together what makes them tick.

The bar and restaurant below our apartment.

The bar and restaurant below our apartment.

Kate is bubbly and effervescent, but Austin is harder to crack. That’s what is so incredible about travel. Every city block, every park or restaurant has a unique personality. Even our Airbnb apartment is vibrant, bright and “kitchy” – a term I define to Kate as “slightly tacky, but still cute.”

A room in our Airbnb.

A room in our Airbnb.

For example, this restaurant has that amazing third date vibe. Dishes can be shared, and the tables are close. The menu has an endless amount of wine, and the cafe is meticulously decorated. A large, diner-like case of pies and desserts helps diffuse any stuffiness.

I can just see myself there in a cozy corner, deep in discussion with a glass of Malbec in hand. Ideally, with a dreamy Jeffrey Dean Morgan lookalike named Kyle or George rescued a German Shepard puppy from a burning building and can build a bookshelf with an axe, a log, and a couple of nails.

Hey, doesn’t have to be a sturdy bookshelf.

But for now, I’m there with Shana and Kate – and I’m so happy about it. The three of us leave the cafe full, but brimming with excitement. In just a day, Austin, and new friend Kate, have already made a great first impression.

 

Ate:

Provoleta
Verdura Empanadas
Ahi Tuna (off menu)

 

Austin.

Austin is not a hipster Disneyland

“Can I have a dirty martini?” Shana asks, loudly, over the sound of the live music.

“We don’t have that,” the young, boyish looking bartender says.

She asks for another specialty cocktail, and again, he says they don’t have it.

“Can I have a Corona?” Kate asks, a bit hesitant.

“Yeah,” he answers, slightly amused. “But we only have cans.”

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My Star Wars Garbage Compactor World

I’ve talked a lot about success, but not a lot about what hinders success.  A few days ago, I posted a quote on Driftyland’s FB page  from Judges 1:8-2:3. I was watching a sermon about The Causes and Cure for Spiritual Inconsistency on The Summit’s website, when I heard J.D. Greear say:

“Small areas of disbelief produce large areas of disaster.”

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Joan at Temple, glory days.

She Said Yes

Writing a book is hard.

I started writing Cold Island (my Icelandic travel guide) TWO YEARS AGO… and it’s still not done. Partially because I waited too long to write it, and partially, because I want to go back. When the idea for Conversations popped into my head, I felt immediately inspired in a ohivetotallygotthis kind of way.

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Bloody Mary at P&L

A Month Without Alcohol

A month ago, I gave up alcohol.

The most important reason is simple – I felt compelled to. After a bad date, and one too many drinks, I woke up the next day feeling emotionally exhausted and shitty.

That afternoon, we had a margarita lunch at work. I decided to pass on it. It was just because I felt like a shitty bag of garbage. That night, I skipped drinking again. For some of the same reasons. I had a dinner party on Saturday, and decided to skip alcohol then, too.

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The Legendary George Miller

I was sitting in an auditorium on Temple University’s campus, eight years ago, when I heard it for the first time.

“You can always learn something from any situation,” my professor, George Miller, told us. “Even if it doesn’t seem like it.”

It’s a lesson that I’ve applied to countless moments since. During waits at the DMV, in the middle of uninteresting conversations, and even during my morning commute, I’ve thought: “Hey – pay attention. What could you learn right now?”

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“Maybe He’ll Like it”

I was talking to a new friend, when those words popped into my head.

“Maybe he’ll like it.”

Like it, in regards to what I was about to admit to. I don’t recall what I was holding back, but it was pretty unimportant. Something equivalent to, “I still listen to Britney Spears when I drive home,” or “I ate soup in my bed last night.”

A quirky habit or interest that could change their perception of me….and I didn’t want to expose myself to someone I didn’t know very well. And then, those words again:

“Maybe he’ll like it.”

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Courtesy of Sarah Thiebaud

Living Out Joy: Sarah Thiebaud

The music is loud. I can barely hear myself when I lean in, and say:

“Bible study.”

The clean cut, preppy guy in front of me hesitates. His eyebrows raise slightly, and he waits for me to perhaps, laugh, or tell him it’s a joke.

“I’m not kidding…” I continue, “I know Susan from Bible Study.”

Silence.

I’ve gotten used to this type of reaction.

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