Be Still

View from Deception Pass Bridge

Over the weekend, the three of us went hiking around Deception Pass State Park on Whidbey Island.  For those of you who haven’t been, it’s a jaw-dropping view when you turn the corner and step out on the bridge. You realize just how small you are staring out over the water. I don’t have a fear of heights, but the drop off this bridge made me hold Isla a little tighter.

After our hike along the Goose Rock Perimeter Trail, we were tired and a little hungry. We were close to getting into our car and driving to our next destination for lunch, but then we saw the beach below the bridge and decided to head down to take a picture or two. We decided to let Isla run free on the beach. Normally, we avoid taking her out of the backpack until we are done for the day but decided to make an exception and give her a little time to burn some energy off post hike.

She ran around, rejoicing at being set free. We took our pictures and checked our watches to see if we were “on schedule” to head back to the car, our minds already moving on to the next stop on our day trip. Isla started throwing pebbles into the water, smiling and giggling at the splash. Samuel skipped rocks across the river, something he probably hasn’t done in years. Isla threw more pebbles in and clapped. Samuel skipped another rock, and she got excited.

We are so used to being run by the clock, it’s hard to turn that notion off, even on the weekends. But watching Isla laugh at the smallest splash of water, suddenly made time slow down. I took a deep breath and felt my muscles relax. The sun came out, and I slipped my jacket off, soaking up the warm rays. Why were we in a hurry? It was Saturday. We technically didn’t have anywhere we were supposed to be. Lunch could wait. And as I was thinking it, Samuel looked up at me and said, “It’s nice that Isla slows us down a little bit. We are actually getting to enjoy this.” He skipped another rock.


The Bible doesn’t say: “rush and know that I am God.” Psalms 46:10a says, “Be still, and know that I am God.” (ESV)

Be still. Go slowly. Take a breath.

Why do those commands feel so burdensome?

When I’m told to “Be Still,” I feel as if someone is tying my hands down with rope. I’m always wanting to go, go, go; do, do, do; see, see, see. I’m bad at doing anything slowly.

But ultimately when we rush through everything, we are missing out. We are missing out on God’s creations. His moments. His gifts to us.

I have a tendency to rush. And then I married a man who is almost as fast as me. Together, we are always moving, ready for the next challenge, next place, next thing. We’ve never been great at lingering anywhere.

And then we had our daughter.

Having a child slows you down. It’s just a fact. People can tell you that before you have kids, but you don’t really understand to what degree a child slows you down until you’re in the thick of getting them ready for the 2nd or 3rd time in a morning to leave the house. Everything takes longer because you’re managing them as well as yourself. There are diapers, multiple wardrobe changes, snacks, a few tantrums, strollers, more diapers, messes, car seats.

Children don’t rush. They like to meander about, picking up every little flower, rock, or wrapper that catches their attention. Attempting to be in a hurry with a child is a joke, and you’re not the one laughing.

But you know what? I believe children are meant to slow us down. It’s like God knew we would forget to slow down as adults, so he gifted us with tiny humans to remind us to slow down. As hard as it can be at times, it’s a blessing to take a step back from the nonstop rush of adult life and just be still for a moment.

Raising a child absolutely slows you down, but only if you’re doing it right.



This moment on the beach with my daughter was a little reminder. It was God’s way of telling me to slow down. Take it in. Enjoy these moments with her. Stop checking my watch every few minutes, stop checking my phone for directions.

It was a reminder of a truth I hold to, but often forget in the busyness of life: rushing is not conducive to wandering. Wandering requires an artful form of slowing down. To truly wander, I have to take it all in, absorb it, let a place infuse me with its essence.

To truly enjoy it, I have to be still.


The Stuff of the American Dream.

We were in our forever home: 5 bedrooms, 12 acres, swimming pool in the backyard, settled down with our 18 month old daughter and our family close by. My husband worked from home at job he had been in for 12 years. We had a routine. We did DIY projects and church on the weekends. We painted bedrooms, hung pictures on the walls, rearranged furniture. Dusted the pictures, cleaned the bathrooms, thought of more projects, cut the grass. We were living the life that most people start planning when they get married, the life that most Americans label as the “American Dream.”

We had moved five times over our 6 years of marriage on our way to this “American Dream,” big moves both across the state of North Carolina and across the country. We had lived in an apartment in downtown Seattle, Washington. We had lived at a beach house in North Carolina. We had lived in the suburbs of Apex, North Carolina. And we were now living in the country in East Bend, North Carolina. We had done it all. Every time we moved, we moved into a bigger place, and naturally accumulated more stuff. We collected more kitchen gear, more books, more furniture, more pictures. And then the baby gear came, and all the toys that followed. And we just had more and more and more stuff.

The funny thing about “stuff” is that you have to tend to it. You obsess over it if you can’t find it, you get upset if it breaks, you get tired of it when its old. Suddenly your “prized” stuff is taking up the space you need for the newer stuff. It’s a never ending cycle. Stuff just takes up your time.

I started asking myself what we were doing with our lives. This endless cycle of maintenance on our “stuff” was leaving me unfulfilled, week after week. I dreamed of traveling and minimalistic living. I dreamed of taking back my weekends and spending them exploring cities, restaurants, museums, hiking with my daughter and showing her the world. I wanted more time to wander. And I wanted to teach her how to both wander  about and wonder at the world. But all of our stuff was in the way.

Parallel to my struggles, my husband was growing restless in his job. Like me, Samuel always needs a mountain to climb, just a different type of mountain. So when a Microsoft recruiter reached out to him asking if he were willing to relocate to Redmond, Washington for a Commercial Software Engineering position, we both jumped at the opportunity.

But what to do with all of our stuff? It wouldn’t/couldn’t fit into the 2 bedroom apartment we would be moving into, close to Samuel’s office. We decided to do something crazy and only move with whatever would fit in the back of Samuel’s truck and buy the minimal furniture we would need in the apartment once we got there. Our haul boiled down to 7 rubbermaid boxes, four suitcases, and a basket of toys and books for Isla. That’s it.

You would think packing for that would be incredibly difficult. It was at first, and then it wasn’t. We walked through each room of our house and asked ourselves what we really needed on a daily basis. It turns out, not that much. We had accumulated so much stuff over the years just because we had an empty space to fill. Now, we were about to have a quarter of that space.

All the random trinkets we had collected seemed pointless. My closet full of clothes and shoes seemed excessive. My bookcases crammed full of books…well, I’m a writer, so we’ll excuse the books. The basement and the garage full of miscellaneous objects suddenly had us scratching our heads. Why did we ever think it was a good idea to buy half of this stuff in the first place? Suddenly all of our glorious “stuff” was just excess. All the furniture and decorations I had spent months hunting for was now going to be left behind…because my giant chesterfield bed wasn’t going to fit in an apartment. And I was weirdly ok with it.

We are now in a 1200 sqft apartment in downtown Redmond which couldn’t be any further from the life we were leading back in East Bend, NC. Our apartment is now “furnished.” We have a table and chairs, a couch, a tv. But our mattress is on the floor and a rubbermaid box is my makeshift nightstand for now. The old me would have panicked and fretted over this for days on end searching for the perfect nightstand or the perfect bed frame, but I’ve already done all that before, and I chose to leave the perfect bed back at our home in East Bend. The new nightstand will come to me, eventually. For now the rubbermaid box does just fine holding my kindle and phone.


Don’t get me wrong, I still love my stuff. I miss a lot of my comforts, but I’m also learning I really didn’t need most of it. I thought I did. I thought I needed all 50 or so of the coffee cups I had collected over the years. Turns out, we can get by with just 5 or so. I thought I needed all the stuff in that big house, or I wouldn’t have bought it, but in the end the stuff didn’t make us happy. Samuel and I have learned through many trial and errors in our seven years together that we both value experiences over possessions. It finally took us being overwhelmed and overworked with all of our stuff to decide to put it into practice.

We wonder why we spent so much money over the years on things that are now collecting dust or causing us headaches. Before we ever bought our first house, we had a long conversation about whether we should buy a house and settle down, or if we should live lightly and travel more. We unfortunately chose the safe option and bought a 4 bedroom house that we never needed. Thankfully, it was a good investment, but ultimately, we wish we would have squashed the notion that we had to settle down at that point in our life to chase what we thought was the “American Dream.”

We may have had one version of the “American dream,” but it wasn’t the version for us. Realizing that, we decided to change our course of direction because life is simply too short. More than anything, I wanted to set an example for my daughter to chase what she will eventually dream about. My and Samuel’s dream involves less things and more experiences, especially with our daughter.

Packing up and leaving everything was hard. Even though we wanted this life, it was hard leaving everything behind including both of our families whom we love deeply. But Samuel and I both wanted more by owning less, and Samuel’s new job at Microsoft just so happens to be in one of the coolest parts of the country for those with explorer hearts.  Instead of  being bogged down with house work and yard work and all the work related to our “stuff,” we plan to spend every weekend this summer hiking and exploring the PNW. Throughout the week, Isla and I explore walking trails, coffee shops, bakeries, and her favorite Bubble Tea. IMG_1185

Hiking Cougar Mountain

We have truly found that having less is more for us. And we’ve discovered that it’s ok to chase a dream that sounds crazy when we said it out loud. Aren’t the crazy dreams always the good ones? The things that scare us the most in life are probably the things we should be doing, right?  That’s all for now. Isla and I have a 3 mile walk to go on because…why not? It’s a beautiful day, and I don’t have a single thing I need to maintain. The sun is shining, and it’s time for exploring, and for me, that’s the ultimate win. That’s my American Dream.



Holiday Res[e]t

We are now deep into the Christmas season, and quite frankly as far as planning goes, I’m very behind. Christmas day is a mere week away, and I’m just now wrapping presents for my daughter, trying to figure out what to buy the rest of my family, and Christmas dinner??? That menu hasn’t even started evolving in my mind. But it will be fine. It always gets done. Always.

 I’m normally not this far behind, but this year has been the year of exceptions. Yes, we have a 14 month old busy baby girl, but her enthusiasm for disorder is not my excuse.
No, we did Thanksgiving away, and I still don’t know if I’ve quite returned yet.
Thanksgiving weekend typically sets me up for the month of December. It is the castoff into the epic Big Three Holiday Season that sends us spiraling out of control with menus, shopping, and Christmas parties. It is the kickoff celebration into festive insanity.
And we completely skipped it this year.
Earlier this year, I could feel the dread of the madness coming, and I told Samuel I wanted to completely buck tradition and go away for Thanksgiving. Let me be clear, I love the traditional Thanksgiving. I love family. I love cooking. I love the food. But after a while, it all blurs together. Tradition after all is doing the same thing, the same way, each year, and it’s a wonderful thing. But sometimes all the sameness is overwhelming and a bit demanding.
My husband, my daughter, and I flew from our vacation in Hawaii on a red eye into Seattle, Washington on Thanksgiving morning instead of returning home to North Carolina. We checked into our hotel and took a nap around the time we would normally be getting up and rushing to either start cooking or getting dressed to head to family.
A few hours later we woke up completely relaxed, too relaxed for a family who just flew on a red eye and got only a few hours of sleep. But we woke up with no pressure, something rare on a holiday as an adult. I realized it was the first holiday in a long time, maybe since I was a child, when I wasn’t responsible for something going wrong.
And it simply felt amazing.
My husband couldn’t ruin the turkey. I didn’t have to worry if side dishes were hot enough. We didn’t have to drive anywhere. And I especially didn’t have to worry about a massive pile of dirty dishes. Instead I actually got to watch the Thanksgiving parade on tv instead of scurrying around cooking something or other. And we got to play with our daughter in the hotel pool and watch her squeal with delight when we threw her around in the water. It was pure delight. I met other families in the hotel who were doing the same thing. They decided like us that they weren’t doing the traditional Thanksgiving this year, and it was the most relaxed group of people I’ve ever been around on a holiday. We all had dinner reservations for later, so the most vexing thing any of us had to do was drag ourselves out of the jacuzzi and shower in time to walk to dinner.
Thanksgiving Dinner at Cutter’s downtown Seattle, Washington
Trio of delicious Pumpkin Desserts that I didn’t have to worry about making! 
It was a completely new and bewildering feeling for a girl like me who obsesses over a gourmet menu for every holiday meal. And I’m not going to lie, I liked it.
The feeling has stayed with me since that glorious Thursday a few weeks ago, thus my Christmas planning has been completely sidelined. But I’m not worried about it because worrying about the holidays is not on my agenda this year.
 I’ve found as an adult that instead of owning the holidays and enjoying every part of them, the holidays have been owning and controlling me. Now that I have a daughter, I don’t want to be a stressed mess every year because small things aren’t coming together as planned. Between instagram, Pinterest, Food Network, and every magazine that comes in the mail, the expectations of what the holidays are supposed to be has gotten out of control. The pressure for the perfect gift, the perfect menu, the perfect day has sucked away all the joy from the actual holiday. And I’ve had enough.
What is the purpose of all of this?
I’m learning that if I have to worry about something over the holidays, it’s probably not the right thing to be focusing on anyway. The holidays are supposed to be about family, traditions, thankfulness, food, quality time, reflection and celebrations of Jesus’ birth. But in the chaos of it all to make each year bigger and better than it was before, I’ve gotten away from this. And in talking to other people, I think a lot of us have gotten away from this.
The reset over Thanksgiving forced me to take a step back and think about how I want the holidays to look for my family of three longterm. It showed me that every year can be a little bit different, and it will be ok. Tradition doesn’t have to be met every year. And the pressure of taking that off the table makes me look forward to it in the years we decide to do it. I want to simply enjoy the holidays again. I want to allow time for the wonder in my daughter’s eyes. I want to cherish her delight in the season, and that means I can’t be stressed about little things from November until January 1st. So what if I don’t make the best menu of all time, or throw the best party, or decorate my entire house, or bake 10 dozen cookies, or a 3 layer cake? As long as I’m with her and watching her eyes light up at a dancing Rudolph the reindeer, I’ve had my holiday moment.

People have asked me afterwards how I felt about skipping the traditional Thanksgiving day almost as if they’re looking for regret on my part. Nope. No regret. It was one of the best things I did for my family of three this holiday season. It won’t happen every year. In fact, I am actually looking forward to a traditional Thanksgiving in 2018, but Thanksgiving 2017 won’t be the last holiday that we just drop everything and disappear to another part of the world for a holiday reset. I love traditions, but sometimes we need to escape them to once again realize what those traditions actually mean. Sometimes we simply need to go off wandering.

It’s in the wandering where you can find what really matters to you and your loved ones during the holiday season.

May you find many joyful and peaceful moments together this holiday season.
Isla playing in the Teddy Bear Suite at our hotel, the Fairmont Olympic, on Thanksgiving Day

A Walk Through Fire


We inched closer.

Because there was nothing stopping us beyond our better judgment. There were no guards, no rails, no signs for directions for viewing the active lava flow. This was the wild. What we did was up to our discretion, our safety.

My heart leapt with excitement. The hot lava oozed all around us, destroying and creating at the same time. The island of Hawai’i has lost many lives and homes to the four volcanoes that make up this beautiful island. The story of the volcanoes is an ongoing thread through their history. The volcanoes make the island. The volcanoes destroy the island. The people who live here revere it. And understandably so. Before I witnessed the flow, I would hear people talk of the volcanoes with respect. After viewing the active flow, I see why. You have to respect something this powerful in nature. It’s God’s creation, still at work. It’s His creation, still creating. It’s humbling and awe-inspiring.


When we had planned our trip to the Big Island of Hawai’i, we hadn’t planned on visiting Kalapana, the sight of the active lave flow, but a chance encounter with a French Canadian hiker on Mauna Kea sent us on the adventure. From Kalapana, we rented bikes from one of the many vendors and we rode three miles along the coast to get as close to the active flow as we could. It was a bumpy ride, past tiny homes and shacks built on the existing lava fields. On one side of their home, the Pacific ocean looms; on the other side, there’s an active volcano.  It’s a desolate place to build one’s home, and I wondered who decided to set up camp here. Artists trying to escape the world? Scientists? Daredevils? It’s a life sandwiched between water and fire.

At the road block, we parked our bikes and turned away from the ocean,  it was an estimated 1.5 mile hike to where the lava was flowing. We strapped our daughter onto my husband’s back, and we took off toward the volcano. The cooled black lava, cracked and bristled beneath our feet. It reminded my husband and I of the ribbon candy you see at Christmas time, but a much more sinister version. The color of licorice, but the consistency of rock in some places, and ash in the other, it was unlike anything I had ever encountered before. Some places were firmer than others. My husband yelled back to watch where I stepped for fear of slipping through the many layers of the ash. Some places chipped with the slightest pressure. It was both an exhilarating but exhausting hike. You could only move so fast over the vast lava field. The trek was uneven over ribbons and ribbons of cooled lava flow. Cracks in the earth would suddenly be in front of us, mounds of lava built up on either side. We carefully picked our path closer to where the flow was coming from. It was desolate but beautiful at the same time. The closer we got, the hotter the air grew.

And the ground.

The ground itself felt like it was on fire. My feet grew warm inside of my shoes slowly like a frog in boiling water.

Steam rose up through vents in the ground, and we knew we were getting closer.

The smell of sulfur told us that we had arrived. The black field was now broken up by silver streams of fresher lava flow not yet cooled and speckled with blazing lava in the cracks.

We couldn’t believe what we saw. Despite being told what we would see, it’s a different feeling seeing it in person, experiencing the heat and the steam a mere few feet away from you. All around us, the air crackled like a fireplace. And suddenly, it started to rain. The hot ground sizzled as the raindrops met it.

Fire and water meeting yet again.

We inched closer to see the ground ooze forth with the red and orange flames, and suddenly another explorer yelped. The ground beneath us cracked. I looked down and realized that lava flowed under the crack beneath my feet. I jumped back farther away, realizing that my exhilaration for this moment couldn’t completely override my sense for safety. I wasn’t Frodo trying to destroy the ring of power at Mt. Doom in the Lord of the Rings. I was simply a witness to this power.

Standing there staring at the lava, with all of my senses alight, I soaked everything in as best as I could. These were the moments, we travelled for.