the details, pt. II

the details, pt 2.  // the taste of sound when you’re playing the piano.

sometimes, it’s that iconic image of writer + pen + paper, 8am at the kitchen table: free-writing that turns into serious writing that turns into some kind of finished product, and it was a day well spent.

but most of the time, it’s not like that at all. it’s the lyric that pops into your brain on the way to the dry-cleaners. humming a line into your phone while stopped at the stoplight. waking up in the middle of the night to scribble something in your journal so you don’t forget.

it’s the worst things in life turning into the best songs. it’s the best things in life that make you dance. it’s the taste of sound when you’re playing the piano. it’s the feeling when you’re at a concert and all of the sudden there’s something new humming through your head, buzzing.

it’s watching (over and over again) everything that you didn’t understand suddenly making sense. making sense of the misunderstood, over and over again. pen + paper + whenever it happens, over and over again.

the details, pt. 1 here

Screen Shot 2017-05-29 at 3.54.06 PM

a journal in a dusty box in our basement

So this is going to sound strange, but I’ve been trying to figure out how to write a blog post about sometimes being too shy to post on my blog. I am literally always writing, and every once and a while I have this burst of inspiration where I get super excited to hit publish.

And then sometimes (a lot of times), I write tons of posts and leave them sitting there in the draft box. Or I find myself hitting the backspace key until there’s basically nothing on the page.

The other thing that got me thinking about this came as a result of traveling a couple of weeks ago. Steven and I went to Michigan to work with a producer who I actually met way back in high school on a youth group trip to New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. His band was the worship band at the meeting place for a few of the groups that were there during that week! This recent experience got me thinking about that high school trip, and I rummaged through a box of old journals to find the one that I had written in that summer.

First off: let’s talk about the little squares that I decorated this journal with (particularly the one that says “ew, i hate gossip” LOL – see photo below). Does anyone remember those websites that would have hundreds of little square photos and designs, and you could “right click save as”? I specifically remember spending a humid summer evening sitting at my desk in my childhood bedroom, powering on the bulky, ugly cream colored monitor that my dad had built out of used parts at a computer show (kind of cool, actually), connecting to the erols DIAL-UP internet and spending hours happily saving square photo after square photo to a floppy disk (so that I could transfer them to the family computer, print them out, and tape them around my room…and on notebooks). I can only conclude that this was a precursor to INSTAGRAM and how much I enjoy it now.


Anyway, back to the inner-contents of this journal that detailed the trip to New Orleans…

I laughed so hard at the ponderings of my 15-year-old self. I think I filled 40 pages of this notebook all during that week-long trip. And it’s because something in me desperately craved to write. To tell the story. To take everything in, and to remember it. There were a bit too many details (like the fact that one of our leaders was wearing a pac man t-shirt, and did you know that there is a burger place there called “Burger Orleans?”) I don’t think that those details necessarily need to make it into a blog post (except that they just did), but there are other details that could.

There was one day on this trip when a bunch of us were goofing around outside, and a police officer drove by shouting at us to get inside the building immediately, as there was a “man shooting a gun” in the area. So there was a group of 30 kids from the DC suburbs scrambling through the doors and running up the stairs in a panic. I read that I was sitting there against the wall in the locked building, thinking about how these kinds of things were very real, and unfortunately very common in the world. My relatively smooth life had kept me distanced from them, as it had to most of the people there. There are more nuances and details to this story – but essentially, one of our adult leaders spoke with us about life and death. She said something like “None of us can avoid death in this life, but what matters is what we choose to believe in and stand for while we are here.” She encouraged us to think eternally, to think outside of our “own little world,” and to pray for the person who was out in the streets with the gun. Yes, this just got really heavy, but that’s something I wrote down that summer. Later that evening, we were escorted out of the building and into our vans by some awesome undercover cops. To a bunch of relatively sheltered teenagers from Virginia, this was an experience. 

Apparently, my life changed big time that week. In rereading this documented story, I realized that I’m now at this point in life where, yes, it’s cool to write things in a journal… but maybe I shouldn’t just keep everything sitting in a dusty box in the basement.

Maybe it’s speaking your fears out loud that helps you overcome them. Or, in this case, writing about them. Do you have any experiences that you’d rather keep buried, but might actually resonate with someone if you told the story?




The album is called ‘Pines’ by A Fine Frenzy (the pseudonym for Alison Sudol, one of the songwriters who inspired me to first start writing). I listened to this record non-stop, daily during Fall 2012 – Spring 2013. It was literally therapy. I would walk around campus with my headphones on listening to this album. I would both cry and dance to this music, sometimes at the same time. Now before you think I’m crazy, I’ll assure you that I’m not. This is completely normal … at least for me hahaha! Maybe there is a record that means this much to you too.


There is a song on this album called “Riversong.” I think this song could be overlooked, because it’s kind of slow and about 7 minutes long. Or maybe because it’s kind of sad. But to me, it’s hopeful. It made me feel like maybe I wasn’t crazy for feeling how I was feeling, and I remember being completely mesmerized by the lyrics and what she was saying.

“I laid down by the river’s edge
I laid down wondering where it led
I laid down by the river’s edge
And I woke up in a river bed

There were flowers in my hair
River flowers floating everywhere
And all the fishes came and kissed my feet
Dear old fishes, they said to me

They said oh, we could love you
But we are not yet what you want
Because oh, anyone could love you
You’ve got to find where you belong

Now the boulders
I know they heard me cry
But they were stone-faced
And they stood aside
So I went on at the river’s pace
With my eyes closed, I thought I heard them say

They said oh, we could love you
But we are not yet what you want
Because oh, we would only crush you
You’ve got to find where you belong”

From my perspective, this song is about that journey to “find your place.” Maybe it’s in the wake of a broken relationship. Or maybe it’s because of a move, or a professional situation. Maybe you’re working so hard to be included in that “special club” in your career or community, and you realize that no matter how hard you try, it’s not enough.

When she sings “oh, we could love you / But we are not yet what you want / Because oh, we would only crush you / You’ve got to find where you belong,” it seems clear to me that she is alluding to waiting for what’s right, rather than settling for instant gratification. Sure, anyone could “love” you. But what is real love. Real respect. And WHY do we want that love? These are all questions that come to mind when I think about this. Is it to feed our ego? To be “loved and admired (or envied?)” by a large group of people, or is it to really reach out and care for those in our path with real love and respect. Because there is a difference between superficial, ego-boosting love and real, truly sacrificial love. And we were created to love and be loved.

I struggle with this all the time. But I am someone who believes in a God who loves us unconditionally. We are already accepted. That, of course, does not mean that we will get whatever we want. I really think that, sometimes, the answer is “no” because there is something better on the way. Something real, and something right.

Maybe it’s because I feel everything super deeply, or maybe it’s because I live next to a river now (which you can read more about here)- but I love this song, and am grateful for people who write deep lyrics that make us think. Also, Alison Sudol, if you plan to release new music or tour any time soon: CAN I PLEASE OPEN FOR YOU? I would die. ;p




Learning to Pay Attention

I think it was a few days after New Years when I broke down over something random, and then realized that part of the reason for my sadness was simple: somewhere along the way there seemed to be nothing “new” anymore.

A family loss right before Christmas. The quiet of winter. No snow (ha, but really though).

Then this weird thing started happening: everything in life started connecting. For example, I had this idea to write a series on my blog about “the details.” I’d pick an everyday scenario (eg, coming home from work at the end of the day) and then write down a series of details, trying to capture even the unassuming ones. Then, I saw an article with a quote from the book “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn,” which I immediately remembered that my friend Laura had told me to read years ago. It was the same day that I came down with the virus that everyone had last month (ugh), so I went to the library to find it (it’s always nice to have a book to read when you’re not feeling well).


It didn’t take me long to discover that I absolutely love the book, and I laughed at the critics online who said that there was simply “too much detail”. There is a whole section where the main character Francie decides that she wants to focus in on every detail of a moment:

“But she didn’t want to recall things. She wanted to live things – or as a compromise, re-live rather than reminisce. She decided to fix this time in her life exactly the way it was this instant. Perhaps that way she could hold on to it as a living thing and not have it become something called a memory. […] She brought her eyes close to the surface of her desk and examined the patterned grain of the wood […] She dropped it into the metal wastebasket counting the seconds it took to fall. She listened intently so as not to miss its almost noiseless thud as it hit the bottom. […] Francie heard, as it for the first time, the sound the desk drawer made when she opened it to get her purse. She noted the device of the purse’s catch – the sound of its click. She felt the leather, memorized its smell and studied the whirling on the black moiré-silk lining. She read the dates on the coins in her change purse. There was a new 1917 penny which she put in the envelope.”

If Francie (or the author, Betty Smith) was alive today, I would like to read her blog. Sorry Francie, I know blogs did not exist in 1917 – but I’m glad we get to read about you in your book (which is a new favorite).

That’s when it kind of hit me. Maybe it wasn’t that there was nothing new in life. Maybe I needed to PAY CLOSER ATTENTION. These details were not to be overlooked.

The connections haven’t stopped there. At the end of last year, I wrote about how I was inspired to declare “perseverance” as my word for 2017. Since that day, the word and concept have been jumping out at me everywhere. Like, everywhere.

I have been inspired to write new songs, and the literal metaphors (those words are confusing next to each other, but bear with me) that I used later showed up as themes in a conversation participated in, or a sermon listened to. This has happened a lot, and I hesitate to try and explain it all, but it has been too present to ignore. Do you ever experience one of those blessings that you know should just be absorbed and not shouted from the rooftops? Yup. There have definitely been some of those.

It is so easy to fall into the trap of thinking that there is nothing new. As long as we are breathing, there is purpose here. “[God’s] mercies are new every morning” (Lam. 3:22-23) There is something incredible that happens when we pay attention. Suddenly, we find our lives intersecting with the lives of others in ways that we never planned or anticipated. Maybe it’s a new friendship. Maybe it’s having the opportunity to help a total stranger, only to realize that by helping them, they have helped you even more. In reality, there are so many things in our lives that beg to not be taken for granted.

These past two months have reminded me of two quotes that I love:

“…that beauty and grace are performed whether or not we will or sense them. The least we can do is try to be there.” – Annie Dillard

“Instructions for living a life. Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.” – Mary Oliver

I don’t know about you – but I am actually really looking forward to paying attention, being astonished, and telling (more like writing/singing) about it soon. What has amazed you recently? I’d love to hear about it.



the details, pt. I

the details, pt 1.  // coming home from work.

every minute is a detail. every note, every color, every word.

sometimes, I get so caught up in the big picture – the goal, the intent – that I forget about all of the moments in-between.

blue-velvet clouds overwhelm the sky, and I watch them from the fifth floor. the sun sinks a bit too early, and our little city is veiled in dark. but glittering stars and lamplights keep the dreamers awake.

when I get home to that evening light slanting through the halfway open blinds, and realize that we forgot to take out the trash. when there are piles of dishes and medical bills and Christmas cards from two years ago on the fridge.

the way the phone rings, the way the tea tastes. the way your heart shakes inside a fragile mess of bones. the way you can feel so anxious, but know you’re not alone.

life is a canvas full of details – let me see it all up close.



hello from our little apartment by the river

When I moved here, I was reeling from all of the transition a bit more than I wanted to admit. When conversations with friends were suddenly made via phone or long texts sent at stoplights (rather than walking 10 feet to the next house over, letting myself in the unlocked door, and helping myself to my friend Rachel’s groceries before she even returned from class), I started falling into a daze of nostalgia with way too much time to think. But I’ve learned that the best way to get excited about living in a new city is to explore as much as possible…

It didn’t take me long to realize that there was something really special about living right next to a river. When I was a kid, I would read book after book of historical fiction goodness where characters escaped through the forest next to their little wooden house and spent hours adventuring by the nearby river, or creek, or pond.  I used to pretend that I lived by a river too – but the only body of water that I could see on a daily basis was a man-made pond near our neighborhood, full of keep out signs about “electric shock” and “no fishing.”

Now that we live in a city right next to a river, I have realized the effect that this has on my mood. Sometimes, the river is peaceful, sunny, and a bit too bright to look at until sunset. Other days, I’m driving to work and the water is full of dark fog and haze. Other times, I’m running and the clouds are full of color, whispering over the water. Sometimes the water is choppy and stormy, completely mirroring my emotions. And then there’s the water at night: with city lights, the bridge, the ferris wheel. Riding bikes over the pedestrian side of the bridge after dark and seeing the whole city across the water. Sitting on the bench by the water and writing. Watching little sailboats glide across the blue on an early July morning. Seeing the water ice over in the winter. Visiting the hidden lighthouse and taking photos of rocks by the water.

Can you tell I’m obsessed?

Living by the river has reminded me to be patient, and to never give up the opportunity for a grand adventure. What is special about the place where you live? What makes your neighborhood, town, or city unique? I’ve lived in a variety of places and I can assure you, there is always something. ❤

some river photos:

Screen Shot 2017-01-31 at 10.21.10 PM.png

and videos too:





word of the year, 2017

[a few weeks ago] It was a week that wasn’t my favorite. I’m wording it that way because, in the grand scheme of the world, it wasn’t so bad. Still, I was feeling emotional and defeated, and wanted to run. The sky was bright and sunny when I drove to my favorite running path, left my car parked in a pile of leaves, and started out. I was so pumped. This was going to be the best hour of the whole awful week.

I had completely underestimated how cold it was. Suddenly, I was attempting to run against the wind, face stinging and lungs burning. We are very dramatic here, but it’s true. The winter sun had deceived me. It probably would have been a wise and totally valid choice to turn around and go run inside at the gym, or at least find some warmer gear (I was wearing pretty warm layers already, so I’m not advocating running in extreme conditions in an unhealthy way). But for some reason, I knew I needed to keep going. If I went back to my car, I would probably just drive home and wallow. So I kept running, walked a little, and then ran the rest of the way.

Sometimes, we race out the door in excitement or determination: “Yes, this is it! I’m ready!” And then we hit a wall of wind and it’s “Wait. This is definitely not what I signed up for. What if I made the wrong choice?” I’ve been learning that, most of the time, there isn’t a neon sign giving us another set of choices: “will you keep going, or give up? pick one.” It’s usually a slow, unintentional defeat that enters through distraction or doubt. We suddenly find ourselves deviating from our lane without even meaning to.  (Side note: this is in no way an argument against rest. I think rest is actually a super important element in not giving up [and could – probably will – write a whole other post on that], but intentional rest is different from avoiding a confrontation of circumstances, or brushing discomfort under the rug.)

I’ve heard about people declaring a “word of the year,” and never thought I’d actually do that. I love words and there are so many great ones, so shouldn’t they allll be words of the year?! But I realized that I do have a word for next year, because it’s been on my heart a whole lot recently. When I was running in the cold that day, it made me think about my attitude towards a lot of things in life. About running a long race in a short life.

There is a scripture that is read at lots of weddings, and perhaps has become cliche to many of us. But, as many times as I’ve heard it, I was still surprised to see my word there, nestled inside a very important statement: “…It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveresLove never fails.”

My word for 2017 is: perseverance. What’s yours?