I learned long ago that I process life through writing. Before law school, this came easy. I could sit in a coffee shop, and words would practically jump onto the page. It was effortless, and by the end, I had a better understanding of myself and the season I was walking through at that time. I would exhale a sigh of relief and feel confident that I could face my day with greater understanding of my spiritual, emotional, and physical health, and with greater sensitivity to what God was trying to teach me.
When law school began, extracurricular writing went out the window. My words became fewer and writing in solitude became more of a chore and brought much less joy. My anxiety and stress increased exponentially as the pressure of law school fully consumed me, steadily chipping away at my spirit, emotions, and body. While slowly crumbling internally, I steadily built walls around my heart and spirit to protect myself from appearing weak or like I did not belong.
As fear overwhelmed me daily, I did not use the same cathartic writing process to gain a deeper understanding of myself. As a result, I did not exhale the same sigh of relief that came with feeling close to the Father’s heart through solitude, and I slowly became distant. My relationship with Him became stale and dry.
One year ago today, Andrew and I finished the Bar exam. I knew this would mark the start of a new beginning (assuming we passed, of course). On the week of the exam, I was so anxious that I developed stress hives. I couldn’t sleep, I lost my appetite, and I was absolutely distressed. I did everything the bar prep course called me to do (and then some), but I had no confidence in my ability to pass.
Fast forward – Andrew and I got married a month later. We both passed the Bar and became licensed attorneys. I started my first legal job, working with people with disabilities who have been sexually abused or sex trafficked in Illinois (exactly what I hoped to do entering law school). Slowly, a new normal began to set, but I continued to feel a little distant and not fully myself.
Right in the thick of trying to figure out this new normal, Andrew and I committed to running across the state of Washington with Venture to help provide food for refugees in southeast Asia at the border of Thailand and Myanmar.
Many of you remember my first Venture trip in 2012, a cycling trip benefiting International Justice Mission where we rode from Cincinnati, Ohio to IJM’s headquarters in Washington D.C. This trip was life-changing for me in many ways. Most importantly, it introduced to me to my Venture family and over the last 5 years, this family has taught me what it means to live in raw community.
THIS is what I have longed for every year since that bike trip in 2012, but my health and schedule would not allow another trip. I longed to return to my community, to build a larger community with new teammates, and to share this dear part of my story with Andrew.
So we did it. This month, we ran an epic relay across Washington.
350 miles run together
100 miles run individually
We returned on Sunday night, and I have had trouble processing. I sat down today and tried to figure out why, and that when I just started to write.
Words came a little easier today.
This trip was different from the cycling trip. I think primarily, because I am in a completely different stage of life. Before, I was fresh out of undergrad. I just moved from California to Chicago, and the world was incredibly exciting. I was supposed to start law school after the cycling tour, and I was off chasing big dreams. I was going to change the world, or else! I was in the best physical shape of my life, and I felt incredibly close to Jesus – I believed deeply that I was following his call in my life. It was all. so. good.
Going into this trip, I did not realize how much baggage I was carrying from the last several years until a few days into the trip.
I was tired. I was tired emotionally from work, physically from training, and spiritually from a season of dryness.
I was frustrated. I was frustrated because despite months and months of training, my body responded so much differently to the physical exertion. Being the stubborn person I am, this was emotionally taxing. Without my thyroid, I have little-to-no control over my energy levels, I am always very warm, and my thyroid medication makes my heart rate skyrocket and take a very long time to recover. I get frustrated having so little control over my body.
Yet, I also felt incredibly guilty when I felt these things, as one our sweet leaders ran our tour while fighting her own cancer battle. It felt so inappropriate for me to feel this way and I tried to suppress these thoughts and feelings.
I was sad. I was sad, because I was faced with the lingering pain related to my friend Sean’s murder. I shared his story on one of our runs, and I realized how much pain I continue to feel remembering his life and mourning his death.
I was confused. I was confused, because this new season of life has brought more questions than answers. Wasn’t everything supposed to fall into place after law school? Everything is supposed to make sense now, right? My legal fellowship is almost half over. What is next? Where will I work when this is over? Where will we live? Other big life questions were on repeat in my mind.
This trip slowly broke down my walls. My teammates were gracious with my whirlwind of emotions (thank you). We shared our testimonies in small groups as we ran. I talked about parts of my story that I never really talked about and shared memories that carried deep pain and deep shame for me. My teammates – my family – listened with open ears and gracious hearts. I felt the steady kneading of my heart and soul throughout the week. I felt my spirit lifting and re-opening, slowly, but steadily. I felt tender (something I have not been able to feel for years).
On my toughest day, we were at our housing site in Tacoma, Washington. Our leaders felt the weight of the day and thought we should do something a little different that evening. They asked Andrew, Anna, and I to lead worship for the group in the chapel. The three of us pulled together three songs (“Good Good Father,” “King of My Heart,” and “What A Beautiful Name”) in a few minutes. I played piano, Anna and I sang, and Andrew played bass on the organ. Our team sang and prayed. It was raw. It was real. Something shifted, and my heart softened a little more.
I still couldn’t process that evening until our last day. We debriefed as a team and attended church at Imago Dei in Portland, Oregon. That morning, they sang “King of My Heart,” and I could feel the Spirit moving in our team that morning, and it brought me back to that chapel a few nights before.
This is the start of a new season. A season that will be filled with more writing and intentional solitude. A season where I will allow myself to sit in tenderness, allow myself to feel deeply, and allow myself to break down these walls. It is time to lean in.
Thank you Andrew, for going on this adventure with me. Thank you for always being my biggest fan and for loving me even on my worst days. Thank you for seeing my needs before I even have a voice to share them. I am incredibly lucky to share life with you, and I am so thankful this trip is now part of our story. I love you.
Thank you team, for being so gracious with me. Thank you for making me laugh and for loving me well. Thank you for authentically leaning into Jesus and bringing me back to a tender place where I am better equipped to receive God’s love and give it out to others. As I continue to break down these walls I’ve built over the last few years, I will continue to think of you, to pray for you, and to love you. Love, #2.