Hello Again.

 

*Image original to TaylorMarieBlog

*Image original to TaylorMarieBlog

I can’t hardly believe my last post was nearly a year ago.

It’s also hard to believe that, since that time, I have traveled around the world… twice!

I fully intended on writing about my last summer in France, but no amount of words could do it justice. I did a lot of growing and a lot of dreaming during that time, and I’m glad that I can forever hold that it in my heart as something I did just for me. Not a whole lot beats celebrating 25 years of life whilst sipping champagne on a balmy evening in the South of France. That’s something for the grandkids.

However, my latest excursion, a week in London and a month in Kenya, is something I want to talk about. In fact, I want to shout about it from the rooftops. Rather, I will write a series of posts talking about my adventures and the personal thoughts, questions I have and things I learned along the way.

Should be a good time.

 

Becoming

A few months ago I was presented with an opportunity that immediately set my heart on fire– the kind of offer that had the capacity to change everything.

Initially, I was inclined to turn it down despite the fact that something in the pit of my stomach told me it was right. These last several months have been a whirlwind and I just didn’t know if I was ready to leap off the edge again, though I knew my heart was begging me.

It felt selfish to leave my job, friends and family in the name of taking a few months to explore an opportunity that would solely be for me. Entertaining the idea of doing so felt scandalous, which was only magnified by the fact that I couldn’t deny that I wanted to go.

I told my parents and few friends about what was on my heart and was met with nothing but the sincerest encouragement. So, after a lot of debate and prayer, I am choosing to chase after what I believe the Lord has placed before me; to pursue the desires he has placed inside my heart; and embrace the adventure for which I am being called.

Next week, I will say “au revoir” to my beloved Oklahoma and, once again, make the journey across the pond to France for two months to take a step in a new direction and  work on projects that make my heart sing arias from the rooftops!

In honor of my impending 25th birthday (which I will be celebrating overseas!) I reread my favorite chapter in Shauna Niequist’s Bittersweet. This line caught my eye and, as I read it over and over again, I can’t help but feel that I am right in the middle of “becoming” who the Lord has called me to be and there is no greater joy than that:

There is a season for wildness and a season for settledness, and this is neither. This season is about becoming.  -Shauna Niequist, Bittersweet

Cold Tangerines

Cold Tangerines

I want a life that sizzles and pops and makes me laugh out loud. And I don’t want to get to the end, or to tomorrow, even, and realize that my life is a collection of meetings and pop cans and errands and receipts and dirty dishes. I want to eat cold tangerines and sing loud in the car with the windows open and wear pink shoes and stay up all night laughing and paint my walls the exact color of the sky right now. I want to sleep hard on clean white sheets and throw parties and eat ripe tomatoes and read books so good they make me jump up and down, and I want my everyday to make God belly laugh, glad that He gave life to someone who loves the gift.

-Shauna Niequist, Cold Tangerines 

Wonderful

No one has a bigger piece of my heart than my sweet Daddy; and if you know him, you know exactly why.

There is a running joke in my family about my parents just after they started dating: My mother would come home after a date and go on and on about how wonderful my dad was; every time, “But mom he’s just so wonderful.” Finally, after the millionth time, my grandmother looked at her and said, “Tori, no one can be THAT wonderful.”

As it turns out… he was. :)

I believe there are people in this world who have something extra-special about them; some intangible that makes them different; something that makes them wonderful. I have only met a handful of these wonderful people in my lifetime and my mama was right, my dad is definitely one of them.

He’s the kind of person who lights up a room whenever he walks in because Jesus shines through him all the time. It’s the core of who he is.

He is the hardest worker. He served nearly 30 years as an OKC Firefighter and was never late to a shift. Never. He is the definition of integrity and honor, and you can live and die by his word– a rare and precious gem in a world full of broken promises.

He is a pillar of strength. My sweet family has been through some valleys these last few years and though we have a few bumps and bruises, I credit my father with doing everything in his power to hold us up and and hold us together. Even when his own heart is exhausted and ripping at the seams, he is a wellspring of encouragement for our brokenness.

He is unending joy. If its true that optimists live longer, my dad will live forever. I think he lives life as it’s meant to be lived; a celebration. He sees every day as an opportunity to smile and laugh and love and to share that with everyone around him. A sense of humor is necessary in my family, and if anyone is laughing, my Daddy is usually in the middle of it.

He is a story teller. I consider this to be one of his greatest gifts. Story telling is dying art form that will sadly, stay dead with me. I can’t tell a story or a joke to save my life. My father, on the other hand, is one of the very best. When it comes to telling tales, whether it be bedtime stories or real life events, no one does it like him. I think I requested “Large Mouth Frog” (a childhood favorite) at bedtime nearly every single night. He would let me choose the animals in the story and he would act them out — the best. At friend/family get togethers, he regales us with stories from the fire department, his childhood, etc; most of which have us all in stitches by the end, exactly how he intended.

He is present. There was never a time when Daddy wasn’t working two jobs. He worked at the fire department full time, and on his days off he worked part time. Even so, bless his heart, he came to every track meet, football game, cheer competition, choir concert, school play, sorority event, etc. Looking back, I’m not sure how he did it, but he was always there, and that meant more then he’ll ever know. Now, he is a listening ear, a sounding board, a dinner date– still always there.

He is love. He is able to love fully and recklessly because he is in constant communion with the One who first loved us. He loves our family like a summer storm; steady, gentle and soaking. He truly cherishes my mom and adores all three of us kids. He is a fixer by nature and has a heart for broken people. He sees beyond the scars and loves people the way that they are, right where they are, just as Christ does; no expectation, no price tag. He loves because it was what he was created to do.

As I grow older and more aware of the world I live in, “thankful” doesn’t cover how I feel about my dad. All the good things about me are because of his hand in my life.

I love you, Daddy! Today, I hope you feel as wonderful as Mama thought you were back then. ;)

June Bugs & Blessings

storms

Happy June, everybody!

Yesterday, we welcomed the first month of summer with perfect weather and open arms. Never in my life have I been more thankful to bid the month of May, and all of its nasty weather, farewell.

It’s hard to believe we are already halfway through the year. This middle point has really made me stop and think about what I have done with my year so far; how vastly different my life has become, even in the last six months. I have taken a few steps back, but I have leapt forward. I have hurt deeply, but I have loved fully. I have stood in a season of drought, but I have have experienced the Lord’s greatest provision.

Last night, having just pulled into my driveway, I happened to catch the last part of Laura Story’s song, Blessings, on the radio. I have heard the lyrics a million times, but after an exhausting season of storms in Oklahoma and in my life, these words never resonated more deeply…

What if Your blessings come through raindrops? What if Your healing comes through tears? What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near?

What if my greatest disappoints, or the aching of this life, is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy. What if the trials of this life; the rain, the storms, the hardest nights are Your mercies in disguise?

Have a blessed Sunday.

When you say nothing at all…

You say it best when you say nothing at all. -Alison Krauss

If you’ve ever taken me on a date or interviewed me for a job, you know I have a tendency to talk.. a lot.

I have a really terrible habit of filling up silence with nonsense, especially when I’m nervous. These are often the moments when I say things that, upon reflection, sometimes as soon as seconds later, I immediately regret.

I think Alison Krauss had the right idea, sometimes the quiet says more and says it best.

I have decided to practice this approach with my blog. I’m a huge fan of consistency, and I know that in any publication, that’s a fairly important piece of the success puzzle. But I also know the sting of regret when too much is said and you can’t take it back.

I haven’t published any posts in several days, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t written. Several sleepless nights have been devoted to pouring over my current reads, news articles and Pinterest page for inspiration and I even typed a handful of pages that may make an appearance at a later date. But at the end of the day nothing felt genuine. It had a lot of flourish, but no substance, much like my solo small talk on a date that’s lasted too long.

My promise from the very beginning was that what you would read here would be an honest reflection of my heart– and during the last few days, my heart has been overwhelmed with the need to be quiet.

Every day, we are bombarded with nonsense. And every day, I take a few moments to sift through my news feed, twitter feed, blog roll and Instagram in an attempt to wade through that nonsense, searching for what is important, what is relevant and what matters most. This has proven to take more time than reading and enjoying what I sought out to find.

It is my greatest endeavor and concerted effort to save you from the fluff when you venture to my page. I can’t promise every post will be earth shattering or a novel thought, but I can promise it will be a genuine piece of myself and who or what I consider to be most important and worth sharing with you.

In the days and weeks to come, I do hope to achieve a greater sense of consistency, but not at the price of authenticity. I have so greatly appreciated all of the thoughtful and encouraging words of affirmation I have received throughout my blogging experience so far. You will never know what you do for my heart.

I hope everyone has a wonderful Wednesday!

Waiting Game

Recently, that question has caused a stirring in my heart; the kind of commotion that lets you know you’re nearing the edge of your comfort zone and are about to be kicked out of the nest, baby bird style.

Yesterday, I started reading Cold Tangerines by my favorite author, Shauna Niequist. As with every book she writes, it’s as if she has peered into the darkest corners of my heart, where thoughts and emotions that I can’t quite articulate are constantly swirling, and she turns on the light.

I have always, essentially, been waiting. Waiting to become something else, waiting to be that person I was on the verge of becoming, waiting for that life I thought I would have… and through all that waiting, here I am. My life is passing, day by day, and I am waiting for it to start. I am waiting for that time, that person, that event when my life will finally begin.

Wow. There couldn’t be a more accurate summation of where I currently find myself. At nearly 25, I feel as though I am in a perpetual waiting game; waiting on the right job, the right man, the right opportunities. It’s a lonely place to be, even though I know there are many standing right next to me, caught in the same trap. It’s a hamster wheel that keeps us running and gets us nowhere and, at the end of the day, we’re exhausted and frustrated at our lack of progress. Yet, every day, we get back on the wheel and continue to wear ourselves out in the name of some sense of purpose and routine. We grow bitter, but even that becomes comfortable.

At what point do we stop running in place and start living lives that are truly precious and wild?

I dont want to wait anymore. I choose to believe that there is nothing more sacred or profound than this day. I choose to believe that there may be a thousand big moments embedded in this day, waiting to be discovered, like tiny shards of gold. 

Maybe there isn’t one defining moment. Maybe it’s the culmination of small moments lived with great courage that add up to a big life; extending grace to someone who hurt you, buying coffee for the person behind you, walking away from a good job in search of one that fulfills you, clearing an hour in a busy day to call a distant friend, risking your heart and falling in love.

I believe that if we cultivate a true attention, a deep ability to see what has been there all along, we will find worlds within us and between us, dreams and stories and memories spilling over. You are more than dust and bones. You are spirit and power and image of God. And you have been given Today. 

-Shauna Niequist, Cold Tangerines