You, Unfiltered

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I’m the first to tell you what Instagram filter I look best in (Valencia, don’t forget) and I will continue to tweet at Apple until a guacamole emoji is added #priorities, right?

Without social media, I wouldn’t be employed. For the past few years, I’ve inhaled everything analytics, content and user engagement, and I love it. But sometimes, I don’t love what it does to my heart. Or my relationships. And what I’ve learned is, it doesn’t have to be this way.

We are a pivotal generation, the make-it or break-it’s. We can do things today we couldn’t do yesterday, and the things we discover tonight will be outdated by next week. In a culture that tells us forward is always better, I think there are a few things we don’t always consider:

How can technology equip me to be the person I want to be? Will it allow me to be more compassionate, more intuitive? Or, will it give me an excuse to avoid the real questions, the honest conversations, conflict and apologies?

I hope we don’t forget what it means to love one another and remember to evolve our intentionality alongside technology, rather than leave it behind.

Creative Commons Carbon NYC
Creative Commons Carbon NYC

Maybe if we consider the significance of these so-called “outdated gestures,” we can pick and choose aspects to carry with us.

I hope you still know how to write in cursive. I hope you teach your children, and I hope you sign your full name instead of your initials.

Don’t forget the feeling of pressing your pen onto a fresh ream of lined paper. Remember bearing your thoughts in a journal that were for your eyes only instead of likes or retweets. I hope you treasure the sight of your handwriting and can recognize the penmanship of all your loved ones. I hope you leave sticky notes and write love letters. Let your pens run completely out of ink, and create, create, create.

I hope you don’t limit yourself to 140 characters.

You are brilliant, creative and have valuable thoughts. Think them freely without considering how they will be shared via social media. Breathe them in fully before giving them away. They are precious and uniquely you, so why are you so eager to place them in someone else’s hands?

I hope you remember what it’s like to receive a letter. A well-loved, postage-stamped letter.

I hope you are friends with your mailman, and I hope you send cards (not emails) on birthdays, holidays and just because. Know that time is best spent making someone’s day, and the easy way out is often the loneliest way out.

I hope words feel weighty.

I hope you spend your words, on social media and face-to-face, wisely. Let freedom of speech and instant communication inspire you into deeper, more meaningful relationships. Remember that we are all just people behind keyboards, hoping to be loved.

I hope you see through your eyes instead of a screen.

Capturing moments is an incredible privilege we have. But make sure there’s a moment to capture, and you embrace that moment before you press record.

I hope you realize the Internet is an incredible tool.

I hope you don’t take it for granted. I hope you use it to its full advantage and connect with old friends and encourage the heck out of your followers. I hope you won’t see it as an easy outlet for your frustrations or complaints. It’s not a venting tool, and if you wouldn’t say something meeting with a friend for coffee, don’t post it. These days, what you say has the potential to haunt you for the rest of your life, but it also has the potential to empower others for the rest of theirs.

I hope you care about the cyberspace environment, too.

As silly as it may seem, it’s something to consider. If we care so much about taking care of the Earth, why no mention of cleaning up our second, if not primary, residence? If we spend 60% or more of our time online, shouldn’t we take care of it, too? Invest in positive posts and words that carry meaning and encouragement. You wouldn’t want to live in a polluted physical environment, so why do you choose to contribute to and live in a hostile online space?

Know who you are.

You are not defined by your 160 character Twitter bio, your Instagram hashtags, or the pictures you are tagged in. Don’t listen to the secondhand, underrated opinion the social media world spits back at you. Be a person, not a profile, worth following.

You, Unfiltered | How to be more than 140 characters |

The Case For Wanderlove

Search, “Wanderlust” on Pinterest and you’re likely to come up with an infinite number of boards with users’ travel wants.

Travel Pinterest boards are different from any other because they encapsulate an entire experience you want to have. The clothes will go out of style, the home decor will, too, but what happens when you’ve deprived yourself of an experience? Would you regret it?

“I can’t afford it.”

“I’ll do that later.”

“I have more important things to worry about.”

Pinterest boards are for dreaming, that’s why I love them, but the increasing number of posts in XYZ Perfect Location with the words “Wanderlust” photoshopped on top has me wondering.

Lust: often confused with love, it is purely physical attraction and has no lasting effect.


Why can’t we have wonderlove?

That is, a functional, companionate relationship with our travel plans.


Because if you really knew travel, you’d know he’s not the kind of guy you get over quickly. He’s the type you’ll want to stick around. But if we want him to, we have to let him know by working at it.

You have the ability to make travel a lifestyle now. Future family and retirement trips will be enjoyable, but you’re missing out on an entire genre of traveling. If it wasn’t possible to travel in your college and 20-something years, hostels wouldn’t exist.

That’s right. They exist! In America!

Hostels are lifesavers for travelers on a budget looking for a unique and connected experience. No, it’s not a 5 star resort, but it will allow you to save for those 5 star resort vacations while still traveling now, and you’ll probably have a better time. You will be surrounded by really cool and likeminded people, but we’ll get to that later.

What is a hostel? Hostels provide budget-oriented, sociable accommodation where guests can rent a bed, usually a bunk bed, in a dormitory and share a bathroom, lounge and sometimes a kitchen.

How do I find one? and TripAdvisor are great resources for hostel finding. Make sure you choose one with positive reviews from previous guests. And after your stay, make sure to leave your own review!

Isn’t it, like, gross? Most hostels feel like summer camp or living in a dorm. You survived both of those things, right? You’re not above doing it again. You generally have several options to choose from, like private room and baths, to same sex or co-ed rooms. It’s not all bad, but will motivate you to get out of bed and see the city, which is the whole point, after all.

How much does it cost? It varies, depending on the hostel and your room choice. They are per person, per night. But to get an idea, the rates were $27 per night for a 6 bed mixed dorm, and $29 per night for 4 bed all-female dorm at the last hostel I stayed in. Can’t beat it.

Is it safe? Yes, but you have to be prepared. Bring locks for your luggage and don’t leave valuable items unattended in your room. I’ve never felt unsafe in a hostel, but I always make sure I stay in one that has come recommended from a friend or has good Trip Advisor reviews.

Can I stay in one by myself? Absolutely! I’d say a good majority of solo travelers stay in hostels for the opportunity to meet other people.

The best parts:

1. Travel recommendations. The hostel management usually will have great ideas for activities in the city, as well as other guests you meet in the hostel. When I stayed in San Diego, The International Travelers House had free activities each day, from sailing to brewery tours.

2. Included food. Most hostels understand you are traveling on a budget and will include some sort of meal. In Paris, this meant coffee and croissants with Nutella. In San Diego, it was chocolate chip pancakes. It’s usually just enough to tide you over until the next meal, and allows you to put money you would have spent on food toward other things. Many hostels also have communal kitchens, which helps a lot too.

3. You will make friends. Most people staying in hostels are open and excited to meeting new people. Hostels attract a lot of international travelers, which is probably the best part. Just in my last hostel experience, I stayed with people from Switzerland, Germany, Turkey, Hong Kong, China, North Korea and France. Staying in a hostel in your own country is a great way to expose yourself to other cultures without the price tag of an international trip.

4. You will love the city you’re in. Not that you wouldn’t already, but communally loving and sharing an experience with other travelers is the best. Staying in a hostel welcomes unexpected plans, creating the best stories to bring back home.

5. You will be inspired. Each time I return home from a hostel trip, I am reminded that there are so many ways to live life. Whether it’s from the girl solo traveling the country on the Amtrack or the chemist-turned-Pedicab driver, your eyes will be opened.

No, you cannot afford to stay in a 5 star luxury resort and be the spokesperson for Sandals vacations, but you can afford to get on your feet and see something new. In the time it takes you to pin dreamy destinations, you could be investing in ways to make your plans happen. So let’s do a little relationship counseling to reevaluate our efforts and learn how to show travel the love it deserves!

Hanging Out Naked



My newsfeed is always swarming with rings, engagement announcements, and couple pictures during the holidays, but this year was a little different.

This time, the lonely, relationship-seeking, un-engaged 20-somethings interrupted the love fest with a rebuttal. Those who sing “I-N-D-E-P-E-N-D-E-N-T” (and probably don’t know what that means) reposted this article like no other. At first I liked it, I really did. I respect the writer and the spirit of the article and, while I wouldn’t advise many things on this list, I enjoyed a sarcastic break from Facebook’s mating season. But then I saw it shared over 14,000 times on Twitter and Facebook and had to take a step back. The article, titled “23 Things To Do Instead of Getting Engaged Before You’re 23,” tries to justify those who are feeling less than cozy this holiday season. It lists things one should do before getting married, giving hope to those without love in sight and remorse to those who are getting hitched. Here’s the list:

1. Get a passport.

2. Find your “thing.”

3. Make out with a stranger.

4. Adopt a pet.

5. Start a band.

6. Make a cake. Make a second cake. Have your cake and eat it too.

7. Get a tattoo. It’s more permanent than a marriage.

8. Explore a new religion.

9. Start a small business.

10.Cut your hair.

11. Date two people at once and see how long it takes to blow up in your face.

12. Build something with your hands.

13. Accomplish a Pinterest project.

14. Join the Peace Corps.

15. Disappoint your parents.

16. Watch GIRLS, over and over again.

17. Eat a jar of Nutella in one sitting.

18. Make strangers feel uncomfortable in public places.

19. Sign up for CrossFit.

20. Hangout naked in front of a window.

21. Write your feelings down in a blog.

22. Be selfish.

23. Come with me to the Philippines for Chinese New Year.

THANK GOODNESS I get to eat, cut my hair, and hang out naked in front of a window before getting married. Like seriously, I really would have missed those things.

You’ve got to be kidding me. The statements this article make about marriage and divorce break my heart. “Divorce is no longer a staple in a midlife crisis, but rather, something that SEVENTEEN Magazine should probably be printing on,” is an unnerving statement about our generation. But aside from all that, y’all, social media comparison is killing us. An article that probably had intentions of setting singles free is binding them to comparison and regulation.

It reminds me of another story I know.

In the creation story found in Genesis, Adam and Eve are first naked in the garden WITHOUT SHAME. God tells them they can have free reign in the Garden of Eden, as long as they stay away from the forbidden fruit. The serpent slithers up to Eve, saying, “Did God really say that? Don’t you know that if you do eat the fruit you will have the knowledge of God?” This is the way to happiness and control, Eve. The only way. You’ll love it. 

And what happens next? Eve eats the fruit. Adam follows suit. They are naked and ashamed. 

This is the perfect opportunity for an, “I told you so,” from the Heavenly Father, but instead, God responds to the situation with one of the most poignant questions in the Bible:

Who told you that you were naked?

He is hurting for them, like a father whose children are buying into every lie he worked so hard to prove false.

Who told you that you were inadequate?

Who told you that you are behind if you don’t have a ring on your finger before 23?

Who told you that if you’re not engaged, you will never be happy?

Who told you that you have to accomplish a list of things like “make out with a stranger” to cover up your loneliness?

Who told you that your relationship status defines your worth as a person?

Who told you that your story is the same as everyone else’s?

How did you get to this point?

Friends, we need to think about these things because they are not true and they are hurting us. I do agree with some points the article alludes to, like learning to love yourself before you can love someone else and experiencing all life has to offer. I love the initiative taken to make the single 20-somethings feel a little more empowered. But, it’s the same thing.

If an engagement picture holds the power to spike my anxiety, then why wouldn’t a list of things I should do? Both leave me feeling pretty inadequate. I am so happy for those that have found confidence in themselves in singleness and true companionship in marriage. But what works for them, probably won’t for me.

Realize how easily we are falling into the traps of the unspoken social media contest. Each time you open your browser or click on the Facebook app, you are simultaneously opening your heart up, too. It is constantly searching for more, more, more, and when you see picture after picture of edited lives putting their best face forward, it will allow them to win. I truly believe depression and anxiety rates are heightened due largely to social media. Yes, the same events are happening, and these couples would still be engaged or singles living out their independence. But never before the age of Facebook have we had the ability to mindlessly browse something with the potential to destroy our self esteem.

Think about the times you are usually checking your phone. I know I usually do when I’m not engaged with what’s in front of me, I’m waiting for the next thing, or I’m looking for a distraction. I’m not actively guarding my time much less my heart, creating a perfect soil for seeds of dissatisfaction to grow. My thoughts spiral directly past “Who told you that you were not enough?” and straight into “You’re definitely not enough because this picture and this status say so.” Just like being naked and ashamed. 

My advice? Live your beautifully written, hand crafted, one-of-a-kind story and love every minute of it. You weren’t given this life to live it by the standards of others, so let’s shake them off at the beginning of this year. Don’t give others’ highlight reels air time in your mind, and mindfully prepare and protect yourself each time you begin to scroll through Apps. Remember that living and being present in your story will always triumph.

So, you want to eat a jar of Nutella in one sitting? Fabulous. You want to share it with your husband or wife? Awesome.

No matter what, may we never be ashamed.

Promises Kept

If there’s one thing I love, it’s the holiday season. I was born for it. Honestly, y’all, I was born on December 18-just in time to be crowned the most enthusiastic welcomer of baby Jesus. Each year on Thanksgiving, my family writes down things we are thankful for on decorative leaves to hang on our mantle for the remainder of the year. And while my journalist mind makes me craft creative ways of expressing it, I am thankful for the same things each year. It’s become more like writing a Grammy speech-don’t forget your mom, your neighbor, your cat, your “people.” It’s not a bad thing, because I really am incredibly thankful for each and every one of those blessings. I just think I’m missing an opportunity.

In the middle of uncertainty or a rough season, have you ever thought,”Even though God promises I will be okay, I wish I could have some kind of confirmation from the future to tell me I will make it this time?” I have. When the season is over, I am so quick to run out as fast as I can, never wanting to look back. But on my way out, I slam the door on so much crucial affirmation and reassurance. God is saying, See, I brought you here for a reason: because I love you, but I am already too far away to hear it.

What if we kept a running list of promises kept? On those days when I am quick to forget God’s track record, I would have it in print and be able to say, “You were faithful here, here, and here, so you will be now, too!” Because sometimes my heart needs a little pep talk.

As the year closes, I am starting a promises kept list instead of a thankfulness list. Ultimately, it will become one in the same, but will point me to Who has kept the promise along the way. I need to remind myself of the reasons I have the things I’m thankful for, and they live in the same vein of the One I am forever grateful. Looking for promises challenges me to turn even the most unpleasant memories into those I am grateful for, ones that would never make the list otherwise.

For example, I am not easily able to say I am thankful for the sleepless, anxious nights I’ve had this semester.

But I can without a doubt say, God kept His promises in my anxiety that He would comfort and quiet me. He did not leave me nor forsake me. He strengthened me and rejoiced over me with singing. Now, I can genuinely say, I am thankful.

Do this with me! This year, let’s really count ALL of our blessings and set the tone for a faith-fueled new year. And how awesome will it be years from now to look back at lines of handwritten confidence in the Lord’s promises? I can’t wait to start filling pages! Happy list-making!

In Which I Lose My Money and My Identity

I didn’t write about this while I was abroad so I wouldn’t freak you out. While even the dullest day in Italy seemed glitzy at the time, some days proved to be more challenging than others. Like the day I was pick-pocketed.

After I applied to study abroad, everyone I knew instantly became an expert on being safe in a foreign country. While they all had the best intentions, I received every crazy bit of advice, from avoiding babies at all costs to staying away from blue-eyed cats. And as the girl that’s even too afraid to use cruise control, you better believe I stayed true to every single one of them.

Except no one warned me about teenage girls in H&M. But little miss Polly PickPocket, I’ve got to give you credit for the idea. If there’s anywhere in the world my guard is down, it’s in a 4 story palace of cheap Italian clothes. I wish I was kidding.

I bent down to try on a pair of shoes, my crossbody purse almost touching the floor. The girl next to me, who I assumed was equally obsessed with H&M’s new line of shoes, seemed to get abnormally close, but being in a new culture, I thought nothing of it. I stood up straight, immediately feeling the lightness of my bag and looked down to see it unzipped, wallet gone. 

I wasn’t even scared, just mad. How could someone, someone my age or younger, take that away from me? How could I let them?

But really, don’t I do that all the time? Maybe not in the form of money or passports, but in joy and confidence? It only takes one judgmental remark or one condescending look to send my self-esteem whirring recklessly. One second and my entire concept of self is full of untruths.

In the middle of my stress abroad, I took a moment, looked around me, and remembered what was true. While contemplating my next move, I remembered a scenario a friend had encountered only nights before: her wallet had been taken, but the thief searched it for cash, then tossed it, feet away from where it had been lost.

When someone steals my happy, I should search for what is true in the same way. Instead of replaying the situation, ridding me of joy even more so, I can repeat what I know to be true about myself. I am loved, cherished, redeemed, being fought for, safe and chosen.

The remembrance of my friend’s story allowed me to think clearly and search for my wallet in the store. And what do you know, there it was, hanging on a jewelry rack, everything in tact. About 20 feet away from where it was taken from me.

Joy is always just as close. Don’t allow it to be in a position to be taken. Renew your mind of what is consistently true, and live like it is. If it is taken, confront it with the Truth. And go buy those shoes once you get it back;)

A Heart at Rest

Each time September 11th rolls around, the same question is asked- Where were you? I know you’ve probably read a lot of somber stories of remembrance today, but this is a little different. This year, as it landed in the middle of my Yes journey with P31 Online Bible Studies, I saw it through a different lens.

My story is pretty much the same as every one else’s my age; I was only in the 4th grade, after all. I remember another teacher interrupting class to speak with ours in private. She returned, on the verge of tears, and summarized the events, nervously twirling the spirals that framed her face. “A plane hit a building in New York City. You’ll have to ask your parents about the rest.” Our school was immediately put on a code red lockdown, and while I was unnerved, I was more focused on being jealous of the 5th graders, who got to watch the events unfold on the news.

My 9 year old brain, only able to process the details it had been given, didn’t understand what the big deal was. I remember thinking, accidents happen all the time. What makes this different? 

It wasn’t until I saw the scarring images on the news that I began to understand. Families without parents, children without futures, a country without answers, a people without trust.

Before that day, I had been safe. Safe in my routine, my circumstances, and the arms of my loved ones. I began to realize for the first time that not everything and everyone in the world would keep me that way, not even if they wanted to. It was terrifying.

I have strived for safety my whole life. I have always stopped at yellow lights, called to check on loved ones, and followed the rules. While I thought this would add to my peace, it always takes away because I cannot be in control.

We cannot wait until we feel safe to say Yes to God. And, reversely, we cannot say Yes to God in hopes that it will make us feel safe. If God were in the business of keeping us safe, we wouldn’t feel the need to seek Him. Nowhere in the Bible does He promise our families will be safe. At least, not by the world’s standards. It seems a little harsh, doesn’t it?

I’ve always had a little bitterness about this, but recently, I’ve been challenged. In my experience, if God loves me, He should protect me and those I love. And while many times He works this way, sometimes it’s not His plan. The default response to these situations is always, “God has something better planned,” but I’m guilty of not believing it.

I’m slowly transitioning from a rule-following Christian to a grace-chasing one. In the recent encounters I’ve had with God, He’s been such a warm, whimsical figure who excitedly says, “” Now that I know Him, I’m starting to realize the whole idea of being safe is just a cheap illusion of control. My thought processes that revolve around His seeming obligation to protect me are just as harmful as the things I’m hiding from. I’ve got to rise above the world’s expectations to experience a God without limitations, abounding in love and get a glimpse from His perspective.

I must rest in what is true. If I am covered in Christ, I no longer have to devise my own shelter, escape routes, or back-up plans. If I am really looking for something to save my life, I need to stop asking for God to keep me safe and begin asking that He bring me closer to Him.