The Power of Tea (Getting to Know People)


“I think people underestimate the power of tea,” my friend Cheyenne said in class the other day.

“Why can’t we just invite someone over to drink tea and talk?”

She’s this really cool yoga-loving, beach-bred, free spirit (with an Instagram that will leave you equally inspired and envious—check out @cheyennegiesecke’s photos). Naturally, I agreed with her.

We were talking about how so many people feel like they need TV shows and movies and celebrity gossip to hold a conversation. These things provide an avenue for connectivity and give people something to talk about. The scripted drama and sharp words of reality TV shock us and provoke us; our appetites for this kind of entertainment become insatiable. (Like, Oh my gosh, did you see the newest Keeping Up with the Kardashians last night?)

But what about talking of our dreams, ideas, or favorite books? Something of substance and worth?



“Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events. Small minds discuss people.” | Eleanor Roosevelt

It’s one of those quotes that everyone knows, plastered on the walls of elementary school classrooms across the nation.  I’ve never actually given the quote much thought until I thought about my own conversations with classmates and friends—convicting. The content of our conversations doesn’t have to be about events or people. We don’t have to have small or average minds. Through friendship, fellowship, and conversation, we can have great minds.


I’m really fascinated by people—their quirks, dreams, accomplishments and stories. We can learn so much from one another if we simply tear down the fragmented wall of “guardedness” that we’ve built around our hearts and minds. Vulnerability can be a beautiful thing, when done carefully.

Through The Little English Girl, I’ve learned that opening up my heart and letting readers sift through my thoughts can leave them soothed and encouraged by my own related experiences and (mostly) positive words.


One of my favorite things in the world is sitting around a little table in the corner of a coffee shop, hands clasped around a steaming mug of cocoa, focused only on getting to know the person in front of me.

With our phones tucked away in our pockets, we can channel our attention onto each other, laughing over childhood stories or breathlessly talking about our dreams. This is real connectedness, when friendship is about nurturing and building each other up, rather than gossiping about Justin Bieber’s little mustache (oops) or whatever Kim Kardashian is currently up to.

People are brilliant. I am so deeply impressed by the doctors, mathematicians, chemists, software developers and app-makers of the world—I never could do what they do, nor do I have much interest in following their path. I like to think that perhaps some of those people feel the same way about artists, writers, photographers, and philosophers. Our differences are brilliant.


As I shift into a new season of life, I’m making it a goal to get to know as many people as I can, so that my worldview and horizons can continue to be stretched on a daily basis.

Let’s be pals? Delight in the sweetness of fellowship today.

Joyfully in Christ,


P.S.: Happy (almost) birthday to me! Only 3 hours until my teen years are completely behind me!

Hello to the big 2-0 on April 14th!

P.P.S: A picture from the birthday celebration.


From Fashion to Philosophy: Goodbye Texas

“The only thing more unthinkable than leaving was staying; the only thing more impossible than staying was leaving. I didn’t want to destroy anything or anybody. I just wanted to slip quietly out the back door, without causing any fuss or consequences, and then not stop running until I reached Greenland.” | Elizabeth Gilbert


God is doing some pretty radical stuff in my life–challenging, humbling, life-changing, heart-opening, anxiety-inducing stuff.

☮  ☮  ☮  ☮  ☮

Every day I am finessed and shaped and molded by God’s hand. I have been growing, blooming, and evolving. I’ll think my life is headed one direction, and God smiles, throws his head back, and laughs warmly: “My child,” he says, “you’re going the wrong way!” And he helps me readjust. He holds my hand a lot. We take baby steps. We talk constantly about the concept of direction… especially lately.

My best friend texted me this quote last week, which I knew was God’s doing:

“I think God passes by me a lot, and it serves to show me the direction he’s going. We don’t always know where he’s headed or what to expect along the way. But I think direction is the point, the part, and whole of it…Plus, I think God knows that if I found out more than just the direction He was going, I’d probably try to beat Him there.” | Bob Goff, Love Does

My life path has been a fragmented yet loopy journey from point A to point B—I’ve never done well with simple or linear.





When I came into college as a freshman, I was a little 18-year-old with too-dark hair and too much makeup, wanting nothing more than to study fashion merchandising and have a “real” college experience. I wanted to work for a magazine—TeenVogue was the goal—and live in New York City or LA. I went to mixers and parties and formals, held a can of beer in my hand just to blend in, and spent more time on my phone than in my physical surroundings. With my heart stapled to my sleeve, I was completely consumed with the thought of southern boys. I thought they would be so wonderful–so gentlemanly–opening doors and calling me miss or ma’am with a crooning, twangy accent. They would all sound exactly like the nonexistent lovechild of Scotty McCreery and Josh Turner (baby lock them doors and turn the lights down low… ♫ ♪ ♫).

Fast forward 365 days, and I’m in the first semester of my sophomore year. My halfhearted study of fashion merchandising, coupled with a wonderful religion professor and newfound love for my freshman bible class (general ed religion requirement—private Christian school, mind you) leads me to change my path completely. No longer was I studying lighting, consumers, textiles, or illustration—suddenly it was second semester, and I was immersed in Jewish, Buddhist, and Hindu traditions.


I traded my sketching pencils for the Torah, fabric swatches for karma, dharma, and bodhisattvas. The designer names on my flashcards became deities, transliterated words, and meticulous sketches of the afterlife (this week’s notes are peppered with drawings of the Mormon afterlife, beginning with the premortal world, stretching to the celestial kingdom). No longer was I examining fabric under a microscope or identifying it by its warp or waft (which is truly such a pain). Instead, I was examining relationships, ethics, and doctrines through the lens of a scholar of religion.

Suddenly I found myself on the floor of my little apartment, surrounded by cracked open textbooks and thick stacks of notes, exploring the complexities of the question: “what is religion?” and loving every soul-searching moment. It’s a native category, meaning it’s so elemental to life and society that people feel like they know what it means without having to define it. But at the same time, it’s like explaining colors to the lifelong blind, or describing how water tastes. 


Fast forward one more year.

I’ll be a junior, but no longer in Texas.

My fragmented yet looping path has led me back to the place where my heart overflows—California. It’s been a long process, a quiet process, and a painful process. I believe, with every cell in my body and hair on my head, that God brought me to Texas for spiritual, emotional, and academic boot camp. It was here, and only here, that he could turn this little freshman girl, purposefully spilling warm beer into potted plants at parties to make the cup gradually empty, into a girl with a heart for philosophy and religion, dedicated to meditation and prayer. He knew that Texas could be the only setting for this radical, internal, gritty, and graceful change.

It was here when I finally learned to listen to Him… and to my own soul.


I had become so apathetic and victim-like. I saw my circumstances as permanent, not temporary. Texas was the place of my first B- (in a class called “fashion illustration,” of all things), my first severe tornado warning (yesterday, actually), my first time being set up on a date (blind dates work better in movies and books), and my first time getting 100% on a science midterm (only after a weekend of crying in the bathtub with my flashcards and eating my feelings in chocolate chips).

I loved studying religion, so I knew my academic shift was part of His plan.

Academics aside, everyone talked of my school like it was this magical and beautiful utopia. And although the campus is gorgeous, I didn’t think these people had ever seen palm trees, tasted an acai bowl, or fell asleep on the sand with a book on their face. I didn’t think these people had ever wandered through a vineyard, climbed a mountain so lush and emerald that even Ireland is green with envy. I didn’t think these people have done yoga on a paddleboard, picked citrus from their backyards, or had a pool party birthday for every single year of their life (and every year, the wet footprints on the pavement, cannonball splashes and homemade birthday cake were even better than the last). I didn’t think these people had surfboards and boogie boards and skim boards in their garages, or had a guitar for home and a guitar for the beach, its wood coated with sand and mottled from saltwater. I didn’t think these people knew California like I did.

And that was okay. Maybe all of that wasn’t magic to them.


Who was I to assume that my paradise was theirs as well?

Maybe what was magical to them were the honey-leather cowboy boots, the buzz of the crowd on game day, all yelling and screaming at the ref in unison. Maybe these people were captivated by tall, sweating glasses of sweet tea and line dancing past midnight, hunting on the weekends, and tailgating in the back of a truck. Maybe to them, the Texas sky was a symphony, the clouds wringing themselves out at the end of the day—pink and lavender watercolors dripping down from the atmosphere. Maybe the humid nights and bright stars, the country music, and lake days made their hearts overflow with love and pride.

(And that was okay too.)


One of the sweetest blessings here in Texas was my book club—a small, deep-thinking collection of happy spirits, each with a dog-eared copy of Eat, Pray, Love. Unbeknownst to these girls, our tiny, monthly book club helped me come to terms with the adventures waiting at my own fingertips. This handful of creative, Elizabeth-Gilbert-loving souls, along with Elizabeth herself (via her book) gave me the courage I needed to pursue true joy.


“Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it. You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings. And once you have achieved a state of happiness, you must never become lax about maintaining it. You must make a mighty effort to keep swimming upward into that happiness forever, to stay afloat on top of it.” | Elizabeth Gilbert; Eat, Pray, Love

☮  ☮  ☮  ☮  ☮


And so I’m traveling for it and swimming to it.

I’m headed back to my Californian roots where my soul can run free through nature and the sunshine can warm the tips of my toes. I’m headed back to a gentle yoga practice, uncharted beaches (for I won’t be in my well-loved yet thoroughly explored San Diego this time around), and a continuation of my religious studies, with the addition of philosophy. I’m headed back to a barefoot heart, farmers’ markets, and a strand of sea-glass-encrusted possibilities.



As Rumi said,

“Respond to every call that excites your spirit.”

And so I’m responding.

I’m taking my fragmented, looping, beautiful path to California.


Find out what excites your spirit. Seek peace and happiness and chase it–literally run to it and for it and alongside of it. If you don’t like where you are or where you’re going, pick up your roots and the hems of your pant legs and go somewhere else.

Pursue all of the world’s light and love.

You are your own limitations.

(Extra) Joyfully in Christ,



Hyper-Connected and Hyper-Available: Social Media

It’s been a month since I’ve used any form of social media.



Back in late February, I knew that I wanted to give up social media for Lent, but I also knew that waiting until March 5th would zap me of my motivation and inspiration. And so, slowly unclenching my palms and releasing the apps and accounts and sites that had become such a staple to my life, I let it all go. I deactivated Facebook, deleted Twitter, deleted Instagram, logged out of LinkedIn, and deleted Tumblr. (Pssst… I knew I was going to keep Pinterest, since I don’t use it in a social way: I don’t follow many people I actually know, and I don’t use the comment features. I only use it as a creative outlet and source of inspiration.)


 It’s been 30 days.


I sound like an addict, really. I sound like someone hugging their knees to their chest, rocking from side-to-side in fetal position, and making tally marks on the wall of how many days it’s been, incarcerated without social media. I sound like a junkie in remission.

My social media addiction wasn’t that bad, especially when I compare it to my peers. Now when I go to dinner parties or sorority events, I notice how everyone is hunched over their phones. Everyone will pose for a picture—trying to look carefree and happy, doing the fake-laugh smile—and then frown, cropping and editing and finessing said picture for the next ten minutes.

It’s all relative. I didn’t post on Instagram frequently; a lot of people posted every day. I didn’t utilize Facebook actively; a lot of people made statuses or uploaded pictures every hour/day/week. But I knew that I did have a problem.


I had become unable to just sit—to sit and wait for a friend, to sit in the passenger seat of a car, to sit at my desk until class began.

The muscle memory was too deeply rooted, and the mental craving for a distraction/notification/confidence boost was too strong. Sitting and waiting meant pulling out my phone, my thumbs mindlessly jumping from Instagram to Facebook to Twitter to texting, all in cyclical progression. If there were no notifications on one app, I’d move to the next, and so on, until I was back to social media site #1, and the cycle began again.

Introspective as I am, and a lover of systems, I decided I wanted to be more actively in control over my thumbs, my thoughts, and what I fed to my brain. I wanted a system. I wanted a set of steps and rules to follow that would instantly transform my life. I love systems. But I didn’t want to let go. I loved social media too much and used it too often to even imagine life without it. Without social media, what would I do? How could I show everyone my quinoa breakfast bowl or my quintessential California beach sunset shot?



I thought back to a quote I posted awhile back:

“We can’t jump off of bridges anymore because our iPhones will get ruined. We can’t take skinny dips in the ocean, because there’s no service on the beach, and adventures aren’t real unless they’re on Instagram. Technology has doomed the spontaneity of adventure, and we’re helping destroy it every time we Google, check in, and hashtag.” | Jeremy Glass

Why couldn’t I let go of social media? Why did I like it? Seeing that my acquaintance got 300 likes on the picture she posted of her coffee (a made-up scenario, but still relevant) wasn’t doing anything for me. What was I gaining? Bruised self-esteem? Jealousy? Comparison is the thief of joy, but also the thief of productivity, self-love, and confidence.

So it was good-bye, Instagram. I needed to learn how to enjoy the sunset or breakfast without counting whether sixty, seventy, or eighty people also thought it was neat.

Although I didn’t use Facebook actively to make statuses or upload pictures, I did post my blog links, respond to friend requests or comments or messages, check people’s birthdays and RSVP for events. I didn’t necessarily like Facebook, but I loved the little red notifications. They made me feel important and worthy and cool.

And so, it was good-bye to Facebook. I needed to learn how to feel important and worthy and cool on my own, outside of the computer screen.



Social media makes us hyper-connected. As Millennials (and other generations), we have a handful of accounts and sites. We have Twitters and Tumblrs. We have Facebooks and Flickrs and Instagrams. We have GroupMe and Google+, YouTube channels and LinkedIn pages. We have every avenue for every type of interaction possible, and more often than not, we utilize them all.

This hyper-connectedness leaves us hyper-available.

School doesn’t end when class ends—not when your teacher can email you at all hours of the day and change the directions for the project, add more pages to the reading, or assign something completely new. Work no longer lives within the parameters of 9am-5pm—not when the boss can request that chart or that document at any time of morning or night (or when the boss’ boss can ask if you could, by chance, get this totally impossible task done by morning.). Social time never ends. We don’t have alone time when we’re connected to 2,000 of our closest friends through a screen, with the ability to message any of them with one click of a button and a few taps on the keys. We read on our iPads but don’t get very far, distracted by the little seducing notifications swooping down from the top of the page. (A new friend request? Who could it be? I better check right now, or I will probably shrivel up and die.)



The hardest part for me, once accounts were gone and the apps deleted, was figuring out how to fill my time. Part of me was in mourning—rest in peace, social life—because I knew that I would probably miss out on more without all of the avenues for connectivity. The other part of me—the sassy, independent part—reminded me that if someone really really wanted to hangout, they could call me on the phone. It’s not like I fell off the planet and into the inky darkness of the galaxies. I was still very much present without my sites. I was more present without my sites.


I made a list (I told you, I love systems) of activities to do when I get bored (although my homework load this semester has kindly made sure that I don’t get bored often):

o   Host a game night

o   Call someone to talk

o   Do yoga

o   Write out prayers

o   Go on a walk

o   Drink a glass of water

o   Play guitar/piano

o   Explore a new neighborhood

o   Stretch gently

o   Plan a trip—a real, physical, plausible, actually-will-happen trip

o   Floss (I have a major teeth fetish, and it really frightens me to think how many people don’t floss)

o   Watch an old/foreign film (La Vita E Bella is my favorite. I literally weep everytime I watch it, and it’s not even in English! Thank you God for wonderful Italian films with subtitles.)

o   Read outside

o   Make treats for someone

o   Read the Bible

o   Do supplementary research on something I’m curious about

o   Write letters



30 days later, and I have not missed social media at all.

Oddly enough, my fear of missing out became non-existent. My productivity levels skyrocketed (last week: two presentations, two midterms, and a 10-paged original fiction work). My conversations got deeper. My flighty, unfocused mind was mellower without such an extreme information overload. (I struggle with Inattentive ADHD [ADHD encompasses two types: Hyperactive-Impulsive and Inattentive]). I read articles from the newspaper that my mom would send via snail mail. I read multiple books.

I’m not sure what I’ll do when Lent is over, because I am so much happier without social media. I miss being able to show my pictures online, but I think I really just miss the likes on my pictures. It’s been so refreshing to live life without the siren call of notifications and the sinking feeling of being left out of plans. Letting go of social media gave me more control over my life, my mind, and time.


You may have zero problems with social media. You may be so much better at moderation than I am. But if you do find yourself sheepishly looking down at your toes right now, I challenge you. Give. It. Up. Maybe just for one day, maybe for two months. When you let go of being hyper-connected and hyper-available, you may just find that that is where life happens.


Happy Saturday.


Wandering Feet, Anxious Heart


It wasn’t the first time I found myself being yelled at in Sudanese Arabic.

(Actually, it definitely was.)


I wasn’t sure if the taxi driver was yelling at me to get out of the taxi—perhaps he wasn’t available—or to get in and close the door. So there I was, perched in an uncomfortable squat, half-sitting in his taxi, half-standing on the pavement. Eventually he managed the word “door” in English, and motioned to the phone clenched to his ear. Enlightened but thoroughly annoyed, I closed the door and sat back in the grimy taxi van seat, embarking on my overpriced journey from the airport to my college campus.

Once he got off the phone, he told me that he was from Sudan. It had been his wife calling from overseas, so he couldn’t hang up when I climbed into his taxi. He was here in Texas and driving this van to support his family back in Africa. At one point he fluidly shifted from English to Sudanese Arabic, forgetting that I was just a little English (speaking) girl—pun intended. In fragmented sentences and broken English, he talked about war, uprisings, and water. When I got to my apartment that night, and took a drawn-out shower and left the sink running too long, I thought of Mr. Taxi Driver’s wife, and a Sudanese water purification struggle.


Sometimes my world gets a little too small.

As it shrinks, my own problems metastasize. My rapidly narrowing perspective makes running out of coffee into a disaster, an imperfect outfit or homework assignment into a tragedy, and the male barista not winking and paying for my latte into heartbreak. Sometimes it takes a little bit of exaggeration to make a point. Obviously these things are not disasters, tragedies, or heartbreaks, but I will sheepishly admit that I let extremely mild annoyances turn into mildly extreme problems. (Clarification: A barista has never paid for my coffee before, but a girl can dream…right?)

It’s like the love-hate relationship I have with my major.

I love my major because I’m a thinker. My brain loves to finesse complex ideas and break down multifaceted concepts. I’m passionate about happiness—the science of it, the thoughts behind it, and the way to get to it. Through my major, I learn about the Buddhist “Six Perfections” that a bodhisattva must practice to become enlightened. I love relationships and examining all that comes with them. I can explore the tensions between the four branches of Judaism, or the many Christian denominations. It’s fascinating to me—I devour the words in my religion textbook like they were tiny, chocolate-laced pastries doused in powdered sugar or sprinkled with sea salt. But other times… I hate my major; studying other people and cultures is a harsh reminder of how small my own world and problems are. I’m glad for this wake up call, but it doesn’t always feel good.


I’m passionate about so many things—healthy oceans and beaches (Surfrider Foundation), nutrition, rainforest preservation, and animal treatment—so how is it that my fading tan and minor stress breakout were all I really thought about today? The older I get, the more aware I am of my little world. I want to preserve it, nurturing and protecting my “innocent” mind, and staying safe within the boundaries of a white picket fence and trimmed rose hedges. At the same time, my empathetic nature makes me hurt for impoverished people I will never meet, abused pups I will never play with, and oil-drenched oceans I will never visit. 


And so here I am, back in the uncomfortable squatting position. I am half-sitting in a taxi that promises to show me a beautiful, corrupt world, and half-standing on the pavement, where life is safe and feet are rooted to the ground.


My anxious, wandering spirit craves both comfort and chaos. My feet and heart and mind want to roam; my body doesn’t want to get out of bed. And here you are, feeling the same way. Or maybe you’re rolling your eyes, yelling at me through the screen to buy a plane ticket to Sudan–I received an email a few months ago asking me if I had ever stopped to think about the children in Africa, because certainly that is the only meaningful issue in the world. I beg to differ. Although I feel stuck, unsure if I want to venture into the world or stay with my feet on the ground, I know that meaning can be found in daily life. Though some of my worries today were laughable (how did my leggings get so see-through?!), I think you and I can really make some positive change happen here. Here. Where we are. Now. Gandhi said: “In a gentle way, you can shake the world.” He was right. Ask someone how they’re doing–how they are really, genuinely doing. Challenge yourself to not engage in gossip. Send someone a letter if their corner of the world is feeling a little broken and gloomy. Hop off the social media and do something productive. Go to the beach and pick up every styrofoam fragment and bottle you can find (recycle when applicable, of course). Buy someone sunflowers. Talk to the cashier (working in retail taught me that small talk is, indeed, meaningful). Find something you’re passionate about and pursue it. Do something today that is productive and positive–something that helps someone other than yourself. Besides, those who bring sunshine into the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves.

(It all began being yelled at in Sudanese Arabic.)

Joyfully in Christ,


Everyone Has a Blog (And Feeling Legitimate as a Creative Soul)

Pinterest is my sun and moon and angelic, devilish, omnipresent companion.


I usually love Pinterest, gathering recipes and craft ideas with each swift scroll of the page. I choose who I follow wisely, almost babying myself to ensure I don’t accidentally stumble across a fragmented, sleazy corner of the internet. I follow a joyful, deep thinking, creative crowd, peppered with fashionistas, writers, and chefs.

d073f5287478453d71a4f410ae887147Pinterest is my siren call and my lotus flower. For those not studying literature, Homer’s Odyssey explores the Greek mythology of the lotus-eaters on an island off of North Africa. The lotus flower was a narcotic; if a person consumed a lotus blossom, he would drift into the dreamiest, softest, most lethargic sleep imaginable.

Pinterest inspires me, but entices me, pulling me deeper and deeper through the computer screen until I am practically inside the website, losing sight of my surroundings completely. For some people it’s Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. Pinterest is my bittersweet bride (groom).

And then the other day I saw it. Tucked away in a little corner of my newsfeed was a picture of a handwritten quote. It looked humble and simple, but those are often the best kinds, so I clicked. I wish I hadn’t.



I knew it wasn’t mean spirited by nature. I knew it wasn’t an attack on me. I knew all of these things. So why did it feel like I was kneed in the stomach?

As a writer who loves taking pictures and making art, I felt convicted and attacked. Contrary to what I thought about myself, or what my parents, friends and professors thought about me,

…I felt like my passions were no longer legitimate.

I felt as though my words and paints and pictures just swirled into the creative efforts of the rest of the right-brained world, muddling and mixing until nothing of worth was left.

It’s like when you mixed every hue from your kindergarten watercolor set back in the utopian days of naptime and snack time. Your teacher told you that you’d get a swampy brownish-black if you mixed them all together, but your little five-year-old heart still believed that you would, indeed, be left with a rainbow color. I felt like the five-year-old—the world was saying “I told you so,” and I felt cheated of the respect I thought I deserved for at least trying to be innovative.


It’s like how EVERYONE has a blog.

Everyone and their mother have a blog—often literally (pssst… I know “their” is incorrect in that sentence. It’s a cliché… work with me here!). When I began The Little English Girl in high school, blogging wasn’t foreign, but it certainly was not cool or mainstream. These days, my Facebook newsfeed (when I did have a Facebook, anyway) is littered with the same Buzzfeeds and Gifs and trivial articles as usual, but the feed is no longer sprinkled with blogs—it’s saturated with them.

When I began to see this influx within my own friends and acquaintances, I felt a little jaded. I didn’t want to be spiteful, but blogging was my thing—wasn’t it? I quickly realized that being possessive over blogging illustrated the same irrationality of being possessive over painting, using Pinterest, or once being a cheerleader and competitive swimmer. All of these things were “my” passions, but did that mean I would be offended the next time someone picked up a paintbrush, pinned a picture, did a toe touch, or dove into the water?


As for the legitimacy of my passions, I didn’t have an answer.

I didn’t want to turn to my parents. I knew they would tell me that yes; I am more than legitimate and enough. They would tell me that I am their gifted, creative, sensitive daughter—yes Rachel, you are special.  I didn’t want to turn to God (out of my own stupid stubbornness). I knew He would tell me the same thing… except… He didn’t. Even though I didn’t give my insecurities to Him, He still knew my thoughts. He knew that telling me I was special would only fall upon deaf ears—the idea that “if everyone is special then no one is” was the entire crux of my argument. He knew I wasn’t ready to dive into the thick of the topic, and so he soothed my mind in the moment and I went on with my day.

It wasn’t until today that I got my answer.

This month, my book club and I are exploring the novel Eat Pray Love, dipping our toes in the cultures of Italy, India, and Indonesia. I have read this book a handful of times for a handful of reasons. I really connect with Liz Gilbert’s writing style. Equal parts witty and insightful, each line drips with subtle humor and beautiful language. I also connect to Liz as a person (maybe a little more than I care to admit). Her longing to escape the mediocre and mundane speaks to my own dreaming heart. Her personal depth, need for support, empathy and affection (I think at one point she refers to herself as somewhere between a Golden Retriever and a barnacle), and her love of the little things in life mirrors my own spirit. It’s a thoroughly wonderful book overflowing with whimsy and experience.


Reading the book for the 4th, maybe 5th time, proved deeply satisfying. Even though I know the characters and plotline by heart, I began to unearth some really interesting bits of narrator commentary that I hadn’t previously noticed. This one, I knew, was God’s doing:


“Because the world is so corrupted, misspoken, unstable, exaggerated and unfair, one should trust only what one can experience with one’s own senses, and THIS makes the senses stronger in Italy than anywhere in Europe. This is why, Barzini says, Italians will tolerate hideously incompetent generals, presidents, tyrants, professors, bureaucrats, journalists and captain of industry, but will never tolerate incompetent opera singers, conductors, ballerinas, courtesans, actors, film directors, cooks, tailors… In a world of disorder and disaster and fraud, sometimes only beauty can be trusted. Only artistic excellence is incorruptible. Pleasure cannot be bargained down. And sometimes the meal is the only currency that is real.” – Elizabeth Gilbert


And with that, stitching together words, smearing paint on canvas, building a lyrical sanctuary through verses and music, and taking pictures of His creation is 100% legitimate. I no longer had to (have to) bitterly envy those who posses different gifts and talents than me—the finance majors, engineers, mathematicians, and chemists, fluent in Latin and fortified with intelligence and prestige. My right-brained, religion-and-English-studying mind need not fret no longer.


Stitching together syllables and examining theological underpinnings is important to the world because it is important to me. Though I am a stark contrast to my biochemistry, computer science, business and finance-laced family, creating beautiful things—as sometimes only beauty can be trusted—is more than enough.




P.S.: You may or may not have noticed I no longer utilize social media. More on that later. If you’d like to contact me, follow the “write me” tab at the top of the page and fill out an email form.

California, My Hippie Heart, and a Beachy Buddha ☮

Being San Diego bred, my soul is naturally infused with those hippie, sea-salt-encrusted, save-the-whales, be-one-with-the-earth type of beliefs.


“You’re so Cali,” people in Texas tell me.

I cringe and stare down at my mint Vans or chocolate brown Rainbows. Never say Cali in my presence. It is truly not a real word, but it is the best indicator of who is not from California. I can just feel all of my California readers fervently nodding their heads along to the rhythm of this paragraph. Cali is a horrible, horrible word. But alas, we are all rooted to different corners of the Earth, and so things like this are forgivable (when I push my little California attitude aside).

I cannot, however, push my California soul aside.

d15a5d96ac3b8a6e06722ea5e9ac167bI am a free spirit, a dreamer, and a happy soul seeker. I crave sunshine as others do richly hued wine. The ocean nourishes, recharges, and refreshes me; it is my medication and meditation. Wading to my knees or slicing through waves, the ocean is everything—a place for solitude, gathering, thinking, laughing. The ocean is core work, balance and breathing techniques, subtle scares of seaweed around the ankle, and melting layers of sunscreen. The water is liquid magic. It is like this icy radiance that swirls around my body, enveloping me in sloppy, lapping hugs and salty kisses. Navy water is stitched with white foam, spilling over from wave to wave.


Overcome by the brilliance of creation, I think of the artist Himself: “The Earth is full of His unfailing love. By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, their starry host by the breath of His mouth. He gathers the waters of the sea into jars. He puts the deep into storehouses.” (Psalms 33:5-7)

I am (unabashedly) a Christian. I am also a religion major, and so it is my “job” to examine a multitude of religious traditions utilizing epoche, a way to bracket off personal biases. Being so firm in my faith and my adoration of Christ, I am able to see other people’s religious traditions as just that—other people’s religious traditions, which neither offend nor threaten me or my beliefs. There are certainly practices that I am uncomfortable with or don’t understand, but the beauty of Christ is that he loves everyone, so I strive to cultivate the same loving, open mindset when I explore these traditions. 




As a scholar of religion, I delight in drawing similarities between Buddha’s teachings (500 years before Jesus), and the teachings of Christ—my rock and salvation and gentle shepherd. One of the things I love about Buddhism is the Eightfold Path, as part of the Fourth Noble Truth (the path to the end of suffering). The Eightfold Path is divided into three sections:

-       Mindfulness: Meditation practice

-       Virtue: Morals and being a good little earthling and buddy to others

-       Wisdom: Learning, blooming, growing, and evolving every day

The other thing I love about Buddhism is the strong emphasis on the Earth—preserving it, loving it, nurturing it. Way back when (and potentially still in some areas), Buddhist monks and nuns were not allowed to travel during rainy season, for fear that they would accidentally step on insects and other creatures lodged in the mud (the same is true in Jainism; Jains believe all sentient beings have “jivas,” or living souls).


About a month ago, I was browsing through Mind Body Green and came across this explanation of why “om” (or “aum”) is significant to those who practice meditation and chanting.

“Everything in the universe is pulsating and vibrating – nothing is really standing still. The sound Om, when chanted, vibrates at the frequency of 432 Hz, which is the same vibrational frequency found throughout everything in nature. As such AUM is the basic sound of the universe; so by chanting it we are symbolically and physically tuning in to that sound and acknowledging our connection to all other living beings, nature and the universe.”



The way I see it, living beings, nature, and the universe are all created by God. This element of creation binds us in relationship with the Earth—just as God cares for us, he cares for how the lilies grow.


And so, in a sort of “Beach Buddha” manner, I leave you with this nugget of wisdom (let’s say crystal of wisdom, and make me even more of a hippie soul):

“With each inhale, lift your heart closer to the sun. With each exhale, root your feet more deeply in the ground (or perhaps… the sand).”


Be in this world, not of it. Believe in the magic of creation. Be gentle to the earth. And while you’re at it, eat wholesome and clean foods, seeds instead of grains, lots of leafy greens, and meet me at the beach.




Joyfully in Christ,

(And happily en route to California for spring break)



Feeling Restless: The Monotony of Routine

“When I look at the galaxies on a clear night–when I look at the incredible brilliance of creation, and think that this is what God is like, instead of feeling intimidated and diminished by it, I am enlarged–I rejoice that I am part of it.” - Madeleine L’Engle


I needed a change.

I felt restless but rooted; each subsequent day overflowed with equal parts urgency and apathy. How had I let myself become so entangled in monotony? I was reluctant to unclench my palms, letting go of my familiar, comforting, dull, maddening routine.

I tried to push the feeling back down, but it kept sprouting up again. Tireless and consistent, the feeling that I needed to change something felt as if God were knocking on the caverns of my mind, shouting joyfully, “Wake up! Wake up, my daughter! Taste and see the world! I can give you a new perspective if you simply ask me. Wake up, sweet daughter!”


& so I got up.



I flung open the windows, and blasted John Mayer (the man of my dreams—that “beautiful, tortured soul”). I pulled a few pots and pans on tiptoe from the cupboard, and gathered ingredients. I brought water to a rolling boil, and added pasta. In another pan, I began making a humble, homemade sauce with thick diced tomatoes and little bunches of minced garlic. I moved all of the furniture in the adjacent living room to the edges of the walls, gifting me with luscious floor space. I piled blankets and pillows on the carpet, filled a glass with water and ice and lemon, and put on my favorite “playclothes.”

The breeze drifted through the wide-open windows, as the curtains snapped joyfully in the wind and the sauce bubbled deliciously on the stove. Something about the simple act of moving the furniture and letting in the Earth’s breath made me feel like my little cottage-y apartment was completely new. For a lingering moment, the ordinary—my little herb garden, the guitar jauntily propped against the wall, and the rollout piano stretched across the floor—was thrilling and novel and fresh.

It’s easy to drift into Tedium’s grasp; she gluttonously laps up every drop of novelty, and robs us of our happiness. It’s especially easy for students to slip into routine–a huge chunk of our lives is scheduled out and penciled in, neglecting spontaneity.

We have our favorite spot in the library, that one food that we have at least 3 times a week, and the shirt we seem to wear every day. Even the Friday Night-ers are adamant in the order that they “hit the bars.” Routine is a college thing. We aren’t mindful about the food we consume, the conversations we have, or how long we sleep. This heedless “auto-pilot” mode leaves us flighty and distracted, or stressed when the test we were “meaning to study for” is suddenly staring maliciously up at us from the desk.

There is little time for real whimsy or exploration.


We wake up—three or four alarms later—and roll over to check Facebook, Twitter, texts, email, and Instagram in tandem, a faithful servant to connectivity. We spend a few moments sitting on the bathroom counter and staring in shock at our reflection (raccoon eyes, knotted hair, a zit, a weird cheek indentation from sleeping strangely…).

Climbing back into my beddish, blankety ocean between classes is no longer a cozy treat. Naps don’t connote restfulness or relaxation, but exhaustion and negligence. Packing a snack to enjoy during long day of schooling no longer alludes to elementary school lunches (sandwich with the crust cut off, veggies in a baggie). Lipstick and perfume and a swipe of mascara no longer wink of date nights or dinners. I am thrilled by these things when they happen rarely; routine unpacks pleasure when small joys become daily actions. I’m extremely analytical and introspective, so when I began to dismantle my feelings of apathy (basically just a case of the “blah’s”), I realized how many other areas of my life echoed the same passive, lethargic, indifference (more “blah’s). The biggest one broke my heart—I’d forgotten the magic of creation.


When was the last time you looked up at the stars and thought, “God made those, in all of their fiery, interplanetary wonder, and he still made me”?

(Or when was the last time you even looked at the stars?)


I am broken and sinful, easily discouraged, and self-indulgent. There are very few days when I feel quite as radiant as the celestial bodies, and even fewer days when I feel as significant or purposeful. Stars just know what to do—they are kindled, then burn and shine for trillions of years, illuminating our backyard campouts, guiding sailors home safely, and proclaiming the place of Christ’s birth.

And me? I go to school. I eat lunch. I swim, run, or walk. I sleep.

How can I even compare to God’s mighty creation?


This is the magnificent part—we need not be intimidated. We can rejoice simply because we are a part of it (Madeleine L’Engle).

Neither tedium nor apathy can erase the marvel of creation. Nothing can wipe away my astonishment that we are special elements of a macrocosmic masterpiece. Routine will still attempt to steal my joy and hamper my productivity. Monotony will still seek to blanket my purpose, but just knowing that I am a small (yet meaningful) part of the brilliance of creation is enough for today.



Go look at the stars tonight.



» Instead of Waiting for Someone to Bring You Flowers: Romance, God, & A Very Messy Heart

“And so you plant your own garden and decorate your own soul, instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers.” | V. Shoffstall, After a While

87aee01ba7df131209b691db41731ea4-1I’ve always loved February 14th. I like pink and chocolate (& pink chocolate), flowers and stacks of love-laden cards.

I loved Valentine’s Day in elementary school. It was so exciting and so sweetly innocent. We would all cover little shoeboxes with wrapping paper and carry them proudly in the crook of our elbows, other arm lugging candy-stuffed valentines (one for everyone in the class—that was the rule) in a giant plastic baggie. The teacher would give us an entire afternoon to parade around the classroom, dropping candy into each other’s boxes, simultaneously nibbling heart-shaped cookies and giggling over “who likes who.”


The best was the first grade. My Mom sewed me a beautiful dress with a swishy hemline to wear to school on Valentine’s Day. There were puffy sleeves, white pearl buttons and little white hearts peppered on the red cotton. There was a special assembly that day, where the police came to talk about “fighting bad guys,” and I was privileged enough to be picked to sit in the police car (as an envious crowd looked on). It really was the best day ever.

In later years, when my perfect little dress was passed onto a neighbor or folded neatly in a box, I still wore pink or red to school on February 14th, bringing with me a bulging bag of valentines and a huge smile.


I am a romantic when it comes to life, and unabashedly so. gc_tomyvalentine_mI have a soft and sensitive heart and a curious mind. I love making small moments special, and delighting in the little things—sunshine on the pavement, fresh-cut tulips, a sandwich wrapped in wax paper and tied with baker’s twine. If I could paint the interiors of my mind, it would be saturated with a happy and sunny yellow, with touches of seafoam green and big, joyful splashes of pink.

I love loving others and making small efforts to bring them joy. I love loving the little things in life. I love loving God because He is so gentle with me, and the Holy Spirit because it/He (let’s get theological, friends!) is what fills me with peace and joy and a zest for life when I make the conscious effort to both pray and praise. I love my parents and friends, professors and major. I love my beachy home and Texas sweet tea.


There are little pieces of my heart all over the world; I love a lot of people and places and things.

…but I don’t love romantic love.

I’ve always been comfortable being independent. I’ve dated, but never seriously, and singleness has always brought a genuine sense of relief.

Once I settled into college life and had close friends and sorority sisters who were, gulp, engaged, my glorification of independence started to chip and crumble. Did I need someone else? I was, for the first time in a long time, questioning whether or not I was behind in the rat race of romance. My soft heart, once rooted in self-reliance, and saturated with patience, confidence, and trust in God’s plan, began to feel a little bit bruised and a lot a bit sad.

gc-vday-post2Once in college, wearing pink on Valentine’s Day didn’t bring me the same joy. While neighbors in the dorms received elaborate rose bouquets from loving boyfriends near and far, I had a brown paper box from my mom filled with treats and bits of home, and my family’s comforting words to cling to. I remember wondering how in the world everyone got so…grown up. Did I miss some crucial step in the aging process that would fashion me into an adult, stripping me of my pink-wearing, valentine-making, mom-loving nature?

The feeling lingered, drifting into the following year and colonizing the present moment. I already made valentines, and I still plan on wearing pink, but I have been dreading Friday’s festivities—or lack of festivities—for the past two weeks. My heart has been a little glum and (always) anxious. While I have always taken comfort in giving my other anxieties to God, turning to Him about romantic love felt unimportant and just embarrassing. Where would I begin?

Thank God for God.

He saw me wrestling with my thoughts. “My daughter,” he said fondly, holding my hand. “I will love you more than any man—any boy­—ever can. Run to my arms. If you let me, I can be all you need.” We talked for a while. It wasn’t pretty at first—there were frustrated prayers and anxious tears.

When I no longer had words for the overflowing, overwhelming feelings that were bubbling up, I took pen to paper.

The ink became thread, stitching together letters to explain the feelings I couldn’t verbalize. The words became a sea, swirling around my knees. The pen became my avenue to God. The page became His invitation to the wild soiree in my heart.


And then He hugged me.

My entire body felt like it had been soaked in a warm lavender bath, or enveloped by a blanket from the dryer, warmth still lingering.  I no longer had to—have to—limp along alone. Since Sunday school, I’ve known he is “with” me, as He is omnipresent, omnipotent, omniscient. What I didn’t grasp was that he is actually with me, a coalescence of the compassionate King and his humble servant. He is with me because his spirit fills me. It’s this radical, boundless love that reminds me I don’t need to be independent or romantically linked. I don’t have to be anything but His daughter. I am the daughter of a King who is not moved by the world. For my God is with me and goes before me. I do not fear because I am His.


“Dance with God and He’ll let the perfect man cut in.”

Happy Valentine’s Day (week?), friend.


…And now I feel like wearing pink.

(& dancing)

Edit: P.S.: Happy real Valentine’s Day, friends! Here I am showing off the card from my secret admirer (AKA my mommy!).


Laced with History & Salted Air: An Escape

“May I a small house and a large garden have, and a few friends, and many books, both true, both wise, and both delightful too.” –Abraham Cowley (1618-1667)


Had I been a belle of the 1600s, Abraham and I would have been dear friends. We would talk in our British accents and write poetry together as we wring out our tea bags over ancient china cups.

Four hundred years later, I dream the same thing.


It’s a little beach cottage—pre-dawn grey shingles and off-white interior walls. I have a mint green Dutch door in the kitchen; the bottom half of the door can stay shut while the top half is flung open to let in the day. There is a fingernail of a porch in the front, a larger one in the back. The back porch shifts from wooden planks to a small stone path, from the small stone path to a wide sweep of gold sand and a wider stretch of navy water.


On the side of the house, there is a giant garden housed by a short,ef898bf7fd3881e5181998157185922c white picket fence. “The Earth laughs in flowers,” as the soil boasts of tulips and daffodils, irises and sunflowers.I harvest leafy heads of lettuce, deep-green kale and blood-red strawberries without the constraints of the seasons. There are cantaloupes and honeydews, peaches and little tangerines on small-trunked trees. In the summer there are sweet snap peas with crunchy, lime shells (resisting their usual winter routine), and big red tomatoes, thick and fleshy.

I slip my bare toes into sandals, and with a metal watering can in one arm and a whitewashed basket in the crook of the other, I disappear into the dew-studded, earthy embrace of my own big garden alongside my own little cottage.

I have lots of golden retrievers—all ages. There’s Edison and Sebastian, Franklin and Baylee and Ginger. I chase them around all day—through the garden, into the waves. We roll in the sand when the sun shines; when the stars emerge, we lay on the shore, burying our toes and fingers in the cool sand.

There’s a charming little town laced with history and salted air—a white post office, a craft store, an ice cream parlor with long, silver spoons. There’s a newspaper shop selling piping hot cinnamon donuts and a fire station that rings a lunch bell at noon every day (à la Gull Island). The church sits on a soft, grassy hill, fulfilling the metaphor by chance more than intentionality. On Thursdays there is a farmer’s market, tables overflowing with bushels of purple huckleberries and firm green ears of corn with buttery, yellow silk escaping from their tips.

Sometimes when I’m sad, I think of my little place–of my small house and large garden.

818fbf2f26c90933cfe256fe9a36d67cWhen it rains in Texas, I dream of the sunshine on my back as I sit on a kitchen stool, head bent over a watercolor painting. When tragedy breaks my heart and shakes my world—as the death of a friend did this week—I escape to my future life, familiar but uncharted. I know every street, every roundabout, every stitch on an apron that is yet to exist. I’m familiar with a routine I do not know. I savor the friendships I am yet to experience. I touch the hardback cover of a book that I am yet to publish. I love the man I am yet to meet, braid the hair of a child I’m yet to have, and breathe with a peace I am yet to know.

We all have our own little place wedged in a corner of our heart and forgotten in the cupboards of our mind. Sometimes we don’t even know we have a place that is all ours until life is all tears and sharp words, change and heartache, and we are already packing our mental bags and kicking off our theoretical shoes. We slip into a nap, drifting along with sleepy breaths and heavy eyelids to our special neighborhood or forest or village or lake front hidden in our heart.

When the to-do list has been recycled, my water bottle refilled and in the fridge,

When my clothes for tomorrow are set out, and the bath has been drained,

When my teeth have been brushed, and my wet hair has been combed,

When the comforter is turned down, and the blankets outstretched,

When my naked toes touch the sheets, and my head hits the pillow,

My mind tiptoes away from Texas and college and the sorrow of the week, and floats to my place—to my cottage on the seashore.

My place is where moonlight streams through the windowpane, and the glow of the stars tickle the glass. My place is where I wade knee-deep in the sea, running my fingertips along the surface of the water, happy to be a small fragment of His creation. My place is where my phone is a landline, the postman delivers on foot, the smiles are easy and genuine, the laughter is melodic and frequent, and my garden overflows.

Joyfully in Christ,


The Band was Jumpin’ & the Joint Began to Swing: My Old Soul & the Sweet 1950s

I am in love with the 1940s and 1950s.

ac316bdc3359af6d7eefe46c5c42470dFor as long as I can remember, my mom would affectionately call me an “old soul,” half sighing, half laughing. It’s a bittersweet thing to be in this world—gentle, old fashioned, tender.

To be an old soul is to entertain a lovely paradox: your beliefs make you vulnerable, but gift you with gritty courage. You have something to stand for. You are conventional and bland (“Abstinence? Why…? That’s so… old-fashioned.”), but also eccentric, whimsical and unorthodox (“Uh… nice record player…”). To be an old soul is to be wedged in a different reality. A lovelier one. It’s sort of a daydream; I imagine a time when people were kinder, with patient, pre-internet brains poring over books in the public library. I pine for the days when the neighborhood kids could go outside and play in the street together, climbing over white fences to drink lemonade at Bobby’s house and eat cookies a few homes down at Hannah’s, without fretful parents hovering nearby, and the now-palpable fear of kidnappers or other scary things.

86427ebed91a8dfcabf7eae3c3ece9e4For fiction class, I wrote a story called Every Inch a Lady. Set in the 1950s, the story follows two girls, Beverly and George. Beverly is “every inch a lady,” just as her mother taught her. “Bev” wears skirts and petticoats, frets over dirt smudges on the hem of her dress, and is careful not to spoil her appetite. She is polished and proper, purses her lips when she is unhappy and covers her mouth while she laughs. George is the inverse, with a sharp and hip vocabulary (“lingo”), knowledge of the seediest gossip, and a dangerous desire to wear pants. Seriously—even in the 50s, seeing a woman wear pants in public was like seeing a man in a dress.

As any decent author must, I spent hours researching the slang, politics, fashion, cars, music, and gender roles of the time in order to make the story feel authentic. Although the era wasn’t all perfect—extreme gender roles, horrible racism, and recovering from World War II—I fell head over (blue suede) heels once again for all of the positives.

The sincerity and simplicity melts my heart. I’m captivated by the music—it wasn’t about sex or drugs, sleazy lust or being Rich As _____ (oh, sweet Lil’ Wayne… what an elegant fellow). If a song in the 50s was about lust, it was still clean and innocent: Young and Foolish by Dean Martin, Let’s Fall in Love by Eddie Fisher and Tony Williams. The lingo preserved the same purity; “backseat bingo” referred to kissing in the car during a drive-in movie. Calling someone a “nosebleed” or a “wet rag” was a total insult, and yelling “heya, dolly!” at a girl was the innocuous equivalent to modern-day cat calling.

People dressed modestly and tastefully. Women wore sweet swing dresses and pencil skirts, often paired with low heels or simple flats. None of the tiny shorts I grew up wearing, and definitely no baggy t-shirts, yoga pants, or running shoes. Being classy and looking put-together at all times was of the utmost importance.


I miss this, and I wasn’t even alive to experience it! At roughly 20, I’ve never known a world without television, internet, iPhones, and laptops. Admittedly, it leaves me a bit jaded. Synchronously, though, my adoration of the drive-in, soda-fountain, ice-cream-parlor, sock-hop era endows me with a lot of special joy and a little sliver of hope. Maybe society will become so trashy and broken that some of the antiquated values will be reestablished. I was ecstatic when sweet vintage dresses came back “in,” with higher necklines, longer hems, and a whole lot more class. That’s a start, right?

I suppose it’s almost a challenge for myself, especially after penning Every Inch a Lady. I think it’s a wonderful goal for girls—gals—to keep their “heads, heels, and standards high,” as the saying goes, and for boys to challenge themselves to be total gentlemen. It’s innocent, and I think very positive reversion.

No 2a.m. “hey what’s up,” half misspelled and followed closely by a winky face. No “let’s hangout,” or “I’ll text you later.” No “I’m here,” message, sent as he sits in his car in the driveway rather than knocking on the front door.

Instead, it’s sweet regression to when a boy would verbally ask a girl, “When can I call you?” (Yes, friends, verbally—that means face-to-face! What a concept!) And she gave him a time. And then he called. On the telephone. It’s real dates that are simple but creative, where the boy only hopes she’ll hold his hand. Nancy Drew was a role model, not Miley or Beyonce or Justin.

 I leave you with a lot to mull over, and some of my favorite 50s lingo.

Cat: A hip person


Cruisin’ for a bruisin’: Looking for trouble

Daddy-O: Cute boy

Greaser: Guy with lots of grease in his hair

Jelly roll: Men’s hair combed up

Kookie: A nicer way to say “crazy”

Nosebleed: Stupid (hey, nosebleed)

Paper shaker: Cheerleader

Passion pit: Drive-in movies (because of backseat bingo!)

Razz my berries: To be excited or impressed

Right-o: Okay

Shuckster: A liar/cheat

“What’s your tale, nightingale? What’s buzzin, cuzzin?: What’s up?

Germsville: Gross (that’s totally germsville)


You may have noticed that The Little English Girl hasn’t been updated recently. I’m currently working on a handful of creative projects and am spread a little thin. (No complaints here, though! It’s fun work!) I am working with a videographer friend to make inspirational videos, in the brainstorming process with my mom to publish another children’s story book (I published The Tales of Piglet and Pooh last December, but because Winnie the Pooh is a licensed character, I can’t sell the book on Amazon [yet?]), and have been working on a smattering of short stories (like Every Inch a Lady) that could potentially become children’s novels. Stay tuned.


P.S.: The title comes from Elvis’ Jailhouse Rock