Oct 25, 2015


it is one thing to be the girl on fire, but it is entirely another thing to be the girl who manages to set the world on fire with all the quiet and beautiful things she does. 
>> hannah brencher << 
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it was learning. 
it was learning that EVERYTHING couldn’t always be explained in words. 

that some things like // 
learning to let go of glances that made hearts start and shatter all at once on the brick pavements,
four in the afternoon conversations on my best friend’s bed while exhaustion collapsed in my lungs and home settled in the bones, 
sitting on mum's bedroom floor in tears at the realization of how loved one could be, 
or philosophizing with dad as he tenderly watered the plants — these moments could never ever be explained in a million and one years. 
18 was learning to live. really live. dirt under finger nails. ink smudged elbows. it was learning that honest connections are missing in this world. to listen to souls and to purposely feel the weight of words. to be brave enough to swallow the word "goodbye," risking the change that would happen in between homecomings.
18 was learning that, though we humans could all be starkly different, we were all craving the same things: to be wanted. to have purpose. to never feel alone.
18 was the year i picked up hannah brencher's book if you find this letter {a book which by the way made me laugh out loud and cry and ache and applaud and squeal all in one reading} that basically shook my world. it's people like her who open your eyes to the fact that small things can become something bigger than you.  

18 was learning that it didn’t matter how many reblogs, or likes, or comments that reflected how my words were affecting the world, but that they were getting out there. they served as small “i love you’s” in world that was very fake and that was hurting under the weight of the facades. 
18 was staying up until 1 o’ clock in the morning, with the windows open, and a thumb nail digging into my index finger until it bled because i was overflowing with incoherent stories and prayers that i hoped one day would make a difference to someone. 
18 was realizing how to not be afraid. not be afraid of the ambiguity of love and life and laughter. 
18 was learning to be honest. 18 was deciding TO STAY. 
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19 scares me. can i say that? is that even allowed to be said in a society demanding that this is the age to be bold and loud and self-assured? I am afraid not at the thought that I might not find love but that love might not find me. I run too often than not and am more restless than I care to admit. I am afraid that I will be too much for someone, or not enough. and I so desperately want to be enough. I am afraid that my talents only go so far and that I will eventually look back and see that I did nothing noteworthy.  I don’t want the next succeeding years to carve me without my carving something out of them too. it doesn't matter if there's a trophy in the collegian hall with my name on it, or a story in the school's publication with the words, "grace shaffer" in roman type. 

I just want to leave behind something of grace. I want to stop being an apology note and be a love letter instead.  

I want to learn to be comfortable being uncomfortable — allowing the learning curves to fill me up with grace and honesty. I'm not always going to have the right words at the right times, but I don't want the fear of awkwardness to stop me from showing up for people. to be there. no matter what. I want people to see a girl who was half-way out of her mind for dodging those daunting terminals and crossing 3000 miles across the states back and forth for school, because maybe just maybe they might be inspired enough to put their comfort zones to rest and rise up to the challenge of showing up for a life that the Lord had mapped out for them with all the pretty mountain vistas and roads by the ocean. 

I want these years to be embedded in me, etch me into someone 
more confident, more willing, more open, more loving, more kind.

I want to make a difference - little ones that people don’t realize are there until they look back in their yearbooks, big ones that are too loud to be ignored, ones that suck the air out of your lungs and you can point to saying "now, that THAT could never have happened without a big powerful God routing you on."

the more i grow up, the more i realize this world is hurting. grace is everywhere.
pay attention. show up for others. be there. be present. be whole. be deeply rooted. be honest. 

19, in my mind, has always been an awkward, in-between year.
and no wonder, since this birthday falls directly on the busiest, most stressful weekend in between midterms. 
but i believe that the in-between years can sometimes bring the best yet. 
second still by the lovely miss hannah

Aug 25, 2015

the grit of goodbyes.

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good-byes hurt. and they happen too much. the only thing I know for certain about this whole good-bye thing? you have to say it sometimes. you have to get real brave, and bite your bottom lip, and let people go sometimes. fully, fully. whether you feel ready or not, you're still going to grow up and use that word a lot more than you ever expected to. 
>> hannah brencher << 

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she was the last glance behind the shoulder, the last cheek-to-cheek hug, the last blown kiss. she lingered in between the goodbyes. 
she left the last pages of journals unfinished, coffee tins half empty. she was always trying her best to hang on.  

I left johanna's home nearly two weeks ago. i didn't water the McDonnell's parking lot with tears like i had at In N' Out in camarillo nearly a year ago. and i wish i could say that the years have made me brave — that they had disclosed some secret formula to keep me from melting into lake arrowhead at the very mention of "goodbye." truth is, i think i've become accustomed to the feeling of missing. i'm always missing something or someone. 

to be honest, i'm not good at goodbyes. i like "see you later's" and alligators and crocodiles. the taste of goodbyes are often left stale and gritty because i don't put them to rest. i don't like letting go. maybe that's the human part of me who fights against inevitable change. because every ticket to and from Florida is an automatic entrance into the change that is etched into me every time college happens. and it's an odd feeling, being the only connection between two different worlds. 

to the college students who are going away, goodbyes are going to become a second language to you.  not the type where the conjugations twist your tongue or you can't determine the masculine or feminine pronouns, but one that clings to your pumpkin colored cardigans and sticks to the soles of your boots after they become hollow from the tiled terminal floors. home is going to tuck itself into the very corners of your suitcase until the smell of it is only vague after storage opens. and there will be nights as the christmas season advances when you won't be able to hide your tears when "i'll be home for christmas" plays in the malls. there'll be nights in the shower that you'll try to stifle tears. and there will be nights you'll fall asleep, nose buried in a blanket that you wish could transfer you to your own bed. 

the only advice i can give you is don't hold on too tight. this life wasn't meant to be held onto. it's meant to be planted in the souls you see down your hall everyday. home will live in your dad's corny jokes that you laugh over with your roommates or when you try to repeat your mum's advice on laundry. it's meant to be impressed upon you and kept pressed between pages of the stories you'll tell around honey-cured hams when christmas eventually calls you back. 
plant your home in people and suddenly the grit of goodbyes is graphed into something more. 
it becomes a beautiful hello.    
also: please pray for the fires that continue to ravage the west coast, especially the ones up in the pacific northwest. 

Aug 20, 2015

"she lives — no, she thrives." // johanna // senior photos

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let me tell you the story of a girl who was brave as she was kind. 
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a quiet storm that is going to change the world.

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johanna and i went on our traditional tea at the teahouse on the los rios in san juan capistrano. instead of squealing over the baby succulents and the gold rimmed tea cups on the white table clothes, we greeted them like old friends, asking "has it already been a year?" we talked of our previous visits to the tea house and about taking our someday-highly-probable-tomboyish children to tea {because, let's face it, life is ironic}, imagining their chagrin as we pat napkins to clean their pudgy cheeks and their sour faces as they sip apricot tea. marriage and someday-families are not as foreign, fairy-tale conversation topics as they were before. the conversation died down, and we closed our eyes when the sun dappled through the trees to fully savor one moment of time standing still. it's a funny thing when you grow older — how one feels pressed between the fading past and a weighty future, always trying to hold on to something that's tangible.
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we laugh now because most of our friendship is made up of "how on earth did THAT happen?" moments. to this day, she doesn't remember how exactly she found this little spot of the blogging world. I remember first clicking onto Johanna's site five years ago and gathering the courage to ask to become pen pals with "the old fashioned girl." a year later i met her in person; two years later i spent a week with her and her family — a rather unorthodox tradition that has yet to be broken. and five years later after many blog comments, letters, packages, Skype calls, FaceTime calls, iMessages, Disneyland trips, handfuls of three-hour long-distance phone calls, three week annual visits, a yosemite adventure, and four years of high school later; we're here. i've had the pleasure of following this young lady's journey from being a twelve-year-old homeschool impromptu speecher to her becoming a stunning state champion dramatic interper. and while maybe we haven't been together in person to experience the "big" moments of our lives, we've been there for each other. i think that's what i love best about her: she makes me realize i'm not alone in anything. we're in this together. 
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i think people are often surprised when i say that my best friend and i have known each other through high school even after 300 to 3000 miles have separated us. but if they honestly knew this gem, they'd instantly recognize people like her aren't ones that you simply let go. despite the growing pains. despite the distance. despite the busyness. despite all that this life likes to throw at you. you hold onto them. no matter what. 

sometimes you see God's fingerprints, sticky and blatant on people who touch our lives.  
that's what i see when i think of her
johanna, you're going to move mountains in college.
we're in this together, okay? 
xx // your almond joy 

Aug 5, 2015

you always dreamed of being adventurous // yosemite 2015

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There is a season for wildness
and a season for settledness, and this is neither.
This is about becoming.
>> Shauna Niequist << 
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these are the days of early mornings, river swims, woods drenched in sticky sunlight, painting the dusk, wind combing through the pines, and the brooks chattering about the comings and goings of the seasons. 
standing in the valley floor, surrounded by stone cathedrals carved with ice and wind and rain, i swear there is granite dust in my bones. these walls of stone are time capsules, echoing of childhood memories i recollect only when i'm sitting on boulders that have been carried by the river underfoot. 

these past two weeks have been spent road tripping the whole of CA with my wonderful family and my dear Johanna from the rolling hills of my hometown to the spiring cliffs of the sierra nevadas to the mountains of Lake Arrowhead back down to the sunny corner of SoCal. in yosemite, mornings were spent clutching the warmth of coffee as the sun gently warmed the sweet-pine air; afternoons were for swims in the river; and evenings around a red and white checkered table cloth revealed hearts and chiseled laughter into the night over summer watermelons from the farmer's market. i'm spending the rest of the week at johanna's, adventuring, laughing, teasing, taylor-swift and avicci singing car tripping, and relishing the feeling of being alive in the summertime as the season slowly dwindles. five years since meeting her through the blogging world seems like a forever time ago. 
this is the season for learning to allow it to wash over you like summer rain, learning to live and let go in the process.  

happy august, lovelies!
listen: "valentina" 

Jul 22, 2015

on journaling // chavalah

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She may have looked normal on the outside, but once you had seen her handwriting you knew she was deliciously complicated inside.
// Jeffrey Eugenides //
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Chavalah {ha-vah-lah or chava for short} 
chava is the youngest daughter of the milkman teyve, the protagonist, in the iconic play fiddler on the roof. this summer journal's name is inspired by the character who acted out one of my favorite characters in the story + my lovely friend who played sweet chavalah's part. :) 

every night, the windows are flung open to allow the delicious night air in, and i snatch from my shelf my summer journal. i wonder if i could someday write anything as extraordinary as a melody that the crickets sing. odd to think five years ago, i couldn't quite grasp the concept of documenting one's life in a journal — and now, it would be unthinkable to slip into bed without so much as a glance at my shelf lined with them. chava is already half way full with meandering thoughts on love, life, and those little adventures that make summers so unforgettable. 
also, i'm thrilled and quite honored that some of my journalistic work + a bit on why i journal has been featured on the lovely new website that emphasizes the community in the blogger world. 
won't you be a dear and check it out? 
listening to // roo panes "home from home" + the delicious thunderstorms that have been coming through. 
postscript // what are your favorite pens? 

Jul 16, 2015

i like you a latte // lavender lattes

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if you know me, you know i'm a lavender addict. i mean, since harvesting and drying it at a young age, i have lived up to my nickname of "the lavender girl." one of the best things we ever did when we landscaped our backyard {when i was like five?} was plant a lavendula grosso bush.

as much as i adore the scent {that makes me dream of adventuring in France}, i have always been a bit hesitant when working with culinary lavender. because of its strong, pungent aroma, using too much in recipes can result in a rather soapy, perfume-y taste. trust me, lavender cupcakes didn't turn out too well {got carried away by my lavender frenzy}. but when i saw this recipe for lavender lattes on pinterest, i knew i had to try my hand at it. i was delighted to discover that lavender syrup is ridiculously easy to make {it's fantastic in homemade lemonade too} and the lavender-ness can be adjusted to your liking.

our town's annual lavender festival was this past weekend. while everyone's spending $5 on lavender lemonades, i was content perusing the booths with my mason jar filled with this sweet coffee lavender loveliness. :) 

starbucks, i love ya, but i'd take a homemade lavender latte any day. 
xx || the lavender girl