redefining family

I’ve spent the last couple days babysitting my stepsister’s stepkids. Does that make me  “Aunt Ali?” Or Just “Ali?” I’m still not sure… my family is kind of complicated.

But I guess welcome to family in the current age: most families are blended, people have half siblings or aunts and uncles they’re no longer “technically” related to because a legal marriage has been dissolved; people have in-laws or adopted children that are different ethnicities, people have uncles married to another uncle, kids grow up with split custody or in the foster system with a temporary family that may or may not be treating them well… family just looks different nowadays. Continue reading

why peace corps (instead of something else)

I got my staging information in an email this week – I leave for Peace Corps stuff a month from today. What. The. Heck. This can’t be real… can it?

A question I’ve heard from a variety of people has been “Why the Peace Corps? And as a Christian, why that instead of missions?” So I wanted to write a post explaining why for those that are curious and to also put to words things that have been jumbling around in my head like miscellaneous loose change for months now.

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lessons in commuting

I’ve spent the last few weeks with fingers impatiently tapping at keys and at a total loss for words. I feel torn between a desire for life to slow the freak down and speed up fast enough that my days blur by until boarding a plane. It’s hard straddling those two desires, that’s for sure.

But what I want to write about – no, need to write about – is not my life right now and all that is going on in it. I need to write about Jesus. About the fact that He is good and He likes me. Because in the midst of transition, questions, goodbyes, and bitter healing hearts, I really need Him. Pretty much more than anything else.

Which brings me to this epiphany I had the other week, which was a total reminder of all that.

So I spend every week day commuting from Boulder to Denver on a bus. I also spend every week complaining substantially about said commute (even though I know most of America does this every day). I’m thankful for my job and I’m thankful for where I live – I just wish they were closer together.

Now, let me tell you about my bus rides every day: they are never as expected. Whether it’s getting stuck trying to crest a hill in an atypical April blizzard or sitting next to some of the most unique individuals on the planet, it is never dull and never predictable. But one thing that is consistent, especially in the mornings, is that the bus always takes the good old HOV lane. ‘Cause we’re all carpooling, I suppose.

Taking the bus in the morning is a bit rough. First, I am not a morning person, so my mornings typically consist of repeatedly hitting the snooze button, groaning loudly, and eventually tearing my tired limbs from the warm embrace of my comforter. It involves a shower that always tends to take five minutes longer than it should, hot steam caressing my sleepy brain into a slightly more cognitive state. Stepping out of the shower usually entails a quick look at my clock, which invariably causes a “Dangit!’ to slip from my lips as I rev into hyper-panic-getting-ready-mode. I tug on my shoes of choice, run up the stairs and dash outside into the crisp Colorado air to my car. From there I drive like a crazy person to the bus stop (driving to go take the bus always seems sort of redundant to me, by the way), keeping one sleep-encrusted and wide eye on the ticking clock on my dash, watching the moments until my bus’ departure slip by. I race to the parking garage, whirl my car into a space, slam the door shut and sprint to the bus stop.

Generally I make it just in time to join the quiet, orderly crowd of multi-generational professionals, tightly-lipped and carrying brown shiny briefcases as we shuffle up the few, steep steps onto the bus.

I typically greet the driver, slip on by and sit down, crowded up against the window in anticipation for the stranger about to sit by me.

Getting to the bus is stressful. But once I’m on the bus, I literally have to let someone take the wheel (because on a bus, backseat driving just gets extreme – believe me, I’ve seen it happen and it’s not pretty). I’m not in control of when I get where I need to go, or even the route that I’ll be taking on the way there. I’m just along for the ride with a bunch of strangers, who hopefully got on the right bus and were planning on heading the same direction as me. I watch the word flash by a large, tinted window, and take a deep breath every single time.

The bus takes the express lane every day, and my gaze always lands on the parking lot of cars in the main lanes. More often than not, I dismiss the long line of stressed commuters whose wide-eyed faces are lit by the reddish tone of brake lights and acoustics of talk radio. Because regardless of how annoyed I am about taking the bus, I am pretty dang thankful most days that I’m not one of those people sitting still and stressing over the next two feet of forward motion.

And here’s where my epiphany comes in (get ready).

One such morning, I’m staring out my window at the honking mess as the bus speeds past and a Bible verse floats into my mind like mist, a barely formed thought that I noticed just enough to try and reach out a grasp as it loosely tangled in my mind:

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

(matthew 7:13-14)

And as I’m observing through the glass the five lanes of stopped traffic, I see out of the corner of my eye the clear and empty road ahead of the bus I’m sitting on and it clicks. Not that all those people in their cars are going to hell or some crap – nothing like that. But having been one of them, I know that they are stressed, impatient, concerned, and carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders wedged beneath that tightly fastened seatbelt. And there are a lot of cars occupying space across four lanes of highway just on I-25 in Colorado like that, much less across the whole country, filled with people who are not content.

But on the bus, I’m free. I literally cannot add a single ounce of effort to force the bus to get where it’s going any faster. And ultimately I don’t really have any control over where it ends up anyway. When you’re on a bus, there’s also only so many seats as compared with the hundreds of people stuck in traffic. And in that moment where the world sort of shifted into place, I realized that it’s a lot like faith.

I have been sifting through a bunch of lies and garbage stuck in my head about what I need to do to be a good person, a good Christian, a worthwhile existence on this planet. And in realizing that that garbage needs to be thrown out, I’ve been mad and sad and tired and confused about what fits into place instead. I’ve been at a complete loss for words and anything else of how to even try to begin to explain what just hasn’t been sitting right. And in that moment on my bus ride commute, the words came.

Riding the bus is a lot like faith. I hand over the control of my life to another and hang on for the ride. All I had to do is get on. The driver will take me where I need to go and give me the rest, the safety, the direction I need to get where I’m going. I don’t need to fret, force anything, make myself busy for busyness’ sake – I just need to be there. And it’s exactly the same when it comes to my walk with the Lord. I just need to show up and let Him do the driving.

And that, my friends, is grace upon grace.

Date A Boy Who Travels

I stumbled across this blog and this girl is hilarious. I then found this post and realized she’s also a genius.

I don’t often sit in the single-ness of my life right now because, let’s face it, nothing is changing. And honestly, it hasn’t really mattered much amidst sparkling and besotted proposals or lacey-train draped festivities with awesome DJ’s blasting “Call Me Maybe” or “Thrift Shop.” But when I read this post, I’ll admit something: I wouldn’t mind marrying a boy like that someday.

Enjoy 🙂

A Travel Blog

Since I solemnly declared yesterday, Lena Day, as the result of an overwhelming week, I urged each of you do some something that you love! I found myself in a Starbucks, inspired and whipped out this little ditty. You may have read, “You Should Date An Illiterate Girl” by Charles Warnke or the response “Date A Girl Who Reads” by Rosemarie Urquico, so I thought I’d bring you something same, same but different. Enjoy!

Date A Boy Who Travels

Date a boy who travels. Date a boy who treasures experience over toys, a hand-woven bracelet over a Rolex. Date the boy who scoffs when he hears the words, “vacation”, “all-inclusive” or “resort”. Date a boy who travels because he’s not blinded by a single goal but enlivened by many.

You might find him in an airport or at a book store browsing the travel guides – although he “only…

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“have you ever thought of doing the peace corps?”

NAMIBIA

NAMIBIA (Photo credit: Rui Ornelas)

How, you may ask, do you tell someone that you’re moving to Africa for the Peace Corps?

Well, let me tell you – there’s no nonchalant way to do it. Whether it’s your family, your coworkers or even your eye doctor, there’s no casual way to slip it in. So sometimes you just have to come right out and say it, no matter the anticipated reactions.

One of the best conversations I’ve had thus far was with one of my coworkers. We have an open floor plan, so we have desks in little pods but no cubicles (praise Jesus), and my teammate is looking up something on his computer in a brief moment while we’re both not answering phones, and goes, “Hey, Ali, have you ever thought of doing the Peace Corps?” Now, I haven’t told pretty much anyone at work because I’m seasonal anyway and I know I’ll just be done at the end of my contract this summer and then jet off to Namibia, so this question was out of the blue. I kind of thought he was kidding, but this seemed like a simple enough opening to share my news, so I answered: “Yeah, actually, I leave in July for the Peace Corps.” Silence. I was still working on some customer’s account on my computer, so I tore my eyes away and looked at him to see him staring at me. Unblinking. Eyebrows furrowed. He was so confused. After a long, uncomfortable pause, he just goes, “Wait, really?” And then I told him more details and it turned into a jolly little sharefest, but that conversation literally captures the majority of conversations I’ve had when I’ve told people I might be going or now that I am. Because moving to Namibia isn’t a normal thing. And taking a moment to realize that I’m serious causes awkward conversations because moving across the world isn’t typical. It’s not an everyday sort of occurrence.

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the great southwest

Last spring break I took a 2000+ mile road trip with some really fun people. In honor of that being almost a year ago, here’s some fantastic photos from along the way:

western colorado

western colorado

moab, utah

moab, utah

arches nat'l park

arches national park

arches

arches national park

utah

nevada

VEGAS

vegas

hoover dam

hoover dam

grand canyon

grand canyon

grand canyon

grand canyon

four corners

four corners

santa fe

santa fe

salt and light: photo by scott shek

salt and light: photo by scott shek

saying no and nablablabla

A week ago, I received an invitation from the Peace Corps to teach English in Namibia.

Say whaaaaa?

The first sentence of this post are possibly some of the last words I ever anticipated writing. Back when I started applying in February in the midst of a lot of refinement, I did it on a whim thinking it was an exercise in trusting God more. And then I kept making it through to the next stage, and the next stage. Yes, the possibility tended to hover in the back of my mind, but I never actually expected to get to this point… So now I have to decide to go or to stay: yes or no. Two simple, single syllables that change the trajectory of my life. Not a big deal or anything. Continue reading

a seven hundred dollar lie

Liar liar, pants on fire!

True story: I lie. Like way more often than I’m willing to admit or even realize. And while normally my lies are pretty minor and along the lines of “no, that didn’t hurt my feelings at all” or “I really like water chestnuts,” last week I told a lie of a different kind. It was a lie with consequences, and not just hurting someone’s feelings temporarily.

This week, I told a lie that cost a stranger approximately $763.00. Granted, I made an honest mistake originally but instead of taking the time to actually fix it, I told a fat, pricey lie to save face. Continue reading

the process of un-mullet-ing

It’s true – I had a mullet. By choice.

photo cred: Brittany Zeinstra

It looks a bit more like a hipster mullet than anything else in this photo, but it was as mullet as mullet is going to get on my head. And it went from hipster, 80’s-esque mullet to pixie cut, and then perpetual growing out mullet until now, over a year later, my hair has yet to reach my shoulders again.

The process of my un-mullet-ing is legen….wait for it…. DARY! It’s a story of humility, one of courage, and of figuring out what makes me, well, me.

Let’s start with why the heck I cut my hair into a mullet. I worked for this high school ministry my first year out of college, and our big winter retreat theme was “Mullets, Mohawks, and Mustaches.” Aka EPIC. Check out our promo video (awesome, if I do say so myself). Well, I had a conversation with some adorable sixteen year old ladies that were complaining about the theme being too masculine and kind of sexist. I flatly denied any such thing and to my horror, the words “I’m cutting my hair into a mullet” escaped my lips. Wide-eyed, in absolute horror, wishing I could stuff those fatal 7 words back into my mouth, those precious girls started laughing. And so just a few short months later, I did it. I went over to my friend’s house and asked her to give me a mullet. When she was finished  and swept up the loose  strands of my dignity off her floor, as I pulled on my coat she softly said, “Hey, Ali… can you not tell people I cut your hair? I’d really appreciate it.” Continue reading