The Gift of Limits 

I woke up feeling especially tired this morning after a long, exhausting week. I also felt acutely aware of my limits and the ways that I pushed too hard this past week. I regularly ignore my limits. I say yes to too many things, work too late, and keep going when I know I need to stop and rest.

My natural inclination is to view my limits in a negative light. However, I’m learning that my limits are actually a gift. God has graciously created us with natural limits. We need sleep. We need food. We need rest. We need help and suppport. We were not created to be self-sufficient. We were created to need God and to need others.

I’m learning that I have a lot of limits. First of all, I have physical limits. As the teacher of a very busy class I’m learning that I need 8 hours of sleep each night and a good breakfast just to make it through the day. I have emotional limits. Sometimes the needs of my students and the people around me feel very overwhelming and I need to take time to journal or process my emotions with someone I trust. As an introvert, I have major limits when it comes to people. I love spending time with people, but I also need long stretches of alone time to recharge and feel like myself again. My age and lack of life experience are limits as well. When I encounter difficult situations as a teacher or even in my personal life, I need wisdom and advice from others.

I’m learning that these limits really are a gift. They remind me that I can’t manage life on my own. I need God. I need others. And that is something to be thankful for.



May we never lose our wonder. May we never lose our wonder. Wide-eyed and mystified, may we be just like a child, staring at the beauty of the King.” Bethel Music

There are moments in life that inspire child-like wonder. Just the other day I had such an experience when I was walking from my car to my apartment. In the span of just a few short seconds, I became keenly aware of the beauty of Fall- the crisp air, the changing leaves, and the wonderful sense of coziness I felt wearing my scarf and sweater. It was like I was experiencing Autumn for the first time and I felt an almost giddy, childlike excitement.

This same sense of wonder overtakes me when I drive in my car at dusk, blasting my favorite music. Or when I walk behind a waterfall. Or when I see sunlight coming through a thick grove of trees. Or when I dip my toes in the ocean. Or when I listen to beautiful harmonies. Or when I experience a moment of connection with someone I care about. There are so many moments in life that inspire wonder.

However, I think that the older we get, the more we lose our sense of wonder. We become too busy and the pace of our lives is too frenetic. We succumb to the cynicism and pessimism that is such a natural part of our culture. We become overwhelmed with the anxieties of life. And we miss the daily wonders that are all around us.

As a child, having a sense of wonder was a natural part of who I was. Now it’s something I have to fight for. In the midst of the chaotic busyness of life, I have to make conscious choices to keep my sense of wonder. Sometimes it means stopping to fully experience a beautiful song, going on a spontaneous waterfall hike, or simply choosing to fully engage in the present moment with someone I love.

I don’t ever want to lose my wonder.

True Courage

I recently took the Enneagram for the first time. The Enneagram is a personality test that examines your core fears, desires, and motivations in life. Reading about my Enneagram type was a very enlightening for me. I learned that I am a Type 2 in the Enneagram system which is known as the “Helper” type. This type posses many strengths. Type 2s tend to be warm and caring people who love encouraging and helping others. They are good at understanding people and helping people understand themselves. This resonated with me and these are some of the traits that I value within myself.

However, as I kept reading, I also learned some things about my Enneagram type that hit a little too close to home. For example, helpers have a core need to be needed. They tend to base their identity on the approval of others and need a lot of validation. While this type loves taking care of other people’s needs, they struggle to let other people help them. And can you guess the sin that they tend to struggle with the most? Pride.

This description really resonated with me. I hate asking people for help. Maybe it’s because I’m worried that I’ll inconvenience them. Perhaps I fear that they’ll be annoyed with me. However, if I’m really honest with myself, the root is pride. I don’t want to admit that I’m struggling. I want to appear like I have it all together and can manage just fine on my own.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I’ve been reading a lot of Brene’ Brown’s work. Her perspective on asking for help has really got me thinking. The following quote comes from her book “Rising Strong”:

“When you judge yourself for needing help, you judge those you are helping. When you attach value to giving help, you attach value to needing help. The danger of tying your self worth to being a helper is feeling shame when you have to ask for help. Offering help is courageous and compassionate, but so is asking for help.”

She suggests that asking for help is not a sign of weakness. It is actually one of the most vulnerable and courageous things a person can do. It’s also a key component of healthy, mutual relationships. I’m also realizing that when I don’t let people in, I’m not fully loving them. Loving others means giving AND receiving. When I refuse to let people help me, I’m actually robbing them of the joy that comes from helping others. Just like helping others makes me feel good, letting others help me makes them feel good.

So I’m learning to ask for help when I need it. Because it’s actually a very courageous thing to do.


“The characteristic of the blessed ones is that, wherever they go, they always speak words of blessings. It is remarkable how easy it is to bless others, to speak good things to and about them, to call forth their beauty and truth, when you yourself are in touch with your own blessedness… the voice that calls us the Beloved will give us words to bless others and reveal to them that they are no less blessed than we.” -Henri Nowen 

Henri Nowen is one of my favorite authors and this quote from “Life of the Beloved” is one of my favorites. This quote speaks a simple but profound truth that has been turning my life upside down. In order to fully love others, I need to discover my identity as God’s Beloved.

As an immense perfectionist, I tend to be very self critical and harsh in the way I view myself. I’ve always thought that I could be hard on myself and at the same time graciously love others. However, I’m learning that this is just not the case. There is a direct correlation between the way I view myself and the way that I love others.

In order to show authentic kindness to others, I must be kind to myself.

In order to extend grace to others, I must fully experience and be transformed by God’s grace.

In order to act compassionately, I must practice self-compassion.

In order to fully delight in others, I must be confident that God delights in me.

In order to affirm the uniqueness in others, I must see my own uniqueness as a gift to be shared.

And in order to truly love the people around me, I must know at the core of my being that I am God’s Beloved.


A couple of years ago I took the Strength Finders assessment, a personality test that measures your ability in 35 key areas and then determines your top 5 strengths. One of my top 5 was the “restorative” strength. I learned that people with this strength have a strong growth mindset. They are great at identifying flaws and finding ways to solve complex problems. While I do think that this strength can be used for good, it also comes with some frustrating baggage. From my experience, restorative people also tend to be perfectionistic people. This is very true in my own life. Although externally I can seem positive and optimistic, inwardly I can be critical and fault-finding. It’s easy for me to see all that’s wrong and needs to be fixed, while glossing over all that is good and right. As a result, gratitude does not come very easily to me.

Recently I’ve been devouring the work of Brene’ Brown. She is a research professor who studies concepts like shame, vulnerability, and courage. I recently finished her book “The Gifts of Imperfection” and I can honestly say it’s the best book I’ve read all year. I especially gleaned a lot from her chapter on gratitude. She suggests that gratitude is not an attitude, but rather a practice. This idea is so simple, but is also deeply encouraging for me. As someone who’s very personality is to see all that is wrong, mustering up an “attitude of gratitude” feels nearly impossible. However, I love the idea of viewing gratitude as a practice, something that can be developed over time through daily action.

A practical way that I’ve been doing this is through journaling. I’ve started making daily lists of “evidences of grace”. I chose the term “evidences of grace” because it helps me to thank God for even the smallest blessings- an act of kindness, making it through a challenging situation, or even just a moment of connection with someone. This practice has been changing the way I encounter my everyday life. I’m realizing that God’s grace is all around me.  I just often neglect to see it. I’ve started to look forward to this practice and often find myself making mental lists of God’s grace throughout the day, storing them up in my mind so that I can write about them later.

Most importantly, I’m discovering that gratitude brings joy. Perfectionism breeds anxiety and negativity, but gratitude results in a deep sense of contentment and peace.

I’m learning that gratitude is the best remedy for a critical heart.

Thoughts on Vulnerability

Recently I was reflecting on my friendships. As a definite introvert, it takes a while for me to warm up to people. I tend to be a very private person and have trouble letting people in. However, the relationships that I have with my closest friends tend to be very deep, meaningful, and authentic. As I thought about how each of those friendships developed, I noticed a key theme: vulnerability. All of my closest friendships deepened through mutual sharing of struggles, fears, pain, and disappointments. From my experience, vulnerability is the glue that cements deep and authentic friendship.

However, I think that our culture is especially terrified of vulnerability. We tend to present ourselves as idealized versions of the people we truly are. Our social media profiles show snapshots of all the best moments of our lives, but fail to show our disappointments, anxieties, and insecurities. Most of our relationships only reach a surface level, stopping just short of true intimacy and closeness. I think that pride is the biggest culprit. We want people to be impressed with us, so we carefully construct idealized but false images of ourselves that keep people from discovering who we really are. Our pride makes us lonely-unseen and unknown.

Fear is another culprit. Vulnerability is dangerous. When we authentically share ourselves with others, we risk rejection and disapproval. I think that most people have had these experiences at some point. The Enemy tries to use painful memories of rejection to keep us from risking vulnerability again.

The Lord has recently been chipping away my own fear of vulnerability in a surprising, but simple way. I’ve been a Christian for most of my life, but the reality of God’s love for me has often been more of a mental understanding than a practical experience in my life. As I’ve experienced more and more the reality of God’s unconditional love, I’ve had greater courage to risk vulnerability with the people in my life. God sees me as I truly am. He knows ever insecurity, understands every anxiety, and mourns with me over every disappointment in my life. He knows every sinful thought and impure motive. He is intimately acquainted with every aspect of my life that I carefully hide from others. Yet he loves me deeply and unconditionally.

The love of Jesus frees me to be vulnerable.

Why I Love La La Land 

Those who know me well know that this movie has become an obsession. Let’s be honest, it’s more than an obsession. I have become a bit of a La La Land evangelist as I’ve tried to convince many friends and family members that they need to see this movie. La La Land is the only movie I’ve ever seen in theaters 4 times. It is the only movie I’ve ever pre-ordered online. In fact, La La Land may have surpassed the Lord of the Rings trilogy (gasp!) as my favorite movie of all time. When I try to explain to people why I love this movie, I tend to have trouble articulating myself. Writing is always easier for me. So without further ado, here are the reasons that La La Land has captured my heart (Beware, spoilers abound!):

Compelling Themes: Numerous themes are portrayed throughout the movie including timeless love, the artist’s struggle, sacrifice, nostalgia, and many others. However, the theme that stands out to me the most is the conflict between idealism and reality.  This story is about Mia and Sebastian, two dreamers who consistently brush up against reality.  La La Land has so many magical moments that end disappointingly. For example, the movie starts with a glorious musical number, with drivers in LA traffic singing and dancing on top of their cars, and ends abruptly with loud honking horns. After an upbeat musical number at a glittering LA party, Mia returns to her car to find that it has been towed. Mia enters a restaurant and listens to Sebastian play a beautiful song that will be significant for them throughout the rest of the movie. However, this scene ends with Sebastian rudely brushing past Mia when she approaches him. After singing and dancing to “A Lovely Night”, Mia and Sebastian are about to kiss when Mia’s cell phone rings.  In my opinion, this movie shows that part of the beauty in life is the struggles we experience when things don’t go perfectly. This is underscored by the fact that Mia and Sebastian don’t end up together at the end of the story. In the ending montage we see what could have been if everything had gone “right”. Although in this alternate reality Mia and Sebastian technically end up together, the story loses its richness. Their story was so beautiful because of the struggles they went through and the disappointments they experienced. As an idealist myself, I resonate with their experiences and find myself in their story.

The Four Seasons Motif: This motif gives the  film a cyclical structure, beginning and ending with winter. As the viewer, it’s interesting to see how the plot corresponds with each season. In my opinion, the four seasons are symbolic of Mia and Sebastian’s relationship and the pursuit of their dreams.

Winter: La La Land begins with both characters facing discouragement. Mia tries out for numerous auditions, but is consistently rejected. She then attends a flashy Hollywood party where she is clearly very out of place and doesn’t belong. Sebastian’s sister visits his unimpressive apartment and nags him about his unpaid bills. He then returns to the job he hates, playing cheesy Christmas tunes at a restaurant. Mia and Sebastian’s relationship with each other also has a slow start. They see each other for the first time in a traffic jam where Mia flips him off. Their second chance encounter is in the restaurant where Sebastian is playing piano and he completely ignores Mia.

Spring: This is my favorite season of the movie. Spring symbolizes the blossoming of their romance and is full of fun and flirtatious moments when they meet again at a Hollywood party. It includes the delightful “Lovely Night” song where they sing about how “wrong” they are for each other while obviously falling in love. This season ends with their glorious dance among the stars at the Griffith Observatory and their first kiss. Spring also symbolizes the blossoming of their individual passions (Jazz and acting). As they get to know one another, Mia and Sebastian encourage each other to take risks and pursue those passions wholeheartedly.

Summer: Summer is the pinnacle of Mia and Sebastian’s relationship. It begins with an upbeat, fast-paced montage chronicling these months of their relationship. The fast-paced music emphasizes the fast-paced nature of their relationship. They are hopeless romantics falling head over heels in love. At the same time, Mia works on her one woman show and Sebastian joins a Jazz band and experiences great success.  This season is the height of their relationship and their individual artistic pursuits.

Fall: Fall introduces a sense of foreboding that all may not turn out as they hope. Mia and Sebastian start to grow apart as they are both so busy with their own work. Especially memorable is their fight at dinner when Mia confronts Sebastian for selling out on his dream of opening his own Jazz club in order to be in a successful band. Equally heartbreaking is the scene where Mia performs her one woman show and only a few people show up, Sebastian not being one of them. After Mia’s audition they go their separate ways, recognizing that if they really want to pursue their dreams, they may lose their relationship.

Winter: The movie cycles back to winter where once again, Mia and Sebastian aren’t together. Sebastian is the owner of Seb’s, a Jazz club that is doing well. Mia is a successful actress who is now married to another man. They see each other once again by chance in Sebastian’s club. A gorgeous ending montage shows what could have happpended if they stayed together and everything had turned out perfectly. But at the end of this idealistic montage, the reality is that they are not together.

Stunning Cinematography: La La Land is shot in CinemaScope like old Hollywood movies and the result is breathtaking. The world of LA as seen through Mia and Sebastian’s eyes is colorful, vibrant, and utterly magical. The use of color is worth noting in is film. The screen is filled with bold, colorful costumes and gorgeous sunsets in vibrant hues. I also find it interesting that the colors start out brighter at the start of the movie and become more neutral as the movie progresses and the characters face disolussionment and disappointment. What is most impressive about this film is the number of single takes including the opening number “Another Day of Sun” and  “A Lovely Night”. These single take shots make you feel like you are there in the moment with the characters as opposed to the quick cuts in most films today that feel disjointed. I respect the effort put into this film and how they refused to cut corners.

Masterful Writing and Directing: Director and writer Damian Chazelle is only 32 years old, but he has created a masterpiece. The script is interesting, authentic, and never feels trite or cheesy. In my opinion, the pace of the movie is perfect. Not for one moment did I feel that it dragged, as each scene felt necessary to the storyline. The directing throughout the whole movie is incredible, but most impressive is the opening number “Another Day of Sun”. This song takes place on an LA freeway during rush hour traffic and includes hundreds of people singing and dancing on top of their cars. I cannot even imagine how difficult this scene must have been to film. Especially impressive is the end of the song where everyone gets back into their cars and closes their car doors at the exact same moment! This scene alone is enough of a reason to watch this film!

Gorgeous Sountrack: The music of La La Land does not disappoint. I appreciate the variety of songs.  Some are immensely joyful and playful (“Another Day of Sun” and “Someone in the Crowd”) while others are more melancholy and moving (“City of Stars”, “Audition: The Fools Who Dream”, and “Mia and Sebastian’s Theme”). I immediately fell in love with almost every song. The only song I didn’t care for was “Start a Fire”, the song Sebastian plays with Keith’s Jazz band.  However, I appreciated this song in how it showed that Sebastian was not being true to himself and the clasic Jazz he valued. My favorite song is “Mia and Sebastian’s Theme”. I love how this song reoccurs throughout the movie as a reminder to them of each other.

Nuanced Acting: Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling are perfect in their respective parts. Emma plays Mia with vulnerability, strength, and authenticity. I feel that she more than deserved her oscar for best actress. Additionally, her performance in “Audition (The Fools Who Dream)” is so vulnerable and sincere. I also surprisingly enjoyed Ryan Gosling’s performance as Sebastian. I’ve never really cared for him as an actor, but feel that he brings a passion, enthusiasm, and overall likability to his character. What really stands out to me is his comedic timing. His presence in the movie adds just the right amount of comic relief. Especially impressive is his piano playing which he learned for the movie.

Effortless Chemistry: Emma and Ryan are great alone, but their chemistry together is so infectious. I know that they have already been love interests in a couple of other movies. As a result, their chemistry is so believable. You can’t help but fall in love with them as a couple and root for them throughout the movie. In the second to final scene they sit on a bench at the Griffith Observatory where they first fell in love. As they get ready to go their separate ways they both declare that they will always love each other. These lines could easily feel trite or induce eye rolling. However, because of the near perfect chemistry between the two leads, these lines are surprisingly believable and heart wrenching.

Each Character’s Passion: Both characters are deeply passionate. It’s moving to see them share with one another their respective passions.  One of my favorite scenes is when Mia and Sebastian walk through the Warner Brother’s lot and Mia shares about how her aunt was an actress and used to watch old movies with her. She remembers falling in love with film and putting on plays as a child. Another favorite scene is when Sebastian and Mia sit in a Jazz club and he explains with great enthusiasm the history of Jazz. It’s almost hilarious how over the top excited he is and his enthusiasm is contagious

The Bitersweet Ending:  In my opinion the ending is the best part of La La Land. I have talked to many people who outright hated it, but I honestly loved it. Endings are so important to me. A fabulous movie or tv show can be spoiled if the ending doesn’t sit right. While I do love a happy ending, I often feel frustrated when an ending is too perfect. That’s just not reality. In a way La La Land does have a happy ending. Mia and Sebastian both pursue their dreams and are successful. I don’t sense that either of them regrets following their dreams at the end of the movie. Instead they are both left with the bittersweet truth that fully pursuing your dreams often requires sacrifice. The look they share at the end of the movie as Mia leaves Sebastian’s Jazz club is easily my favorite part. When you look back at the rest of their story, you realize that everything had been building to this moment. Their silent look says so much because of all that they’ve been through together. The ending is tragic and beautiful at the same time. I would describe it as perfectly imperfect.