The Stories We Are In

I don’t just like a good book. I’m obsessed with one. If I find one I decide is worth being obsessed over, everyone hears about it. “Love Does” by Bob Goff is my latest gem. Last week was pretty busy, but I really wanted to finish it right away, so I made it a priority to take it everywhere I went. I read it in the car, in the doctor’s office, at coffee shops, in the woods… It was like a never-ending meal that I just kept devouring. Not that it’s a very long book. But each chapter was so sweet that I wanted to take my time to savor it.

In one of the final chapters of “Love Does”, Bob tells the story of how his son Adam buys a junky old sailboat off Craigslist and names it “The Story”. Bob, touched by the way his son sees new adventure and untold stories in a beat-up hunk of fiberglass, shares the basis of a project he’s been working on for years. He’s in the process of writing down all his memories. Every bee sting and childhood crush and tiny important episode of his life. This way, when he is old and near death, he can look back over the big and little moments and see Christ through it all. He asks Adam if he’d like to join in on the project and his son replies that while he loves the idea, he’s too busy actually making the memories to write them down just yet. Which causes me to wonder…

Am I making memories, or using all my time and energy to write them down?

There are two sides to who I am. I’m a nineteen year old girl. I sometimes wear my hair in pigtails and I have square-shaped photographs taped all over my walls. I get excited when a boy wants to hold my hand and I eat too much popcorn in movie theaters–sometimes to the point of feeling sick. I’m afraid of rollercoasters because I like my stomach to remain in my stomach and not my throat. I like the way my ears pop in an airplane. I like to hold my nose and let out big breaths to hear them pop again. It reminds me that I’m moving. I’m flying and sinking and the air is cradling my plane in the arms of the wind. It’s amazing to be a nineteen year old girl with curly hair and three freckles under her right eye. And I don’t think I ever take that for granted.

But I’m also a writer. I’m a storyteller. It’s hard for me to feel something and not write about it. My heart and my hand are connected that way. I babble on the phone and make obnoxiously long Instagram captions and have about sixty notes on my phone of quotes + memories + stories people have given me. I love the idea of turning off my phone and leaving my camera at home and really living in a moment. But once that moment is gone, words are my favorite way to re-live it.

I don’t want to wait until I’m old to look back on my life and record all the memories. I know there will be things I’ll inevitably forget. Jelly fish stings on my ankles in the middle of an August beach day. Cranberry relish on the stovetop. Holding hands under the table. Clouds that look like islands. Places that smell like home.

I appreciate Adam’s sentiment. I do want to live in the moment. I want to let these memories hit me as they unfold. They can slap me in the face and soak into my bones and kiss me on the mouth. Life is more than welcome to collide with me. But I’m still going to take notes on the places of contact.

It will be amazing, one day, to look back and read about these moments through words that were raw and new when they were written. My memories shouldn’t be softened with the filter of nostalgia. They should be as vibrant and cutting as the day they were formed. By writing about my life as it happens, I’m quick-freezing it forever. The tone of my voice. The snark of my humor. The heat of my embarrassment. These are nuances too great to be drawn out of the filing cabinet of an aging memory five decades from now.

How incredible are these stories we are in. The ones that encapsulate your today and your yesterday and your tomorrow. When we look around and see the heat and the sizzle and the joy, our lives become a collection of individualized, exquisite chapters in a story that’s far from over. The details you remember now are important. The way it feels to be young and excited and scared. That’s something that will fade and change as you get older. And while life will continue to grow sweeter, it will also twist and change. You’ll make new memories and store up more scenes and characters. By the time you’re old it may all seem a blur. A soft, colorful blur perhaps. But you’ll lose the detail.

I think it’s our responsibility to record these stories as they unfold. Christ is holding infinite galaxies and tugging at the sun and flipping the pages in your book. In your tiny corner of this vast existence, He is still writing words into your life. But unless you copy them down for yourself, how will you remember every detail?

Our favorite books are usually the ones we’ve read the most. For me, a random one is Ella Enchanted. I must have read it twenty times while I was in middle school. I have sections memorized: Dialog I thought was funny. Letters Ella wrote to Char. The ending, especially, is still ingrained in my mind. I know every little detail. Blood on her tongue… Opening the door and shouting into the street… Pulling her prince off the floor for a kiss… Why? Because I read it over and over again. The scenes were vivid and I re-lived them with Ella dozens of times.

That’s how I want my life to feel someday. I don’t want it to stick like a good but long forgotten novel I read in seventh grade that I enjoyed but failed to ever pick up again. Those vague plot twists and lapses in memory won’t do for me.

This life is going to be better than a favorite book. I’ll record it as it happens, with every detail and bloody lip and shout into the street and dusty kiss exactly where it belongs. And I’ll read it. These stories won’t sit still in folders on my computer or sheets in my old journals. They’ll be read and shared and looked back upon and laughed over with friends. And one day, when I’m old, I won’t have to look back and think about the long and sweet and low days.

Because I’ll have hard, black and white evidence of God’s grace through them all.


{Pictures taken on disposable cameras in Portland this summer}

Thoughts on Buying Books

One of the little goals I set for myself last year (and that I’ve been trying to continue this year) is to buy more books. This is very different from reading more books. Reading books is amazing. It inspires and challenges and entertains you endlessly. Right now I have a handwritten list of about seventy books I want to read tacked to my bulletin board. I’ll check them out from my library and borrow them from friends and do anything I can to get a hold of them! The joy of reading a new book is great. But you already know this. So I’ll move on.

Reading books–even re-reading your favorite books–is not the same as buying books, though. And I don’t think I fully understood this until I became an author myself. I have several books that I adore and have read countless times and do not own. And I’m starting to feel ashamed about this.

Do you want to know the number one way to support and encourage an author? It’s not to give them a glowing review on Goodreads. It’s not to praise them to your friends. It’s not even to write them a letter or email letting them know how much they’ve impacted you. These are all really great, really positive ways to help out your favorite writers, but the big clincher here is actually quite simple:

The number one way to support an author is to buy their books.

I’ll go a step further and say that it is important to buy these books new. From a wholesale retailer.

Before you go and get the wrong impression of me and think that I’m a money-hungry mongrel who’s heavily biased by her own experience in the world of book selling, I should explain a few things.

The first thing I want to explain is that I love libraries. Did you hear me clearly? I LOVE libraries. I simply adore them. And librarians are some of my favorite people in the whole world. The idea that, in our country, we have nice clean buildings full of books that we can check out, take home, and read without charge is simply amazing. Libraries do so much to further the spread of literacy and author-appreciation, especially among children and teenagers still in school. I check out ten or so books from my library every month and give that card lots of use. And I visit at least a dozen libraries a year and speak to young readers and writers about my experiences in the world of books. So I just want to make it clear that I think public libraries are fantastic and do an incredible service to our youth.

However, I do think that libraries hold a specific purpose. And that is experimentation. I walk into my county library expecting to discover new books and authors. I often have a list of reviews that caught my eye or titles that came recommended by others. I check books out knowing that I may end up loving or hating them, and I feel absolutely no pressure to decide one way or the other. No money is invested and there’s really nothing at risk. You can read whatever you want and you may (and usually do) end up discovering something spectacular.

But once you’ve found a book you love at your library, you have an important decision to make. Do you want to support this author in his or her endeavors to write future books? Think about it. Imagine that this book has been checked out thirty times from your library. Most of those were probably first-time readers, but three or four kids might have checked this book out multiple times. They really connected to the story and wanted to read it again and again. You might be one of those kids and this might be your fourth time checking out this book. You want to know what happens next. Is the author going to write a sequel? Or will she write more books like this?

The truth is, so much of our success as authors depends on your loyalty as readers. We LOVE hearing about how much you’ve enjoyed our books or how you’ve convinced everyone in the library to check it out. Honestly, that thrills us. We wish that everyone could read our books for free again and again. But publishers have to make money. Authors have to make money. And the more books they sell, the more willing publishers are to sign more books, move forward deadlines, and send that author on book signings across the country so they can meet YOU–the loyal readers who made it happen!

The general rule I’ve made for myself is to only buy the books I absolutely LOVE. Like I said, I’ve checked out numerous books from the library in the past year alone. If I bought all of them, I’d go broke! But if I pick selectively, I can save enough money to buy two or three books a month by authors I truly love. These are writers who have influenced, entertained, or inspired in more ways than one. Because I love their books and want them to write more books, I choose to support them with a sale. That way they can go to their publisher, point to their sale history, and say, “See? Readers are interested in these stories. Are you ready to publish the next one?”

I would encourage you all to make it a priority to support your favorite authors. If you stalk them endlessly, rave about them to all your friends, and dream about their characters at night…buy their books. Like I said, I’m preaching this to myself as much as you. Authors are artists in so many ways, and backing up our words of praise with proof of sales is like saying, “I love you!” and then giving them a hug.

So how do you feel about buying books? Are there any authors you always make it to the book store for?


P.S. I should also make a shout-out to used book stores. One of my absolute favorite bookstores is a little secondhand shop called Mermaid Books not too far from my house. However, I use this store to buy copies of books written by authors who are no longer living. Think Hemingway, Dickens, Twain, etc. Since these authors won’t be able to produce more works, I don’t have a problem buying cheaper used copies and supporting a local business! For living authors though, I try to buy the books new through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or independently owned bookstores in my area.

My Adventures in Piano

Meet Nadia. While most middle schoolers were piled into minivans after school once a week to sit at the piano of a white-haired pastor’s wife, Nadia was coming to my house every Thursday to teach me the art of piano. I remember being twelve years old and waiting for her to come for my first lesson. I wasn’t sure which denim skirt to wear and the only sheet music I had was a beat-up hymn book my former piano teacher had given me when I was seven.

It was the first day in a six-year journey that would be a highlight of my teenage experience.

One of the best parts about having Nadia as a teacher is that she absolutely terrified me. And I absolutely adored her. She was endlessly patient while never lowering her standards as to how I should perform a piece. When I was in middle school, I would chew on my nails while I waited for her to come and wonder if I practiced my song enough and try to imagine what she would say and hope that she would be impressed. There seemed to be nothing about music she didn’t know. She was born and schooled in Russia, where she studied under the teaching and knowledge of numerous professors and famous musicians. She was passionate–beyond passionate–about the history and musicality of each piece she gave me. Every little detail was important. My posture, my finger muscles, my relaxation. Playing the piano became more than a hobby. It was an art form.

When I was in ninth grade, I secretly entered a contest writing a paper on how music is a universal language. Nadia had sent me a video a few weeks prior of Vladimir Horowitz playing “Träumerei” in Russia. It was a simple piece that I was going to soon learn, but first she wanted me to hear it performed to perfection. It was amazing to me to watch this video, rich with historical significance, and feel the bridge being built between Nadia’s world and mine. Music, to her, wasn’t just a matter of playing the right notes without making any mistakes. It was about expression. About the touch of the finger on each key and the story the notes are telling. The hours of practice, the endless scales, the playing and replaying of each song week in and week out… It was instilling in me a new language. I learned the expression of music and the storytelling involved in each little technique.

You would think that having a Russian piano teacher pushing you to consistently try harder and reach further and grow faster would be unbelievably hard and frustrating. But it was strengthening. My respect for Nadia drove me to practice endlessly and my appreciation for her made me love it. We don’t grow through softness–through gentle nudges or halfhearted compliments. We grow through challenge and endurance and well-deserved praise.

It only took a few lessons to adjust to the thoroughness of Nadia’s teaching style. It took a few months for our friendship to deepen and a few years for our mutual respect to grow. But I would never chose another piano instructor. Nadia is brilliant because she desires to be. She has worked endlessly to reach the level of training she has now, and the other European instructors under her have almost matched her level of knowledge.

I hope you have this type of teacher or mentor in your life. Whatever your interests, I hope you find someone who inspires you with their sheer passion. I’ll always be thankful I had a Nadia to give me something new to strive for. There was always another goal, always another opportunity. It’s what made piano much more than a hobby to me. Learning to play it was a gift.


If you live in the Williamsburg, VA area I can’t recommend Nadia School of Music enough. Everyone should at least check out the website and learn more about the European method of teaching–it really cannot be topped.


The Grind

Sometimes you feel like you’ve reached the end of your rope. Like you’re digging a well and instead of finding water at the bottom, more rocks and more dust just keep accumulating. That’s kind of how I’ve been feeling lately, to be honest. This New Year has gotten off with less of a bang and more of a half-hearted pat. I’ve been feeling discouraged and uncreative and confused about my future. Things kind of climaxed this week when I realized that my time spent working is about a fifth of what it was last year before I left for Thailand. My income is pretty much a fifth of what it was as well, and I just feel more sluggish and disheartened in general.

I always know things are serious when I cry in front of my mom about something, and even that happened this week. I wanted to sign up for an art class and after looking at my work flow and bank accounts I realized that I really don’t have enough money to spend on something like that right now. It was a humbling and weird thing to acknowledge for me, because I honestly haven’t worried about money once since I was fourteen years old. But there I was crying over an art class and realizing my life felt pretty empty.

After my embarrassing sob-fest I took some time to pray and reflect on my life right now. It’s such an awkward time of transition. I haven’t decided if I want to go to school next fall or stay home. I haven’t decided where I want to live or what I want to do or what step should come next. I thought about my friends and realized I hadn’t seen any of them in weeks. I opened the stories I’d been working on and realized I had dozens of projects open and nothing finished. I’d turned into such a classic case of disorganization and laziness. I was always working but never getting anything done. There was no purpose to my actions because I had no focus for my life.

This week I’ve been trying to make the future different. I’ve been reading through “Generous Justice” by Tim Keller (a birthday gift from my boyfriend) and the Lord has been convicting me that too much focus on my own success and wealth will only lead me to further unhappiness. I spend so much time holding a secret grudge about the fact that I can’t travel as much as I used to or buy as many clothes as I’d like or take random art classes whenever I feel like it. But I am still so much more infinitely blessed than ninety percent of the people around me.

And so I’ve been working on identifying my distractions and having a clear vision. I want to be working hard on good projects and enabling God to move my life forward. I’m working on a third book and I’m determined to finish this one. I’ve been taking the Hemingway approach and setting aside an hour every morning and an hour every night to do nothing but write. My phone is turned off. My internet is disconnected. I’m focused and pushing and while it sometimes feels like I’m bleeding, the story is coming together.

I’ve also been trying to view Instagram and Pinterest as sources of inspiration and joy, and not portals to jealousy. It’s so easy for me to get on social media and look at how perfect everyone else’s life is and become discontent with where I am. I’ve certainly had some amazing adventures to be sure, but it’s not helpful for me to be constantly longing to go to Peru or Morocco or Niagara Falls. So while I haven’t gotten to the point where I’ve deleted any apps yet, I am learning to tell myself, “Wow. That’s amazing. She is very blessed,” while also realizing. “Wow. My life is amazing. I am very blessed.” My life and my goals aren’t meant to match anyone else’s. 

It’s a grind, isn’t it? Life, I mean. There are times when  you feel so happy and so high and then there are times where you’re crushed in the spokes of a heavy spinning wheel. He flattens us. Wrings out all our pride. In the moments when you don’t have something that everyone wants you realize what you really need. His consistent love. His lavish grace.

It’s a prickly time and a bloody, honest one. I’m not writing these things for you to feel sorry for me or to feel bad about your current circumstances, whatever they are. These words are being said because they’re true. I have crinkled, crushing weeks where I’m wrung through the grind. And I always make it out okay.

This is a year for honesty, right? Let’s be honest about what’s hard for us. Then let’s zip up our big-girl pants and type until our fingers ache and stay up one hour later and throw away well-used tissues. And we’ll find beauty and joy in it all.

Life is often found in moments stuck in the grind.




The dates for this workshop were changed to June 19-21st, 2015. You can read the blog post with all the changes here.


Oops, I did it again. Or I’m going to do it again, at least. Today, I’m beyond excited to announce the details for the next Dream Factory Workshop, hosted once again at my house this May 1st-3rd.

You saw the pictures and read the stories from my last workshop in October and I’m praying that this next group of young women create bonds that are as raw and deep as the souls that met in the fall.

What I’m offering is simple. Three days living heartbeat to heartbeat with like-minded dreamers, creators, and life-squeezers. We’ll ball up in sleeping bags on late nights with cheeks that strain from smiling and notebooks full of our pounding thoughts. We’ll gather around the table for home-cooked meals and pile in the car to go exploring. Our cameras won’t stay in their cases and our words won’t be bottled up inside. Together we’ll learn to see and think and create in new and amazing ways.

This is a workshop for storytellers. It’s not for the weak of heart or the fearful. It’s for the shy girls who journal by flashlight late at night and the center-of-attention girls who can’t stop talking. It’s for the thinkers and the feelers and those who are a little of both. It’s for those who like eyes that burn from beauty and hearts that throb with passion. It’s a weekend for deep connections and awkward getting-to-know-you’s and tearful goodbyes. For sharing. For growing. For pouring out.

With a new year and new season, I have some different surprises in store for this next batch of dreamers…

This spring, we’ll ride the ferry over the river and spend an afternoon picking ripe strawberries on a muddy farm in the country. We’ll take pictures in the filmy green light of spring and see each other through the eyes of a lens. We’ll wander through an art museum and take notes on what we feel and how we ache and laugh and make faces in amusement over the confusing pieces of modern art. If the weather is nice, we’ll pack picnic dinners and watch the sunset over the city skyline. We’ll make strawberry shortcake and lick whipped cream off our fingertips and eat cake together. And every evening we’ll gather together and talk and share and learn how to better tell these stories.

And I really think you should join us.

Come and write. Come and see. Come and laugh and rest and explore. You have a voice, so let’s learn to use it. Come share in my life and let me share in yours. Let’s live and tell these stories together.

DATES: May 1-3rd, 2015 (Guests can arrive a day early if necessary)

WHERE: My home, in central Virginia

FOR: Creative young women, ages 15-25 (writers, photographers, + girls who just want to develop their creative talents)

COST: Three full days – $400 (Price includes lodging, three meals a day, activities + other fun stuff—you are responsible for your own travel expenses and souvenirs)

YOU NEED: A brain. A laptop. A notebook. A camera (doesn’t have to be an SLR).

To sign up, send me a brief email at rachelcokerwrites(at)hotmail(dot)com to receive an application. And please don’t apply unless you know that you are physically and financially able to make it that weekend. I wouldn’t want to turn someone else down only to have you bow out because of finances or inability to get here. Thanks!

Reviews from past workshop attendees:

“It was retreat. A getaway, where I was able to commune and spend time with other girls like me. A place where I wasn’t the only one snapping pictures of everything visible. A time where I could share my writing, and grow in my skill. A place where I could learn from others, and be built up by their encouragement. The fellowship was beautiful. The writing brought tears. The activities were flawless. The friendships made were unforgettable. The inside jokes still remain funny. The food was amazing. And the overall experience was one I wouldn’t give up for the world.” – Abbey

“The Dream Factory Workshop was exactly what it said: a dream. Through lectures, sharing time, adventurous outings, and brand new best friends, I’ve been able to learn not only about HOW to tell stories, but I’ve also had the opportunities to actually TELL the stories.” – Samantha

“Since your workshop I have such a different perspective. I see things and want to take their picture. I see someone laugh and I think of beauty and how i would want to capture that. I have found stories in other people. I’m looking for them. It’s really amazing.” – Abby

{final photo by Samantha Smith Photography}

First “Lists” Post of 2015

Great lines from great songs:

“Time makes you bolder / Even children get older / And I’m getting older, too” – Landslide, Fleetwood Mac

“I’ll stop the world and melt with you” – Melt With You, Modern English

“In shallow shoals / English soles do it / Goldfish in the privacy of bowls do it / Let’s do it, let’s fall in love” – Let’s Do It, Cold Porter

“And you should never cut your hair / Cause I love the way / You flick it off your shoulder” – Wake Me Up, Ed Sheeran

“I can’t forget the glamour / Your eyes held a tender light / And stars fell on Alabama / Last night” – Stars Fell on Alabama, She and Him

Famous people I’d like to have lunch with:

Stevie Nicks

Ernest Hemingway

Julie Andrews

Frank Sinatra


Aforementioned people I’d also like to raid the closet of:

Stevie Nicks


News headlines I’d like to see:

“Eight-six year old Tap Dancer Wows White House”

“Pushing Daisies Brought Back From Television Grave Six Years Later with New Season”

“Americans Respond to Acts of World Violence by Filling Strangers’ Mailboxes With Flowers”

“2015 Sees Unexpected Surge in Jazz Record Sales”

“Churches in America Filled to Maximum Capacity for Fifth Week in a Row”

“New Radio Station Dedicated to Announcing Births as They Occur and Celebrating the Never-Ending Miracle of Life”

“Couple in Antigo, WI Celebrate Eighty Years of Marriage”

Facts that should make you happy:

Gas prices are low

The fact that you can feel the ice in your lungs on a cold day means you’re still breathing

There are probably clothes in your wardrobe you can afford to giveaway

Chances are, you will go on a trip at some point this year with someone you love

People still publish books of poetry

Sweet potatoes won’t taste this good again until next winter

These days, they make hats and gloves in a wide variety of colors

So if you want to, you can wear a yellow hat and purple gloves

Another week has passed, you learned something new, and your life is still going on



Weekend at Wintergreen

Mary Bennet once asked, “What are men compared to rocks and trees?” That’s a very difficult question to answer. Because, on the one hand, men are great. They buy us nice things, tell us we look nice, carry our heavy luggage, put their arms protectively around us when we’re (acting) scared… Rocks and trees seem kind of useless in comparison.

But every now and then rocks and trees are arranged and spread out in a way that absolutely takes your breath away. They rise in giant mounds as mountains and scatter the trails as tall bare forests. In the winter, standing on the edge of an overlook, seeing the rocks and trees with their pockets of snow and the glazed sun spread over your face, you might be tempted to say that yes, men are nothing compared to the unswallowable majesty of nature.

It was really amazing, though, to spend time with my family and friends in a little mountain house and realize that nature is nothing compared the glory of people. Hands pouring out soup and arranging puzzles and pressing out cookie dough have a rare and simple beauty. Humans tell stories like nature never can. We are the crown jewels of creation, and all of this vast grand earth is for us to enjoy.

What a sweet and simple truth to be reminded of on the first days of the new year.

I tried to capture these views with camera lenses and iPhone screens, but the wild beauty of sapphire mountains can’t be bottled up.


Why I Didn’t Want To Write a “New Year” Post

I spent the New Year holiday weekend in the mountains with family friends. Away from wifi, reliable cell service, cable tv, and Netflix. (Don’t worry, I’ll be posting pictures soon) It was kind of annoying and kind of refreshing to get away from social media and snapchat and constant texts and emails. I came home Saturday night and scrolled through some of my favorite blogs. It looked like, while I was sleeping in a bunk-bed in the mountains, everyone had uploaded their obligatory “Here’s to 2015″ posts. I saw a lot of reflections, resolutions, dreams, and lists. Some were cheesy, some were great, and a lot of them were very well-worded and inspiring.

But as soon as I pulled up my blog, opened a new post, and started typing, I realized I just didn’t have the motivation it takes to write my own sappy “Here’s to 2015″ post. I don’t really have a list of things I want to do better this year because I didn’t really feel like I failed at life last year. I wouldn’t change anything about 2014, and I wouldn’t want to hold myself to the same redundant standards year after year. “This is the year I’ll eat better/exercise more/travel often/read 100 books/discover the cure to cancer…”

The most important lesson I learned last year is that I really can’t make any broad plans for my future. You never know when you’ll move overseas for four months or find yourself sitting on an elephant or petting a tiger or adopting a German Shepherd or walking across a splintering railroad track thirty feet above the water. Life happens. God makes big decisions for us sometimes and adventures just fall into our laps. How could anything I plan for myself be more amazing than the things He’s already made happen for me?

I don’t want eating healthy or exercising or traveling or reading to be things that characterize my life in 2015. Those are habits and traits and gifts that will always be a part of my life. And they’ll change and morph as I grow older. 2015 might be the year I discover yoga and figure out how to lift my foot above my head while humming “Kumbaya.” Or it might be the year I squeeze in two mile runs once or twice a week and call it a day. It might be the year of experimenting with homemade Indian food and mixing my own chai teas. Or I might stick to oatmeal and cereal and pbj sandwiches on honey oat bread.

The point I’m making is this: How am I supposed to know? We can plot and plan and pre-arrange our lives as much as we want, but we have no idea what the coming year will bring. What we’ll do. Where we’ll go. What we’ll discover about ourselves.

My resolution right now is to simply keep living and growing. Every day I’m discovering something new about myself. I find a verse I’ve read a million times and one morning in March, when the windowpane is cold and the sun falls through my broken blinds, I change. In an instant, I’m different. I could never make a resolution as gripping as the change that life naturally brings.

So whatever plans you made for this year, leave room to be surprised. I certainly have things I hope I get to do. I’d like to go to my first major league baseball game. I want to finally see a silent film in our art deco movie theater. I’d love to make it to Chicago, and back to New York, and anywhere else I can afford to go. I want to get another henna tattoo and try chalking my hair and figure out how to work my Polaroid camera. Those are all little dreams I’d love to see come true, but they won’t make or break my year.

This year, I don’t want to be so concerned with the goals I set for myself that I forget to take advantages of the surprises that pop up along the way. The books I’d never heard of. The spontaneous road trips. The long nights with deep conversation and mornings when I wake up too early. I know I’ll grow and change this year because I’ve grown and changed every year before it. And I certainly want to learn new things and follow Jesus more closely. But He’ll be the one moving me around, opening my eyes, and checking off His list as He reveals to me every truth He has in store. No pile of resolutions, wishes, or plans could ever compare to the adventure of walking with Him in this new year and being happy to grow into myself.