My boyfriend is crazy hott.

“Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

The most effective way to get my adrenaline pumping is by traveling. So, I guess you could say I’m an adrenaline junkie.

When I’m not traveling to a new, exciting, beautiful place…I’m planning my next trip to a new, exciting, beautiful place. I live from one trip to the next.

But lately I’ve come to this realization that I can’t put all my anticipation and enthusiasm into my next adventure because, well, it’s making normal life look way too dull (and also, I’m out of vacation days).

Now, it’s not that I think there’s no potential beauty in the mundane…because I refuse to believe that God would create a place where beauty and joy couldn’t be seen and obtained in day-to-day life. But, I think that I’ve just been having a bit of trouble seeing all the good in the unadorned part of life.

As I listened to a sermon from my pastor a few days ago, it occurred to me why I’ve been finding much unrest (and a little unhappiness) in normal life, “Most of our unhappiness can be attributed to the fact that we listen to ourselves instead of talking to ourselves.” I’ve been spending a good deal of time listening to what my head naturally says, “Cleveland sucks,” “There’s nothing to do,” etc. Instead, I need to make an effort to look at the zillions of positives I can talk to myself about, “My job is awesome,” “My boyfriend is crazy hott,” etc.

It’s time I try to find beauty wherever I go (or stay). Are you with me?

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Austria: A slice of Lawrence history.

I’m finally at a point in life where I can breathe (a little),  look back at my travels, and share some of my favorite stories (or sometimes just significant moments). My adventures have so shaped the way that I live my life, so I can’t help but talk about them…just a little bit.

| Mondsee, Austria |

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I don’t know that it was this church in particular, but there was just something about Austria. Something about the fact that my grandfather was stationed in Austria in the 1950’s (during the aftermath of WWII) made being there pretty cool. It was more than just a visit for James and Alene Lawrence, it was actually their home for a while — I mean, my grandmother gave birth to her first child, my Uncle David in Austria (Which as a child, up until I was about 14, I always thought he was born in Australia — slight difference).

| James, Alene & David Lawrence |

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The ride up to Mondsee was breathtaking. We drove up and through the Austrian Alps. It was so serene, and unbelievably gorgeous. Plus, the apple streusel that I ate at a cafe, across the street from the church above, has now been placed in my Top Five Pastries, ever (that’s saying something, considering how many pastries I’ve consumed in my life). And then, there was the city of Salzburg — while I desperately wish there had been more time to spend there, based on my short time there, I could easily pack up and live there. Actually, I’d like to live on this exact street, if at all possible:

| Salzburg, Austria |

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I loved how you could get lost in these beautiful little alleys. Oh, and Salzburg has the original Aldi (called Hofer), on every corner — needless to say, having my favorite grocery store on every corner totally rocked.

My next trip to Austria will include a trip to see my grandparent’s house and a hot air balloon ride over the Alps. I must say, I’m really looking forward to it.

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Stop vegetating in one little corner of the earth.

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” – Mark Twain

Before I headed to Cambodia, the first third world country I would ever visit, I considered myself a well-traveled person. I knew that I hadn’t seen everything, but I wasn’t exactly expecting to be surprised.

Before I get any further into my delusion, let me tell you, I was so wrong.

My itinerary was set for Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh, and the most popular tourist destination, Siem Reap. This trip was the prerequisite to starting my job in the States as the Director of Events & Logistics at a humanitarian organization, People for Care & Learning. I would be seeing and experiencing all the different facets of the work that we did, so that I could have context for my job back in Tennessee.

The first few days consisted of navigating through the hustle and bustle of an Asian city (something I’ve come to love after living in China). We made our first stop at the genocide museum. This is where I heard about the Khmer Rouge and the dictator Pol Pot for the first time in my life. Just a few decades ago, nearly 50% of Cambodia’s population died in this evil genocide. That’s one of the worst mass murders to ever exist — in the entire World (Most research puts it between the 4th and 6th worst genocides of all time). That means that now, in 2014, nearly 60% of Cambodians are under the age of 26. That’s an unbelievably young country. While this tragedy from the 70’s brought much pain, it’s now a gold mine of opportunity. This entire country has the chance to change, to bring up leaders with a new mindset. In 20 minutes of touring this museum, that taught me everything my history lessons in school didn’t, I had a new set of lenses to view Cambodia through.

The following day, we traveled seven miles outside of the city to the village of Andong; one of the worst slums in Southeast Asia. This is home to PCL’s biggest project, Build A City. When maintaining poverty in this village was no longer enough, PCL decided to literally rebuild the entire city. Our team was going to be building one of the new houses. After working hard for hours… Okay… 20 minutes in the 113 degree weather — I needed a water break. I ventured over to the worst part of the village, the slum of the slum – if you will. As I jumped from rock to rock to avoid stepping the diseased grey water that they call their streets, I turned the corner and stopped dead in my tracks.

This is what I saw:

my girls

And that, that is when I had “my moment.” Two little barefooted girls wrapped their arms around me and laughed as I picked them up to hug them. After stealing as many smiles and as much laugher as I could, I knew I had to get back to work. They followed me as far as they could. The picture of them above is not in a play pen or a jungle gym — that’s their home; wooden slats pieced together, finished off by a straw roof and dirt (sometimes water) floor. This is when I fell in love with Cambodia. These two little girls embodied the beauty, sweet spirit and helplessness of this country. They aren’t helpless simply because they are from Cambodia (because I have seen/met many strong, resilient Cambodians), they are often helpless because they were born, without a choice, in a country where the poverty cycle eats you up and never gives you the chance to get out.

This moment, along with many other moments in Cambodia, burdened me with a sense of responsibility that I had never felt before. I wrote about this feeling of responsibility in another blog post,

“You (Well, I’d say 99.99% of you) are fortunate enough to rarely have to worry about your basic needs being met. You know you have a bed to sleep in, clothes to wear and food to eat (and let’s be honest, probably a heck of a lot more than that). Now, we all know that we didn’t pick the life we live, so, for that same reason, shouldn’t we be responsible to help the people who didn’t pick their lives in the slums or their lives without freedom (etc.)? My personal opinion is yes, yes of course. And for those of you who may have differing opinions, we have serious beef.”

Cambodia changed me, and how I view the world. Mark Twain never wrote truer words than in my opening quote — So, if we sit here, comfortably in America, how will we have broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things? Simply put – we won’t. So whether it’s Cambodia or not — get out of your little corner. Get out and see someone who has a life they didn’t deserve, and let it change how you live yours.

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This opinions expressed in this blog are those of the writer, not of People for Care & Learning.

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Yesterday, I cried.

I’ve missed myself.

I know that sounds weird, so let me explain. You know how certain people or situations take so much of you? You’re so focused on the hurt in your life, that you no longer see or do the things that bring you joy, make you feel alive, make you feel like yourself?

Well, I have been in a place where, if the the things that brought me joy in life were my only identifier, I would be unrecognizable.

I guess once we’ve been hurt, we never fully return to the person that we once were, but I do believe that we can come back a wiser, better human being… if we allow ourselves. Day by day, I feel these little pieces of myself come floating back:

Last week, I read a book.

Yesterday, I ran. Not as a way to keep my mind off of life, but just because I love to run.

This week, I am able to focus at work. I’ve crossed so many things off my list.

Last weekend, I spent time with people I love and laughed harder than I have in a while.

And most importantly:

Yesterday, I cried. Because I was happy, not sad.

And, today, I am writing.

While that’s a rather odd list, it’s a list of things that make me who I am. They are pieces of me that have been lost, but are slowly being found. I say all of this for two reasons. One reason being that I believe we should share the good things God is doing in our lives. Secondly, I hope that this will encourage you. Whoever you are…if you’re someone who’s hurt me, loved me, never met me, or barely knows me; Remember that you will make it through what you’re going through. I don’t know when, but eventually someone will be able to look at you and say, “After plodding uphill for many weeks, you are now traipsing through lush meadows drenched in warm sunshine.” This line from Jesus Calling reminded me that God always brings me back to a time a ease and refreshment, and for that, I am extremely grateful today.

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Hope Remains.

My whole entire life is wrapped up in hope.

If you know me well, you know that hope is this reoccurring theme that I cling to.

Hope… it’s the word I’ve imagined tattooed on my body in every possible language.

Hope… it’s the word that I tried to paper mache for my wall, but had to throw away because I am not crafty.

Hope… it’s the whole reason I work at a nonprofit.

Hope… she’s my homegirl (…too much?!)

Okay, but you get the picture, right? Hope… it’s my thing.

But, lately my concept of hope has gotten all screwed up. I’ve been hoping in the next fun thing, hoping in the person who loves me, hoping in my own achievements, hoping in the next chance I have to travel. This kind of hope is so exhausting. Why? Because it’s a hope that relies in and on people. And, unfortunately, people have this way of constantly failing, which completely and utterly shatters hope.

My hope has been shattered quite a bit in the past, and I was feeling more hopeless than ever when I stumbled across this:

“I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in His word I put my hope.” Psalm 130:5

For a kid who grew up in church and felt like I had heard every verse in the book, this one grabbed hold of my heart in a new way. I think when David wrote this verse, he was also feeling the sting of hopelessness. But, David was getting something right that I was getting terribly wrong; he knew where to place his hope.

Jesus Christ is, and will always be, the only thing I can rest my hope in. How foolish I’ve been to think I could rest it in anything else.

So even though I’m waiting for something in life, and I mean, my whole body aches with wait…I know that He will not disappoint. He will never change.

He is my hope. And hope remains.

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How do you title a post about Poland?

As someone who craves travel more than any other verb, I have an equivalent desire for adventure. I’m sure you’re thinking of the kind of adventure that appears in The Lizzy McGuire Movie…You know, where she hops on the back of a Vespa with a hott guy in Rome, they share gelato, and accidentally eat the same strand of pasta (or am I getting confused with Lady and the Tramp…)? Now, I’m not saying this kind of adventure is unobtainable, but for me, it’s not the most realistic depiction of a European adventure. In fact, I’ve found a common theme in all of my adventures as I’ve traveled: they didn’t happen in a city (or country) that’s known for its glamour. Don’t get me wrong, I love the big, attractive cities like Rome and Paris and London, but what I’ve learned is, the less I know about a city, the more of an adventure I’m going to stumble upon.

It was the end of my semester studying abroad in the UK and the beginning of a two-week stint to anywhere in Europe. I’m not sure exactly how, but next thing I know, I’m stepping out of an airport in Krakow, Poland. The ground was covered in two inches of snow (easily) and no one was speaking English (Wait…a country not catering to the Americans?!). For the first time in my travels, I felt pretty intimidated.

Okay, I must admit, there was a bit more thought in stepping out of an airport in Poland than…no thought; I wanted to see Auschwitz. But, to be perfectly frank, I didn’t know that Auschwitz was in Poland. Nevertheless, my love of WWII history drew me there.

As I walked out of the train stop into center city Krakow, I felt like I had traveled back 50 years or so. Not that anything looked out of date, but the architecture was gloriously romantic. My traveling companions and I trudged through the snow, catching wiffs of fresh made pretzels at the stands on every corner, when we finally found the dirty, old six-story walk up where our hostel was. As we buzzed in at the bottom of the building, I was instantly reminded of that scene in every gang movie where someone got shot. But to my surprise, I swung open the giant wooden door to a colorful, artsy, quaint hostel “living room.” I would later see that this room was a perfect representation of the country right outside of those walls.

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Later, I strolled the streets of Krakow and literally couldn’t stop smiling. I had no preconceived notion of what Poland would be like; every corner that I turned piled layer upon layer of context that started forming Poland in my mind. A large chunk of that context includes food: gelato, kebabs, spicy cabbage, salty pastries, rich red wine and THE BEST tiramisu I’ve ever had (I kid you not, it was unbelievable). The graffiti jumped out at you because in a glimpse it had the ability to say something meaningful. Giant busts of political leaders made the city feel regal. Bright colors and the hands of those that crafted their art to sell lined the streets.

Walking through Krakow was like writing a book that was creating an imaginary land. On top of the aesthetics, I found something else central to Krakow. Serenity. My friend Kelsy and I kept gawking in wonder at this place we had never imagined. While the sun was setting, we turned the corner to climb up the road to Wawel Castle. We reached the top of the hill and I turned my head to the right… It was as if I was peering into dream. The pink sunset bounced off the tin roof of the castle and I was overwhelmed with absolute peace. We stole around corners, explored parts of the castle where no one was going, and stayed in constant awe of the beauty and serenity we walked through. Kelsy and I went back to our hostel in (almost) complete silence.

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It wasn’t an adventure because I met royalty or the man of my dreams, it was an adventure because I was surprised by ever corner I turned.

Sometimes I have dreams of that sunset from the balcony of the castle. Sometimes I dream of the excitement I felt walking the new streets. But always, I can close my eyes and bring myself back to the feeling of peace I experienced in Krakow.

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Love advice from a hott guy named Massimo.

I am not a movie quoter. You know, those people…that speak in movie quotes? Yeah, not me. I mean even the most iconic movie quotes… they may sound familiar, but I wouldn’t bet a penny on me being able to tell you what movie it comes from.

BUT, for some dumb reason, there’s this line in The Wedding Planner (of ALL movies, I know…), said by the goofy guy named Massimo (who is actually the hott Alex Karev from Grey’s Anatomy), that I frequently think about:

“Love is not perfect. Love is just love.”

This quote can apply to any kind of relationship, but, I am talking about the relationship: boyfriend/girlfriend, husband/wife, significant other, or whatever you call it.

In relationships we (normally) see one of two flaws:

1. I am not good enough
2. He/she is not good enough

But, why…why in the world would you or your significant other ever be good enough? We are not perfect. And here’s the other thing: we’re never going to be perfect. That doesn’t mean you stop trying to be better or helping the other be better. It does mean that you’re going to have to cut yourself some slack and accept help. It does mean that you’re going to have to cut him or her some slack and keep on loving them.

The only one we can look to for perfection is Christ. Jesus Calling says it better than I can,

“I love you with an everlasting love. The human mind cannot comprehend My constancy. Your emotions flicker and falter in the face of varying circumstances, and you tend to project your fickle feelings onto Me. Thus, you do not benefit fully from My unfailing Love. You need to look beyond the flux of circumstances and discover Me gazing lovingly back at you.”

Human love is fickle, His love is perfect. We all need to look to His love as an example, strive towards it, but be aware that we will fall short.

If you’re lucky enough to have someone who loves you through all the BS of life, don’t let it go. If you haven’t found that yet, hang onto His perfect love until you have.

…Also, you can look at the below picture of Massimo/Alex Karev for comfort too… (Fellas, you can find yourself a picture.)

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