This little light of mine.

Life has felt especially joyful lately. I don’t have any big Hazzah! for you, and that’s why I think this happy tickle is all the more special. It took a few days of working from home and a little stubborn stream of natural light entering my apartment—and suddenly I became a stranger standing on the bare hardwood floor. It was as though I had politely peeled my head around a curtain into someone else’s life and thought: what a beautiful story.

Not captured below is the storm of blue painter’s tape and cardboard boxes lining the walls. But in the moments I took these photos, my peripherals digressed and my attention turned to all of the soft, forgiving details—the ones that make you feel like they love you back if you look at them long enough.

Maybe, when you let a little light in, this is what it feels like to look inside your own heart and feel warmed back.

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Like a secret.

I undressed my ego as I walked inside; it wouldn’t accept me any other way. The forthcoming scent of cluttered stories, wisdom, and history sobered my thoughts.

This is how ‘human’ should always feel.

Meandering is most productive here, so I meandered.. until I found exactly what I wasn’t looking for. Its weight in my cradled arms reincarnated me into a familiar child-like complex. I approached a lonely patch of carpet where I knew that together we were capable of finding ourselves terribly lost.

The palm of my right hand became a perfect table as my left hand reached for the top right corner of fabricated cardboard. If I was lucky, I would uncover a note to a loved one, a date, or a stamp. If not, the smell would tell its own story.

My right pointer finger — as north as the paper allowed — was as anxious and excited as I, but far more patient; I’m a slow reader. I sunk deeply into the syntax of each sentence, into complexities that were so simply reduced.

I bartered with antagonists. I drowned in empathy. I relished in satirical wit. I ached in suspense. I appropriated lousy endings. I befriended the voices reading aloud in my head. I found bravery in written closure. I was reminded that my mortality and my potential were beautifully wedded. My gravity centered.

There, considerably quite lost, I found myself.

I closed both covers, my hands assuming a prayer-like formation—the pages its centerpiece. My legs uncurled as I arose from the warm patch of carpet to return the book to its shelf. The next person deserved to find exactly what he isn’t looking for, too.

I walked outside into the warm, winter sun — the unnamable scent clinging to me like my own little secret.

— — —

I believe there are two man-made structures that one can leave both empty-handed and in solitude, yet entirely fulfilled: a church and a library. I hope you can find a home in both.

Lo

It is a small world after all.

Before I left to study abroad in Paris, one of my dearest friends, Kortnie, gave me a poem to take with me on my journey. I hung the poem on the wall of my room and before I knew it, my roommate, Saibra, and I began trying to recite it from memory just for fun. My time abroad was incredible and wonderful, and equally challenging, stretching, and eye-opening. I chose to study abroad to find the better parts of myself, to become a better person…and when the difficulties of living in Paris brought out the weaker and less-liked parts of myself, I resorted to this poem on attitude by Charles S. Swindoll. Each person in this video I made has influenced my life tremendously and deserves every happiness this world has to offer. I resolve to never think of our world as ‘too big’, exclusive, or discriminating to the young, and I challenge you to do the same. Enjoy!

Dear Lauren,

Dear Lauren,

As I write this letter, you are flying directly into the future (literally) that you will soon make your own. Though you may feel small now, squished into the confinement of an economy airplane seat for the next ten hours, the hopes I have for you are immense in size. If the men hogging both of your armrests knew that, maybe they would give you more space. Anyways, below is my combination of excitement and advice:

We spend a quarter of our lives in desks learning about the world and its history, which I worry makes you fear that there is just too much knowledge to possibly consume. This is a wonderful thing to overwhelm you. With that, take each educational opportunity in stride, with patience and full of excitement. Focus on the quality of how you receive information, and more importantly—how you experience it.

Age may be a number, but it is also the culmination of a lot of important events in a single lifetime. Presently, you are 20 years old, and by the end of this adventure you will be 21 years young. I hope all that you experience over the next five months restores your innate wonders of the world. They are always within you, even when they may not feel so accessible.

You are no stranger to getting excited and tripping over your own feet, so do your best to slow down and enjoy the moment. If you take a little doozy, have a good laugh at yourself and then jump back up. Double-knot next time.

Ah, pictures. Try to remember that no lens is clearer than the one you already look through. Only you can internalize this experience. This is your own.

And most of all, when it is time to retreat to the States in late December, my hope for you is that the world won’t feel as big and you won’t feel as small. Be brave and take up space. This world has plenty of room for you.

A bientot,

Lo

Now is your time.

“This is the thing: when you start to hit your 20’s, everything starts to divide, and you can see very clearly two kinds of people: on one side, people who have used their 20s to learn and grow, to find God and themselves and their deep dreams, people who know what works and what doesn’t, who have pushed through to become real live adults.

Don’t be like that. Don’t get stuck. Move, travel, take a class, take a risk. Walk away, try something new. There is a season for wildness and a season for settledness, and this is neither. This season is about becoming. Stop every once in a while and go out to coffee or climb in bed with your journal. Ask yourself some good questions like: “Am I proud of the life I’m living? What have I tried this month? What have I learned about God this year? What parts of my childhood faith am I leaving behind, and what parts am I choosing to keep with me for this leg of the journey? Do the people I’m spending time with give me life, or make me feel small? Is there any brokenness in my life that’s keeping me from moving forward?”

Now is your time. Become, believe, try. Walk closely with people you love, and with other people who believe that God is very good and life is a grand adventure. Don’t spend time with people who make you feel like less than you are. Don’t get stuck in the past, and don’t try to fast-forward yourself into a future you haven’t yet earned. Give today all the love and intensity and courage you can, and keep traveling honestly along life’s path.” – Shaina Nequist

Moments in life that remind me how temporary our time is on Earth – but all the while how much space there is just waiting for us to take up. It’s incredible reflecting on what was important to me just a few years ago, and what now matters – more importantly, who.