There was a day recently when I was flooded with emotion, the world felt like it paused and I had the most peaceful feeling my 27-year-old heart has ever experienced. I’ll come back to this day, but first let’s rewind … I stopped working on December 15th, 2014 which is just about a month before I was set to take off on this big adventure across the globe.

That month’s time I budgeted for myself was pretty unusual. I am notorious for overbooking my schedule, trying to do everything… that superwoman complex (and I know I’m not the only woman who struggles with taming it). But I found myself with a month to pause, reflect, take my time, and really feel my emotions of the day before moving onto the next item on the list. I spent time at the gym… I made some new friends there and tried some new things…. It sounds really simple, but since I can remember, I go to the gym to get it done and get out – off to work or home to my pup. This slowed down, genuine interest in others was kind of a revelation of how “in the zone” I used to be.

During that month I also went out to lunch, happy hour with friends, walked Romeo more, went days without putting on makeup or getting out of gym clothes, walked to the mailbox instead of picking up in the car on my way home, had longer phone conversations and even explored a few spots in the PNW that have been on my list for years. The reality of leaving and the holidays too soon set in. I had to pack for both this adventure and pack up our beloved Villa. But I wasn’t really concerned, stressed or guilty for procrastinating… in the end it all got done, with some generous helping hands.

So this memorable day was Christmas Eve. I woke up, practiced some inversions by my Christmas tree (with Romeo licking my face the whole time, of course), hit the gym, made myself breakfast, cleaned the villa for my incoming guests, and started to prep food for dinner before heading off to church. I volunteered at the 3:30 service watching the kiddos and then decided to stay for the 5pm service myself… I shuffled into the lobby, ran into an old friend from group and swapped life updates. Our pastor’s wife, another gal and I chatted by the tea bar about outerwear. So when I went through the doors I didn’t quite feel like the only one sitting in there solo, with no significant other, family or friends to enjoy it with. I actually felt pretty good and ok with it. I watched more and more people fill the church, smiling and really seeing the joy in their faces as they united with loved ones and anticipated fun times after service with the approaching holiday.

As the first song began (one of my favorites – called Waiting, Eastlake Music on Spotify) and I started to cry uncontrollable tears…. It just took over me in every sense of the term, and I didn’t fight it. I didn’t mind if people next to me saw. It was natural, real, and so raw. I knew it was God saying I’m here, Kara, I’m listening… and in my mind, I poured out every single thing I was deeply grateful for. I had never felt such overwhelming gratitude. I’ve always been aware and very thankful for the blessings the Lord has provided, but this feeling was really something different.

After a few more songs and the lights raised, I felt open to hearing the message for the night, but to be honest I can’t remember a single thing from it. I was in such awe of what I had just experienced.

I felt safe.

I felt loved.

I felt hope.

I felt grateful.

I felt independent.

I felt strong.

I felt God’s grace.

I felt community.

I felt inspired.

I often look back on where I was a year ago (and holidays make it easier to remember!). I got quite good at tricking myself for a few years that if I said the things listed above, I would feel them… but I didn’t feel it the way I wanted to feel. Until this year, after I put in the work to get here.

I’m starting to go down memory lane here, but I think I’m going to roll with it. A year ago I was in a pretty tough spot. I was splitting up with a person I had built a life with for the past 3 years, my sister and I were struggling to understand each other, be there for each other, and be compassionate for the each other’s situation, two of my best friends called off their engagement, and I just felt more alone that I ever had, even though I was surrounded by so many people that I loved and loved me. I had been feeling that way for a while, which instigated some research into finding someone to talk to… I knew I needed a professional with time, expertise, objectivity, and who had dedicated their career helping people like me. So in August 2013 I started seeing a counselor to help me figure out all of what I was feeling. A year and a half later, Stephanie and Lisa, are still wonderful influences on my life, and are some of the most valuable relationships I have. Had it not been for me prioritizing self-care, pushing past the judgment of seeing a “shrink”, putting in the time each week working through what was on my heart, and building the courage to make some big shifts in my life… I wouldn’t have had that beautiful experience I had on Christmas Eve. I wouldn’t be sitting half way across the world at a beach bar on an island off the east coast of Thailand, drinking a Chang, and writing this post.

I’m confident I’m right where I’m supposed to be. God has guided me exactly where he wants me now. Looking back at the past year as a whole, he has given me these little hints that he does have an amazing plan. From leading Anne and I to the Villa, to unlimited yoga memberships, to working with ever-inspiring peers at the foundation, to introducing me to the most positive, thoughtful gentleman I’ve ever shared my heart with, and moving all the roadblocks out the way for this amazing adventure ahead.

Shifts are well underway.