My Trips To Thailand In Picture's

I was thinking that words are amazing but sometimes a photo journey is even better. Enjoy these photos, I hope it inspires you to put the land of smiles on your bucket list. 

Bangkok

Wat Arun Temple (Temple of Dawn) in Bangkok.

Wat Arun Temple (Temple of Dawn) in Bangkok.

Ayutthaya

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Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon Temples and ruins (Ayutthaya)

Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon Temples and ruins (Ayutthaya)

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Wat Rong Sear Tean -Blue Temple (Chiang Rai)

Wat Rong Sear Tean -Blue Temple (Chiang Rai)

Chiang Rai

Wat Rong Khun- White Temple (Chiang Rai)

Wat Rong Khun- White Temple (Chiang Rai)

Elephant Jungle Sanctuary Chiang Mai

Elephant Jungle Sanctuary Chiang Mai 

Elephant Jungle Sanctuary Chiang Mai 

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Bamboo Rafting- Chiang Mai

Bamboo rafting In Chiang Mai 

Bamboo rafting In Chiang Mai 

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Ko Pha-ngan Island in the South of Thailand

Phuket (Thailand) 

Phuket (Thailand) 

Phuket (Thailand) 

Phuket (Thailand) 

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Big Buddha Phuket

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Elephant Jungle Sanctuary (Phuket) I clearly Love Elephants 

Let’s Talk About ELEPHANTS

It’s no secret that I love elephants. I mean, 🐘I love them, like more-than-life-itself love. 

But, I never have explained why. 

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If you look up at that picture ⬆, what do you see? 

Hopefully, you are saying, “An elephant in the shape of a cloud,” and I am over here jumping up and down shaking my head saying, “YESSSSSS, that’s exactly what you see and what I see tooooo … Yay! Let’s be friends.”

OK, seriously, what you don’t see is that this cloud was at my aunt’s funeral. Her name was Cindy, and she gave me my love for elephants. 

The oldest — and arguably the sassiest — of seven girls, Cindy was a total spitfire. She lived life full of joy and without fear (Hello, GOALS). She loved elephants, and she passed on her love for elephants to me. (Luckily not her massive collection ... I’m a minimalist people. I would die.) 

I don’t remember much. She died when I was in middle school. But, what I do remember is this: My first stuffed animal, my most favorite toy, was an elephant that Cindy had given to me. It was a stuffed elephant puppet, and I had it forever. I LOVED it in a way I don’t love things. It instantly bonded us. That elephant entangled us in a relationship, however short, that would impact me for the rest of my life. Since she passed, her sisters have told me that I am just like her. I’ll happily take that comparison!

  • She was sassy. (I am very sassy.) 
  • She was fearless {I try and be fearless}. She would take me on all of the biggest roller coasters, and we would ride them next to each other trying to keep our hands up the whole time. 
  • She took me to get my first manicure; I got ladybugs on my nails. (You can thank her for my preference for the glamour lifestyle.) 
  • She was a sun worshipper. (Hello?! Can I be too tan?) 
  • Her laugh shook a room.
  • She would take us to the zoo so we could see the elephants. 
  • She made everything she did with us special. 
  • And … she loved elephants, and she passed on that love.

As I sit here overcome with emotions, I realize I never got to ask her why she loved elephants so much. I’d love to know that answer, but the really amazing things is, I don’t need to know why. I’m pretty sure every time I stand by an elephant I know why she loved them: the grace, the love, the gentleness they offer, the energy transfer between us. It’s pretty amazing, awe-inspiring and emotion-curating (at least for me, and I think for her too). 

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So anyway ... the photo.

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We’re at my Aunt Cindy’s funeral circa 2000. We tried to have a Chinese fire drill in the limo on the way there (after being stuck by a train for what felt like 50 minutes, but I am sure was only like 10 minutes). My family is the type that laughs until you cry at the most inopportune times. The priest had just mispronounced three words in a row. That was it. We were laughing (most of us anyways) until we could contain ourselves no longer. (I’m fairly certain my mom leaned forward and threatened us death if we didn’t stop laughing.) The inevitable tears came pouring out, and the returning aches burned in our chests. We regained our composure as the priest finished and the bagpiper started his final walk.

Just as the bagpiper crossed over the walking bridge, the elephant cloud appeared. (I mean, damn, that still makes me have instant goosebumps and an overwhelming feeling of emotion.) What a gift. Thank you God to whoever noticed it first and even more gratitude for how long that cloud stayed there, right overhead as clear as day. It was as if Cindy’s spirit was saying, “It’s OK. I know this life was short, but I am OK, and I am safe, and I am here with all of you.”

Are you crying? Because I might be crying! What A GIFT. Want to know what’s even more amazing? In 2000, we didn’t have cellphones that took pictures, but someone there that day happened to have an old-school camera in their car and, even more of a miracle, had enough time to walk to get the camera and offer us an everlasting peaceful gift of Cindy. 

Thank you God for the grace you offered us that day and for the gift of being able to carry it for a lifetime.

My love for elephants, which I didn’t think could be any stronger, multiplied by infinity when Cindy died. It has been my gift to carry Cindy on in life and memory by loving elephants so much. I am sure it would make her proud. The reality is, I really just love elephants that much, but the honor of loving them that much for her makes me feel proud. (No lies, every time I see one, I’m like, ”Cindy, is that you?”) I mean, she sent us a cloud; it’s totally possible!!!

That’s the story of my love for elephants. I hope it makes you proud, Cin.

Xoxo,
– H 

A Tale of Grace (Or Really ... A Tale of My Dance with Understanding Grace)

If you’ve read from the beginning, then we’re just getting to the point in the “book” where the details are laid out to complete the actual story.

In a recent post, I casually mentioned a life-changing trip. You might have been like, “What trip?! Can I get a little more clarity here?” And I was over here like, “Oh, look, there’s a kitty. Now, where were we?”

Twenty weeks ago, I went on a trip to Thailand with the most amazing group ever called Bamboo.

To be completely honest and transparent, I went with the intention of checking Thailand off my bucket list. With an epic three-week adventure to explore the north, the south and even the islands, I was sure that I could sufficiently cover this country and move on. (Because I want to travel and check everywhere off my bucket list.)

What I learned within two days of being there was that the plans I had were not the plans laid out for me at all.

There was so much to learn, to absorb, to breath new life into. There were so many blessings and so many lessons. Just a travel stop on my bucket list? Oh, how wrong was I. I knew this was a place I would come to for the rest of my life.

It was like my whole world shifted from the moment I got on the first plane ride, and I would never be able to look at life the same. In fact, it’s taken me so many of the 20 weeks since I’ve been home to unfold, comprehend and fall into this new way of understanding.

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It was an awakening of sorts, like this experience allowed my life to open and shift in a way that it’s been patiently coming to for forever. The kind of shift that says, “Oh hi, we’ve been waiting for you. There is a different purpose we have for you, and now is the time.”

If you’re a “recovering perfectionist,” then you’ll probably relate to this: In those first few weeks after this complete shift in my life, I did what any good “recovering perfectionist” would do, and I tried to force everything to happen. I tried to force change and to rapidly try and understand all that was happening and changing in my life. That’s my old way of thinking for sure: “I can force anything to happen.”

I don’t know if this has happened to you, but for me, what that actually led to was mass chaos and utter panicked anxiety in my brain and in my chest.

But, through this, grace is patiently waiting for us to see. While we fall down, force and wear out all of our old ways, grace is there when we finally realize that in fact there is an easier, softer way.

And I think, looking back on my first few posts, you can see the little bit of chaos and lack of faith and then how the understanding of grace settles me, allows life to shift and moves me into a new way of thinking.

Alas, my dance with grace.

And here I am again with that “Oh look, there’s a kitty,” because what I was supposed to be getting to was telling you that Thailand was SO EPIC. It was so life-changing that I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to be moving there or if it was simply meant to be an experience that finally allowed my life to shift into this most amazing place.

Ultimately, the only way for me to know for sure if I left my heart in Thailand or if it just offered me mine broken open and free was for me to go back, to experience Thailand with this new heart, outlook and understanding.

So here we are … two hours from Thailand, elated at the possibilities set out in front of me, joy-filled at the prospect of returning to this place and these people, and teary-eyed.

I can’t wait to share this experience with you. I can’t wait to experience it myself.

In love and broken-open free adventure …  xoxo,

– H

Vulnerably yours

If you had asked me even 10 weeks ago if I thought my life would change so much from this one trip, I would have said, “No.” 

If you had told me, “Haley, you will come back from this trip and you will NEVER BE THE SAME.” I probably wouldn’t have had the mental capacity to understand. I would have wanted to think I was open enough to believe you, but if was being honest, I would have thought, “No, it won’t.” 

I don’t think I have the words. I don’t think I’ve even been able to comprehend the vast shift in my life every single day since the day I left. I can’t put a finger on it, even though it feels as though its bigger than the size of my entire being combined.

What I can tell you, for sure, is that God is here and at work, and I am along for the ride. Are you going to make this an easy ride, Haley, or a hard one? 

I kept saying my heart felt broken into a million worldly pieces that I left all over Thailand. I think what might have actually happened is that my heart was broken open. (Oh em GEE, what a blessing!) 

It’s an openness I have never experienced before, a vulnerability I wasn’t sure I could experience, and emotions I have never been able to feel before. 

A funny thing happens when you ask God for clarity and for direction ... He throws you into it HEAD FIRST.

Right now, I’m sitting on my bed, I have headphones in, and I keep getting distracted by the music. Because this work — this work is hard. I know on the other side the JOY will be so wildly worth it. (I will probably think, “Why did I wait so long?” Because that is what recovering perfectionists do!) Sitting in the work, trying to find the words, feeling the feelings, moving passed the debilitating fear ... it is HARD, RAW, UNCOMFORTABLE. 

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I’m reminded as I sit here, I knew God was at work because every part of this trip was God. The way it fell together, the sureness I felt in my chest despite the fear. That silent voice saying, “Go. Do this. It’s time. I have a plan for you. It will be OK.”

I just never imagined, even in my wildest dreams, the shifts in which my entire being would change. 

How blessed am I? Damn.

God is good, and I am blessed, even when I feel like I could crawl out of my skin and die. HAHA (I’m still really dramatic.)

I’m being offered grace. We are ALL being offered grace. What will we do with this gift? 

Thank you, God. Thank you, God. Thank you, God.

How many times do you think I will forget? How many times will I need to sit in utter discomfort to be reminded of God’s grace and the blessing that comes?

Maybe my job isn’t to sort out any of the things I just laid out on this paper. Maybe it’s not my job to seek what it is that I can’t put my finger on or put a word to. Maybe my job is to accept this grace, allow my life to shift and experience what God is placing in front of me. 

That feels both terrifying and exhilarating, like I could burst into tears at the freedom I can feel coming and looming at the same time, because I can literally feel the fear sitting in my chest. 

“I do not at all understand the mystery of grace – only that it meets us where we are
but does not leave us where it found us.” — Anne Lamott

Wherever we are, with whatever we have, however worthy or not we feel, grace is always available to us.

WHAT A MIRACLE?!

I’m baby-stepping my way to grace today. Care to join me?

Vulnerably yours … xoxo,
– Haley

P.S. – If you shuttered or cringed at the amount of times I said God in this post, click here.

I don’t know these answers.

What or who is God?

I don’t know these answers. But, as I will reference God in my posts at times, it’s important for me to share with you what God means to me. 

I 100% completely and entirely believe there is a power greater than myself in this world, whom I choose to call God. (It just feels easier, and God knows — no pun intended — I already complicate everything else.) 

I am the type of person who believes in your God and my God and all gods. I respect all beliefs, all religions and all personal experiences. I will not judge you, and I will do my best to be open to what your beliefs have to teach me. 

I know the word “God” is tough, and I understand it has religious connotations that are hard to see past. I respect your feelings, but I don’t know how to describe my life or experiences without using the word “God.” 

There was a time in my life when I didn’t think it was possible to believe in God. Even until recently, I still truly believed I could run my life all on my own. I spent a lot of time trying to define God or trying to figure out which religion I was supposed to feel connected to or follow. Leave it to me to take the most simple, most holy thing and complicate it to the umpteenth degree. 

What I have learned from the trials and tribulations in my life, from the teachers that I have been blessed with and the unavoidable God moments I have experienced is that life for me feels a lot easier with a God of my understanding in it. It doesn’t have to work for you. That’s OK, and I’m not trying to change that. 

I just wanted you to know that when I talk about my God, I am talking about the divine, the all-knowing, the all-loving, the creator, the universe, the stars, the spirits, the love we see in each other, the random acts of kindness, the goodness in humanity, mercy, forgiveness and GRACE.

For me, God is not one particular thing or person or idea but a compilation that I choose to believe loves us all and is there for each and every one of us should we choose it. 

Hopefully, this makes the word “God” feel less ouchie or uncomfortable and instead offers a different, more gentle perspective. 

If not, that’s OK, too! I just wanted you to know where I was coming from.

Vulnerably yours … xoxo,
– H

A COLLECTIVE GRACE

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I don’t have any good answers for you. I just thought maybe it was time to resurrect this blog to remind myself, and maybe even you, we need grace every day of this life.

In times of joy, laughter and, most importantly, in times of uncertainty and growth, grace will carry us through.

May I offer you grace today, may I be reminded to offer myself grace today, and may we all remember to try and practice grace today.

Will you join me on this journey of grace?

In love, light and grace… xoxo,

– Haley