what are you going to do in 2015?

I love celebrating New Years Resolutions.

I’ve never appreciated snarky people who say things like “ugh,  I can’t wait for all the New Years Resolutioners to quit hogging all the treadmills at the gym.”

I want people to succeed. I don’t mind waiting a few minutes for an elliptical if it means someone is making a life change and is feeling renewed and inspired.

However, I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not one who usually make a list of resolutions. I honestly, and I mean this, try to get started on resolutions as soon as I decide to tackle them — not waiting until January 1. That’s not because I’m this noble, aggressive-passionate-go-getter (though I try to be); it’s because I’m impatient. I want to get started NOW! I want everything RIGHT NOW!

In terms of thriving in a schedule, I’m much like an infant. I like knowing what I’m doing and when I’m doing it. I like having a plan. I like order.

I totally get the clean slate approach to beginning a new adventure on the first day of a new year. In a way, 2014 was framed quite nicely for me: I was immersing myself into a new job during the beginning of the year, and ending the year with the trip of a lifetime we’d planned for so long. It was nice. I really liked 2014. There were plenty of bumps and glitches, but for the most part, I really can’t think of a continuous year I’ve enjoyed as much as I enjoyed 2014.

The year 2015 is going to be interesting.

For starters, I decided to leave my job at the North American Mission Board. My coworkers were amazing — and arguably the best part of my job — and I’ll miss my paycheck, but this was an easy decision to make. And since you are interested enough in my life to read my blog, I’ll be honest with you: I wasn’t doing what I’m meant to do or want to do. And I wasn’t happy doing it. I spent the majority of my day feeling discouraged, and spent the afternoon commute being angry and stressed in GA 400 traffic.

One of my friends told Christopher that I should pitch a new slogan for New Zealand Tourism. “New Zealand: It’ll make you want to quit your job!” But seriously: spending 21 days away from my job opened my eyes to so much about my life. Frederick Buechner once said, “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s hunger meet.” I thought about this quote a lot during our trip, and fully realized something I really think God has been pulling me toward for a few years. The intersection of my deep gladness and the world’s hunger is counseling.

So, as of right now, I’ve left my full-time job to pursue my Master’s degree in mental health counseling. I’m applying to a few schools in Georgia and am looking into a few online options. Hopefully by this fall, I’ll be enrolled in a program and on my way toward becoming a professional counselor.

With this comes a whirlwind of emotion. Instead of trying to eloquently compose a narrative of what’s going on in my head, I’ll give you the unfiltered version:

Holy crap. I just quit my job. 
Thank you, God, for giving me peace about this.
Allright, grad school, here I come!
But what if I don’t get in?
Woah. Georgia State only accepts 30 people into their program. 
There’s no way I’m going to get in.
Sure, I can! I have good undergraduate GPA. I can nail a statement of purpose. All I need is a good score on the GRE and I got this!
GRE. 
Wut.
Math. 
STAHP. 
Alight, first go at the GRE. I think I’ll do pretty good on the verbal, but not great on quantitative. 
*Does exactly what I predict I will do and gets disappointed because I didn’t miracle-guess correctly on all the math*
It’s okay, I’ll study and try again!
*Decides this during the holidays, studies but not as often as I wanted, has mental breakdown while math-degree-bearing-husband consoles me and tries to re-teach me how to find the area of a triangle.*
-Flash to the present, two days before my second stab at the GRE.- 
I should study. 
*Reads a book instead.*
Everyone keeps telling me: “You’ve got this! You’ll kill it! You do great on the GRE. You’ll totally get into grad school. You’re so smart.” 
Here’s the thing: I’m not as smart as some people think I am. I worked hard in school, and yeah, I mean, I’m a decently-bright bulb in the chandelier, but I’m not guaranteed a spot in graduate school. 
What will people think of me if I don’t get in? 

There it is, one of my many flaws. My pride. I am genuinely worried about not getting in to grad school for the sake of having to explain to people that I didn’t get in. “Oh, so you quit your job and everything for…nothing?”

But I keep reminding myself this, the absolute truth: I’m going to go where God wants me to go. No, I don’t have a definite plan. Nothing is certain. I’m going out in blind faith here. But, to borrow a phrase from barre3, I’m going to honor my truth. I’m going to do what it takes to become a professional counselor.

So, what am I going to do in the meantime?

  • I’m going to try the GRE one more time and see what happens. There isn’t a minimum score requirement for the schools I’m interested in attending, but there’s just so much fear of the unknown for me surrounding that stupid test. But I’m going to give it my best shot. But let the record show I have been, and still am, absolutely terrible at taking standardized tests. If it ends up breaking my chances of getting into school, I’ll study harder and longer and give it another try.
  • I’m going to finish all of my applications and send them off. Then I’m going to wait patiently and I hope I’m exactly who these schools are looking for.
  • I’m going to write more. I absolutely love writing.
  • I’m going to read more.
  • I’m going to work part time at the barre3 Atlanta – South Bulkhead studio. I can’t quite express how happy I am to be doing this. I joined this studio in August, which was arguably the best decision I’ve made while living in Atlanta. The exercise is amazing, but the people are even better. I love the community it brings, and I’m thrilled have a greater part in it.
  • I’m going to go to a lot of barre3 classes.
  • I’m going to pursue the things that make me happy and fulfilled.
  • I’m going to try a new recipe each month.
  • I’m going to bake more.
  • I’m going to let go of stupid things that give me anxiety or steal my joy.
  • I’m going to run a half marathon in March.
  • I’m going to save money aggressively while living generously.
  • I’m going to spend more time with people and let them know I love them.
  • I’m not going to put pressure on myself that is totally unnecessary. I’m 24 years old. It’s okay if I haven’t moved into a dream house with a baby on the way. It’s okay if it takes a few tries to get into grad school (really, Mary Chase, it is! The world will not stop turning!)
  • I’m going to stop feeling like I constantly have to explain myself to people, and stop feeling like I must have everything figured out.

I want 2015 to be the year of crazy courage, faithful living, and chasing my deep gladness while meeting the world’s hunger.

What are your goals for 2015?

a lesson from ebenezer scrooge

Last Tuesday, Christopher and I ventured to one of our favorite places in Atlanta: The New American Shakespeare Tavern. This theatre is a gem. It’s tucked away on Peachtree Street across from Emory Midtown, and the front of the building looks like the Globe Theatre. You get to sit at a cozy table, enjoy a meal, and watch a company of some of the most talented performers in America perform the works of William Shakespeare. Except for last Tuesday. Last Tuesday, we saw a performance of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. And it was arguably one of the best things I’ve ever seen on stage. Ever.

I can’t thank my mother enough for introducing me to “A Muppet Christmas Carol” at an early age. I’ve enjoyed that movie above all others during the holiday season. The Muppets did everything right by Dickens: most of the dialogue in the movie is verbatim to the novel.

So naturally, as I do, I was quoting nearly every word of the stage production in my head. But for some reason, seeing A Christmas Carol last Tuesday felt like I was hearing the story of Scrooge for the first time. One particular scene really hit me hard and left me teary-eyed: the encounter between the ghost of Jacob Marley and Scrooge before he is haunted by the three spirits. This is the passage from the novel.

“You are fettered,” said Scrooge, trembling. “Tell me why?”

“I wear the chain I forged in life,” replied the Ghost. “I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it. Is its pattern strange to you?

Scrooge trembled more and more.

“Or would you know,” pursued the Ghost, “the weight and length of the strong coil you bear yourself? It was full as heavy and as long as this, seven Christmas Eves ago. You have laboured on it, since. It is a ponderous chain!”

Scrooge glanced about him on the floor, in the expectation of finding himself surrounded by some fifty or sixty fathoms of iron cable: but he could see nothing.

“Jacob,” he said, imploringly. “Old Jacob Marley, tell me more. Speak comfort to me, Jacob!”

“I have none to give,” the Ghost replied. “It comes from other regions, Ebenezer Scrooge, and is conveyed by other ministers, to other kinds of men. Nor can I tell you what I would. A very little more is all permitted to me. I cannot rest, I cannot stay, I cannot linger anywhere. My spirit never walked beyond our counting-house—mark me!—in life my spirit never roved beyond the narrow limits of our money-changing hole; and weary journeys lie before me!”

It was a habit with Scrooge, whenever he became thoughtful, to put his hands in his breeches pockets. Pondering on what the Ghost had said, he did so now, but without lifting up his eyes, or getting off his knees.

“You must have been very slow about it, Jacob,” Scrooge observed, in a business-like manner, though with humility and deference.

“Slow!” the Ghost repeated.

“Seven years dead,” mused Scrooge. “And travelling all the time!”

“The whole time,” said the Ghost. “No rest, no peace. Incessant torture of remorse.”

“You travel fast?” said Scrooge.

“On the wings of the wind,” replied the Ghost.

“You might have got over a great quantity of ground in seven years,” said Scrooge.

The Ghost, on hearing this, set up another cry, and clanked its chain so hideously in the dead silence of the night, that the Ward would have been justified in indicting it for a nuisance.

“Oh! captive, bound, and double-ironed,” cried the phantom, “not to know, that ages of incessant labour by immortal creatures, for this earth must pass into eternity before the good of which it is susceptible is all developed. Not to know that any Christian spirit working kindly in its little sphere, whatever it may be, will find its mortal life too short for its vast means of usefulness. Not to know that no space of regret can make amends for one life’s opportunity misused! Yet such was I! Oh! such was I!”

“But you were always a good man of business, Jacob,” faltered Scrooge, who now began to apply this to himself.

“Business!” cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. “Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!”

Dickens wrote this novel 171 years ago. I wonder if he had the foresight to know how applicable his lessons from Marley and Scrooge would be in 2014.

What chains are we forging in life?

Are we turning a blind eye to those around us in need? “My spirit never walked beyond our counting-house…”

Are we using politics and ignorance to justify a lack of compassion for humanity? “But you were always a good man of business, Jacob,” faltered Scrooge, who now began to apply this to himself.” You could insert a number of words to fit the meaning of this sentence. An example: “But I don’t think my tax dollars should be spent to provide healthcare for other people, even if they can’t afford it. That’s their problem for not working hard, not mine.” This way of thinking fits right in with Scrooge’s suggestion to send the poor and homeless to the prisons and poor houses.

As deeply-flawed humans (myself included) do, we make the holidays about ourselves. Are we forgetting that Christmas, the day we celebrate the birth of Jesus (who, by the way, celebrated Hanukkah), is the beginning of the redemption of humanity? Dare I say it — are we forgetting the true meaning of Christmas?

This Christmas, may we not lose sight of the birth of Jesus: the Son of God, sent to die for us.

This holiday season, may we not lose sight of treating everyone with kindness and compassion. Even if their reasons for celebrating the holidays are different than your own.

May we not lose sight of humanity: the poor, the sick, the hurting, the lonely. Remember the ones who are less fortunate than you — and love and serve them all throughout the year.

May we not lose sight of the things that truly matter, and may we forget about the things that do not.

And may we remember the lessons from Ebenezer Scrooge and the three spirits of Christmas. I enjoy the final chapter of A Christmas Carol perhaps more than the ending of any novel I’ve read. Scrooge is a changed man. This, too, is a story of redemption.

Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more; and to Tiny Tim, who did not die, he was a second father. He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Holidays, and God Bless Us, Everyone.

#mizealand: Aoraki/Mt. Cook, Queenstown, Milford Sound, Auckland

Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost

Our journey in the South Island continued as we made our way from Arthur’s Pass to Aoraki/Mount Cook. This drive was one of the most beautiful parts of our trip: cruising through the Canterbury and Otago regions was like being in a painting. Majestic mountains, rolling hills, blue skies, brightly-colored wildflowers, gorgeous glacial lakes, and plenty of cute sheep were the backdrop of our travel.

The weather changed dramatically when we got to Mount Cook — it was rainy, cloudy, and cold. All the things I read and researched for this trip warned to prepare for all four seasons in a day in New Zealand: they’re not kidding. We stayed at The Hermitage — a lovely hotel that was home of the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Center as well as the southern most planetarium in the world. Sir Edmund Hillary, if you didn’t know, was one of the first people ever to climb Mount Everest. He prepared for this summit by climbing Aoraki/Mount Cook — the tallest mountain in New Zealand. (By the way, if you’re wondering what’s up with this being referred to a Aoraki/Mount Cook, Aoraki is the Maori name of this mountain.)

Since the weather was still a little crummy in Mount Cook, we drove over to Lake Tekapo to see the Church of the Good Shepherd.  This was the first church built in the Mackenzie Basin and is one of the most photographed churches in New Zealand. It’s a tiny church perched right on the shores of Lake Tekapo, and is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. Lake Tekapo contains glacial flour, which gives it the alarmingly blue color.

We sat inside the church for a few moments. It was quiet and peaceful with a faint background of choral music playing. While sitting in the pew, I looked up at the alter and saw a long, rectangular opening that showed the vast Southern Alps sitting behind the bright blue lake. I’ve had a few moments in my life where I’ve thought “surely this is what Heaven feels like”….this was one of them. That may sound cheesy to you, but I really have no other way to describe it.

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Church of the Good Shepherd

This was a nice reminder for me, that in all the mess and torment of the world, and all the anxiety and doubt and hurt that it sometimes brings (even to people who believe in God like myself), God’s dwelling is with humanity. I leaned over to Chris and told him I loved him, and reeled in the blessing of this trip, my family, my friends, my health, and so many other things in my life that I simply don’t deserve.

After a few minutes, one of the pastors of the church came over and dropped a small piece of paper in front of me. I picked it up and saw it was a nice little card with the church on it, contact information, as well as the verse Psalm 62:11:

“For God alone my soul waits in silence; from Him comes my salvation. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress: I shall never be shaken.”

I couldn’t tell if she was being friendly by passing out scripture, or if she was passive-aggressively telling me to be quiet; either way, I’m glad she gave it to me.

Moonlight Drowns Out All but the Brightest Stars

Later that night, the weather cleared up and we were able to do one of the coolest things I have ever done.

At 9:00pm, we went to the planetarium. We met up with a nice gentleman named Rodney, one of the astronomers who worked at the alpine center. About fifteen people, including us, sat in the planetarium and watched a really neat video about the southern sky.

The southern sky contains constellations and stars I’ve never seen before. Doesn’t that blow your mind? It should.

Aoraki/Mount Cook is not only home to the tallest mountain in New Zealand — it’s also home to an International Dark Sky Reserve.

After the planetarium presentation, we put on large wind-proof overcoats, loaded into a van, and drove out the the dark sky reserve. We waited for the Sun to finish going down, and watched as the southern sky came to life.

We had crazy-high-powered binoculars and a telescope to view stars, galaxies, constellations, and other spectacular space objects. We saw the International Space Station pass over us. We got to take a look at different versions of constellations we’re used to seeing in the Northern Hemisphere — for example, we could see Orion, but he was upside down.

Guys, I could have stayed out there looking at the sky all night long.

I’ve never seen so many stars in my life. I could see the Milky Way and the Magellan Clouds with the naked eye. I was able to point out the location of the south celestial pole. It was astonishing and one of my absolute favorite things we’ve done on this trip. I’m pretty sure I had my mouth open with awe the entire time.

Far Over the Misty Mountains Cold

The next day of our time in Aoraki/Mount Cook began in a lovely way. We were able to finally see this from our room:

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That’s Aoraki/Mount Cook!

Shortly after lunch, we bundled up and boarded a bus for a Glacier Explorer tour. I had no idea what to expect with this, but ever since I took Earth Science lab in college, I’ve been fascinated by glaciers. This tour was of the Tasman glacier, New Zealand’s longest glacier.

We walked about a mile to the base of the glacier, and really felt like we were in Middle-Earth. In fact, the area surrounding us was used as the backdrop for Minas Tirith in the LOTR movies. We met our tour guide Martin (who was awesome), loaded jet boats and soared across the glacial lake. It was a way better boat experience than our previous one.

This was such a fun experience. We pulled up to icebergs that recently broke off from the glacier, and got to touch pieces of ice from it. In fact, I can proudly say I’ve eaten part of a glacier. Martin actually encouraged us to do so.

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Holding part of a glacier. Check that off my bucket list.

Step on to the Road and There’s No Telling Where You Might Be Swept Off To

After our fantastic time at Mount Cook, we drove to Queenstown. Queenstown is a lovely little town in the southwest Otago region. We were able to stay in a hotel that was within walking distance of everything we wanted to see and do, which was wonderful. We checked in and headed to the race expo for the first ever Queenstown International Marathon.

Christopher and I signed up as walkers for the 10k, simply because we knew we’d be tired from our trip and didn’t want to stress about training for a race. The expo was jam-packed with people from all over the world. We got our race bibs and headed back for a good night’s sleep.

The alarm went off at 5:00 am, and we walked to our shuttle to be taken to the starting line for the 10k. Unfortunately it rained all morning and off and on during the race, but it was still beautiful. We walked a lot of it, simply to enjoy the views around us. Queenstown really is a stunning city, and the race path was awesome — most of it was part of local trails around Lake Wakatipu. We did run a good bit, and of course ran to the finish line.

raceday

After the race, we went back to the hotel to change clothes and shower — we were very muddy and wet from sweat and rain. The rain eventually cleared up, so we ventured into town and ate lunch at the world-famous Fergburger. I had one of the best burgers I’ve ever had (coming close to Morris Breedlove’s masterpieces). It was a hole-in-the-wall spot that had a line out the door 22 out of 24 hours a day. I wish I could bring one back for all of you — but take my advice: should you find yourself in Queenstown, eat a Fergburger or you’ll regret it for the rest of your life.

Little by Little, One Travels Far

After our night in Queenstown, we drove to the Milford Sound. This was a long, winding drive through the mountains but it was beautiful (as usual). We made it to our cozy cabin and enjoyed absolutely spectacular views of the fjords and a nearby river. The next morning, we got up early and went on a two-hour kayaking trip. Christopher and I had never kayaked before, but were actually quite good at it. I think we could tackle a more challenging course, but I was thankful for the calm waters.

Kayaking among fjords was another one of those experiences where I felt like I was outside of my body; like what I was seeing wasn’t actually there. It was beautiful beyond words. We saw a rainbow and two penguins. About halfway through our trip, we beached the kayaks and hiked through the jungle (quite literally) to the base of one of the biggest waterfalls in the Milford Sound. Because the weather was so calm, we were able to get very close to it–it was stunning.

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The next day, we hiked part of the Routeburn Track to Key Summit. This was a gorgeous hike with beautiful views. It was also a steady climb the entire time — our soreness from kayaking with our fatigue from the trip made this track a little harder than it should have been. When we reached the top, some rain had moved in and we were standing in the middle of a cloud. Luckily we got our views right before the clouds moved in. It proceeded to rain for the rest of the day, so we relaxed in our cabin and watched the hundreds of waterfalls that form in the fjords. I probably had the best night of sleep I’ve had since we left Atlanta.

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Fly You Fools

I spent my 24th birthday in Queenstown, New Zealand. We left the Milford Sound and headed back, hoping to take a scenic helicopter ride around Queenstown and surrounding areas. The winds were too strong and the flight was postponed, so Christopher and I had a date night. We ate Mexican food (not too shabby, but no Bone Garden Cantina) and saw Mockingjay Part One. I figured with all the marvelous outdoor adventures we’ve had in the past three weeks, sitting in a theater for two hours wouldn’t be a bad thing. We loved the movie. It was very unsettling, however, to leave the theater and see BBC World News reports of all the riots and protests popping up all over America in regards to Ferguson.

The next day, the weather was perfect. We drove to the airport and loaded a helicopter. This was so unbelievably cool. We saw several of the filming areas for LOTR, and actually landed on top of a mountain that overlooked the Shotover river canyon. Again, this was another experience where I felt like I wasn’t experiencing “real life.” It was magical.

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The next day, we flew back to Auckland and bid a bittersweet adieu to the South Island. Christopher and I are both stuck in that weird feeling of not wanting to leave New Zealand while also being ready to go home. We were able to call our families, since it was Thanksgiving day in America, and felt some twinges of homesickness.

Once we were back in Auckland, Christopher discovered that the amazing Asian-infusion place we went to in Wellington was also in Auckland, so we ate dinner at Monsoon Poon and enjoyed a Thanksgiving meal of tandoori chicken.

Christopher has a nasty cold and I had a neck spasm for the first time ever last night. I think it’s safe to say that we are worn out. We’ve enjoyed a few days of strolling around Auckland, re-packing and re-checking our baggage weights, and relaxing.

And here I sit. Our last night in New Zealand. Christopher and I are deliriously happy and exhausted.

 

-Mary Chase

a long-expected party

I cried the entire way home from work yesterday.

It’s not the first time I’ve done that. I’m a firm believer in a nice ugly cry every now and then. Whether it’s a frustrating day in the office, feeling homesick for my family, or hearing “Oblivion” by Bastille on my Spotify shuffle, sometimes I burst into tears. I usually feel better after it happens.

I cry when I feel too much of any emotion. I think I have a certain capacity for emotions, and when they surpass my limit, it’s like putting too much water in a pot to boil pasta. Sometimes it bubbles out all over the stove.

And to be honest, I wouldn’t say I cry often or it’s easy to make me cry; these tears are hard-fought.

But when I’m really angry, I cry.

When I’m really homesick, I cry.

When I’m really happy, I cry.

(I can’t believe I’m putting this on the Internet, but I cried when Mississippi State beat Auburn this year. I really don’t know what came over me — I just knew I was feeling so happy for my alma mater, I couldn’t do anything else. But that’s another post for another time. Hail State.)

In my case yesterday, I was feeling really loved and really luckyOverwhelmed with the most sincere gratitude I’ve ever felt. Blessed beyond my emotion limit.

Tomorrow morning, Christopher and I will be flying to Los Angeles, and on to Auckland, New Zealand, to spend three weeks traveling and exploring the country. When we first met, one of our first conversations we had was about our bucket list destinations. Things we want to do. Places we want to go. New Zealand was one of our several wildest dreams.

We fell in love. We daydreamed. We planned. We saved. And through circumstances that were nothing short of divine intervention, we gave our dream a date and bought plane tickets to New Zealand.

And now it’s here.

I want to say to everyone who has loved me, supported me, and shared life with me for the past (almost) 24 years, thank you. If you had told me four years ago that I’d be embarking on a three-week journey to New Zealand, I probably would have laughed. I want you to know that I will not take this experience for granted.

To the people who grew up with me, thank you for putting up with my Lord of the Rings obsession. Thank you for encouraging me to embrace my passions rather than mute them. I recently cleaned out my room in the house where I grew up, and I took everything off the walls except for three faded Lord of the Rings posters. I think I owe it to 8th grade Mary Chase to leave those up while grown-up Mary Chase tramps about Middle-Earth.
(To be clear, yes, Lord of the Rings was a factor in wanting to go to New Zealand, but not the only factor. Relax.)

To my family, I will never be able to put into words what you mean to me. Ever. No matter how long and eloquently I try to write, words will constantly fail in expressing my gratitude and love for you. I don’t know what I could have done to deserve Morris and Pam Breedlove, Jayme Breedlove, Joe and Jo Ann Moss, Larry and Pam Mize, Meredith and Zack Reuter (and Scarlett), Bernice Swann, and everyone else we love so dearly. Thank you for supporting our dreams and sacrificing so much to make them happen. I love each of you more than you know.

To my friends, thank you for listening to me talk about New Zealand for the past year. I know it probably got annoying six months ago. Thank you for loving me and allowing me to share life with you. Thank you for spoiling me rotten with early birthday presents when it’s quite possibly the last thing in the world you could have spent time and money doing (looking at you, Erica Lanham, Meredith Yackel and Hayley Catt). Childhood friends, CentriKid friends, college friends, Atlanta friends, Barre3 friends, NAMB friends, and everyone in between: Thank you for enriching my life with your friendship.

I would like to personally invite anyone reading this to join us on our journey. I’ll post pictures and various updates on Facebook and Instagram, and I’d like to blog a little while I’m there. Expect several retroactive posts.

Mary Chase:

twitter: @marychasemize
instagram: marychasemize

Christopher:

twitter: @chrismize
instagram: mizechristopher

Kia ora, and let the #mizealand adventure begin.

All my love,

Mary Chase

‘It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.’ – Bilbo Baggins

boss lady [part one]

Some leaders are born women. – Geraldine Ferraro

 

My first encounter with leadership was in the fifth grade.  On a steamy afternoon in mid-September, I paced around the side of my friend’s pool clutching her lime green land line phone with sweaty, trembling hands. My friends splashed around with “Who Let the Dogs Out?” by the Baha Men blaring in the background. For the twelfth time, I dialed the Homework Hotline.

This time, I heard an updated message from one of my favorite teachers I’ve ever had–Ms. Cathy.

“….and I’m excited to announce our class president is Mary Chase Breedlove.”

I was ecstatic.

During my time in office, I accomplished two very important acts of legislation:

1. Our class held a canned food drive for the local food pantry around Thanksgiving.

2. I drafted a permission slip for our guardians to sign so we could watch “Remember the Titans.”  (It’s rated PG).

From that year on, I actively sought leadership. I was class president through high school, and even served as the student body president. I was told over and over that I’m a natural leader. People told me I was blessed with the ability to lead – and I hope I never take that responsibility for granted.

Why do I want to be a leader? Is it about control? Power? Security?

Am I just bossy?

While society may agree with the latter (more on that later), I want to lead simply because I want to help others. I want to figure out how to make things work. I want to make life easier. I want to empower others by leading them with compassion and respect.

In 2012, I experienced my most challenging leadership role yet. From March until August, I served as the Camp Director for CentriKid Camps team 7. I was blessed with a remarkable team and an even more remarkable assistant director – who was also a female.

Women don’t always get the best rep as far as leadership in ministry goes. I had two summers of leadership positions with CentriKid camps, and in my experience, I felt like the organization supported, equipped, and encouraged women to lead.

Ellie (the assistant director) and I faced a myriad of challenges that summer. One of the lesser ones — albeit still a challenge — was gaining respect and authority as women leaders.

Our team was wonderful, but not perfect. I felt loved and respected by them, but I was more often than not viewed as the “mother.” Nurturing, caring, compassionate. I was the mother figure — I even had a nickname (Mother Mary).

I was deeply flattered by this – but at the same time, I was the mom. Not the Director. Not the boss.

A few of my staffers didn’t hesitate to speak up in situations where, if I had been a male, they wouldn’t have interrupted me. Sometimes they’d ask me to do things like throw away the trash they were holding – which I did, because I wanted to be a servant leader – but the sexism still stung.

As director, I was the final say. The big cheese. I was responsible for all camp operations – everything fell on my shoulders. I responsible for managing a team of staffers as well as leading the adult group leaders who came to camp.

Would you ask your boss or manager to throw away your trash for you? Especially if you’re the same distance away from a trash can?

I feel like they asked things like that of me because I was a woman. I doubt seriously that male directors had other team members asking them to throw trash away.

I came across some church group leaders who would question my every move. One even yelled at me for having to cancel a week of camp due to a massive storm blowing in and destroying power for thousands of people in the area. We had no power and there was a 105 degree heat index.

I’m also not the first female director to experience sexism and disrespect from staffers. In fact, my instance isn’t half as offensive as other female directors I encountered.

So here we are. 2014. United States of America. Home of the brave. You can video chat with someone halfway across the world driving 70 miles an hour down the interstate on your phone.

Yet women are still discriminated against in the work place and don’t earn the same amount as men in many circumstances.

Why is there still gender inequality? Why is there still male-female income disparity?

Is anyone else out there still flummoxed by this nonsense?

 

words matter

I’ve only had a handful of nightmares in my 23 years so far. I’m not a wild dreamer in the literal meaning – in fact, I rarely dream at night. If I do have a dream, it’s usually ridiculous.

Example: I had several strange dreams before my wedding. They were all the same. I went to pick up my wedding dress, but the seamstress dyed it red and turned it into a pantsuit.

Anyway.

Of the bad dreams I’ve had, there’s one I remember vividly.  I was back in high school with old friends – people who had a huge impact on my life while I was growing up – and we were hiking through the woods behind the football field of my old high school. Laughing, talking, reminiscing.

After a while, I realized we were hiking a mountain. I didn’t notice how high we were until we finally came to a clearing. When we reached the top, the wind was blowing so hard none of us could stand. We could only crawl. My hands were slippery.

I then realized the surface of the mountain was white and smooth. The mountain was also hollow: there was a huge hole in the center that was a dark drop thousands of feet down. My hands still kept slipping.

I soon realized the mountain was a tooth.

If I stood up, I would either slide down the cavity to my imminent death, or fall off the side of the mountain. I watched my friends fall away one by one.

Out of nowhere, a helicopter came and the faceless pilot threw a rope ladder down to me. My only way to survive was to jump off the side of the mountain and grab the ropes.

I pulled up as fast as I could and threw myself off the mountain with my arms reaching above my head, searching for the ropes, trying to beat the wind.

I woke up before I knew if I made it or not. I was panicking. Sweating, crying, shaking. I was flooded with emotions: fear, anguish, dread, even adrenaline. It took several hours for my heart rate to come down.

(Fun fact: I despise teeth-related things.)

Why would I share this creepy dream with you? Because I think it has tremendous meaning. I am certainly not one to live by dream interpretation. But I do think there’s validity in what our nightmares can teach us.

I once heard that the presence of teeth in dreams was a symbol for words. Have you ever dreamed about your teeth falling out? Perhaps they can be symbolic of the words you say, meant to say, or wish you hadn’t said.

In my case, I dreamed about teeth as a mountain. An obstacle.

Words can be obstacles.

I don’t know about you, but I often struggle with finding the right words to say–especially in a lose-lose situation. (Either fall inside the cavity or fall off the mountain). In my dream, the only way to live was a tremendous leap of faith toward the ladder.

Why did I have an anxiety dream about words?

Because words matter to me.

Words can make my spirit soar and cut me to the bone.

Examples:

The awesome gentleman who styles my hair told me once that I have a Downton Abbey face. He said I have timeless beauty. That will forever go down as one of the nicest things anyone has ever said to me — and I don’t think he was intending to make my day, but he definitely did.

When I was in high school, I was at a store with a guy I liked for a long time. We were exchanging a shirt he purchased earlier. The cashier gave him his change back — some bills and small change. He said, “The change is for your girl — but she’s worth more than that.”

The guy I liked replied, “Nah, she’s not worth much more.” The cashier smiled at me apologetically.

(I knew how to pick them in 11th grade, didn’t I?)

Now, don’t get me wrong, I know there’s a margin of error for word interpretation. I don’t consider myself a highly sensitive person. I don’t go around looking for ways to be offended by “hey, can you pass the ketchup.”

But I do fear that in this age of social media, our words become more and more empty. It’s so easy to berate and bully others behind the screen of a smart phone.

How are you using your words?

Do you find yourself defending things you say?

This was posted on one of my favorite websites – Humans of New York – and I think this gentleman sums up my thoughts perfectly:

“I’m learning to be more careful with my words. Words that seem meaningless at the time can end up having a lot of power. Seeds that you didn’t even intend to plant can fall off you and start growing in people.”

oops

Well, here it is a week after Fat Tuesday. Not one blog post.

That doesn’t mean I’m not writing. I have at least two very intense drafts, but I find myself being more guarded with my words here. I’m taking my time. I want to say things right.

I suppose that’s the juxtaposition of social media: say whatever you think whenever you want.

I put a lot of thought into all my posts – including social media – and I want to encourage everyone to do the same. More on that later.

I want to know something: tell me your top six favorite animated Disney movies. (But MC, isn’t it usually a “top five” kind of thing? Yes, but my blog, my rules. I have six.)

Here’s mine in no particular order:

The Princess and the Frog
Frozen
Beauty and the Beast
Mulan
Aladdin
The Lion King

author out.