A Delightful Person: Will Simmons

Will Simmons is one of the most wonderful people I’ve ever known and I am immensely privileged to call him cousin. Although he’s a full-grown man and only thirteen months my junior, I still think of him as “Baby Will” because he remains as kind, sweet, and gentle as he was on those hot summer days we spent playing in our grandparents’ backyard in small town Mississippi. Will has criss-crossed the globe (he’s currently living on Oahu), but his goodness and groundedness never change with his address. His short life holds an extensive library of experiences and wisdom. We have lots to learn from his beautiful words. 

I am from Mississippi and I love it because it is complex, only to be understood with firsthand experience.

My current phase of life looks like silence—learning to listen and listening to learn.

My physical or philosophical trademark is cracking my knuckles and being skeptical.

I want to be present.

I am inspired by those who have the confidence to subvert systems, defy established norms, and ignore societal expectations for the good of those who can never repay them.

I love the key of Db major.

I hate when someone says “bless you” prematurely, thwarting even the boldest of sneezes.

Toy Story 3 makes me cry. Don’t tell me you didn’t!

Marcel the Shell with Shoes On makes me laugh.

The words I live by are Mohala i ka wai kamaka o ka pua. “Unfurled by the water are the faces of the flowers.” Life accompanies abundance—how might we bring this to those who have not?

I am most influenced by how my actions might influence others.

I admire confidence, wittiness, and brevity in other people.

I escape by cooking.

To me, perfection is a well-timed octave jump in a musical score or song. Chills—every time.

My fondest memory is making pancakes with my now-fiancée via FaceTime on our three-year dating anniversary. We had spent the past year thousands of miles apart, and we couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate than to cook a meal with each other.

I wish I could have dinner with myself, but ten years younger/older. Can’t decide which.

My favorite meal is my mother’s shrimp and grits—see section on Mississippi above. She’s an incredible chef and the source of my love for food.

Your favorite songs of all time are “Fires” by David Ramirez,  “Concerning the UFO Sighting near Highland, Illinois” by Sufjan Stevens, “Untitled 3” by Sigur Ros, and “Grown Ocean” by Fleet Foxes.

The films I could watch on replay are The Social Network, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Little Miss Sunshine, The Truman Show.

The books that have influenced me most are Henri Nouwen’s Return of the Prodigal Son, David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas, J.D. Salinger’s Nine Stories, Tracy Kidder’s Mountains Beyond Mountains, Paul Farmer’s Pathologies of Power.

My wildest dream is fairness for all.

My childhood ambition was nonexistent?! I’ve thought about this for years—I think I was just depressingly realistic as a child…

My favorite color is yellow because as a child, most of my GameBoys were yellow.

My celebrity crush is probably Ewan McGregor. Man-crush.

If I could get on a plane right now, I would travel back to Japan. It was here that, in remaining still, I learned more.

My most recent purchase was a 4AM breakfast from Burger King in the Guam airport. Yikes.

My morning routine is to cook breakfast—usually more elaborate than it needs to be. Read.

My pet peeves are… I’m too much of a people-pleaser to publicly admit these.

My bucket list includes: learn to play piano. Skydive (maybe). Open a café and brewery.

My guilty pleasure is that one Justin Bieber song. You know the one.

Something few people know about me is that I always have a song playing in my head. Right now it’s Sufjan Stevens’ “Oh God, Where Are You Now?”

I am a learner.

Will, you belong to a special breed of people who believe a better world is possible, a breed of people who are doing the exhausting work to make better become real. Your curiosity in this planet – it’s problems, people, and possibilities – is inexhaustible. Instead of wasting the enormous talents you’ve been given on chasing the American Dream, you are investing your intellect and superhuman compassion in those who can never repay you. I hold onto the hope that I share that piece of Simmons DNA that makes you so kind, open-minded, motivated, and concerned. Your twenty-three years have been a gift to me, to our family, and to this world. I am absolutely thrilled to see which trails you and Carissa choose to blaze next. Keep fighting the good fight, brilliant boy!

you are delightful.

A Guide to England's Lake District

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Sometimes I get so focused on checking new countries off the imaginary list in my head that I ignore the very place I call home – beautiful England! An entire planet of landscapes seems to have wrapped itself around these little British Isles and, after a recent weekend in the Lake District, I am newly inspired to see as much of this place as I can.

The UK has these magical things called Bank Holidays. I don't exactly understand why they exist, but they roll around every few months and we all get off work for reasons unknown to me and I LOVE IT. Some friends and I made the most of the late May Bank Holiday and (along with every other licensed driver in England) followed the motorway signs pointing to "The North."

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Despite booking in the eleventh hour, we found a great converted stable Airbnb in the teeniest little village called Renwick, which was just a little cluster of houses in an enormous expanse of pasture. As we drove, I kept imagining what the Lake District must look like from above – a patchwork quilt sewn with every shade of green, intersected by stone wall stitches and dotted with scraps of an old floral-patterned dress.

Our first day was spent village hopping. We began in Grasmere, mostly because the town's famous gingerbread had been recommended by no less than ten friends. The village was precious – shops, galleries, little homes, and a tiny church with a healthy dose of wildflowers. Grasmere Gingerbread lived up to every ounce of hype. It was so good, kind of soft and crumbly and spicy. I still think about it at least once a day. (Writing this blog reminded me of how good the gingerbread was and I just ordered some online because I am a weak person. Help!) We grabbed lunch at a teahouse called Baldry's and I tried the British classic rarebit for the first time, despite being deeply convinced it was a rare piece of rabbit meat. To my delight, rarebit is actually a thick slice of toast swimming in a small lake of melted cheese. The things you learn on holiday!

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Ambleside was our next stop on the Village Tour of Cumbria and offered a bit more hustle and bustle than Grasmere (we are speaking relatively, of course). We browsed all the cute boutiques and wandered up to the village church. We excitedly followed signs to a Craft Fair and began dreaming of all the quirky handmade items we'd buy. The signs led us to the dimly lit gymnasium of a community center. It took us precisely forty seconds to see each and every piece of merchandise available. Empty-handed, we took our exit from Ambleside and headed to Keswick.

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Keswick offered a new slew of shopping opportunities and sweet treats. We wandered the street market, scored some British Tweed mill blankets, and eventually found ourselves in a beautiful public park on the banks of a stunning lake. After grabbing some takeaway, we enjoyed a few hours of soaking in the rare sunbeams and warm air. Photo evidence says I took a nap that I don't remember. With sunset quickly approaching, we hopped in the car and headed to Lake Windermere, which came highly recommended for sunset viewing. After finding a place to park, we ran to a nearby overlook. There, with a small gaggle of wide-eyed strangers, we silently watched pink and violet and orange clouds melt into one another like watercolor.

This show plays nightly. Can you believe we live on a planet that has a sunset every single day.

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A new day began with with bad directions from Alex and great driving by Jana and encouraging words by Liz. After a brake-burning, twisty-turny "shortcut" through the mountains, we arrived at the trailhead to a gorgeous waterfall. (Please listen to me: do not take roads that end in the word "Pass." Tears will be shed by at least one person in your vehicle.) Buoyant with the relief of finishing that awful drive, we took the trail past an ancient church, over a wide brook, and through an absolutely pristine wood. Between the trees, the air was dark and cool and calm. After making it to the waterfall, we hung up hammocks and spread out blankets and allowed ourselves a few hours of simply being.

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In search of food (as always), we decided to drive to the biggest town we could find on the coast – Whitehaven. The place was a bit sad, sort of deserted, but we decided to poke around the marina a bit despite the bum-me-out vibes. To our great surprise, we stumbled on a huge jetty and enjoyed some pretty gorgeous views of sailboats on the glittery English sea.

My brother-in-law Andrew once spoke the words that have made me the woman I am today: "You have a limited number of meals to eat in this life, so you better make sure each one is good." That's some gospel truth, y'all. I want to get it tattooed. With this in mind, we kept driving until we found ourselves back at Keswick and in the booth of a super hip restaurant we'd spotted the day before, Merienda. Avocado fries, halloumi frittatas, corn fritters. Hipster heaven.

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We reluctantly awoke to our departure day and decided to make it to Hadrian's Wall before heading back to London. The morning's drive felt like trespassing into one oil painting after another – endless miles of misty emerald mountains dotted with sheep. We stopped for a scone at Blueberry's Cafe (the cutest name in history) in Alston, then navigated to the Wall, ancient Roman ruins near Scotland that spans the entire width of Great Britain. We walked along it for a while and spotted some of the original sections. We also popped into nearby Lanercost Priory, a beautiful old cathedral that sits half-restored, half in ruins in the north English countryside. After coming to terms that the holiday must draw to a close, we pointed our little red car southwards and waved goodbye to the magical Lake District. Our final stop was the town of Carlisle, where we had lunch and a wander before entering the parade of homecomers that stretched all the way to Surrey.

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A Delighted Person: Naomi Martin

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Within a month of moving to England I met Naomi and her sister Emily at a church gathering they help facilitate in London. These girls are magnetic and it took about five seconds of conversation with Naomi to realize that this girl was going to be extremely dear to me. She and Emily are my "sister fix" when I am missing my own sisters, as well as my "American fix" because they are half American! My affection for Naomi only deepened when I learned her incredible story, which aligns extraordinarily with my own sister's story of healing. Check out Naomi's blog to learn more!

I am from London and I love it because of its diversity, cultures, busyness, loudness and TfL (Transport for London).

My current phase of life looks like fog. I don’t feel like I have much direction, but I am taking each 100 yards of visibility as it comes and making the most of it. (Deep side note: Do I want the fog to clear? If it was a clear view ahead all the time would I miss things along the journey? Walking through the fog is in a searching, seeking, careful way whereas if it were clear, would I get used to the path and end up walking with my head down?) 

My philosophical trademark is seeing a positive aspect in every situation.

I want to be like a lighthouse so I can spread light and hope.

I am inspired by people who make it against all odds.

I love adventures with friends, family holidays, Oreos and lions.

I hate popping candy (Pop Rocks).

Not much makes me cry these days, but sometimes I catch myself crying when I see another life deeply impacted in a way that no one else could know or help but God. I love His heart and seeing it reach others.

Michael Scott makes me laugh.

My purpose is to live for Christ. When people see me, I want them to see that I only live and exist because of Jesus and his extraordinary saving power.

I am most influenced by my family.

I admire honesty in other people.

I escape by being alone while cooking/baking or watching a '90s film.

To me, perfection is swinging in a hammock in the sun whilst drinking a delicious latte (one so good that you don't want it to end) in a cute cafe in Paris and it's raining outside.

My biggest challenge is knowing my identity and where my worth comes from. Knowing I am complete and that I am not lacking.

My fondest memory is catching lightning bugs in America and falling asleep to the sound of crickets.

My proudest moment was being able to eat, walk, and function again after my brain surgery, and then graduating from university!

I wish I could have dinner with Leonardo DiCaprio.

My favo(u)rite meal is classic hot dogs, potato salad and hamburger.

Your favo(u)rite songs of all time are "In Over my Head" by Jen Johnson, "Beethoven's 5 Secrets" by OneRepublic "Cello/Orchestral Cover" by ThePianoGuys, "Somewhere Only We Know" by Keane

The films I could watch on replay are '90s films and Tom Hanks films

The books that have influenced me most are Restless by Jennie Allen, Crash the Chatterbox by Steven Furtick, Crazy Love by Francis Chan

My wildest dream is to visit every single person I know around the world and spend time with them.

My most embarrassing moment is some of the hairstyles I have attempted.

Jennifer Lawrence would star as me in a movie about my life.

If I could get on a plane right now I would travel to America, where the other half of my heart lives.

My morning routine is hitting snooze... more sleep first and then I read my devotional, make coffee and realise I have somewhere to be!

My most recent purchase was a brand new work bag from Accessorise!

My celebrity crush is Zac Efron.

My pet peeves are men with long nails, dirt under fingernails, cupboards that are left open or don't close all the way.

My bucket list includes going to South Africa, LA, and New York; and being on an active film set.

My guilty pleasures are Katy Perry, Guylian chocolate, binges, watching movies and old TV shows.

My childhood ambition was to be a chef.

My website is naomimay19.blogspot.co.uk.

Something few people know about me is that I don't do too well with heights, but I somehow always find myself at the the top of the tallest building in the world or climbing up a mountain.

I like my voluminous hair.

I am steadfast.

Naomi, you wrote that you want to be a lighthouse and a lighthouse is precisely what you are – a shining beacon proclaiming to a dark world that hope and safety and light are near! You have crawled through the miry valley of death, yet somehow your spirit remains so beautifully pure. You've taught me how to choose beauty over bitterness, laughter over weeping, and trust over worry. You are a friend to all people and have mastered the art of making others feel truly seen. This world is a brighter, better place because you exist. So many of my most cherished memories from England are adventures with YOU! And Emily, duh. Thank you for being my family and my soul sister, Naomi. I proper love you. Keep calling those lost boats toward the light, my beaming Naomi.

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