2017 Favorites

*Disclaimer: This post has been sitting in my drafts folder for WEEKS. Whoops. Here’s to still celebrating the beginning of a new year…in February.

2017 was a fun year that started off in NYC and ended in my sweet city of Charlotte. As with each year, I discovered new things that became my favorites of this year. I like to document them each year, just for my sake. Here are some of my favorites of 2017:

Friday Night Lights | After the recommendation of a few friends, I started off the year by binge watching FNL. I will say that you need to power through the first few episodes in order to really enjoy the series. But, once you hit the first homecoming episode, it really is so good. #TexasForever

The Office | So many of my friends have been fans of The Office for years, and I’ve always felt like I was missing out on something. After watching FNL, I wanted something that would make me laugh. And The Office can definitely make me laugh.

The West Wing | I guess I felt very patriotic after going to D.C. in September, so I started The West Wing the week after we went. I really enjoyed the character development, the story line, and the sense of humor that comes overtime.

Young Oceans | I came across Young Oceans on Twitter, and I decided to listen to them (thank you, Spotify Premium). I really like their album, Voices Volume I, and I think my favorite song would have to be “Only You”. This album is a great worship album that may be different than what you sing in church but is still solid.

The Gray Havens | At the Behold the Lamb of God concert in December, I was introduced to The Gray Havens (they were this year’s BTLOG special guest). I think I downloaded their album the next day, and I have been listening to them nonstop. SO good.

Pitch Perfect 3 | Kaila and I went to see this over Christmas break, and we laughed so much. It was hilarious. I wasn’t sure if it would be funny or not considering it is the third in a series, but it was definitely very funny.

Hillbilly Elegy | This was originally on my to-read list for 2018, but I finished it over the last couple of days of 2017, so it made a different list–this one! What an incredible book. I read it in maybe two days, three tops, over Christmas Break. It was a great memoir and an interesting insight into a group of people whom I’d never really considered before as having a story/background as interesting as the one that Vance describes in his book. A must read.

 

 

 

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Rich in Friendships

My friend Kasey came in town a couple of weeks ago, and in the midst of one conversation, she said, “Mom said to tell you hi. She also said that I was rich in friendships.” That phrase–“rich in friendships”–has stuck with me ever since Kasey said that. I thought, “That’s what I am. I am rich in friendships.” And over the last few weeks, I have truly seen how God has blessed me in abundance with sweet friendships.

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I feel like this year, there has been a constant theme rolling around in my mind when it comes to my friends. It’s that, God has been so faithful to preserve these friendships. I have been incredibly blessed with friends in Charlotte but also with friends beyond the area I call home. And God has been so kind and faithful to preserve those friendships.

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This year, I’ve been able to spend extended time with every one of my dearest and best of friends. I’ve been able to soak up sweet conversations that weren’t necessarily planned out at the beginning of 2017 but were some of the best and most needed for 2017. I’ve gotten to enjoy my friends in their homes and in mine and that has truly been one of the sweetest of gifts.

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know it would be easier to not keep up with friends who live in Augusta, Atlanta, Greenville, TEXAS (hi, Kase 😉 ), etc. I’ll admit that there are days when I don’t answer the phone or don’t text back right away. My friends who live in a different city aren’t always first on my priority list because they aren’t right in front of me. That’s not to say they aren’t a priority, because I promise they are. BUT…

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Even in the midst of all of that, God has shown me how important it is to keep those friendships up, to take the phone call or to return the text right away, to go out of my way to see a friend even if it’s just for twenty-four hours. God has been so faithful to give me the grace to be a friend and to remind me that He’s put these people in my life for a reason.

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He’s also done something else this year when it comes to friendships. He’s reminded me that while He has given me some of the BEST friends who live far in a different zip code than me, He’s also given me some of the BEST friends who live in the same zip code (or maybe different because there are a million in CLT) as me. He’s shown me how to embrace these incredibly kind, faithful, and genuine friends who are sitting right in front of me.

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He’s blessed me with an incredible community of some of the sweetest and dearest of friends. These are the friends who you can call at 3 in the morning if you need to or the ones who you let borrow your vacuum because that’s called living in community with each other. They are the ones who rejoice with you when you rejoice and grieve with you when you grieve.

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These are also friends who may not be in the same stage of life as me. I have learned so much this year about the beauty of friendship–with women who are ten, fifteen, twenty years older than me. It has been so beautiful to me to get to call these ladies friends, even if they are wiping snotty noses or signing report cards in the midst of a conversation with me.

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I’ve been able to travel with friends to places near and far. We’ve gone on road trips and explored other cities together. We’ve chatted about life and the current struggles as well as the hopes, dreams, and desires we have for the future. We’ve laughed our way through countless meals, coffees, and more.

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These friends are also the ones who I get to see week in and week out at church, at their homes, or even at Ulta, Starbucks, Harris Teeter, or anywhere in Cotswold :). There has been something special to me about the daily/weekly routine of these friendships, of getting to walk through life with each other, and of getting to see growth in the little things and the big things that God is doing in our lives.

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To get to do life with these people, here in Charlotte, who love Jesus and love me is such a blessing. To get to see God preserve my friendships with people who don’t live in Charlotte is such a blessing. As Lucy Maud Montgomery writes, “I’m so thankful for friendship. It beautifies life so much.”

Amen.

26 in Year 26.

With my birthday being the first of the year, it is often a good time to reflect on the past year and make goals for the new year. This year, I have 26 “goals” (I’m not sure if all of these actually count as goals) that I want to accomplish. In no particular order, here they are:

  1. Go to Europe with EK in the spring.
  2. Spend no money this year on clothes. (My exception will be in Europe/Europe related things.)
  3. Save money as often as possible.
  4. Invite someone over for a meal/coffee/to hang out with at least once a month.
  5. Establish/stick with a better and more consistent gym routine.
  6. Try one new recipe a month.
  7. Be as intentional with my Charlotte friends as I am with my out of town friends.
  8. Visit my out of town friends.
  9. Write more. (I keep this super vague every year, but I still like to have it written down for my sake.)
  10. Try to spend one month where I don’t eat out at all.
  11. Write letters/cards to 6 friends a month.
  12. Memorize a book of the Bible.
  13. Run in some type of race.
  14. Become a better teacher.
  15. Complete one craft/DIY project once every two months. (This side of me has been pushed to the back burner since college graduation, and I want to change that!)
  16. Spend one month social media free (no Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter).
  17. Take some sort of non-work related class.
  18. Write in my grateful journal daily.
  19. Get rid of my cable plan.
  20. Cook more.
  21. Come up with a schedule for cleaning and stick with it!! 
  22. Become more biblically literate.
  23. Complete six acts of random kindness.
  24. Make my bed every day.
  25. Even when it’s hard and I don’t feel like it, stay faithful.
  26. Read twenty-six books:
    1. Making All Things New
    2. Rejoicing in Christ
    3. The Leader in Me
    4. The Envy of Eve
    5. The Bruised Reed
    6. L’Abri
    7. 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You
    8. The Hardest Peace
    9. Future Grace
    10. Fierce Convictions
    11. Keep a Quiet Heart
    12. Humble Roots
    13. How Does Sanctification Work?
    14. Tables in the Wilderness
    15. Hope Heals
    16. South of Broad
    17. It Happened on the Way to War
    18. Mrs. Kennedy and Me
    19. The Last Season
    20. Lean on Me
    21. Greater Than Gold
    22. Little Women
    23. True Feelings
    24. Christy
    25. Gilead
    26. 7 Men

Best Reads of 2017

I feel as though this post won’t have too many different books than when I posted about my best summer reads earlier in the year. That’s because the fall semester is the BUSIEST time of the year for me. I’ve noticed that pattern develop over the last three years of teaching, and I’ve come to terms with it this year. Fall is just busy. I think it was around Veteran’s Day when I finally felt like I could emerge from the work hole I’d crawled into and have a social life again (that’s a bit dramatic, but it did feel that way some days). I say all that to say that I haven’t read that many more books since the summer, but I have read some. And I’m a sucker for any type of “year-end” post, so here are my best reads (in no particular order) of 2017:

  • Messy Beautiful Friendship by Christine Hoover: Carrie, my pastor’s wife and good friend, mentioned this book to me in the spring. I got it and read it and posted practically every page on InstaStories because it was SO. GOOD. It was everything I wanted in a book about navigating friendships in the church–as adult females. I think–no, I know–that sweet friendships are rare and unique, and I am so incredibly blessed to have more than one close friend. However, that wasn’t always the case and I know friends come in and out of seasons. If you are looking/wanting/desiring to have deeper friendships (or even just friendships in general) with the women at your church, this is a must read!
  • Come, Let Us Adore Him: A Daily Advent Devotional by Paul David Tripp: Very quick side note, for those of you who are followers of PDT, what do you refer to him as? Paul Tripp? Paul David Tripp? PDT? I have all the questions about this. Anyway, I am a big fan of (I refer to him as PDT) PDT and his devotionals. This advent devotional is written in a similar style to his New Morning Mercies devotional, another favorite of 2017. His writing is kind and understanding, yet convicting but also gentle as He leads you back to the cross. I think this will become a yearly tradition for me to use this devotional each advent season.
  • Passion and Purity by Elisabeth Elliot: My friend Jordan and I read this together during August/September, and I’m so glad we did. It was helpful for us to read it while in the midst of weddings/engagements/lots of friends in relationships. I so love Elisabeth Elliot’s story and her heart for the Lord, which is so evident on the pages of this book. I appreciated her constant reminders to trust in the Lord, no matter what stage of dating/not dating you are in.
  • Not Yet Married by Marshall Segal: On that same note, Segal’s book about “The Pursuit of Joy in Singleness and Dating” was another favorite of this year. His practicality, his understanding, and his words were/are much needed in this world. Lots of times I feel like books like these can be incredibly cheesy or not a true display of what singleness can look like, but his wasn’t that. I appreciate his voice and his desire for the “not yet marrieds” to come to know Jesus more through the process of singleness and dating.
  • Adopted for Life by Russell Moore: I am so thankful for the work that Russell Moore does and the voice that he has in the U.S. when it comes to anything related with the ERLC, the unborn, etc. This book was a much needed read for me, and while it is geared towards those who are in the process of/considering adoption, it also has a message for the church to remember how important adoption is. I enjoyed reading it as an adopted child not just of my parents but also of God.
  • Unseen by Sara Hagerty: This book took me a while to read, because I started it during the first week of school (not my best move), but didn’t manage to finish it until Thanksgiving Break. I really loved Sara Hagerty’s first book, Every Bitter Thing Is Sweet, and I think I was expecting this to be just like that one. While it wasn’t as raw or vulnerable as Every Bitter Thing Is Sweet, the message was still good and helpful. In the world we live in, where everything is on some form of social media, it’s a good reminder to sit back and rest in the gift of being hidden and unseen at times.
  • Awe by Paul David Tripp: This book was one of those books that I could quote on Twitter day after day if I wanted to. And probably should have at times, haha. PDT writes about how we have an awe problem–how our awe is focused on self instead of our Creator. It was really quite interesting to think of this from a perspective I haven’t really considered before and to be encouraged/convicted by PDT.
  • Finding God in My Loneliness by Lydia Brownback: I read this during a season of deep loneliness, and while I felt like it caused me to walk through/deal with things I’d purposely “buried”, it was so helpful and practical. Women of all ages and life stages deal with loneliness–not just single women (and not just women, either). It was helpful to read about the reason we are all lonely is because we aren’t home yet. But to also be reminded of the truths and promises Scripture is full of for those who are lonely/who are struggling with being lonely.
  • Fulfilled by Joey Lankford: This is the story of a family from Tennessee who end up moving to South Africa to do mission work for a while (they now live back in TN). I always enjoy reading other people’s stories and seeing how the Lord works in and through them, their hearts, their lives, etc. Joey Lankford’s story was incredibly encouraging!

Some Reads for 2018:

Reminders of Grace

A year ago tonight, I sat at a table at a wedding reception for a friend from college and his new wife. The song playing might’ve been a couple-y song (you know, the ones where you need a dance partner to dance with) or not. I can’t remember why I wasn’t out on the dance floor with my friends–because I can say that is something I’ve gotten much better at these days. Going on the dance floor with friends at weddings.

I digress. 

Anyway, as I was sitting at the table, I was talking to the videographer, another old friend, and I got a text from my mom. Ninny is in Heaven, it read. I remember flipping my phone over after I read it, not really knowing what to do. Did I leave the reception? Did I tell my friend I was talking to about the text I’d just received? Did I cry? Wouldn’t it be awkward to sit at a reception crying…because someone I loved had just died

Let me back up. Almost two weeks prior, I’d called my mom, feeling a little homesick. The fall semester had started off fairly, well, weird, to put it mildly. I was incredibly busy with work, hosting a small group, teaching children’s Sunday school, and other life commitments. I’d also had a minor dermatological issue going on, so I was a little out of whack and wanted to be with my people. But before I could get any of this out to my mom, I could tell she was busy. I asked her what was going on—it was a Tuesday after 9pm—and she said that her mom was on the way to the hospital. 

We didn’t really know what was going on at that time. Ninny, my mom’s 95-year-old mom (known as Grandma to every other cousin), lived in an assisted living home just outside of Augusta, where my dad’s mom lived (and still does) as well. She’d been there for over three years, which had been a shock to most of us. After she lost her husband of 65+ years in 2008, none of us expected her to live 8-and-a-half more years. She constantly spoke of going to Heaven, going to be with Woody (my grandpa), etc. She hadn’t been herself for a good 3-4 years, but it was really after Woody died that she stopped being as fun-loving as she’d been when I grew up. So needless to say it wasn’t a total shock to the system when Mom called me the next day and said it didn’t look good. 

But it was a shock to me. I still remember sitting at my desk at work just boohooing like a baby. I tried hard to get it together, to make sure no one saw, but one of or teacher assistants did, and she hugged me hard because that’s what I needed. 

No one knew anything. I had so many plans that week–two concerts, a dinner, and something else, but I cancelled them all. It was also the end of the first quarter, so it was a busy time for me at work. But, I wanted to be with my family more than anything, so when Mom told me everyone was coming up on Saturday, I knew I needed to go home. 

We alternated between spending time at the hospital and getting the house ready for guests. Mom’s sister, my sweet Aunt Lisa, flew up on Saturday. Her son and his family drove over from near Columbia, and another cousin and her family drove up from Tampa. We all got to spend time with Ninny, not that I think she really knew, but maybe she did. After a while, everyone gathered back at our house, and Mom and Aunt Lisa and Sofia, my cousin’s wife, and Sara, my cousin, and I went to look at the nursing home Ninny would be in—literally called The Place—until she died. 

And after that, we shopped. And we laughed. If there is anything my grandmother loved to do, it was those two things. Mom and I took everyone to one of our favorite local shops, and we shopped and shopped. We came back to the house where my dad had chili and homemade pizza and salad all ready. We ate and told stories and laughed some more. We took pictures, which having an 8-year-old try to take a group picture of the adults is clearly something to cause more laughter, so we did that some more too. All too soon, we had to say goodbye and separate, go back to our lives while Mom and Aunt Lisa held down the fort and made decisions for the next week. 

I don’t paint that picture of a family night lightly. We aren’t a family that gathers all the time—we’re fairly spread out geographically, so it’s hard to do. We don’t vacation together each year, or even see each other every year, for that fact. There’s a lot of us, a lot of time and distance in between us, and a lot of lives to live. I say all that to say, that night we shopped and laughed was a sweet gift of grace from our Father. It made this whole confusing process less bitter and more sweet

A full week passed, and my grandma was pretty much the same. She slowly deteriorated more and more each day, but no one knew when she would pass away. I didn’t know if I should come home for the wedding or not. When would the funeral be? We would be traveling for that, so I didn’t know if I should save my days at work or not. I ended up coming home, and I got to see her one more time before she passed away. Dad and I went to Costco and on our way to dinner, we stopped by The Place to see Mom, Aunt Lisa, and Ninny. While there, her doctor came to check on her. Another bit of grace? The doctor she had is the uncle of a dear, dear friend of mine. He’s a believer, and he really made the whole process easier for our family. 

The next day, I headed to Anthony and Kristen’s wedding with Patrick and Kaila. I put the whole thing out of my mind, because, honestly, it could’ve been days before she passed. I laughed with my friends—Kaila and I laughed so hard at one point that we almost embarrassed ourselves—and I celebrated a new union. It was really a sweet day. 

Kaila ended up coming back to our table to get something to drink just a few minutes after my mom texted me. Somehow she knew, in that way that best friends do, that something was wrong. I quickly told her, and before I could even ask, she offered for us to leave. She and Patrick drove me home quickly, listened to me as I needed to talk things out, and prayed for me for the upcoming days. Another bit of grace. 

Mom and Aunt Lisa came home that night while Dad and I waited patiently. We weren’t sure what to do or what they would be like when they came home, so we just waited. And we should’ve expected it—they came home ready to tell us funny stories that had happened throughout the day, from my uncle’s cell phone ringing during a prayer to my aunt sitting on the bed next to Ninny and it moving when it shouldn’t. They weren’t being rude or disrespectful to their mother’s memory, either, by their laughing and telling funny stories. If anything, they respected her most in that moment, because had she still been alive, she would’ve been doing the exact same thing. Laughing and laughing and laughing some more. 

Ninny was a woman who loved passionately, who was always up for a game or a craft, who taught us to laugh, who showed me what it was like to live a faithful life to the Lord, and who is missed each day. She would’ve loved the family gatherings we had over the time she was in the hospital and while planning her funeral. She’d would’ve laughed right with us. And while I do miss her, while I wish she was still with us, I am so grateful to know without a shadow of a doubt that she is in the presence of our Savior right now. And that same Savior gave us the grace to walk through three hard weeks by supplying all that we needed and more. 

33!

My parents have been married for thirty-three years today. Everyone who knows them knows that they really and truly love each other, really and truly enjoy each other. I used to roll my eyes when people would tell me that my parents are “so cute”, but now I’ve come to appreciate it because I know it’s not so common. I’m grateful for the example they’ve set for me and all I’ve learned from them about marriage. Here are thirty-three things they’ve taught me about marriage, being an adult, and just life in general:

  1. Put the Lord first.
  2. Put each other second.
  3. Put your kid(s) third.
  4. Laugh a lot.
  5. Enjoy each other’s interests/hobbies. My mom goes to spin class with my dad not because she likes spin class but because she loves my dad.
  6. You won’t be broke forever. And if you are, you have Jesus and each other and that’s all you really need.
  7. There’s not a lot you can’t fix without each other and a good YouTube tutorial.
  8. This too shall pass.
  9. Show up. Be faithful, loyal, and committed.
  10. Saying no isn’t the worst thing in the world if it’s the best thing for you right now.
  11. Do what’s right for you, what God is calling you to do. It will probably look different than other families you know. But that’s okay.
  12. Sacrifice for each other.
  13. Sacrifice for your family. My dad does this often and is quick to do so. But my mom worked for years and years not because she necessarily had to, but because putting me through Christian school was what they knew was best for me. So she sacrificed her time to do what was best for me. I’ll always be grateful for that.
  14. Eating Mexican food once a week really is good for the soul. Two or three times a week doesn’t hurt either.
  15. Find the best deal you can.
  16. It doesn’t have to be brand new or namebrand to get the job done.
  17. Work hard.
  18. Be kind to everyone you meet, no matter how they treat you.
  19. Speak your mind, in love. Honesty really is the best policy.
  20. The beach really can be a lovely place, especially if you lather up in sunscreen and sit under the umbrella.
  21. Let each other have a quirky habit or two, that you don’t make fun of. My mom’s? Monitoring all of the levels of liquids of soaps, detergent, etc. in the house. My dad’s? His inability to walk by a room where a person is no longer present and not turn off the light.
  22. You probably can find whatever you’re looking for on Craigslist.
  23. You can also probably talk down the price of said item you found on Craigslist.
  24. Be committed to the local church.
  25. Go out of your way to serve others.
  26. Take care of the widows in your life, even if/when they don’t remember who you are.
  27. Don’t buy anything full price. There’s almost always a coupon for what you need.
  28. Stand up for your beliefs/convictions, even when it’s inconvenient.
  29. Guacamole is actually a pretty good addition to a chip or taco.
  30. Costco also has great deals and can be a fun place to wander around, especially if you live in Augusta. 😉
  31. The best way to go to the movies is to go to the $2.50 theater and to bring your own snacks.
  32. If possible, live at peace with each other.
  33. Love generously.

Lavender candles are my new favorite.

One of my favorite podcasts that I discovered this past summer was Stephen Altrogge’s Only The Good Stuff. In it, Altrogge and his guest discuss five things that the guest is currently enjoying. I enjoy this podcast because it’s so refreshing when I feel as though all I hear throughout the day are either negative comments or how something horrible has gone on in the world, again.

So, inspired, yet again, by Stephen Altrogge, here are five things I’m enjoying right now.

  1. Lavender CandlesI walked into Bath and Body Works a few weeks ago and smelled one of these burning and bought one the second they went on sale. I’ve been on a big lavender kick lately since it’s so relaxing, so this candle is being burned almost every night in my bedroom. It smells so good!
  2. Cheeseless Chicken ParmI discovered this recipe during the summer when I tried Whole30. At first I was hesitant, because, well, cheeseless. But, after I made it, I was very impressed! It’s so good. Definitely check it out!
  3. PublixI know, I know, I love Publix all the time, but lately I’ve been enjoying it even more. There is a Publix a mile or so down the road from where I work, and the Publix that is coming to my neighborhood is getting more and more done each day! And, then there is this video they made after the hurricane hit Florida, and oh my word. Who knew a grocery store could make you cry? (Also, this video! Cue the tears.)
  4. Banana Smoothies–I found a variation of the recipe I use on Pinterest somewhere, I think, but I don’t know where it is now. I make a banana smoothie each morning for breakfast and drink it on the way to work. It’s one of the only healthy things I’ve found that actually fills me up and tastes good! I use one frozen banana (chopped up), 2/3 cup of coconut milk, 2 tbsp of peanut butter or almond butter, and a scoop of protein powder. So good!
  5. Lore Ferguson Wilbert’s WritingsI’d read a post or two, listened to her on a podcast or two, and seen a few of her tweets or posts on Instagram, but recently I started following her on Twitter and have been so encouraged. I really enjoy raw and vulnerable writing, especially when that writing encourages you and pushes you back to Christ and His Word. A must follow, if you ask me!

What things are you enjoying this week?