Summer!

I often joke that I am my best self during the summer, but I’m not totally joking. I so enjoy the summer, the slower pace, the chance to read, and the opportunity to travel. While I enjoy the school year, the summer is such a nice time to reset and relax. As of today, I’ve been out for a week, and I have enjoyed every minute of it. I know that in a few weeks, I’ll be ready for the routine of the school year again (maybe), but for now, I’m soaking up summer!

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While it wasn’t quite yet summer yet (even though it felt like it), Jordan and I went down to Beaufort and Emma Kate met us there for Memorial Day weekend. We got to spend one day at the beach, but the weather wasn’t so great, so we drove to Charleston for another day. We spent Memorial Day biking around Beaufort before heading home, and it was a fun end to a fun weekend! It’s fun having my friends become friends.

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We celebrated my friend Kelly’s birthday at what seems to be our new birthday place, Tupelo Honey. While lighting isn’t the best and we didn’t quite manage to make sure the exit sign was out of the picture, it was a fun night out with some of the sweetest friends.

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I headed to Augusta last Tuesday, and I met my friend Casie for breakfast on Wednesday morning. We went to a new-to-Augusta place, and I ordered what I thought was a normal pancake. And well, this came out. The shirt wasn’t planned, but let’s just say the best caption for this picture is, “Y’all. This pancake!” 🙂

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I got to have dinner that night with my dear friend Chelsea (you really need to read her blog). We’ve known each other since elementary school and have been close friends since high school. We were talking about a post I’d submitted to Stand for Life last year that they recently reposted when she said, “I know I’ve read that a few times. But each time I do, I think about what you went through to get to that point to be able to write that.” It was just a sweet reminder of how long we’ve been friends and of how much she’s walked through with me.

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I had a wedding to go to in Pensacola this weekend, and when my dad mentioned that to his friend Johnny, he invited them to come down as well. We walked near their house and went biking before I headed to the wedding. While we did a lot of driving in one weekend, it was fun getting to be with my parents and their friends for a bit.

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My friend Addison is one of my oldest friends. I really don’t remember not knowing him, while I know there were years when I didn’t. We grew up at church together, and we went to middle and high school together. We stayed friends after college, but we managed to keep in touch better because he lived with my friend Kaila’s boyfriend (now husband) in college. It was fun getting to see him get married this weekend and spend time with some old friends!

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The wedding was of course the most fun because anytime spent with your BFF is fun, even if you both have weird sunburns (please ignore my major burn/tan line on my arm). But really, so glad we get to share friends and go to weddings together and hang out in random places.

I’m back in CLT now, and I’m ready for a summer full of books and slow mornings spent drinking coffee on my back porch. I have a couple of low key trips planned but not much else. Here’s to a restful summer!

A Few Recommendations:

  • When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi | I saw a friend post on Instagram about this book last year, and I finished it last week. It’s the story of a doctor who is diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer. Incredibly fascinating (I always have found the medical world interesting) and very raw and honest.
  • Sisters First by Jenna Bush Hager and Barbara Bush | I really like the Bush family, and I’ve had this on my “to-read” list since it came out last year. It was sweet, an easy read, and a fun little look into their lives.
  • Humble Roots by Hannah Anderson | Lots of friends have talked about this book, and I’ve had it for a few months. I finally managed to dive into it last month, and I’m glad I did. Anderson discusses the importance of humility in all seasons of life and how Jesus Christ was the best example of true humility.
  • Keep a Quiet Heart by Elisabeth Elliot | As always, Elisabeth Elliot’s work manages to wreck me. Written in her true to self form, quick to the point yet compassionate, this book reads almost as if it were a journal or a note to a friend. I really enjoyed this one.

Currently Reading: 

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Year 26.

Year twenty-six has been the hardest of all my years so far.

I know that I’m still young, and I know that I have so much more life ahead of me, Lord willing. But, it’s still been the hardest. Halfway through my twenty-sixth year, and I’m ready for the next one.

I started year 26 fresh off of a break-up and in the middle of a hard (but SO VERY GOOD) year of teaching. I came home after an emotional Christmas break and ending up celebrating my birthday with people whom I hadn’t planned on spending the evening with but am so glad I did. January was full of snow and cold temperatures, February flew by quickly, March started off with the flu and ended with England, April was all about England and rushing to finish things at work before the school year ended, and May has been…well, May (and all the mamas and teachers said AMEN).

I’ve hit that point in the school year where I’m exhausted and so ready for summer, but I’m also still in the midst of a year of life (personally) that’s been hard. It’s been nothing like what I thought year 26 would be. It’s been full of weddings and baby showers and trips and books and friends and church. But, it’s also been full of reminding myself that God is good, that He has a plan for me, that the fight for joy is worth it, and that this life is not eternal but I will spend eternity with Him. In the middle of all that, I’m still an adult who is trying to pay her mortgage, go to the gym three times a week, work well, and somehow maintain a social life.

Year 26 is hard.

Tonight, I went to the Pregnancy Resource Center of Charlotte for a church partnership event. Led by the efforts of a dear friend, our church is partnering with the PRC, and we were able to learn more about their ministry tonight. Numbers and statistics were given to us, stories were shared, and lives were touched tonight. We walked through the center, saw rooms where women are counseled, and wrote cards for those who choose life to be able to open up once their baby is born.

I sobbed the whole night.

At first it was a tear or two, but then the reality hit me. Twenty-six years ago a twenty-six year-old woman was making the same decision we were abstractly talking about tonight. She was deciding whether or not to choose life. I’m not sure how hard the decision was or was not for my birth mom about actually choosing life (not the giving me up part because I know that was incredibly difficult). Based on what I know about her life and convictions, I’m assuming the “choosing life” part was easier for her than some of the women we heard about tonight.

But, still. I know how hard my life is right now (please don’t hear that as a complaint; the Christian life is just not easy at times). I know the battles I fight and the sins I struggle with. I know how hard it can be to find contentment in Christ and to find joy in Him on days when life isn’t going my way. I cannot begin to imagine adding an unplanned pregnancy to that mix.

Oh, how thankful I am that she chose life. That in year 26 for her, which I’m sure was one of her hardest as well, she chose life for me. She did one of the most selfless things and chose life for a baby girl who would one day grow up to be a woman who loves to eat lemons and cries her eyes out when abortion is brought up.

Because, by the grace of God, a woman whose twenty-sixth year was far harder than hers, life was given to her. And she is able to live out that really hard twenty-sixth year. Praise the Lord.

 

 

2018 Summer Reading List

Memorial Day screams to me the “kick-off of summer”, which means to me that it’s my time to read all the books. I was at the beach this weekend, and I did manage to finish a book and make some headway on some others. Here’s my reading list for this summer.

What are you reading this summer?

Two JCrew Dresses

Today, I put on my second JCrew dress in the last nine days.

I typically save my JCrew dresses for special occasions–weddings, graduations, celebrations, funerals, etc. In nine days, I’ve gone to two of those: a wedding and a funeral, both of them involving church members and both of them taking place at my church.

Nine days ago, I donned my new coral JCrew dress for a wedding. My friends Chad and Aubrey got married, something we’ve been anticipating as a church for a few months. Many of us were there to celebrate, and it really was a joyous occasion. The next day, we got to rejoice again as one of our other members had an incredible “win” in his career. We headed into the week full of thankfulness and joy for what God was (and still is) doing in our church family.

On Wednesday, an email went out that the daughter of a couple from church had passed away unexpectedly. She was just a couple of years older than me, and while I’d never met her, I’d prayed for her and heard about her. I was in a community group with her parents for over two years, and because of that, I knew some of her life story and just how much they loved her.

Just two weeks ago, our community group met for the last time for this school year and in it, we prayed for this couple because they were moving (and now have) from Charlotte to be closer to their adult children. We prayed over them, thanked them for their service to OBC, and were so encouraged by what God was doing in this new season for them. I watched them dance at the wedding just days ago, smiles lighting up their faces.

And then this.

I can’t even begin to imagine the pain they are going through, and my heart keeps breaking for them.

Today, I donned my black JCrew dress, the one that gets worn for funerals and the occasional celebration. I walked into the place that I walked into two times yesterday, and where I walked into just last weekend for a totally different worship service. The atmosphere was clearly different this time; the hush was audible in the sanctuary. Our congregation was weeping with those who were weeping. Our members were serving this family in one of the best ways they could through the ministry of presence.

After the service, I went with a friend to pick up food for the dinner the church was serving the family later tonight. As we headed out, I said to her, “I’m really proud of our people.” She said, “Yeah, today is one of those days where I’m grateful and reminded of the good people we have here.”

Our people showed up this week. I was blown away by the servant hearts, the willingness to sacrifice for this family, and the amount of people who served this weeping family in so many ways. From those who provided food to those who ushered to those who greeted and to those who manned the parking lot, our people served well. I saw stay-at-home-mama after stay-at-home-mama at this funeral. That means babysitters and money and so much sacrifice to be able to minister to this family. I saw businessmen and seminary students who are in the midst of finals at this funeral. I watched our congregation minister to this family in ways like we’ve never been able to before because we’ve never really had anything like this happen before.

I saw today, and over the last week, really, how our congregation serves and lives out God’s commands. The service of my sweet friends to empty-nesters to couples in their seventies and eighties encouraged my soul so much. I don’t think I can say it enough: I am so thankful for the men and women who quickly, willingly, and joyfully serve each other day in and day out at OBC.

While I didn’t want to wear a JCrew dress on a Monday for the reason that I did, I am so grateful that I got to wear it and stand by my precious brothers and sisters today as we worshipped our Savior and remembered the life of one of His daughters.

Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. – Romans 12:15

 

When He Uses Sickness

A couple of weeks ago, I went home for the weekend to attend a wedding shower. My trip was short, and I had to be back at church early on Sunday morning, so I was up and on I-20 by 6 that morning. Later that afternoon, I babysat for some friends, ate dinner with them, and I immediately came home that evening and threw it all up. I absolutely hate throwing up, and I usually try to avoid it at all costs. Before I started teaching, I felt very much like Jerry Seinfeld with his non-vomit streak.

However, I have since lost that after becoming a teacher. You just get sick a lot more. That night, I chalked it up to watching 15 kiddos, teaching 24 kiddos, and not getting enough sleep over the weekend.

After I texted the mamas of the kiddos I babysat that night, I sipped on a cocktail of Coke and Pepto Bismol and headed to sleep. I thought I would be fine, but as I sent a text to our secretary at 1:45 that morning because I was still sick and knew I wouldn’t be at work the next day, I realized I wasn’t good.

Thankfully, probably due to a diet of toast and applesauce and Gatorade for the next day, I didn’t get sick again, but I did not feel well. I spent most of the day lying on the couch, rewatching some of Friday Night Lights, and just resting on a day that wasn’t originally supposed to be restful. That evening, I realized that I was supposed to be bringing dinner to friends the next night, and I started to worry. They had a new baby. What if I was still carrying something that I could give to their newborn?

After she and I texted about it, we decided to put off dinner until the next day. Of course, that sort of threw off my plans, but little did I know how the Lord would use that time in a way that only He could’ve orchestrated.

As I stepped into their house two days later, I felt my phone buzz. After unloading everything one could need to enjoy tacos, I pulled out my phone and read the message. This was not a message I had planned on receiving, just like getting sick wasn’t something I’d planned on happening. However, the message I got couldn’t have come at any more right of a time or in any more right of a place.

Without going into too much detail, I can just say that there isn’t a better person in my life than this friend whose house I was at that night to handle this situation. She knew all of the details, and she was able to counsel me in the way that I needed in that moment–all while holding a newborn and eating tacos, too. Had I been at her house on the night I was supposed to, I would’ve received this message without her there for me, and I’m pretty sure my response to it would’ve been different had that been the case.

Sure, I don’t like getting sick. I really hate throwing up. I’ll do whatever I can not to throw up. However, I can honestly say after this crazy situation, I’ve never been more thankful for random sicknesses that include throwing up.

Lately, I’ve been learning (more and more) about our plans not going our way and praying each day with open hands, ready and willing to receive whatever God has for us. That often includes things we don’t plan, and while sometimes those are things we don’t like, there are also sweet surprises along the way from God. I’ve started asking myself two questions at the end of each night: 1) What didn’t go the way I planned for it to go today? and 2) How did God surprise me today? The answers vary–sometimes the surprises are bigger than others, and sometimes my day does go the way I planned. Either way, this has helped change my heart and attitude in the matter. My day is no longer mine–it’s His. I can just humbly receive what it is He’s given me and trust that it’s for His glory and my good.

Even when that means throwing up at two in the morning.

 

 

 

Oxford, Days 3-5

When Emma Kate and I decided to stay in England for our whole trip, the first place we wanted to go to (besides London) was Oxford. We knew the history would be rich, and of course we wanted to see the streets where C.S. Lewis had walked. And apparently Oxford has something to do with Harry Potter, but I’m not cool enough to know that 😉

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This was the super cute B&B we stayed at! Highly recommend if you’re ever in Oxford. 

I knew I would like Oxford, but I didn’t expect it to be so charming. We walked everywhere in Oxford, and every street seemed to be like a treat to me. The buildings were just so wonderful to look at, and the town was so charming. I so thoroughly enjoyed just wandering around in Oxford.

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Christ Church College was right beside our B&B so we got to walk by this sight a lot! How beautiful. 

We spent the first day sort of wandering about. We made our way to The Eagle and Child, where Lewis and Tolkien and other Inklings would meet and eat. We didn’t end up eating there until the next day, but it was fun to be able to find it. We also went to Evensong at Christ Church that night, ate our (only!) meal of fish and chips, and got a pretty good lay of the land.

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I finally got my red telephone booth picture!

We walked a lot the next day. We toured Christ Church, shopped for souvenirs/gifts/clothes, ate a surprisingly good lunch at The Eagle and Child, toured Magdalen College (where Lewis taught), traipsed through lovely albeit muddy fields, and enjoyed a fairly rain free day in England.

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Magdalen College

Next up…my favorite day of our trip!

London, Days 1-3

In August, my friend Emma Kate came up to help me get ready for the first day of school and to just hang out for the weekend. We were putting folders together when I off-handedly mentioned that some friends of mine were heading to Ireland and England in the Spring and they’d gotten an incredible deal on tickets. We finished what we were doing, looked at ticket prices, and found that we could get the same deal the week of my Spring Break. That day, we sat on it–we talked with the adorable woman at Onward Reserve, went to REI to look at backpacks, and went to Barnes and Noble to read Rick Steves’s travel books. By that evening, we’d bought our tickets and were set to head to London in March!

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First picture in London!

We made plans and scratched them a handful of times, and we finally settled on staying in England the whole time. We split our time mainly between London and Oxford, but we also had about two days that were spent in Bath, Newbury, Castle Combe, Tetbury, Dyrham Park, and Hinton.

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Kensington Palace

We landed in London around 8:40 in the morning on Friday. By the time we went through customs, got into the Victoria station, got our London Passes, and made our way to the hotel, it was around noon. Thankfully, we had an early check in so we were able to head up to the room. Neither of us had slept any on the plane, but we wanted to try and stay up as long as we could so we showered and headed out for the afternoon around 1.

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Kensington Palace

We stayed right by Kensington Palace, so we headed there first. It was beautiful, and I especially liked the exhibit about Princess Diana. We were clearly still a bit out of it, but it was a good intro into the museums/tours we’d be taking over the next week. After we finished at Kensington, we headed to the Museum of London, where we didn’t spend a ton of time. We then went to John Lewis, grabbed dinner at Nando’s take away, and headed back to the hotel because we were exhausted.

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Nando’s was my favorite place to eat when I was in Australia. It didn’t live up to six years of memories, but it wasn’t a bad meal for our first night. 

The next day, we woke up early knowing that the day would be busy. We wanted to get the most out of our London Pass, and I can definitely say we did. We did Westminster Abbey, the Tower of London, the Tower Bridge, HMS Belfast, a cruise down the Thames River, and the Shard. It was an exhausting day to say the least. By the time we ate dinner before going to the Shard, we knew we were done. But, the Shard was worth it, as was the rest of the day!

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By far our coldest day there, but the sun did manage to come out that day at some points!

The next day was Easter, and we went to All Souls Church, Langham Place, with a friend of Emma Kate’s mom, who happened to know the mom of a friend of mine from church in Charlotte. It was such a wonderful Easter service, and the church was so diverse, which was such a sweet tiny taste of Heaven. Minus me dropping my bread in the communal wine glass for communion, I’d say it was a great morning. 😉

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Our friend took us up for coffee in the hotel next to the church and it was so fun to look down at this view. What a wonderful memory!

After church, we headed to Oxford for the next couple of days, which I’ll write about more in the next post. Cheers!