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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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:

summer reads

I had been trying to write a real blog post for about a month or so, but I think I use all of my words throughout the day and can never manage to get them out the way I want when I do have a chance to sit down and write. I love the routines of the school year, and I love what I do, but I miss having the mental capacity to really write during the school year. I’d like to try to get better at disciplining myself to write even when I don’t want to write, but that may take a few months/years. I did finally manage to write one this week, one that was fairly raw and real. Read it here.

Anyway, I didn’t manage to read all of the books I’d planned on reading this summer, but I did read a lot of good ones. I always like to document what I read because it helps me remember what went on during that season of my life and what I was learning in that specific season. So, here are a few of the books that I read during my “Summer of Interviews”, as I’m affectionately calling it :), that were really good!

  • Messy Beautiful Friendship by Christine Hoover. I have probably recommended this book fifty times. I’m not even kidding when I say that. It is SO good. This book is everything I’ve wanted in regards to navigating female friendships in the church as an adult.

Everything in our culture works against friendship. We move at such a rapid pace and live such over-scheduled lives. Whereas marriage, work, and family are permanent commitments, friendship is a voluntary commitment and is therefore easy to neglect. If we’re going to leave room on our dance cards for friendship, we’re going to have to be firmly committed to it and to going against the grain of our culture. – Christine Hoover

  • Adopted for Life by Russell Moore. While this book is geared towards those who are interested in adopting, I found this to be a great resource for those who are adopted. It was incredibly refreshing in some ways for me. I also think that it is a great resource for those who are looking to adopt. However, even if adoption isn’t on your radar, this is still a good book for those of us in Christ–to remember and understand better our adoption as sons and daughters of God.

An adoption culture in our churches advances the cause of life even beyond the individual lives of the children adopted. – Russell Moore

Finding your birth parents, though, won’t tell you who you are. Who you are has been forged by more than genes, coming also from thousands of dinner table conversations, hallway arguments, church group retreats, quiet moments of prayer, and much more. Above all, you are who you are in Christ. – Russell Moore

  • Struck by Russ Ramsey. I read most of this while I was at summer camp with our student ministry. When they were off swimming during free time, I was reading because this was so good. Ramsey tells his story of “encountering death”, and I have to say that this book reminded me that we all suffer in some way or another–and we all will. It’s how we respond and cling to Christ that changes us in those times.

If my affliction was a severe mercy to awaken in me my need of God, the it is a wise gift from a loving hand. – Russ Ramsey

  • Alive in Him by Gloria Furman. I’d heard a lot about Gloria Furman from my friends with young kids. She’s written a book about motherhood that is apparently a very good one. My pastor gave me this book in the spring, and I decided to read it this summer. I enjoyed Furman’s writing and learning more about the immeasurable love of Christ.

It’s a good thing that eternity will last forever, because it will take us that long to experience all the dimensions of Christ’s love for us. – Gloria Furman

  • Not Yet Married by Marshall Segal. I randomly came across this on Amazon one day, a day or two after it came out. I am really glad I bought it, and while there have been many articles and books on singleness, this is one I wholeheartedly recommend. Segal’s theology is sound as well as his advice and wisdom. Sure, Segal is married, but he gets it, and I really appreciated his consistency in pointing his readers back to Christ.

In Jesus, God is always and only doing good to us. He loves our lasting joy in Him much more than he loves our temporary comfort today. – Marshall Segal

  • Unparalleled by Jared Wilson. I read this book because Jared Wilson was the speaker at summer camp. I wanted to have a general idea of what Wilson would be speaking about, so I read it the week before we left. While I enjoyed reading the book, I almost wished I hadn’t until after camp because Wilson practically preached the book in his messages. Which was totally fine, but I felt, at times, that I knew his point before he made it. Anyway, this book is about why Christianity is unique, which was really intriguing to me. Wilson addresses different topics–the Trinity, human life, sin/conviction–and discusses how no other religion is like Christianity. I definitely recommend this book to anyone who didn’t have the chance to listen to “Evening Jared”, as we call him at church, (the morning speaker at camp was also named Jared) preach.

Biblically speaking, Christianity is not an individualistic faith. Christians have a personal relationship with God, but it is not meant to be a private relationship with God. – Jared Wilson

Well, those are just some of the books I read this summer that I’d definitely recommend if anyone was looking for a new read.

Current Reads:

Wanting to Read (a.k.a. I’ve read the introduction already):

What are you reading these days? Any recommendations?

unplanned

Nothing of the past few years has gone as planned.

I broke my ankle at camp, came home, then turned around and went to AUSTRALIA (the next summer–not with the broken ankle). Um, hello, so unplanned. But then God, in His kindness, let me spend two sweet summers at camp.

I graduated a year later than planned. No harm, because it meant that Kaila and I became BFFs. And let’s be real, y’all, God blessed be greatly through that whole process. And still does.

I moved to a city where I knew NO ONE. Again, not a problem because I love Charlotte, my OBC family, and ALL that God is teaching me here.

I sit at a Panera tonight, totally unplanned, because my internet is out. I brought a ton of work home to do, and then brought it to Panera, to hopefully complete, yet here I am pounding away on this space I’ve neglected for months. I feel as though–no, I know God is teaching me something about my plans because hardly anything has gone the way I’ve planned these past few years or specifically the past few months. Sometimes it’s been big things (i.e. those above) but other times–and honestly the ones that have impacted me the most are the ones like tonight. The middle of the nights where I wake up sick, the dinners I have to cancel because of said bad internet (I’m looking at you, AT&T), the lazy Saturdays that get postponed because of babysitting or dinner offers, the books that don’t get read because of the books that are more appropriate for the time being, the household chores that don’t get done because of phone calls or friends who just need to listen.

The things that I tend to view as not important because they weren’t written down in my planner but the things that God calls so important.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately–this need to be and do all the things yet somehow still connect with our Savior on a real basis and be open to all of the plans He has for my life. I’ll be honest–I don’t think I can and do and be all things to all people. I’m not that egotistical. But I do struggle with doing all of the things I’m called to do, all of the things I’ve planned to do. Especially when they aren’t always the things He’s planned for me to do.

In our student ministry equipping hour (Sunday School for those of you who grew up in the 90s, like myself), we talked about our daily fellowship with Jesus. And, as always, when I’m the one teaching/facilitating/leading small group discussions, I feel as though I get so much more out of it than those who are listening to me do. We ended our time talking about the things that distract us from fellowshipping daily with Jesus. For them it was a mixture of friends, technology, pets, etc. One of our students just said, “life” and I wanted to hug him because YES.

It all distracts me. Finances. Friends. Family. Fellowship. Community Group. Volunteering. Working. Insurance. Writing. Reading. Watching The West Wing. Going/not going to the gym. Traveling. Painting my nails (that’s so dumb but incredibly accurate). Shopping. Spending quality time with the people God has placed in my life. Ironing my clothes. Meal planning (my you pick two from Panera was definitely not scheduled for tonight). Podcasts. Visiting friends. Reading blog posts and articles. Serving at church. Preparing for anything that I feel the need to prepare for.

Everything distracts me.

We all have these grand plans that we go through life making. From the time we can talk, we’re asked what we want to be when we grow up. I’m guilty of cultivating this lifestyle–it’s something I’ve asked my students each year that I’ve taught (and maybe we’ll write about it tomorrow during writing time). We dream and daydream and desire a life that is written by us. A life that has a beginning and a really sweet ending. A life that doesn’t involve hurricanes or terrorist attacks or cancer or miscarriages or even something like singleness. Because, for me, I know that’s what it boils down to.

Singleness is hard. But what is harder for me is accepting that my life may never go the way I’ve planned it to go. Never. 

I’m not going to sit here and write a sad and sappy post about how I might be single forever. I’ve played that pity party card one too many times. I don’t know whether I will or won’t be single forever. But what I do know is that I won’t. 

Those two words–really the words, you won’t, have been going through my mind for the past 48ish hours. I was praying on Saturday, trying to get to this place where I blocked all of those ridiculous distractions out of my brain and just listened to God, but of course I only had about seventeen minutes to do so. But, God, in His infinite wisdom, used those words to teach me something. Something that just started to make sense as I sat here and typed.

You won’t live a life you’ve planned. You won’t know what’s next. You won’t do everything on your to-do list, in your time. You won’t. 

But He will.

I know it can be a bit of a cliche, especially in the Christian circles, but remembering that it is all in His hands is such a sweet comfort. It’s a promise that I forget so often, but I want to remember more and more, to mediate on each day. He is sovereign. He’s got me.

Even if–no, when this life doesn’t go the way I’ve planned.

So, there’s that. There’s where I’ve been the past two/three months, trying to learn exactly what God’s teaching me all through fighting distractions and living a life that is so unplanned.

But oh so sweet.

If you made it this far, thanks for reading, friend. Sorry for the rambling, but these thoughts just needed to get out. 
How firm a foundation, you saints of the Lord
Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word
What more can He say than to you He has said
To you who for refuge to Jesus have fled
Fear not, I am with you; oh be not dismayed
For I am your God and will still give you aid
I’ll strengthen you, help you, and cause you to stand
Upheld by My righteous, omnipotent hand
When through the deep waters I call you to go
The rivers of sorrow shall not overflow
For I will be with you, your troubles to bless
And sanctify to you your deepest distress
When through fiery trials your pathways shall lie
My grace all sufficient shall be your supply
The flame shall not hurt you; I only design
Your dross to consume and your gold to refine
The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose
I will not, I will not desert to its foes
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake
How Firm a Foundation, Norton Hall Band arrangement

Year Two. 

I have officially been in Charlotte for two years. 

Wow.

Some days it feels like I just left home and other days it feels like I have been here for years and years. I am so thankful for the 23 years I spent not in Charlotte, but I am also so incredibly grateful for the 2 (and however many more the Lord sees fit to give me here) years in Charlotte. 

What has happened in year 2, you ask? Well…

  • I checked off a few things on my CLT bucket list like: going to the Billy Graham Library (7.16), going to the Mint Museum (3.17), and going to a Knights game (5.17). 
  • I started (8.16) and completed (6.17) my second year of teaching Kindergarten. 
  • My women’s small group met in my house for most of my second year in Charlotte. We decided to end it (for good reasons) in April. I’m grateful for the relationships that were formed from that time. 
  • I taught Sunday School (10.16-5.17) to the 1st-3rd graders at church with my sweet friend, Michelle. 
  • I had visitors–Elizabeth (7.16), Kasey (8.16), Emma Kate (10.16), and Kaila and Scout (2.17), as well as my parents a few times. 
  • I took a Skill Pop class on hand lettering (4.17).
  • I suffered through the death of my grandmother with sweet friends who prayed me through three hard weeks. 
  • I started volunteering at the hospital (5.17). 
  • I said yes an incredible amount of times but also started to say no more often, which is a good thing, honestly. 
  • I finally visited downtown Davidson (8.16 & 10.16)!
  • I fell in love with Park Road Shopping Center– Blackhawk Hardware, anyone?!
  • I read more books than I could count. 
  • I started to branch out in ways I’d never planned on or dreamed of doing. 
  • I went to Boone (11.16) with a bunch of girls from church. 
  • I hosted an Olympics party (8.16) which made me (for the first time) really feel like I had true community in CLT. 
  • My roommate, Rachel, moved in (8.16), and we had people over for game nights, a Christmas party, meals, and more. 
  • My friend Jordan and I threw a bridal shower for Rachel and Jordan’s roommate, Lauren (6.17). 
  • I planned lots of birthday dinners, attended more than I planned, and was blessed to have a sweet one thrown for me. 
  • I dined at plenty of new restaurants–all probably introduced to me by my sweet friend Aubrey. 
  • I spent lots of time at my friends David’s and Kelly’s house–where I now have a signature dessert I MUST bring each time I come (according to their kids). 
  • I decided that Trader Joe’s has the best flowers, Harris Teeter is still my least favorite grocery store, and made it blatantly obvious that I love Publix maybe a smidge too much. 
  • I ate many dinners prepared for me by someone else because there are so many sweet families at OBC who include me in their lives. 
  • I walked through some weird health things with a sweet community group who has faithfully prayed for me and supported me over the last tear. 
  • I sat (and thankfully still sit) under some incredible Biblical teaching at OBC. 
  • I watched Friday Night Lights and The Office for the first time. #TexasForever #MichaelScott
  • I answered the question, “If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?” with a resounding and confident, “Charlotte!” 

Summer Bucket List

Well, I had all intentions of writing this list in May. But, life.

One of these days I’m going to stop using that excuse.

Anywho, here is my summer bucket list for 2017!

  • Read 25 books. I’m pretty positive it’s a well-known fact that I like to read. I’m not so sure if it’s as known that I have two large stacks of “to-read” books on my dresser. I’m trying to read through a lot of them so that I can get to the others on my Amazon wish list. And so that the top of my dresser can go back to being, well, the top of my dresser.
  • Go to Beaufort. I have two trips planned to Beaufort, SC/the beach near there this summer with friends–one with friends from CLT and one with friends from college. I’m super excited about both of these trips!
  • Work out routinely. I’m going to have much more of a solid routine/schedule this summer, and I hope to take advantage of that. That being said, I’d like to work out more during the free time I have and come up with a better schedule of doing so.
  • Do Whole 30. I cannot believe I even just wrote those words. I really am confused at myself, but I think this might be a good idea. And it might be a good idea to put to use the Whole 30 Cookbook I just bought from Amazon. (Insert all of the emojis here that would seem even semi-appropriate.) I will, state for posterity’s sake, that I fully plan on cheating when I go to the beach in July.
  • Visit some friends. My friend Hannah just had twins, and I’d like to see them while they are still babies. I also want to see a couple of friends in Augusta. If time permits, I’d like to head to maybe Greenville and Atlanta.
  • Write more. I’m currently working on an article for a website, and I’d like to find/make more opportunities like that one. I also DID NOT take advantage of this time last year to write, so I would like to try again.
  • Invest in friendships, here. I have been blessed with some really sweet friendships over the years. Some of my dearest and closest friends came to me in my college years, and unfortunately, none of them live in Charlotte. I have also been blessed with sweet friends in Charlotte. I want to spend this summer truly investing in those friends and using what I learn from Christine Hoover’s Messy, Beautiful Friendship to heart. (Also, major book plug there–everyone should read this one.)
  • Go to SUMMER CAMP! I’m so excited about this. I’m chaperoning our youth group’s summer camp at the end of the summer. I love all things camp, all things Black Mountain, and all things youth group related. I can’t wait!

This is going to be a MUCH more laid back summer than last year, but I am SO glad that I’m going to be in Charlotte for most of it. I’m excited to see what God does in/at Oakhurst, and I am excited that this will be a summer of growth for me in different ways. Only FIVE MORE DAYS!