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?

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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!

feb

And, it’s the end of February, just like that. It’s been a busy month, and I haven’t gone anywhere! Well, other than to a few new places in and around Charlotte. I’m not gonna lie, it’s real nice not traveling at all during the month. March will be the same way, which makes me so excited! Not that I don’t want to see out of town friends and family, but it just makes me feel so grateful to be committed to this city.

Anyway, this will be a quick post because I have to go to bed soon (#RealLife). So, here’s what I was up to in February:

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This actually took place during the end of January, but it was too good not to share. I got my vest stuck in a door at work, and when one of our staff came to unlock the door for me, he took a picture first. #StoryOfMyLife

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My pastor and his wife (who took the picture) invited me over to celebrate Valentine’s Day with them. They do a big dinner each year, and I’m thankful that they included me. I so love this family, how they bring me into their lives, and how they show me Christ’s love in many different ways.

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Kaila and Scout came to visit one weekend. Kaila and I didn’t manage to grab a picture (dumb), but at least I got one with this cutie. We didn’t do much–mainly shopping and eating good food–but it sure did make me miss living in the same city as my BFF.

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Last weekend, we checked out the Piedmont Social House in the Steele Creek area of Charlotte. Super fun. Seriously. We can’t wait to go back in the summer! So, so, so grateful for these friends!

February Reads: 

Rescue Me by Susan May Warren

Always a Bridesmaid (for Hire) by Jen Glantz

Finding God in My Loneliness  by Lydia Brownback

Fulfilled by Joey Lankford

we’ll live while we’re young

lyrics from Johnnyswim’s song, Live While We’re Young

Can I just say HOW in the WORLD is January practically over? I mean, honestly, these last few weeks have simultaneously flown by and dragged on. But, I still really feel like just yesterday we were celebrating NYE in NYC.

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would really give a lot to be back on vacay

Anyway, this has been a pretty busy January, and it’s been a FULL one. I’ve enjoyed time spent with best friends and time spent with new friends, early mornings at work and delays due to ice/snow, 72-degree days and 16-degree days, meals at Charlotte favorites and meals at new Charlotte favorites, and so much more.

The Friday after my birthday, a group of some of the best women I know came out to my favorite Charlotte restaurant, Paco’s Tacos, to celebrate my birthday. It was the night it was forecasted to snow, so not as many people could come as originally planned. But, it was still so much fun! I’m so thankful for these sweet women, how they invest in me, and how they push me closer and closer to Christ.

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seriously love these ladies (plus others not pictured) so much

It snowed the next day, and while there wasn’t that much where I live in Charlotte, it was pretty. I did enjoy just curling up for most of the day, lying in my bed reading. The next day was by far the coldest day we’ve had here this year, but it was also one of the prettiest. I happened to be on the third floor at church that afternoon, and it was too pretty to not take a picture!

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Beautiful OBC!

The next weekend was MLK weekend, and my friends from college and I had a weekend planned to the LITERAL middle of nowhere, North Carolina. It was absolutely wonderful, but we were in the woods, no doubt. I don’t think any of us had planned that we would be so far from civilization (okay, real life, we had people not that far from us), but it was honestly just what this tired kindergarten teacher needed.

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Two of our other friends ended up not being able to come, but it really was a good weekend with the four of us (plus Scout). 

We spent the time sleeping in, making big breakfasts and excellent dinners, riding around the mountains, watching movies, playing games, and just catching up. It was really a sweet time of laughing with my bestie at the antics of the guys. Just knowing I could roll out of bed in my pajamas and not be judged is so nice. I mean that literally and figuratively. These are the friends of no judgment, and that is really such a sweet gift in friendship. Oh, and we watched Scout a lot of the time. I mean, how cute is she?

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Here she is thinking, “Aunt Ashton is my favorite.”

On my way there, I stopped in my beloved Black Mountain and got a treat from my favorite, The Dripolator (a place you should go to if you’re ever in Black Mountain). I got a little teary-eyed when I passed the camp exit (you can see some of camp from I-40 in the winter). I’m so thankful for where I am now, but I do really miss the sweet community that was formed in those summers.

BUT, NO FEAR, dear blog readers (a.k.a Mom, Dad, and Kaila), I got to see my sweet camp-turned-real-life friend, Kasey, on my way home. We met in Spartanburg (which I used to think had nothing until I traveled to Graham County, North Carolina) at The Farmer’s Table (another recommendation if you ever find yourself in Spartanburg). We talked about life and plans and dreams and goals. We laughed like we always do, and I’m so thankful for camp and friendships born from there.

I’ve been getting back in the groove, slowly but surely, and I’m really, really, really thankful for a few months that seem slow/unplanned. Last year will definitely go down as one of the best albeit busy, but there’s got to be something said of restful years, which is what this one, Lord willing, will be. While enjoying a slower pace of life these days, I’ve been able to check out some music I’ve wanted to and watch a few movies that have been on my list for a while. I’m not reading as much, but I have at least one recommendation so far. Hope you’re enjoying your spring-like January (for the record, we don’t have the heat on as I write this #cheap #broke #hotwinter).

January Media Recommendations:

  • 13 Hours: WOW. Incredible. Despite your political views and how they affect this story, this movie is incredible. Definitely one of my favorite “based on a real story” movies.
  • Johnnyswim – Diamonds: WHERE HAVE THEY BEEN ALL MY LIFE? Seriously. So good. I’m a little mad at myself for not listening to them earlier.
  • Finding Dory: We watched this when we were in Robbinsville, because, well, there wasn’t much else to do. And we wanted to see it. It was really good! Better than I expected, honestly.
  • “Find You Here” by Ellie Holcomb: Man, her songs always wreck me. Her new album, “Red Sea Road”, comes out next week, but until then, listen to this single. I have listened to it approximately 100 times in the 2.5 days I’ve owned it (okay, that’s an exaggeration, but still, it’s SO good).
  • How I Built This : NPR: I heard about this podcast from another podcast, and I listened to a couple of the episodes on my way back from Robbinsville. It’s a podcast about entrepreneurs, innovators, etc. The one with the Airbnb founder is really interesting, and I have added this to my go-to list for road trips.
  • New Morning Mercies by Paul David Tripp: My friend Kelly gave me this for my birthday, and WOW. I’ve had it six days, and I like it so much. It’s convicting, points you back to Christ, and is perfect for those mornings where I don’t have a lot of time. I feel like I’ve been wanting something like this for a while, and I’m thankful for it!

2016 recap

Here are my top moments of 2016 in chronological order (since I obviously love a good recap post, why not?):

January: Turning 24; starting to host my girls’ small group at my house; weathering the winter storm with Mom in CLT; taking pottery

February: Celebrating Mme’s life in Aiken; starting young girls’ events at OBC with sweet friends (I was off social media for this month and can legitimately not remember what happened then.)

March: Becoming a member at OBC; having Kaila up for the weekend; celebrating Dad’s birthday; visiting Kasey, Aaron, and Abby in Greenville; taking Jack and Joe out for an afternoon for their birthday; my friend Maddie moving in; working the Drew Holcomb merch table with my friend Michelle

April: EK coming up for the night/our painting session with Evelyn Henson; Kaila’s bridal shower in Appling; seeing The Oh Hellos with Aaron and Kasey at the USNWC

May: Road trip to DC with Aubrey, Katie, and Maddie; Mom coming up for Mother’s Day; being on the Giddy Up, Eunice book team; Kaila’s bachelorette weekend (this month felt so busy, but I literally have no idea why)

June: Finishing my FIRST YEAR OF TEACHING; #SurpriseBestFriendTrip; surprising Dad for Father’s Day; SLEEPING IN

July: Fourth of July weekend in Atlanta; Kaila and Patrick’s wedding; spending two weeks in Augusta/Atlanta/Hilton Head; Elizabeth’s visit to CLT; SLEEPING IN SOME MORE

August: Olympics party at my condo; my friend Rachel moving in; starting my second year of teaching; Kasey’s visit to CLT

September: Visit home for Casie’s birthday/to hang out with the boys; visiting EK in Greenville; camp reunion at Look Up Lodge

October: Starting to teach Sunday School at OBC; EK’s visit to CLT; lots of time spent with family; Anthony and Kristen’s wedding

November: OBC’s The Table for women; OBC girls trip to Boone; Thanksgiving with Jordan/Sofia and kiddos in Augusta; time spent with college friend in Augusta

December: Christmas pajama party at my condo; Christmas at Oakhurst; CHRISTMAS BREAK; gingerbread house making with the boys/time spent with them plus Casie; Christmas with the fam; NYC trip