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

2016bestnine: fiction edition

I can read a fiction book in half a second it feels like. I fly through those a lot faster than I do any kind of non-fiction book. That being said, I really like it when I can find a book that keeps me guessing from beginning to end. Lots of times, I can figure out the ending pretty soon, but if I can’t then it becomes a book I keep on my shelf for a while. The books on this post are exactly that.

  1. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. I’m a sucker for any kind of fiction taking place during World War II. The description of this book had me in, and just a few chapters in, I knew this was going to be one of the best books I’d ever read. Hannah tells the story of two sisters in France during the course of WWII. One sister lives in the countryside and the other lives in Paris and fights with the resistance. Descriptive, raw, and beautiful. Not a light read by any means, but definitely one worth your while.
  2. The Christiansen Family Series by Susan May Warren. Susan May Warren has recently become one of my favorite Christian fiction authors. Usually, I can tell what’s going to happen. And lots of times, I know the guy and girl will get together in Warren’s books. However, she writes with humor, a little bit of sarcasm every now and then, and just enough suspense to keep you wondering. This series is by far my favorite, because I’m a sucker for a big family in a small town. Light and easy, yet good, reads.
  3. The Summer Harbor Series by Denise Hunter. Hunter is another favorite author of mine. This series is about three brothers who live in the quaint fictional town of Summer Harbor, Maine. There is some suspense, a lost memory, and more all in a small town in New England. Sign me up!
  4. The Wedding Shop by Rachel Hauck. Another favorite. I’ve been a fan of Hauck ever since I read her series, The Songbird Series, with Sara Evans. Again, I can never quite tell how the story is going to end, and this story was no different. Set in the fictional town of Heart’s Bend, Tennessee, a woman reopens her great aunt’s wedding shop with the help of her good friend who is a general contractor. Her great aunt’s story is also told, and let me just say, you will NEVER guess the ending. SO good.
  5. Anne of Green Gables Collection by Lucy Maud Montgomery. I haven’t finished this whole collection yet (I’m currently reading book 7), but I would still recommend this series. I’ve watched the movies so many times that I thought nothing could be better. I will say, after the first book, the movies/books start to differ. But, in true Montgomery fashion, the books are very good, somewhat witty, and classics I think everyone should read.
  6. The Blue Castle by Lucy Maud Montgomery. Another classic by Montgomery. The Blue Castle is a story of a spinster who lives with her domineering mother and aunt. She gets a diagnosis from the doctor that she is fatally ill, and she leaves home, retreating to a quaint little island where she falls in love. But, of course, there’s a plot twist in the end which makes it so good!
  7. A Portrait of Emily Price by Katherine Reay. Reay does it again! She writes in a phenomenal way, like always, but this is probably my favorite of all of her books. An art restorer–and wanna-be artist–travels to Atlanta for work and meets a chef visiting from Italy. They have a whirlwind romance, get married, and move back to Italy to care for his dying father. Once some secrets are revealed, she questions everything and wonders if she really belongs in Italy. So good!
  8. Sandy Toes by Robin Jones Gunn. I have to put this on here because of so many reasons. I read all of the Christy Miller Series by Gunn in middle school, and then as she’s written more and more over the more recent years, I’ve read those too. Sometimes I think series should end, as much as I want them to continue. And I may have even thought that about this one over some time as well. But, this was so good. So sweet. I know a little part of my heart will always be tender towards this series, but I still think this was a good book!
  9. Walker Family Series by Melissa Tagg. I think that Tagg is one of few up and coming writers that actually writes. I’m never one-hundred percent sure what’s going to happen, and she makes each of her stories interesting and entertaining, whether they are full-length novels or short novellas. This series is about a family in small town Iowa–again, big family + small town = win for me. Really good, though.

2016bestnine: non-fiction edition

I’m sure you’ve probably seen the hashtag #2016bestnine on Instagram. It’s a site/app where you can go and you get a cute collage of your #2016bestnine pictures from Instagram. This has been going on for the last couple of years, and I never manage to actually like all of the pictures in the collage, but I do like the idea. SO, I came up with my own #2016bestnine: 1) non-fiction books, 2) fiction books, 3) places I visited, 4) music, 5) fun faves, 6) experiences/moments, 7) CLT faves, 8) TV shows/movies/YouTube videos, and 9) pictures. So, without further ado, and in no particular order, my 2016bestnine: non-fiction edition:

  1. I Was Blind {Dating}, But Now I See by Stephanie Rische. Rische chronicles her eight awkward blind dates/setups before she meets her husband. In between each of the stories of the dates, she tells what God taught her through that season. SO good. I would definitely recommend this to any woman, single or not.
  2. This is Awkward by Sammy Rhodes. Incredible. Raw. Vulnerable. Rhodes discusses the awkward subjects in life–topics that are rarely discussed–with a refreshing vulnerability and openness. I ugly cried, and I gave this to Kasey, who told me she also ugly cried through it. A good ugly cry, though, and lots of laughs, because Rhodes’ self-deprecating humor is some of the best.
  3. Wild in the Hollow by Amber C. Haines. I became the biggest fan of Amber Haines, and her husband, Seth Haines, this year. Like Sammy Rhodes, they both write with an openness that is just incredibly refreshing. Amber’s book is about her story, and I would recommend reading it before reading her husband’s book. It provides background information that isn’t necessary, but useful to know before reading his. Anyway, this memoir is honest, real, Southern, and one of the best I’ve read in a while.
  4. Coming Clean by Seth Haines. Like I said above, Seth Haines and his wife, Amber, write with a refreshing sense of honesty and vulnerability. Seth’s book is different than Amber’s–he tells his story of becoming sober, journaling for the first 90 days. Whether or not you’ve ever struggled with alcoholism or any other addiction, this book is relatable to everyone who has any kind of struggle (which is, um, everyone in the world).
  5. Just Do Something by Kevin DeYoung. I’ve read a couple of DeYoung’s books, and I think this one has to be my favorite. He writes so directly and bluntly, but with a sense of compassion and understanding that is hard to come by these days. His book is about understanding God’s will and living like Christ. It’s small and short, perfect for the non-readers out there.
  6. Through Gates of Splendor by Elisabeth Elliot. Oh, man. I’ve always been intrigued by the story of Jim Elliot, Nate Saint, and the other missionaries who were killed by the Auca Indians in Ecuador in 1956. However, I’ve always read about it from Nate Saint’s point of view/his son’s point of view (the movie End of the Spear is from his son’s POV). Anyway, Elliot is open and honest about what happens to her and her friends as their husbands are killed. It’s incredible. I was also so energized and encouraged to go share the Gospel more. What a privilege those men counted it to lose their life for Christ!
  7. None Like Him by Jen Wilkin. Wilkin is one of the best up and coming female biblical teachers/writers of this day. She is honest. She doesn’t sugarcoat her words with fluff or pretty words. She points you back to Christ time and time again. In her second book, she describes 10 ways why God is different than us and why that’s a good thing. A short read, but a compelling one. Included are discussion questions which make it great for a small group (like mine is currently doing!).
  8. Side by Side by Edward T. Welch. Welch is another no nonsense kind of writer. His book about community is a short read, but it is definitely one I recommend for anyone wanting to get more involved with their local community. He reminds us of ways to love others well like Christ has called us to do. Very encouraging!
  9. Seasons of Waiting by Betsy Childs Howard. Howard’s book is short and to the point. Like Wilkin, she doesn’t beat around the bush. Her book is divided into major things we wait for: a spouse, children, healing, a home. She offers a bigger perspective on how to wait well and how to trust in God while we wait. We’re all waiting for something or someone, so I think anyone in any stage of life would be encouraged by this book.

Honorable Mentions: