2017 Favorites

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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Rich in Friendships

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amen.

26 in Year 26.

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

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

Reminders of Grace

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

I digress. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lavender candles are my new favorite.

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

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

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

What things are you enjoying this week?

The Grass is Always Greener

During the summer, I made a trip home to see some friends before heading to the beach with friends from Charlotte for the weekend. On my way home, I stopped to see a friend and her children. I’m not going to be too specific as to give away the identity of a friend who doesn’t know a blog post is being written about her, but let’s just go ahead and state for the record that there was a newborn involved, which was the main reason for my stopping on the way home.

I hadn’t seen this particular friend in quite a while, so there was a lot of catching up to do. We talked about her life as a wife and a mom, her husband’s job, the house they’d bought in the suburbs, and how she was going to continue resisting buying a minivan for as long as possible. Then she asked me about my life, and for the first time in a while, I didn’t want to answer.

What did I have that would measure up to what she was doing? She was (and still is) investing in the future generation right there in her home. She prepares meals for her husband and washes clothes for her kids. She makes sure they are learning to share, to be kind, and all that they can about Jesus. She is what I’m sure plenty of us have in our mind when we imagine the “Proverbs 31 Woman”.

This is a friend who has been a friend for years and years, and to be honest, it was hard thinking that I couldn’t share with her what was going on in my life. And it wasn’t her–it was all me. I know that she never would’ve looked down on me for my singleness. Just the opposite, in fact, happened when I did start to share about my life.

I told her about trips I’d taken–my road trip up the East Coast last summer with Kaila, a trip to DC in 2016 with church friends, and at the time, my most recent big trip was our trip to New York over New Year’s. I went to NYC with people she also knows, so I caught her up on our friends’ lives. I mentioned how one friend of ours had moved to New England, and when I said we visited his place before going down to NYC, she kind of got this whimsical look on her face and smiled before saying, “Man, I wish I could do all of that.”

My brain sort of stopped for a minute. What in the world? SHE wants to go and do all of these things I’ve gone and done? When she has this super sweet life right in front of her? She wants to do these same things I’ve done?

I was floored, honestly. Did she not know what a sweet blessing she had right in front of her? Did she not know how many people want exactly what she has?

She does. And she did. And not because I went off on her about it, because that’s not the kind of thing that would’ve been helpful in the moment, especially considering her lack of sleep at the time.

We’re in two totally different places in our lives–hers involve wiping snotty noses, changing diapers, and losing lots of sleep. While mine also involves all of those things (thankfully the diapers are only in the church nursery or when babysitting), none of them are done for my children. My life involves many more road trips and spur of the moment decisions than hers does, but it doesn’t mean that her much more scheduled life is any better than mine.

It’s just different.

And while I still desire to be married and have kids, I’m learning to embrace the different. To be content in the different. And to not think that the grass really is greener on the other side.

Because apparently it’s not.

 

Titles Aren’t My Favorite

I’m so bad at coming up with titles for posts that are really “specific”. I’ve used versions of “lately” and “as of late” so many times that I can’t do it again. So, here’s a post with a horrible title. Consider this my version of a facebook picture where the poster writes, “caption this”.

Anyway. Here’s a post recapping the last few months.

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I spent the last few days of summer with these two cuties. Baker and I decided to smile and laugh instead of crying about our sweet friend Rynn moving to Montana, which she and her sweet parents did soon after this picture was taken. 

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I chaperoned our student ministry’s summer camp, and this was the view we got to see each day! Carrie, my pastor’s wife, came up for part of the time, and she brought me my favorite drink multiple times 🙂 (If you’re ever in Black Mountain, you really should get the Killer Bee from the Dripolator. Really.)

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This was our group, including my pastor and his family. It was such a privilege to be able to chaperone these students and take them to camp in a place that means so much to me. Those Blue Ridge Mountains have always held a special place in my heart, and I love how God can be so kind to us in ways we can’t even begin to expect.

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I started teaching First Grade at a different school this year, and everything about my new job has been wonderful! Praising God for His faithfulness!

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Emma Kate came in town, and it was a really fun weekend. Even more fun than our normal low-key, visit to JCrew weekend because we managed to book a trip to EUROPE for my spring break! We’re also planning to bring backpacks as our luggage. I’m not even sure who we are anymore 🙂

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We headed to D.C. for Labor Day Weekend, and while it was rainy all day Saturday, we had a really good time! We spent most of that day at the Holocaust Museum and the Portrait Gallery (my favorite), as well as eating good food and catching up with friends!

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On Sunday, we went to CHBC for church, ate lunch at Union Market, then headed over to Georgetown to shop/explore. Georgetown is for sure my favorite part of D.C., and it was really fun to get to explore it with these sweet friends!

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I headed to Augusta this past weekend and watched these two play some awesome soccer. I’m also not sure who these two boys are, because they’re clearly as grown as can be, but they called me Ash Ash all day, so I guess they’re Jack and Joe 😉

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When I was home, Kaila also happened to be home, so we hung out with Evan and explored our old stomping grounds. It was fun to hang out with some of my favorite college friends!

So, that’s the past couple of months. Here are some other things I’ve been enjoying the past few months that you should check out: