Summer!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Few Recommendations:

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

Currently Reading: 

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Year 26.

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

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

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

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

Year 26 is hard.

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

I sobbed the whole night.

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

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

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

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

 

 

Two JCrew Dresses

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

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

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

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

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

And then this.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

When He Uses Sickness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

London, Days 1-3

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

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First picture in London!

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

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Kensington Palace

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

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Kensington Palace

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

 

 

 

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.