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?

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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:

 

 

 

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!” 

2017 goals

Okay, I know, I know. We’re already about 1/12th of the way into the year, and I’m just now getting to this post. BUT, if you’d had the last 2-3 weeks I’ve had, you’d understand.

I told my friend Kelly at church on Wednesday that “I have no plans! No plans. I might see my parents. I might go home. I might not. No plans! For the rest of the year. No weddings. No showers. Nothing!” [Mom and Dad, I will see you.] Literally, the only thing on my calendar for the next six weeks (besides normal church activities) is to babysit one Friday night. That’s it! 

It’s bliss. 

After a really busy year, I’m honestly super pumped to head into 2017 not having tons of plans. It’s quite refreshing. And it gives me a chance to do all of the things I’ve been wanting to do in Charlotte that I never have before/didn’t get to last year. So, without much more rambling, here are my 2017 goals (because the planner in me can’t have zero plans). 

  • Go to the gym 3-4 times per week. If you’ve ever had the privilege of meeting my dad, you’ve had the privilege of meeting one of the most disciplined people in the world. I have so much respect for him in many regards, but especially that one. You know what I’m disciplined in? Reading a book in a day. Going to Gap when they have a sale. Eating a lemon about once a week. NOT going to the gym. I’m not good at it. I don’t like it, but I want to. So, here’s to hoping that happens in 2017. 
  • Go to the Mint Museum. A goal from last summer that never happened. So, let’s make it happen this year!
  • Write more. I honestly don’t think I have the emotional space to really do this, but I want to try harder to cultivate some time and space to do this. Another area where I need to be more disciplined. 
  • Budget well. Now I sound like a full-grown adult, eh? Well, it’s about time that I really try and manage this better, so here’s to hoping in happens in 2017. 
  • Make strawberry jam. Another one from the 2016 summer goals list (actually, this is at least from 2013 or 2014) that never happened. 
  • Read all of the Little House on the Prairie books. I have a whole lot of classics I’ve never read but have always wanted to. 2016 was the Anne of Green Gables year, so I’m claiming 2017 to be the year Laura Ingalls Wilder blows me away! 
  • Deep clean my condo. Something that just really needs to be done. And well. 
  • Go somewhere new. Where? With whom? Who knows? (This is super vague so that it can actually get done!)
  • Visit my people. I sure do love my CLT community, but I also really love my friends of yore. (Remember that Friends episode where Rachel only knows two time periods? Yesteryear and yore? I digress.) Anyway, I do love them all, and at some point in 2017, I’d like to visit them all. They would be: Kaila + Patrick, Kasey + Aaron + other Greenville people, my cousins, Chelsea, and Casie, Graham, Jack, and Joe. 
  • Grow in CLT relationships. I sure do love my church body. My friends here are incredible. I pray this year will only strengthen those relationships! 

2016bestnine: fun faves edition

This is just going to be a conglomeration of random fun things I found this year that became some of my new favorites!

  1. Strawberry Gatorade has become my new favorite drink. I randomly got this when on a road trip and I stopped at a gas station. Since then, I find myself searching for it whenever I go to grocery stores that have it. SO good!
  2. Women’s Birkenstocks–okay, I know I know. BUT, these are cute. And trendy! So fun. I really like these. Even if they may not be as cute as other sandals. But, I think they are. And they’re comfortable.
  3. Selfie Stick–my poor friends. They’re probably so sick of this thing. I bring it out all the time. But it’s so fun! Who doesn’t love a good selfie? I do!
  4. This pencil sharpener has changed my pencil sharpening at work. Totally nerdy, I know, but if you need a pencil sharpener that gets the job done, this is the one you should buy.
  5. Old Navy Knit Swing Dress–this dress has changed the game for dressing for work. Almost every Monday, when I just want to crawl back in bed, I throw one of these on (I will not admit how many of these I have) with some leggings and it makes going to work after the weekend much better. So comfortable!
  6. My Otterbox for my phone. This case is different. It has a very convenient little compartment on the back that slides open so you can put your license and a credit card or two in it. So useful when going to the gym or just running to the store. And it comes in pink!
  7. Organic Fruit Ropes by Clif Bars. These are basically organic Fruit Rollups. They are so good. I could eat one every single day if I had them. I want one now just writing about them.
  8. Lipless–the game. My mom had me order this back in October for our Christmas Eve game night. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to play it on Christmas Eve, but we did play it on Thanksgiving. It is SO much fun to play. Prepare yourself to cry from laughing so much!
  9. Bean Boots–I got my first pair of Bean Boots this fall, and I like them so much! They are comfortable, warm, and worth the cost. Plus, L.L. Bean has incredible customer service! I am always one to pay more for good customer service!

if we were on a coffee date…

Heartnatured

My best friend (in real life, not just the blog world) has been doing this fun link up called “If We Were On A Coffee Date” for the past month or so on her blog. I always tell myself to get serious about writing a post one day and link up with hers, but LIFE.

Let me just admit it once and for all: I wish I could blog more than I do, but my life is crazy busy, and I can’t, and that’s okay.

Moving on.

If we were on a coffee date…

I hope we would be at the Caribou Coffee right by my house. Fun fact? I’m going there this afternoon to meet a friend. When she suggested different places, I immediately said, “Caribou!”. It looks like a normal coffee shop from the outside–just tucked in a strip mall in between a doctor’s office and a wine shop. But, you step in and all of a sudden, it’s like you’re at a ski lodge. It has the coziest feel, with a fireplace, oversized chairs, and perfect lighting. It’s my favorite.

I might tell you how I’m considering signing up for Shipt. It’s a service where you order your groceries and they are delivered to your house. I’ve seen the shoppers at Publix, and I’ve thought, “Huh. That might be cool.” They offer a two-week free trial, so why not?

I would definitely tell you about my newest favorite book. Two of my favorite authors and bloggers, Melanie Shankle and Sophie Hudson, both highly recommended this book, I Was Blind {Dating}, But Now I See, so I knew I had to snatch it up. It’s about a woman who goes on a series of eight blind dates, none of which lead to her husband. However, she learns so much about the Lord and her relationship with Him, and those lessons are what she shares. It was perfect for this season of my life, and I also highly recommend it to anyone–single or not.

I would also tell you about what I’ve been playing in the car, in the shower, at night, etc: Sovereign Grace Music’s 30: Three Decades of Songs for the Church. We sing a lot of Sovereign Grace Music’s songs at church, but I couldn’t find the one album I wanted until recently. This has most of my favorites on it, along with some new ones I hadn’t heard before. Definitely worth the $9.99 on iTunes.

Finally, I would rave about my local Gap. It’s no lie that I am a Gap girl through and through (and an Old Navy one when the budget doesn’t allow for Gap). I have started to shop a little more often now that I have a consistent paycheck (not that I should, but…), and I’ve started to get to know the employees of my Gap. They are awesome. I’m a person who will pay more for customer service any day of the week (the main reason I drive thirty minutes to shop at Publix when there’s a Harris Teeter less than five minutes up the road). The employees of my Gap make shopping there so much more fun!

Alrighty, there’s my first virtual coffee date. This was fun, Chels! 🙂