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!” 
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Old Insecurities

Whenever I come home, whether for a holiday or for a wedding or for whatever reason, old insecurities creep back in. I’m home right now, and I’ll be honest–those same struggles that I feel like I have somewhat of a hold on when I’m in Charlotte have managed to find their place back in my heart. These only seem to come about when I’m alone, when I’m not with my parents or friends. And, well, today, because of a few plans changing, I’m pretty much alone all day.

And Satan is trying to take advantage of that.

I decided to run an errand this morning, and when I pulled into the parking lot of Publix (I know, I know), I felt that old feeling in my gut that I used to feel when I lived here. Who would I run into? Because, I’ll more than likely run into someone I know. What will the conversation be like?

No, I don’t live here anymore. 

No, I’m not seeing anyone. 

Yes, I love Charlotte. No, I don’t plan on moving back home anytime soon. 

I know, I know. Augusta’s great. But, I had to move. 

I love Augusta. It’s where I grew up, where I went to college, and where some of my dear loved ones still live. I enjoy catching up with friends, eating at some of my favorite restaurants, and not at all feeling overwhelmed when I drive downtown (sorry, uptown Charlotte, you just really overwhelm me). Someone I was speaking with this week sort of dissed Augusta, and even though I chose to move from here, it rubbed me the wrong way.

This place is home. But so is Charlotte.

I wander around the grocery store, waiting for someone to pop out from an aisle. Someone who will remind me of a failed relationship or of a hard time in my life. Someone who will bring up old memories, old pain, old insecurities.

I’m not saying that there won’t be and that there haven’t been hard times during my life in Charlotte. Moving to Charlotte didn’t solve all of my problems or insecurities. I still struggle with some of the same things I struggled with in Augusta. I’d like to say though that how I respond to those insecurities has changed.

Disclaimer: not always. I’m still learning, still being sanctified. But I’d like to think that most of the time it has changed.

Instead of wondering who will walk around those corners (for the record, the only person I saw at Publix was my parents’ sweet neighbor who works there) or if I’m good enough or worth it, I started to name the people God has provided for me in Charlotte and the things He’s taught me while living there.

I just finished Messy Beautiful Friendship (if you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know I’m slightly obsessed with this book) by Christine Hoover. One of the things she talks about is how, at times, women can get super emotional and forget the friends they do have (she explains this much more eloquently than me). I know that I’m prone to do this, and I like what Hoover says she does: she names. Out loud or on paper, she names the friends she has.

So today, after I left Publix, I came home and named. In my journal, I wrote a list of the people God has provided for me in Charlotte (and I’ve been thinking of more and more all day who I didn’t add to the list–I’d forgotten some of them!) I wrote down the lessons the Lord has taught me and what He’s teaching me. I thanked the Lord for what He’s doing, who He’s provided, and reminded myself yet again that He is faithful.

I’m so faithless and so forgetful. It’s easy for me to let fear of man and the insecurities I’ve had for years creep back in. We are all “prone to wander” and “prone to leave the God [we] love”. I’m choosing thankfulness and naming to remind me of God’s faithfulness and provision.

Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.

Ebenezers.

I can still smell the mountain air. I can still feel the chill through my bones. I can still remember the view from the dining hall. If I had the opportunity, I could go back to that very spot and remember exactly what happened that fall morning. For me, that spot on the corner of the dining hall porch at camp is a sacred place. 

It’s one of my Ebenezers.

During the fall of my senior year of college, I sat at a picnic table at that corner of the dining hall porch and prayed my little heart out. I begged God to give me some direction, some wisdom–anything. I felt like everyone I knew had some idea of what they wanted to do, but I was so confused and scared. I did know one thing–that if I stayed in Augusta I would never leave Augusta.

As I prayed, the Lord spoke some truth into my life that I’ll never forget. He said:

Ashton.

I have plans for you. 

I have a city for you. 

I have a school for you.

I have a classroom for you.

Full of students who need you to love them the way you’ve been loved at camp. 

I didn’t know then that God meant Charlotte or that God meant kindergarten. To be honest, I wanted to teach first grade in the same Christian school I went to most of my life. I wanted to live in my little house in the neighborhood everyone wants to move into in Augusta. Life was convenient and easy. But the restless feeling I had that year, well, I knew I had to move.

I probably wouldn’t have moved if I’d known all the struggles, all the tears, all the lonely nights, all the…the list could go on forever. I’m about to approach two years of living in Charlotte, and I’ll be honest. It has not been easy.

But it’s been so worth it.

And as I pray about what’s next, as I wait in another holding pattern of sorts like I did during my senior year of college, I’m going to look back to that cold morning on the DH porch. I’m going to remember how God used that conversation to draw me closer to Him and to learn how to really trust in Him.

At the time, I felt like that promise, that conversation with the Lord was about me moving on from camp. And in some ways, it so was. But as I look back on that time, as I look back on a weekend that will always be pivotal in my faith journey, I see God using that conversation as something else–as an Ebenezer of my faith. He used it then to get me to a place where I would be okay with leaving my safe place (man, do I miss it though). Now, He’s using it as a Ebenezer, as a reminder that He has me in the palm of His hand, He will never leave me or forsake me, and He’ll never let go.

What are some of the Ebenezers of your faith journey?

 

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!

oh, hey.

So, May is almost over and I haven’t written a blog post since February (the one I posted a few days ago was actually from a post I’d written in SEPTEMBER that had never gotten posted).

Whoops.

Let’s just say that life has been pretty busy. Because it has. I’m learning what things I need to say yes to and what things to say no to and I’m pretty positive that I’ll be learning this forever. I recently saw this note that my friend Hannah wrote right before we graduated high school. She went on and on about all of our friends, and the thing she wrote about me was “who volunteers for everything so we don’t have to”. I’m pretty positive that describes me to a T. So, I’m learning how NOT to do that. Even if I might have FOMO.

Anywho.

Here are some of the things I’ve been up to lately:

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It snowed in March. Because, well, it did. 

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I went to this super cute restaurant with my friends (L-R) Emily, Lauren, and Jordan on St. Patrick’s Day. The picture isn’t perfect, but this will definitely go down as one of my favorite nights in 2017.

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I went to the Mint Museum in Uptown (marking something off my CLT bucket list) with Kelly, and her husband snapped this very spring-ish photo of us!

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Lucy visited for a week. 

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I sort of fell in love with this cute town, which is a good thing considering I’ll be spending lots of weekends there in the future. 

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I was home and managed to grab lunch with this cutie. He CRACKED me up, and I really just love time with him. 

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I also had lunch with this VERY grown up boy. Hard to believe he’s eight. He sat down with me and said, “So, what have you been up to lately?” 🙂 so big!

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We celebrated Easter and had lunch at one of my favorite family’s house. Love these people!

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I marked another thing off my CLT bucket list–going to a Knights game!

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Mom and Dad came up for Mother’s Day!

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My friend Michelle and I matched on our LAST day of teaching Sunday School this year! It was so good, but I’m thankful for the break! 

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We spent Memorial Day Weekend in ATL! So fun to spend some time with these guys. 

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Aunt Ashton can’t believe how big Scout is getting. And how cute 🙂

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We spent Memorial Day saying, “Chin Up, America!”

And I’m saying Chin Up, Ashton to myself as I finish out these last. three. weeks. of school! Happy almost summer!

 

On Community

We sat around a camp that wasn’t the same one that meant the most to us. We sat in a circle, empty pizza boxes and half-eaten trays of brownies surrounding us. We watched the camp kids play in a new place–all they really ever need is a place to run around and maybe some chalk to write with or some balls to kick. We’d caught up for the most part when things started to shift.

We were about to have a serious conversation.

Sometimes, I’m sure, those two words put together–serious conversation–have a negative connotation. Not so with my camp friends. These are the people where the filters came off and the walls come down, where the passionate and compassionate intermingle and so much grace is given. These are the conversations that made camp special.

These are the people that made camp special.

I hadn’t seen some of them in over a year, and a couple of them I’d only met once, maybe twice. One of them is one of my best friends, two others are dear to my heart–scratch that, they are all dear to my heart. They really are, even those I barely know. That’s the special and unique thing about camp people–you all share a bond because you all care about the same place. And not just the place–because camp was never about the place but about the God who did the work there in the lives of campers and staff–but about the camp family.

We all have those friends or family members who we don’t talk to on a daily or weekly or sometimes even monthly basis yet we can pick right up where we left off when we do see them. I run into one of my former teachers every now and then when I’m in Augusta (and by every now and then, I mean about once a year), and it’s nice to chat with him and feel no pressure to keep in touch until next year. That’s the way it is with my camp community.

But the extra sweet part about my camp community is that even though I only did life day in and day out with them for two summers (let’s be real though, you live about THREE real life days in one camp day, so about a year, right 🙂 ), we jump right into the hard stuff. Sure, we catch up, but there’s no hiding, no skirting around the hard issues. This past time it was about community and the lack thereof in so many of my friends’ lives of real community.

It made me so grateful for my Oakhurst family, my community here in Charlotte. I could not have asked for a better community. They are thoughtful, kind, caring, and everything the Gospel calls us to be. They push me towards Christ, show me different parts of His character, and remind me constantly that He is love.

It’s just who God is. For two years, I saw that so vividly through my friends and family at camp. And right now, I miss that so much. I miss living my day to day life with them. I miss having spiritual conversations over breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I miss living life in community.

However, I’m so grateful for where I am. For the people who love me despite of me. And while I’ll probably never have the privilege of living my life in the middle of the woods in Asheville, North Carolina again, I am so grateful for that community, too.

 

 

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