Snow Thoughts

A snow day.

A seemingly innocent event in one’s life. Important but not overly remarkable.

When I woke up this morning to an unexpected one, I had no idea the thoughts it would cause to swarm in my head. I read somewhere (forgive me for the inability to credit the author) that places and spaces that allow us to go on auto-pilot and drown out the outside world are often where our most creative thoughts flourish. This is why we have our best ideas or revelations in the car, in the shower, or while lying in bed right before we drift off to sleep. Oddly enough, my thoughts you’ll read in this blog post started in the shower!

Back to this morning. Luckily, I got the email about work being cancelled the night before, so I was able to do the natural wake up instead of the hit-the-snooze-button-three-times-and-walk-to-the-bathroom-with-my-eyes-closed nonsense I usually deal with every weekday morning. My first destination was the window to check out the disappointing snow scene I was sure to find. But alas! I found a beautiful white blanket covering the outside world. My Georgia soul was full to the brim with excitement. Still in my pajamas, I threw on all of the cold weather gear I own (close to none) and rushed out the door.

Snowy mornings are a weirdly nostalgic thing. I read somewhere else (I’ve really got to start writing quotes down) how nostalgia can be a wish for something that hasn’t happened yet. It isn’t limited to things we remember from our past that we long for. It’s a deep yearning for something our soul wants desperately but it isn’t time yet. I very well could have romanticized that quote I’m remembering or attached another interpretation, but I just love that. I think many of us can relate to that strange feeling that takes your breath away and leaves you with stars in your eyes. It’s a bit like unrequited love I think. Longing for something you can’t have.

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So basically, this snowy morning was a mixture of nostalgia and unrequited love that I still haven’t fully grasped yet. I’m so glad I took off one glove – oh the cold – to capture a couple of pictures of this veritable winter wonderland. My first thought was Narnia. Anyone who has read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis or seen the movie version understands what I mean. Quiet, haunting (in a good way…is that possible?), dark and light at the same time, cold but life-giving, white snow untouched and innocent, trees cloaked but still providing contrast to the stark absence of color. I felt such a deep appreciation for the change of my outside world. I guess the Pevensies felt the same way about Narnia..that longing for other.

On top of my deep and thoughtful reaction to the snow (ha ha), I also felt like a little kid again! What about snow just makes you feel young and free? I love seeing grown people throwing snow into the air with unadulterated glee and without caution falling onto the ground and making snow angels. It’s just fun. It gives you an opportunity to let go of whatever is filling up your mind or heart and replace it with SNOW. I can’t explain how it does that, but its uncanny power to distract and create memories is unparalleled.

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Now, I want to stop my snow fan-girling for a second and discuss my husband’s experience over the same time period. Justin is a firemedic (firefighter/parademic). The night before Snow Day 2018, he was working his 24 hour shift 40 minutes away. During the night, he was up working. At 7:09am, he text me he was leaving work and coming home. An hour and a half later (remember I said 40 minutes away?), he arrived. Bad drivers, icy roads, and no sleep did not a happy husband make. I would like to point out that he somehow arrived with Chick-fil-a breakfast in hand. Something I did not mention because…chicken minis. 

All that to say, when I see Narnia, he sees “an obstacle to overcome” (direct quote with a chuckle).

This got me thinking…about perspective.

It’s such an interesting topic, isn’t it? We all have one about every single thing. We all have a perspective, even on something as innocent as a snow day. In the scenario I just illustrated, Justin and I have a very different idea about what a snow day is, and I don’t think either of our views are wrong. The thing to consider most about how we and others see the world is the experiences that have been had.

I think our experiences really matter when it comes to defending our perspectives. Our views of life are shaped by what happens to us, and I don’t think you can minimize what causes one to feel a certain way or see life a certain way. Justin’s experiences with the snow day were much different than mine. If I had to do what he did, I would probably have a different perspective.

My initial reaction may be, “WHAT?! Ugh! How can you not be so excited by all the pretty snow?! Doesn’t it make you want to jump up and down and go play??”, while Justin is probably thinking, “I am so glad I made it home without careening into a ditch”. If our experiences were more aligned, maybe our perspectives would be too.

I know we all struggle with this. It’s why empathy is such a big part of authentic relationships. We have to set aside our own perspectives to understand or feel the experiences that shaped our counterpart’s perspective. Without doing this, we will always be at odds. We will always think we are right and the other person is wrong. There will always be a tension between perspectives because no two experiences are the same. Therefore, we have to be careful to not assume that our spouse is a Debbie Downer who doesn’t enjoy fun things like snow. Take a step back and think about the experiences behind the perspective. Maybe the empathy you extend will help your partner see the Narnia behind the “obstacle to be overcome”.

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A Year in Polaroids: Week 2 // The Joy Project

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January 8th: On this day, the Georgia Bulldogs played in the National Championship for the first time since the 1980 season. This was a BIG deal. The excitement and nervousness in Athens was palpable. I wore red and black for a straight week. I felt a sense of pride graduating from the school that was being recognized by the whole nation. As I watched the game that night, my joy was at an all-time high until the final hour of the game. I have never had that kind of reaction to a game in my life. I was furious! I felt as though a severe injustice had been done with my team at the receiving end of it. I let that dark cloud of anger hang over me for far too long. It seems so silly, but if I’m being honest, I’m still sore about it. I love my school, my football team, and my town. That’s why I took the picture of the jersey I wore watching the game. Even though we lost and I was heartbroken (along with the rest of Bulldawg nation), I was SO proud of the fact that our team could hold their heads high as they walked off the field. In my book, integrity matters infinitely more than a title.

January 9th: Like my mentioned previously, I love my town. Besides UGA, Athens has a lot to offer. One of them being Jittery Joe’s. I have a love affair with this local coffee establishment. It is a wonderful place with even better coffee. If you can tell from the picture, I buy cans of their coffee to brew at home and there is nothing better. On this day I bought a new can, and I was reminded of how much I love the smell of freshly ground coffee. It is a true delight of the senses and was another reminder of how joy can be found in the smallest of things – even a whiff of ground coffee beans.

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January 10th: This is a picture of my nightstand. I was wandering around my place thinking about what brought me joy that day. I looked at my nightstand and was struck by the story it told. I see a sweet birthday card from my husband next to two angel figurines that were gifts from my mother-in-law. I see two journals with thoughts inside of them and more to be written. I see a pen that does that writing and a polaroid of my husband and me on my birthday. I see the book I was reading, The Little Prince, and my Bible. On the second shelf (not seen in the picture), a photo album from my parents with pictures of my life. A scrapbook I made during my first year dating my husband. An anniversary gift from said husband filled with notes from him. It was a scene that I pass by multiple times a day, but it wasn’t until now that I saw it.  What a wonderful mess to have beside me every time I’m in bed. What a revealing picture of who I am as a person and the things I value and get to enjoy in my life. What a gift that I could appreciate it because I was looking for something to find joy in.

January 11th: What can I say? I love my cat. She brings me joy on a daily basis with her ridiculous antics and sweet disposition. That morning, she snuggled with me before work and truly turned my day around before it even started. If you don’t like cats, come meet mine. You’ll change your mind!
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January 12th: In this picture, I’m wearing my favorite article of clothing (right now). My husband bought me this for my birthday after I pretty much pulled a Ralphie from A Christmas Story to express my desire for it. The sweatshirt says “Love is a Verb” and holds a lot of meaning for me. It is a product from the marriage blog, Beating 50 Percent. That blog really influenced the trajectory of my relationship for a number of reasons, and I am a huge advocate for love and Christ-centered marriage. Every time I wear it, I feel like I’m expressing what I value and cherish.

January 13th: This picture is of the photo album I mentioned previously. Curated by my parents, it holds a lot of sentimental pictures from my childhood including these two of me and my dad. This day was my dad’s birthday. I wish the pictures were clearer, but I’ve posted photos of us in previous blog posts if you’re curious. This was an interesting day. Our relationship has improved drastically in the past year and I’m just so very grateful for that. It took vulnerability and communication, but I feel like the girl in those pictures again. When I talked to my dad on the phone, I felt an immense joy just engaging with him on his special day. At 27, it’s a true gift to have a father I have the privilege to talk to whenever I want. It’s a greater gift to enjoy doing it. Love you daddy (one of my four readers). 🙂

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January 14th: Sunday is my favorite day. Why? I love going to church with my husband. We call a great church our home and have built a sweet little community within it. It’s my chance to recharge, reevaluate, and connect with my Heavenly Father through serving, worshiping, and listening to His Word. This picture was taken after leaving a lunch for married group leaders that left me feeling inspired and on fire. I am full of gratitude for the experiences I am apart of every week because of Athens Church.

A Year in Polaroids: Week 1 // The Joy Project

“Taking pictures is savoring life intensely, every hundredth of a second.”

– Marc Riboud

I love thinking about pictures as a way of “savoring life intensely”. Isn’t it a gift to freeze a moment and return to it whenever you want? I have always ascribed great value to photographs and how they give me the ability to do that.

Since one of my goals for 2018 is to be intentional about doing things that bring me joy, I gave myself a project for this year. Using an Instax mini 9 which takes instant polaroids, I’m taking one picture a day for the whole year. Each picture represents something that brought me joy that day. The only rule is that I can’t do any retakes. Whatever happens, happens! In order to add an element of storytelling, I plan to compile my pictures each week and write a bit about each picture on this blog. My hope is that at the end of the year, I’ll have a “picture book” of joy that captures the small moments of my life that are easily overlooked, taken for granted, or forgotten.

So, this is the first week of my project – A Year in Polaroids. Here’s to finding joy!

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January 1st: Justin and I returned to Athens after celebrating my birthday/NYE in Augusta. Honestly, I was really tired and really bummed about going to work the next day. This picture of us was taken while we were watching the Georgia Bulldogs play in the Rose Bowl (note our UGA apparel). I will NEVER forget this picture! Our happy faces were a bit of foreshadowing for the result of the game. The Dawgs made history when they won the Rose Bowl in the best game I have ever watched. Best start to the year possible!

January 2nd: I was still trying to figure out what I would take a picture of every day, so Justin got to be my model!  After a long first day back at work, nothing made me happier than homemade soup, pajamas, couch time, and my husband. Being able to unwind and relax (while not feeling guilty about it) is the best cure for a stressful day.

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January 3rd: Two things about this picture that make me happy: 1) I’m wearing something I bought with my mom and reminds me of her, 2) sweet Izzy hugs when I come home from work.

January 4th: This picture tells an interesting story. This week has been hard. Coming back to work amidst a career crisis can be extremely challenging. Also, Justin is away on shift so I’m home alone. Wait…I’m supposed to take picture of things that bring me joy, right? Well some days, the only joy you can squeeze out of a day is the moment you get to fall on the couch and snuggle in a warm blanket for awhile.

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January 5th: Ah, Friday! Drinking wine with my husband while watching one of his favorite shows. I love Friday nights at home, and the quiet and easy transition into the weekend.

January 6th: If I could use one word to describe me this week, it would be tired. It has just been so exhausting. This day marks the only time I’ve worked out all week, which has been one of the longer stretches I have gone without exercise. However, it’s important to note that I DID work out and it made me feel really great. I I love barre3 and the body positivity it portrays. It’s important to focus on what we are able to do, instead of what we cannot do. This week, I’m proud that I did my one workout.

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January 7th: This is a picture of three items that brought me joy this week. One is the book Rising Strong by Brene Brown. I finished her book on Saturday, and it gave me a lot to think about in terms of rumbling with emotions and situations that I tend to avoid. It is one I want to go back to this year and intentionally incorporate into my life. The other two items are gifts from two of my dearest friends. Thoughtful gifts can be absolutely life-giving when you’re feeling down, and these honestly couldn’t have come at a better time! One of the gifts is a Harry Potter themed candle. It’s called “The Sorting” and when you light it, the wax turns the color of the House into which you are sorted. I got Hufflepuff (hey, atleast it isn’t Slytherin), but it is honestly one of the coolest gifts ever! The other is a sloth magnet from Costa Rica, and I love it so much! I’m a teeny bit obsessed with the sleepy mammal, and I love any gift that incorporates them.

A Time of Reflection

….and just like that, we are days away from a new year. When I was a child, I loved this time of year: I just spent Christmas with my family and I had a birthday to look forward to in just one week! My parents always did a great job of separating the two occasions, so instead of feeling like I wasn’t getting  my fair share of birthday love, I just felt extremely special in the month of December. Another reason I always felt special? My birthday is on New Years Eve. These days I joke that the whole world throws a party for me!

In all seriousness, I love birthdays. I love celebrating people and the fact that they were born. I think we often see it as an ominous marker of time, especially as we grow older. It’s as if that day serves the sole purpose of reminding us we are one step closer to the grave. I have a different outlook (although I’m a little sore about being 27 in two days), especially about my own birthday. Perhaps it is because my birthday is on the eve of a day that people see as a fresh start. Maybe having a birthday on the last day of the year causes me to be reflective. It could simply be because my birthday was always well celebrated (hello NYE), so I just really enjoy it. Whatever the reason, I have always loved December 31st as a day to turn another year older.

Like I mentioned, I think having a birthday on the last day of the year causes you to really look back at what has taken place since your last birthday. Luckily that just means I look back at the past calendar year. What did 2017 look like? What did being 26 look like? Having these two questions coincide causes me to be more introspective than usual.

This year, I feel that need to be self-reflective even more so than usual. After some thinking, I think the reason is that I started being okay with being me. I spent the year figuring out what it means to cultivate and tend my own garden. For my whole adult and teenage life, I was busy looking into other people’s gardens, ignoring my own, and allowing invasive species to take over work that had already been done.

I hope this analogy makes sense out of my own head. I hope that you can see the garden that represents your life.

The seeds that people have planted along the way. The water you choose to give or keep to those seeds. The sunshine and rain, the heat and the cold, the heavy winds and light breezes – the things you can’t control but affect your garden anyway. The type of plants you choose to allow in your garden. Are they fruitful? Are they poisonous? Do they give life to the other plants around them or take it away? Can you sustain yourself from what you’ve planted or is your garden full of beautiful and useless things? Are you only focused on sustenance? Is their any beauty at all? The times where you’ve had to take out parts of your garden that have been there for so long. Plants you have spent so much time caring for that have started to harm the rest of your garden. The deep pain you feel as you rip those out of the soil you have tended so lovingly. Plants that have entered your garden without you knowing. Those seeds that come without knowledge and grow into the most vital aspects of your garden. What would you do without those unexpected blessings? Those areas of the garden that have been their forever. They never go away despite their lack of care. They are constant. Those areas of the garden that you can’t seem to keep up. Every time you look at someone else’s garden, their version looks so much better. You try and try and try, but those areas of the garden always prove disappointing. Then, those parts that die without warning or neglect. The grief you feel for those parts of your garden.

There is so much to say about our gardens. As a metaphor for our lives, there is no limit to the questions or revelations we can have.

Hopefully now you understand what I mean about cultivating and tending my own garden. I think our teenage years and early 20s are filled with looking into other people’s gardens and letting those invasive species have an opportunity into our own. We can’t help it. We want to do it “right”. We want to be successful and happy and fulfilled. When we aren’t sure how to do that anymore (cue adolescence), we look to other people and try whatever we can. I think everyone is guilty of it. Some more acutely than others, but I think everyone has a problem tending their garden through that season of life. It takes a long time to unlearn that habit.

All of that to say, I think that 2017 and year 26 of my life was about unlearning that habit. It wasn’t a lightbulb moment. This has been years in the making. However, this year I was intentional about my garden. I was intentional about learning how to be me. Since this blog is a diary of sorts, I want to record some of the ways that I did this. It will be interesting to come back and see how this year shaped me.

Whoever stumbles upon it, I hope that sharing some ways I cultivated my garden can help you do the same.

  1. I set an attainable and fun (for me) 2017 goal. Reading has always been a source of joy and calm for me. Ever since I could hold a book, it has been my way of resetting, escaping, and feeding my creative self. During my late high school and early college years, I neglected this area of my life. I have good reasons like spending my time with friends and lame reasons like having to read for school (I was an English major). Even so, it was a part of my life I didn’t cultivate and it made a significant impact on my mental and emotional health. Reading serves a bigger purpose than pleasure. It’s as much a part of me as the hair on my head. I know that to nonreaders, this sounds absurd. But if you’re a fellow bibliophile, I know you get it. For the past couple of years, I’ve been trying to regain this part of me. At the beginning of 2017, I decided to be really intentional about it and set up a reading challenge via Goodreads. I set the goal to read 50 books by the end of 2017. Yesterday, I completed my goal! Every single one of the books I read made an impact on me in some way. The reading challenge helped me stay accountable and was also a fun way to keep track of something I really enjoy doing. I plan to beat my goal in 2018!
  2. I started this blog. Even though I haven’t put the time or energy into it as I was hoping to, it took a giant leap of faith to even create it. If my husband hadn’t pushed me, I never would have pressed publish that first time. Even allowing myself to do this, to share my thoughts and feelings with the world, feels like I’m exposing the most vulnerable parts of myself. But you know what? It’s been one of the biggest steps I took this year. Being vulnerable, allowing yourself to fail, sharing something God crafted you to do…these are things that allow your garden to grow in amazing and unimaginable ways. Being brave is always a good thing.
  3. I invested in others. I’ll admit that it is really easy to be selfish – with your time, your things, your love. It’s hard to get outside of yourself. Some of my best memories from this past year are from when I put aside my selfishness and invested in other people. This year has revealed to me how important it is to have the ability to be there for other people in different ways: through giving, through time, and through prayer. I also think the more you choose others over yourself, the more you want to. It’s such a life-giving act! You know, it is actually miraculous how  investing in others actually ends up blessing you way more. Isn’t it cool how God can work through us?

My takeaway from 2017, my 26th year on this earth, can be found in the three examples I just shared.

What are ways that I cultivated my garden? How did I become closer to who I actually want to be?

  1. I chose to do something that gives me great joy. Joy is what brings color and life to your garden. It’s what makes it beautiful to see and enjoyable to live in. It’s what keeps you toiling away when the seasons change.
  2. I was vulnerable and brave. This is when your garden takes on a life of its own. When you start to see how your garden is unlike any other. Without vulnerability and bravery, the garden never changes and never becomes what you always hoped it would be.
  3. I invested in other people. Your garden holds no true meaning unless you share it with others. A wonderful garden has no place in this world without people to delight in it. When you share yourself with others, you give your garden a purpose.

Joy, Vulnerability, and Investment 

As I look toward the next year, 2018 and my 27th year, how can I take those three things to the next level? How can I grow my garden and continue to cultivate who I am?

These are questions I’m still working through as I look towards my birthday. 2017 was a year of understanding that things should be different. The way I was tending my garden wasn’t utilizing my strengths or the fruits of the spirit. Now that I am equipped with knowledge, my hope is that 2018 will be a time that I truly work towards creating a life that celebrates joy, delights in vulnerability, and seeks out investment.

This is just the beginning. Let’s do this, 2018.

Richly Blessed

Today is Thanksgiving. This holiday has always been extra special to me. It is one that is spent with a part of my family I dearly love. Every year, my dad’s family (his dad’s side) gets together and hosts a huge potluck with a fun White Elephant gift exchange at the end. There are so many of us that we have to rent out a space to fit all of us. As an only child, this big celebration is unique and special, especially since I have no close relationship with any other parts of my family. There is a love there that accepts my parents and I just because we share ancestry, and I have always found that incredibly reassuring. Family has always been a weird thing for me (as I imagine it can be for a lot of people), so to have a holiday that is big enough and grateful enough to envelope my small immediate family has always meant a lot to me.

Prepare for a trip down memory lane as well as a look at how iPhone cameras have improved!

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Our 3rd Thanksgiving (2016)
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Our 2nd Thanksgiving (2015)
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Our 1st Thanksgiving (2014)
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Mom, me, and Dad – Thanksgiving (2013)

Things are different now. As families grow, dynamics change. I have a husband now, my cousins have spouses, and new children pop up every year. Dynamics can change in other ways too. When my grandfather passed away almost three years ago, this holiday struck a different cord with me. Although it is still incredibly special, our link to that side of the family is a little different. The past two years have revealed a shadow in our gathering that will never go away for me. I miss him deeply.

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My grandaddy and me – his last Thanksgiving (2013)

Even so, I love Thanksgiving. American history aside, it brings out the gratitude in people. It reminds us of why we keep doing what we do. It goes beyond turkey and pumpkin pie and causes us to cling to our close ones, like I do to mine. Family is an interesting thing these days. It is nice to have a day where I see the beauty of what it can be – disregard for differences, time, and changes…and an acceptance or love of those you didn’t choose but who are a part of your life forever.


All of that to say, this Thanksgiving saw me really bummed out at first. I woke up feeling a little bratty. My husband left at 5:00am to start his 24-hour shift at work. If it isn’t clear, that means we weren’t able to do “normal” Thanksgiving. Perks of living 3 hours away from family! We journeyed back up to Athens yesterday to spend our first Thanksgiving ever away from our families. Instead of a Thanksgiving meal with them, we will be eating at Justin’s fire station with his co-workers.

I honestly didn’t realize how tough it would be until I woke up this morning. Perhaps it is because we just spent three days with our parents and are coming off of a family high. Perhaps it is because I’m seeing all of my friends and acquaintances on social media enjoying holiday celebrations with their loved ones. Perhaps it is because I’m alone right now. Whatever the reasons are, I woke up feeling sorry for myself.

Thanksgiving won’t be the way I want it to be. It won’t look like it has for years past. It won’t connect me to the only extended family I have anymore. I also won’t get the incredible food I look forward to so much! As I wallowed in my self-pity, I realized that I was being a brat. I realized that I needed to remind myself of what Thanksgiving means. It isn’t about the food or the traditions or even seeing family. It’s about gratitude. It’s about giving thanks for the blessings we have in this life. Now, whether I’m alone or not, in Tifton or in Athens, with family or with my husband’s co-workers, I can give thanks. I can meditate on the incredible blessings that have been bestowed upon me in my almost 27 years on this earth. So instead of feeling sorry for myself, I’m doing just that.


 

My God

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever [1 Chronicles 16:34]

I cannot begin to understand or fathom the goodness of my God. I only know that I do not deserve an ounce of the grace that has be given to me. Every day I stumble to be the follower of Jesus I am called to be. Every day I pray that I can live a life that reveals my faith. Every day I am blindly receiving my Savior’s love without the recognition it deserves. So above all, I want to give thanks to my Lord…because he IS good. He is SO, SO good. His love covers it all and reveals itself in the coolest of ways. Today and every day, I hope to practice my gratitude by seeing His love and goodness everywhere I look and taking the time to thank Him for it.

My husband

Talk about a good God…he gave me the most amazing partner in this life that I could ever hope for. Justin is my favorite creation in the entire world. To quote N’Sync, “God must have spent a little more time on you“. Cheesy but true! Justin is a rare and special man, and I love him with every ounce of my being. Every time we pray together, the very first thing he thanks God for is me. Every time. I am richly blessed with an amazing husband. So thankful.

My family

Even though family is a complicated thing, it is important. The biggest lesson I have learned in my life when it comes to family is that you make your own. You are given the opportunity to love the ones who were given to you without choice, and you are given the chance to add to your family through the friends you invest in and who invest in you. I like to think of my life in concentric circles. At the very center is God. The next circle is Justin. My family would make up the next circle, but it isn’t comprised of the ones who are related to me. It’s a little more complex than that. My family is made up of my closest relatives – my parents and Justin’s parents, along with those select few of my extended family who are bound forever and love unconditionally. Beyond that, my family is made of sweet, dear friends. These people are irreplaceable members of mine and Justin’s story. I would move heaven and earth for them and they would do the same. They are my family too. I am so grateful for parents, grandparents I miss so much, cousins who I barely see but love me deeply, and friends who are truly family. My family, in its strange and beautiful glory, is an incredible part of my life.

Beyond those things

Beyond those three cornerstones of my life, I have many things to be grateful for.

Izzy – our ridiculously perfect cat

My job – the fourteen first graders I get to love on every day

Justin’s job – for providing for our family even when it is hard

Our cozy (sweet word for small) apartment – for being the safe roof over our head and a place where memories are made

Our small group – a community of believers who are already family but also matter greatly to our faith journey

Our church – I have no words for what Athens Church has done to my life and faith

Autumn – my favorite season…full of the grace of change and the light-heartedness of our God

Coffee – a ritual I adore full of comfort and warmth

Books – my escape, educator, entertainer, and friend as a child and as an adult…books have enriched my life beyond compare

Music – what would we do without music? Truly a gift to humanity

Candles, fuzzy socks, writing, the University of Georgia, sunsets, sloths, food, Christmas, love, Hallmark movies, comfy beds, hot water, pillows, cars, hugs and kisses, children, wisdom, clothing (particularly sweaters), animals, pictures, paint, creativity, work friends, writing, weddings, dancing, airplanes, bravery, rain, flowers, history….

Oh my word(s). I have more words than I have time. Despite my inability to list all that I am grateful for, I cannot help but be amazed at the abundance. How lucky am I to live a life where I have SO much to be thankful for? How lucky am I to have a God who has trusted me with so much?


So, for the rest of my Thanksgiving I plan to have a grateful heart. I woke up with one that was full of what I don’t have…but I am now overwhelmed with what I do have.

I am richly and profoundly blessed, no matter what the day of Thanksgiving looks like.

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2017 (photo: Emily Livingston)

P.S. Thank you, Lord, for the gift of writing for pulling out what is locked away in my soul. Gratitude abounds.

The Awakening

My husband and I recently went on a trip to a small winery in a sweet little mountain town in North Georgia. This was a spur of the moment trip that was prompted by the first free Saturday in months and a stirring in our hearts.

From the moment we arrived I was struck by the nostalgia and vividness of the experience around me. The last time I had been was on my bachelorette trip, so fond memories were left and right. I would point at various places exclaiming, “Oh! That’s where we ate lunch!” “I think that is the mountain we stayed on!” “This is the view I was talking about!” It was so fun to share such a special place with my favorite person after two years of trying to get us there.

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Thinking back to that day, I liken it to The Wizard of Oz. When Dorothy steps out of her home into the world of Oz, her world that was once black, white, and gray, turns into a kaleidoscope of brilliant colors and vivid experiences. It was almost as though the scales of normalcy had fallen from her eyes.  Dorothy was living “of the world” prior to Oz. She was so caught up in the normalcy and day to day experience, she wasn’table to see the world clearly until  her normal was literally blown away. For me, this small, unexpected day trip did the same thing, just not in such a dramatic manner!

I think when you are living “of the world”, the everyday can begin to suffocate you. Things like catching up on sleep on the weekend, trying to maintain relationships with friends while you’re married, saving for a home, and going to work every day can take a toll on your soul. You start to view life in a way that is about maintaining and sustaining. How can I maintain my friendships? How can I sustain my livelihood? How can I maintain what we are doing and still get a house? How can I sustain myself if I don’t go to bed early every night? This kind of everyday living isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it doesn’t really enrich your life or follow a purpose. When I stepped away from the everyday, this truth was revealed to me. I realized that my life had become a series of days held together by half-hearted attempts to live a good life. The problem is, I wasn’t really “living”. I was maintaining and sustaining…and God has so much more in store for me than that.

When I stepped onto the grounds of the winery I had longed to visit again, I felt something loosen inside of me. As the soft breeze blew my hair and the lush grass cushioned my feet, I felt a softening of my brow. As I took in the magnificent mountain range that enclosed this precious place, I felt my heart clench with longing. Why was I having such an emotional reaction to visiting a place I had been before, especially one only an hour and half from where I live? As I sipped the sweet wine in my Adirondack chair, I faced a verdant horizon that transported me to a different state of mind. I was surround by color, beauty, love, and the peaceful knowledge that the only thing I needed to do was be and the only place I was supposed to be was there.

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Listen to this, Job; stop and consider God’s wonders. [Job 37:14]

…A simple reminder to just stop. Stop maintaining and stop sustaining. Take off the lens “of the world” and consider its Creator. Breathe in His creations and experience life. Be in awe of what He has done and for a change, forget about yourself. When that happens, I think God can move mountains in your heart…


What I am writing wasn’t realized on that day in a small mountain town. It’s been a couple of weeks of emotional realizations, deep conversations, and restless moments. On that day, God was setting something up inside of me. I am finally in a place where I have processed that and want to understand what it means. Unfortunately, it wasn’t contentment or understanding or even a solution to the “of the world” living I have been doing. It was simply a reminder that there is so much more to this life than the things of this world. My attempts to “live” paled in comparison to what God wants for me. We weren’t meant to merely go through the motions and check boxes by life events when we have completed them.

 

I’m currently reading a book called The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. There is a quote that helped unearth some of the things God place on my heart.

The boy didn’t know what a person’s “Personal Legend” was.

“It’s what you have always wanted to accomplish. Everyone, when they are young, knows what their Personal Legend is.

At that point in their lives, everything is clear and everything is possible. They are not afraid to dream, and to yearn for everything they would like to see happen to them in their lives. But, as time passes, a mysterious force begins to convince them that it will be impossible for them to realize their Personal Legend.”

I guess I’m trying to re-remember what my Personal Legend is…or what I like to imagine as my Purpose. I think it is what God was breathing into my heart as I let myself relax enough to listen to Him that day. Like Dorothy, I was not in Kansas anymore. Color and life overwhelmed me. God was able to speak to me when I stopped trying to maintain my normal.

Perhaps we aren’t able to know our Purpose if we live “of the world”. As we grow older, we begin to care more about what is around us than what is inside of us. We cannot embrace or experience true life through God if we are too busy maintaining life on earth.

Father,

Help me to see the world vividly and in color. May I experience the wonders of this world in reverence of You. I pray that my eyes will open to what you have in store for me and the scales of normalcy will fall from them. I do not want to live “of this world”. Maintaining and sustaining are no longer enough for me. May I live every day in pursuit of Your Purpose for me and may I spend everyday truly living. Help me to be patient as I attempt to strip away the habits of this earth in order to live every day like I did on that beautiful Saturday. You are a wonderful Creator and I am overwhelmed by Your grace and desire to fill my life.

In your precious name, Amen.

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I am so grateful for that unexpected, sweet trip to a little mountain town. Not only did I have a wonderful day date with my husband, I rediscovered something dormant in my heart that needed awakening. Whatever it leads to, I know I will be truly living.

So Will I

I left church 30 minutes ago and couldn’t wait another minute before sharing this song. I’ve heard the song before but hadn’t really listened to it. I was fortunate enough to hear it sung live at church with incredible production value that made it that much more powerful.

As I listened to this song, my heart ached. Our God is so big, so beyond, so magnificent, it’s easier to just bring Him down to our level of understanding so we don’t become overwhelmed. However, I think God should overwhelm us. Our hearts should ache and our eyes should be filled with tears at His majesty.  If we look at the world and our brothers and sisters through the lens of “God’s Creation”, I think it is incredibly hard to not be moved deeply. He was there in the beginning and through everything He has spoken into our world. He has never left us and never will.

If we seek out His goodness and His grace, there is no need to doubt His love for us. It is undeniable when you do that. This song speaks to the goodness in our world – all created by our Heavenly Father. It speaks to the praise and reverence He deserves. It speaks to the power of His love and the beauty of His creations.

I encourage whoever reads this to listen to this song. Just close your eyes and feel the words wash over you. Think about our God and the magnificence of what He has done, is doing, and will do. It will overwhelm you in the best way possible.

So Will I (100 Billion X) – Hillsong UNITED

God of creation
There at the start
Before the beginning of time
With no point of reference
You spoke to the dark
And fleshed out the wonder of light
And as You speak
A hundred billion galaxies are born
In the vapour of Your breath the planets form
If the stars were made to worship so will I
I can see Your heart in everything You’ve made
Every burning star
A signal fire of grace
If creation sings Your praises so will I
God of Your promise
You don’t speak in vain
No syllable empty or void
For once You have spoken
All nature and science
Follow the sound of Your voice
And as You speak
A hundred billion creatures catch Your breath
Evolving in pursuit of what You said
If it all reveals Your nature so will I
I can see Your heart in everything You say
Every painted sky
A canvas of Your grace
If creation still obeys You so will I
If the stars were made to worship so will I
If the mountains bow in reverence so will I
If the oceans roar Your greatness so will I
For if everything exists to lift You high so will I
If the wind goes where You send it so will I
If the rocks cry out in silence so will I
If the sum of all our praises still falls shy
Then we’ll sing again a hundred billion times
God of salvation
You chased down my heart
Through all of my failure and pride
On a hill You created
The light of the world
Abandoned in darkness to die
And as You speak
A hundred billion failures disappear
Where You lost Your life so I could find it here
If You left the grave behind You so will I
I can see Your heart in everything You’ve done
Every part designed in a work of art called love
If You gladly chose surrender so will I
I can see Your heart
Eight billion different ways
Every precious one
A child You died to save
If You gave Your life to love them so will I
Like You would again a hundred billion times
But what measure could amount to Your desire
You’re the One who never leaves the one behind