Home of the Soul

The concept of home has been on my heart lately, and most of us are about to go to some kind of home for the holidays. So, here’s a repost from January 2016, slightly updated.

Friday and Saturday I was blessed with the opportunity to go back to my first home-away-from-home, my little town of Auburn. I got to go back to the place where I did the most learning, growing, loving, laughing, and crying in the shortest amount of time. Auburn University’s theme is that everyone in Auburn is a family. The students and teachers and alumni are all family. They say you don’t understand until you live it, and I’ll say that I didn’t understand it fully until I lived it and left it.

I got to go back last weekend and fit right back into the groove, into the place that I felt that I fit almost perfectly. From the second we drove into town, I felt like I was home. Really, I have a few homes. I have my home where I was born and raised, then I have my Auburn home, and now I have my new-family home. I love all of these homes. But there’s something about the one I took myself to, not knowing that I would always feel a tug on my heart in that direction.

Going to school at Auburn was an exciting new experience that I’m ever-thankful I had the opportunity to do. I saw firsthand the reasons everyone says “I believe in Auburn and love it,” and I’ll more than willingly say it myself.

But my favorite part wasn’t just Auburn’s family theme. It was that I had such a large portion of my spiritual family surrounding me, too. My favorite memories and lessons weren’t the ones I learned in class, they were the ones I learned with my friends, with my Christian brothers (plus my biological one), sisters, and with myself. The kind you can only get from really living your life – from learning yourself through your own mistakes and discoveries. There’s always a place associated with these lessons. A place where you learned it or realized it or found it or lost it. The places where you saw with new eyes and made the changes or let them be. Places inside the big-place where you completely decided who you were.

One of those places was the building where I worshiped every Sunday and Wednesday and some days in between. It was where I truly understood the meaning of church and understood why the church is my family. It’s where I got to spend most of my weekend with most of my people growing and loving even more. An all-too-familiar place where I’ll always feel I can go back to. I made a few realizations while I was there:

1. No matter how far you go or how long you’re gone, spiritual family welcomes you back.

I saw people I loved, most of whom I hadn’t seen in at least eight months, some in six, some in a little less. They each overwhelmed me with hugs and “how are you” and “I haven’t seen you in so long.” We studied together, prayed together, sang together, ate together, and after that we played games together. It was just like always and just like it should be. And just like my Christmas it was exhausting in only the best way.

2. God’s things never change.

No matter what’s going on in the world or in my world, worshiping God and fellowship with His people will not be different. We do it how He wants it every time, and every time it’s just as perfect because it comes from Him. Praising God doesn’t change because I move; His word doesn’t change just because the people do. We praise Him here, and we’ll praise Him forever. I got a small glimpse of heaven this weekend and a strong desire to be there with each and every person in the room.

3. Learning doesn’t stop just because you grow up a little.

When I went to my Auburn home almost five years ago, I didn’t imagine that by the time I was a year older I would have learned as much as I did – about life and about God. When I was a year older I couldn’t have imagined I would have learned as much as I have today, but it truly doesn’t stop. No matter how many times I open my Bible, I see something I didn’t notice before. No matter how many lessons I hear about the same Bible story, I always get a better understanding. The Word of God always has more to reveal than you think.

4. None of these homes are really my home.

No matter how much I love a city or a town, and no matter how much I invest myself in it and in the people there, it will never be my home. This world isn’t even my home. Heaven is my home. We were all made with an eternal soul, pattered in God’s image, truly meant to be with Him – not on earth. That fitting in “almost perfectly” feeling? I’m not supposed to feel like I perfectly fit in because I don’t. I didn’t really fit in in Auburn, even if it was one of the best comfort places on earth. We won’t ever fit in until we’re completely devoted to God, until we’re with Him eternally. That’s why my spiritual family makes me feel at home – because they’re my brothers and sisters. Anywhere I go where there are God’s people, all together praising God, that’s when I can fit in. That’s when I can be who I’m really meant to be.

// So, as I was sitting in the room, surrounded by spiritual family, all singing praises to our Father, I realized why I love this one place so much. I love it because it’s the place I chose to grow, my most significant place of growth in Christ. It holds a special place in my heart for the love I found and the realizations I made – for the people and relationships and adventures and experiences. It taught me that it isn’t, and will never truly be my home. For this I’m thankful.


Home of the Soul Pinterest.pngThank you for reading! I hope you’re always encouraged to be like Christ and learn more about God’s word when you’re on my blog. If you want to see more like this, feel free follow me on Instagram and Pinterest.  Feel free to print, pin, and share my posts on all platforms, so the gospel reaches even further. For thoughts and questions, comment directly below or click the Contact Me tab (here) to send an email! Have a blessed day.🙂

13 Ways to Stay Godly During College

This post is important. It’s important to me because each and every part of the list comes from something I’ve experienced firsthand, and I want to use that to help other current or soon-to-be college students. So, if you’re in that season of life, and you want more tips for remaining pleasing to God, this is for you! If you’re not in college, but still want to make the most of someone else’s experiences, then read away. 🙂

I’m not quite two years out of college, but I can say that what I learned during my college years was and is still valuable. College is a great time for learning on many levels because it’s when you’re thrown out into unfamiliar territory, let loose, and figuratively told to run as fast as you can. There are plenty of awesome tips for surviving college on a secular level, but I’m not here for that.

I’ve always learned best hands-on, through trial and error (a lot of error). I learn well from seeing results from my particular situation, but I’m also hesitant to get started without sound advice. Keep in mind, I moved away from home for college, so this is where my experience comes from, although I believe it can be applied even if you stay home. some of the tips might even prove useful for those not in college — I still use them. While, I don’t claim to know it all or be perfectly wise, I have learned a lot in just the past five years, and I think my experiences can be helpful.

Without further ado, and in no particular order (minus number 1), here are 13 ways you can stay or become more Christ-like while you’re in college.

1 | Remember who God is

Ecclesiastes 12:1

“Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth,
Before the difficult days come,
And the years draw near when you say,
‘I have no pleasure in them’:”

God is your Creator and your sustainer. He gives you life and blesses you more than you realize. Remember His goodness and His severity, and submit to Him. You can’t put God on the back-burner and say, “Oh, well I’ll just get through college and then get serious about my life.” No, no. It doesn’t work that way, and it will catch up with you sooner or later. Future-self will thank past-self if you take God seriously during some of the most trying years of your life (especially if you go away from home). Take my word for it!

2 | Remember who you are

1 Peter 2:9-10

 “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.”

For as long as I can remember, my dad said this to my brother and I when he dropped us off at school. It didn’t matter how late we were running or what dramatic event went down that morning, he didn’t forget to tell us to remember who we were, even before we really understood what he meant. Shortly after I set up my little apartment bedroom, I wrote this on a piece of paper, stuck it in the frame of my full-length mirror, and it stayed there until I moved. It was the best reminder of both my dad and the fact that I am a child of God, wearing Christ’s name, and I need to act like it. We all need to act like it, which can be hard to remember during those crazy changes you experience in college.

 3 | Make solid friends

I’m not sure I can stress how important this is. Of course, you should be making an effort to find solid friends at every stage of your life, but in college, it’s especially crucial. 1 Corinthians 15:33 says, “Do not be deceived: ‘Evil company corrupts good habits.'” Just as much as evil company corrupts good habits, good company encourages good habits. I had awesome friends before I went to college, but after I got there, I found that there are so many more Godly people in the world that I could learn from and serve through being friends with them. In Auburn, I attended worship with the University church of Christ, where there were probably around 100 college students when I got there, most of whom were completely fired up to jump in and serve God. It was refreshing and incredibly encouraging to worship on Sundays and Wednesdays partly because I had good Christian friends who wanted to help me get to heaven.

4 | Go to church

Speaking of church — GO! Make the effort to go every single time your congregation assembles. Go to as many “extracurriculars” as you can without burning out and being worthless (I’ve been there). And genuinely put your heart into it. There are four reasons for this:

1 | God deserves your worship.

Psalm 145:3

“Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised;
And His greatness is unsearchable.”

 

2 | You get to take time out of the most ridiculous schedule you’ve ever had to worship God.

3 | You’ll encourage the other Christians who see that you want to be there among your ridiculous schedule.

4 | You’ll encourage yourself.

God created the church for a reason. We aren’t supposed to be alone in our faith and our journey to heaven — He wants Christians to be able to collectively worship Him and each Christian to be encouraged whenever possible. So, take advantage of the opportunities your local church provides you with to worship, and make sure you know when they’re offering extra Bible studies or gospel meetings/singings (when a group of Christians gets together to study, hear a sermon, or sing praises together — this is what I grew up calling them).

Hebrews 10:24-25

“And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.”

5 | Take every opportunity to do good

1 Kings 15:5 says that David did what was right in the eyes of the Lord all the days of his life. It’s a good example of a humility and following God no matter what season of life you’re in. This would include doing good for others.

Galatians 6:10

 “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.”

If you’re in a college town, chances are you have several opportunities to serve in your church and in the community. Even if you’re not in a college town, you should be able to find opportunities, even if they don’t just fall into your lap. Where I went to church, we had opportunities to teach classes, clean the building, and visit elderly and sick people. We had a campus Bible study called Truth Seekers (still going on if you’re in the area and want to check it out here), and we had every opportunity to invite classmates to study with us and learn more about the Word. Take all of these opportunities! Take advantage of the open doors in front of you whether it’s within your local church or on campus. I will say that I didn’t take near as many opportunities as I should have, and I wish I had.

6 | Listen to people who have been there

Hint hint 😉 Just kidding, but seriously. Listen to the people who have been in your shoes — the ones who have just graduated and the ones who graduated 30 years ago. They’ll all have valuable insight, and you won’t regret taking their advice. Find someone you look up to or a mentor and go to them when you need it. Chances are they’re more than willing to encourage you. Pay attention in sermons and Bible studies — the people leading those have most likely studied hard and have experience in the area; they may be able to offer insight that you’ve never noticed or thought of before, and that’s a blessing. As I said above, the church is here for a reason; the Bible gives instructions for older people to teach and encourage the younger, for Christians to admonish one another. On the flip side of that, you have to be willing to take that encouragement, even if it mean you’ll be corrected.

7 | Read the Bible

The Bible is your guide to get through life; it contains everything you need to be and stay Godly during college. I’ve been stressing this constantly in my recent Armor of God series because it’s that important. God gave us the Bible to learn from, be comforted by, examine ourselves through, and obey. Use that to your advantage. College is the prime time to learn how to examine yourself through God’s lens and start making a solid effort to fix  heart problems and mend any soul holes you’ve made on your way there. It’s a huge transition time, when you’re likely re-evaluating parts of your life or at least learning to ask questions to make your faith your own. Once you get into the real world (college isn’t quite real yet), you’ll want to be grounded and have yourself in check. Make sure you’re taking time out of your day, not just fitting it in, to read the Bible and read it for profit.

8 | Pray, pray, pray

My parents taught me how to pray and the importance of prayer when I was little. But, when I got to college, and had more responsibility than I thought I could handle, I really learned how to put those prayer lessons into practice. I learned to pray whenever and wherever. If you’re sad, pray. If you’re happy, pray. If you’re angry, pray. Whatever you’re feeling, at whatever time of the day or night, talk to God about it. Sacrificing even more beloved sleep to go to God in prayer is more than worth it. This was one of my first blog posts; I wrote about putting trust in God through actions and prayer because I was learning how beautiful life is when you totally surrender your life for Jesus. (Related post from Blair Blogs here about writing down prayers and keeping track of how they’re answered)

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

9 | Talk to your parents and take their advice

Your parents aren’t stupid. Honoring your parents doesn’t stop just because you’ve graduated from high school (see Matthew 15:4). Most of them have been in your shoes, and they want the very best for their children, especially if they’re Christ-minded people. When they give you advice — even if your mom texts you to tell you it’s going to rain that day — just take it. Seriously. Take it, and thank them. And don’t forget to text or call them every so often! It does you as much good as it does them to take some time out to talk to your parents; they’ll likely have encouraging words and advice for you that you hadn’t thought of yourself. College is a great time to develop a solid relationship with your parents and put their teaching into action. Remember that you’ll always need your parents (they’re also gifts from God), and that they helped you get to where you are today.

10 | Listen to hymns

Colossians 3:2 – “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.”

One year, because I was feeling a strange mixture of discouraged and encouraged to be better, I decided that for a set amount of time, I can’t remember if it was a week or a month, but I was only going to listen to hymns/spiritual songs unless I couldn’t control what music was on. Let me tell you something: that was one of the most encouraging weeks/months I’ve had, simply because of the music I was listening to! I don’t think most people, including myself, realize that the music we listen to can have such a big impact on our attitudes and Godliness. All I did was cut out mainstream music for a short time, and I was more uplifted and motivated than I had been in a long time. (Fun fact: that was also the year I started my blog.) Now, I’m not saying that you can’t listen to mainstream music if it’s not ungodly, but just try cutting it out for a period of time and pay attention to the results.

 11 | Choose to be content

Happiness is a choice (related post here). Contentment is a choice. And I think they’re tied together. There’s a great peace that comes with being content with joy in Christ. Sometimes they’re both hard choices in college when you think you have to add up to everyone around you (girls, especially). But you don’t! The only person you have to please is God, and if a person or group is purposefully excluding you, chances are you picked the wrong group to hang out with in the first place (see number 3). Don’t let your situation turn you away from focus on God. Take a note from Paul, and choose to be happy in whatever state you’re in. I chose to be unhappy in several situations, and now I know that my life, and others’ lives, would have been a million times easier if I had just made up my mind to get over it and be OK.

1 Timothy 6:6

“Now godliness with contentment is great gain.”

Philippians 4:11

“Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content:”

12 | Don’t let yourself feel lonely

Related to the previous point, loneliness can lead to bitterness, and bitterness can “make you a crazy person” (Larry Rouse, the preacher at University church of Christ). Do not let yourself get to that point. Sometimes it’s more likely to happen, especially if you move away and feel like nobody knows you, understands you, or wants to make an effort to. To keep yourself from feeling this way, be friendly and make friends; sometimes getting away from loneliness takes effort on your part instead of waiting around for other people to notice. If you start feeling lonely and bitter, talk to someone within the church and let them know that you’re struggling. In my experience, no one actually knew I was having a hard time, and once I spoke up, they jumped on the chance to encourage and befriend me! Sometimes it really just takes some effort to reach out, and being surrounded by faithful Christians makes it that much easier. Keep in mind that you’re new to them, too, and because they don’t know you yet, they won’t always be able to tell that you’re feeling anything other than normal. Besides, you always have God, and you can pray to Him for comfort and guidance — see number 8.

13 | Keep a journal

Not everybody likes to write or a keep journals, but if you do, this one is for you! I’ve off-and-on kept journals for a lot of my life, and I love to take notes. So, when I was in college, I kept a journal of sorts — I used a notebook given to me by a sweet friend, and I basically wrote stream-of-consciousness style most nights right before bed. I struggled with staying positive because change isn’t always exciting for me, so I often wrote about my blessings and Bible verses or portions of hymns that were on my mind, and sometimes I just doodled my feelings away (whether good or bad!). When I wrote out my blessings, I was able to go to sleep a little more at peace and with a better perspective of my life state. This is especially helpful if you deal with worry and anxiety. You could keep a prayer journal, write about your day, write about your fears, whatever it is, but try to keep it faith-focused and see if your perspective becomes more Godly.

// Your time in college can be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life if you make it that way! Make sure you always keep a consciousness of God and act according to His will, and everything else will fall into place (Romans 8:28).

Galatians 5:22-25

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.”

Related post: Home of the Soul


13 Ways to Stay Godly During College Pinterest.png

Thank you for reading! I hope you’re always encouraged to be like Christ and learn more about God’s word when you’re on my blog. If you want to see more like this, feel free follow me on Instagram and Pinterest. For thoughts and questions, comment directly below or click the Contact Me tab (here) to send an email! Have a blessed day.🙂

 

Our Memorial Day Trip & Mini-Vacation (Part 2)

This where the next phase of the trip begins. Leah arrived in Auburn in time for services Wednesday evening, and we transferred all of my things into her car. Then we left an hour or two later for Destin, Florida, where we would stay for the next (almost) four days. Leah is a veterinarian, and she had a Continuing Education conference, so she invited our friend Meredith and me to tag along.

Leah and I got to Destin around 2 am Thursday morning. We stayed in a motel across the street from the big resorts and the beach that was about 30 minutes away from the Sandestin Resort where Leah would go every day for her conference.

Thursday morning around 6, Leah left for her CE training, and I slept in for a while. I woke up around 10:30 and killed some time until she got back. Once she got back, we changed clothes, and got ready to spend a few hours at the beach (YAY).

We ended up going to Henderson beach, a public state park beach that we expected to be fairly empty – we didn’t want to be in a crowd of people the whole time we were there because that’s just uncomfortable. Thankfully it was, and we had a little stretch of beach to ourselves, where we ate a late lunch of veggies, hummus, and fruit, and relaxed until dinner time.

10209605363835550
The state park and I share a name!

Since we got out to the beach around 3:00-3:30, we weren’t in the hottest part of the day, and were able to enjoy the beach for a while without feeling too sticky from humidity. Plus, we didn’t have a schedule to stick to, so we just stayed out as long as we wanted to.

We wanted to spend as much time as possible on the beach that day, so we stayed out until around 6, then went back to the motel to clean up and get ready for dinner. We ate a late dinner at Smashburger because the restaurant we wanted originally planned to go to (Panini Pete’s) was already closed by the time we were ready to go. We thoroughly enjoyed our meal and conversation, and then headed back to the motel to go to bed.

Friday was a busybusy day. When Leah was at CE on Thursday, she ran into the Padgetts, a family we used to worship with in Auburn. She gave Karen my number, and we decided to hang out on Friday morning/afternoon. I rode with Leah to the resort where the conference was being held and met Karen and her kids there to do some exploring. There was so much to do at this resort! We walked all around The Village of Baytowne Wharf where we saw a neat treehouse on our way to look at all the ships in the marina, and then we went on to find a little playground she thought one of her kids might enjoy. It took a while, but we got there and played Peter Pan on the pirate ship section of the playground. It started to get hot, so Karen left her oldest boy with me, took the baby with her, and went to get the car so it would be a quicker trip back to the Village. Once we got back, we went to a cute little pizza place (I wish I had pictures!) and ate before it was time for them to take naps.

I met back up with Leah and we went to find the Indian Temple Mounds and Museum of Fort Walton. We thought they would be a cool thing to see and something fun to do. Unfortunatelt, we didn’t make it before the museum closed but we did get to see the temple. It wasn’t quite as big as we expected, and we thought it would be the “real thing” instead of a replica but it was still educational and fun. We didn’t spend too much time there, and decided just to go back and prepare for Meredith to meet us at the motel.

On our way back, we found another public beach area at Elgin Air Force Base Beach that we decided to check out since we still had some time. It was nice and empty, and this is where we spotted the first beach wedding we would see on the trip! We collected seashells and found what we thought were either clams or mussels, but we weren’t sure which, and we just enjoyed the sunshine for a little while longer.

After our spontaneous beach stop, Meredith met us at the motel, and we all went to Lulu’s.  (Leah and I were proud of how spontaneous we were on this trip because it’s completely uncharacteristic of both of us 😉 ). Lulu’s is a great restaurant that usually has live music and is right next to the bay, so we got to watch the sunset over the water while we ate and talked.

After dinner we went over the The Village of Baytowne Wharf to walk around and see what we could find to do. It was awfully crowded, so we just walked around for a little while, I showed them the treehouse and the marina, and then we made our way back to the motel. I believe this was also the night we stopped to get frozen custard from Shake’s. It was delicious, but we were all so stuffed that we could hardly get through it! We took our custard back to the room and Meredith unpacked, then we watched HGTV until time for bed (we watched A LOT of HGTV on this trip – and I’m not complaining).

Now for Saturday. This was one of the most eventful days we had. Saturday was the day that Meredith and I had planned to spend all day at the beach and in the sun. We got up that morning, got all of our food and beach toys ready to go, and were so pumped, then we opened the door to leave….and it was raining. Since we had to stop for gas and bottled water anyway, we decided to go ahead and leave. By the time we got to the beach it had stopped raining, but it was still very windy! We braved the wind, set up our towels and music – the works. We even saw the second beach wedding of the trip. It was overcast, but we didn’t mind because we knew we could still get some sun this way, and wanted to take advantage of the beach time we had.

Below are just screenshots from my Snapchat story (yes, I make those) that I took during our stormy beach day.

Then we heard thunder. And saw lightning – but it was way over the water, so we stayed put. The storm kept getting closer, with a little rain shower (that we thought would let up). So we just wrapped up in towels until it was right over us.

Finally we decided to go sit in the car until it was over. As soon as we got to the car, the rain start to pour. We just decided to have our lunch there and see what the weather would do. It stopped after about 15 minutes, so we gathered our things and went back out to the beach. This time the weather stayed nice, and the sun was out, so we enjoyed the beach until time to meet Leah for lunch. Once she told us she was headed back, we packed up and went to the motel where we all snacked for a while before going to Elgin Air Force Base Beach again to spend the rest of the afternoon.

By this point, it had gotten chilly, and we didn’t get much sun, but we did see dolphins! There were somewhere between 8 and 10 dolphins swimming just out on the edge of the ocean (close enough to the shore where we could see them well). We were all so excited! Seeing dolphins is one of my favorite parts about going to the beach – they’re such graceful creatures when they’re all swimming together. After this, we spotted the third and last beach wedding from where we were sitting. We spent some more time here until it got too chilly to stay, and then we left to clean up to go to Panini Pete’s for dinner. I love paninis, so that was delicious!

After dinner, we went to HarborWalk Village, which we were expecting to just be a nice boardwalk. It turned out to be an actual village behind a fancy hotel with shops, activities for kids, night life, and everything. I bought Widget some homemade dog treats while I was here. I also looked for something to get my husband, although the shops didn’t have much John Mark would like, so I didn’t end up getting anything else. The shop we liked the most was one that had kids’ toys and creepy animal masks and little souvenirs; we stayed in here for about 30 minutes.

This was an exciting part of the evening that I think we all enjoyed, but we were glad to get back to the motel to start packing and sleep before a long Sunday.

Sunday morning didn’t quite go as expected. Leah had some car trouble, so it took her a little longer than she was hoping to get to her last 7 am session. Thankfully, Meredith had her car, so they were able to jump off Leah’s car and get her where she needed to be. While she was at CE, Meredith and I packed the remaining luggage into Meredith’s car, cleaned up the room, double-checked that nobody left anything behind, and then we checked out of the motel.

Since we had a little over an hour to spare, Meredith and I went to breakfast at The Pancakery, which was delicious! She got an omelet and pancakes, and I got two giant Belgian waffles. We both got coffee and water. Then we headed to worship services at South Walton Church of Christ, where we met up with Leah and the Padgetts. This congregation was tiny, but so very encouraging; they were welcoming and I could tell they have a true love for the Lord. After worship was over, we talked to some of the other visitors and members there, then we went to McAlister’s Deli with the Padgetts. We enjoyed almost two hours of conversation with them, and then all of us had to get on the road. We all said our goodbyes and gave hugs, and then we left.

But before we left Destin, we stopped at Henderson beach one last time to get this picture of the three of us (how had we not done this already??).

Sadly, this ends our beach trip!

We were all going back to Auburn, Alabama for evening worship there, although Meredith drove separately from us. Leah and I had more encouraging conversations and laughs (and a few car troubles, which are all worked out now) on the way back to Auburn, and got to University Church of Christ early enough to talk to some people before we sat down. We met up with Alexander (my brother) again.

After services we talked to some more of our friends – I unexpectedly saw a few from Prattville, John Mark’s and my first married home, while we were there – and made our way back to meet my parents in Anniston (where Leah lives). This part of the trip also wasn’t without its events, but I’ll spare you the details and say that we made it Anniston by midnight with the help of Alexander and our parents! We dropped Leah off there, got a short tour of her home, and then were in Athens by 2:30 am, where I stayed with my parents until Monday evening.

My parents and I all went straight to bed when we got home (Widget had stayed with my parents and was overjoyed to see me – here are some pictures of his trip).

I slept in some Monday, and they got up the next morning to go to work. While they were at work, I spent some time outside with Widget, did some laundry, and then my long-time best friend Peyton picked me up; we got ice cream at a local ice cream shop and then drove around all afternoon just like we used to in high school. It was so fun and so needed! She also got to meet Widget – they instantly hit it off. 🙂

When my parents got off of work Monday, we loaded their car with the rest of my things and headed to Collierville, Tennessee so that we could meet John Mark halfway to our home in Arkansas (finally! 🙂 ). John Mark and I made it safely home by around one the next morning, as did my parents.

10209625024567056
Notice Widget’s Batman ears.

This whole, long trip was so fun! And not without text after text and FaceTime after FaceTime with John Mark. I’m so thankful I got to see so many of my old friends and spend some one-on-one time with both Leah and Meredith. It was truly an experience. 🙂

Our Memorial Day Trip & Mini-Vacation (Part 1)

This series of posts is mainly for my own documentation and for family or friends who are curious to keep up with what we’ve been doing. Just to make my trip post a little more bearable and cut the read time in half, I’m going to split it up into two parts. Today you’ll see part one, and tomorrow I’ll publish part two. 🙂

If you follow my blog, you’ll recognize some of the names and faces I mention, but I want to start off by introducing our newest family member, Widget! He’s a miniature pinscher/dachshund mix (DoxiePin), and we got him almost four weeks ago. He went with us on our trip down to Alabama.

10209605355635345

A couple of weeks ago, I got back from a mini-vacation over Memorial Day weekend and the following week. John Mark and I (plus our fish – more about my traveling fish here – and Widget) went back home to Alabama where we visited both of our families. We left on a Thursday, after John Mark got off of work (he took off Friday), and got in late that night. Because I knew we would have so much to load into the car the day of travel, I did most of my before-travel preparation in the days leading up to it. I also had a friend coming to visit and meet Widget Thursday while John Mark was at work, so I knew I would need to have the house cleaned up and everything packed before Thursday. That day, while my friend Holly was here, I just did some laundry and made sure I gave Widget a bath so he would be clean for the 6.5 hour car ride to Alabama.

Holly met Widget, and we had some catching-up time, and then when John Mark got home, I made supper to eat in the car, we loaded all of our luggage, and then we headed out for Alabama.

IMG_4704
He loves car rides with the windows rolled down!

We always split up our trips home half-and-half because our families only live 15 minutes apart from each other. So, our first stop was to stay with his parents. We got in late that night, so we only spent a few minutes visiting, his parents meeting Widget, and then we all went to bed so we would be ready for a busy day on Friday. Friday morning we all got up and went out to see John Mark’s maternal grandparents. We met their new dog and they met ours, then enjoyed spending some time with them before we went back to the house to hang out, eat lunch, and get ready for dinner that night.

For dinner we met up with some more of his family at Piccadilly, a cafeteria-style restaurant. We got to see his brother & sister-in-law, aunt & uncle, maternal grandparents, and parents. We recently found out that we’re going to be aunt & uncle, Lord willing, so we got to hear all about the new baby and what the rest of the family has been up to since Christmas. After a delicious meal and good company, we went back to the house where John Mark’s paternal grandmother, aunt, cousin, and brother & sister-in-law met us to spend some time before it got too late.

We had dessert and coffee, and everyone enjoyed playing with Widget (somehow he kept becoming the center of attention). Even in the short period of time we had, it was wonderful to catch up with both sides of the family since we don’t get to visit often now that we live in Arkansas.

Friday night, we got together a spur-of-the-moment visit with our friends from Prattville, who we hadn’t seen since we moved. So, the next day, Saturday, they drove the 2.5 hours to North Alabama to spend a few hours with us before they had to go back home. It was a short but much needed visit with them. We all (John Mark’s parents, Rhett, Bess, & Truman, and us) spent time talking and laughing (and some crying) before we went to lunch at Big Bob Gibson’s, a delicious barbecue place that John Mark grew up going to. After lunch, we packed up, said goodbye to his parents, and we all drove to my parents’ house so Rhett, Bess, & Truman could see them for a minute or two. Then we had to say our goodbyes to them so they could get on the road to home.

(I wish I had thought to take more pictures of this portion of our trip, but with such a crunched schedule, I just didn’t remember to.)

This began the block of days we would spend with my family. My brother was also home from Auburn, so we got to see him, as well. That night, my parents’ had invited our extended family over for a small cookout of ribs and veggies and dessert (yum!). Both my maternal and paternal aunts & uncles came over, as well as one of my cousins and my maternal grandmother. My friends Leah and Bethany also got to come.

This was an exciting night we got to spend outside. We got to see a lot of my side of the family at one time and just enjoy everyone’s company. Thankfully the weather was beautiful, and we were able to stay out the whole time and visit with each other over a meal.

John Mark, Alexander, Leah, and Bethany started playing a card game once most of the company was gone, and since I didn’t really want to play, my dad and I decided to take a short walk around the neighborhood. We enjoyed spending some much-needed quality time together just catching up while my dad shared some of his wisdom. 🙂 After we got back, I visited with my friends some more, and then told them goodbye before we went to bed.

This is my brother, Alexander, holding Widget as he struggled to get a bite of food off of the table.

10209605358355413

On Sunday morning and evening we went to worship services with my family. Then we enjoyed a lazy afternoon with them.

John Mark, Alexander, and I went to get Hawaiian Shaved Ice with a few friends after services that evening before we went to get a bite to eat and go home, which brought back tons of summer memories for me! I used to get shaved ice with the same friend, Tara, every summer after we went swimming in her neighborhood pool.

The church we worshiped with Sunday was the church I grew up in, so I got to see lots of familiar faces, and hug some of my sweet friends who still live in the area. Later that night we spent some more time hanging out and talking with my family, and then went to bed so we could enjoy the next day.

Monday, Memorial Day, we spent all day outside. We didn’t want to drive anywhere, so when we got up that morning, John Mark and Alexander went fishing in a neighboring pond that belongs to family friends, and my mom, dad, Widget, and I sat on the patio with our feet in a kiddie pool (I called it our redneck vacation 😉 ). We sat here for hours because it was so refreshing in the heat. Although we only had the morning and early afternoon before John Mark, Alexander, and I had to go back home, it was such a relaxing day!

Around 4 o’clock on Memorial Day (after a spontaneous milkshake run and visit with my grandmother) John Mark packed up and left to go back to Arkansas. I stayed behind because I planned on riding down to Auburn with my brother to stay a few days before a girls’ beach trip to Destin, Florida. (This was the first time I had been away from John Mark since we got married – it wasn’t the easiest transition, but I kept myself busy enough to be distracted.) We had encouraging and much-needed conversations all the way to Auburn. We shared a car for about three years in college, so it reminded me of all the times we rode back and forth from Auburn to home, and it was a great ride.

When we got there, he took me to some friends’ house where I would stay for the next two nights. I went in and went straight to the room I would be staying in until all of my friends got home, and then we had a short visit before we all decided to go to sleep. My friends had to go to classes and music lessons and band camps and all kinds of things the next few days, so I was by myself most of the time, except lunchtime and after dinner. They let me watch TV shows on Netflix while they were gone, and I spent some time eating lunch with my friend Christian who had made us a super-healthy and super-delicious lunch Tuesday afternoon. That night I went to dinner with my brother at Pieology, a pizza place I had never been to. I got one with gluten-free crust and all kinds of toppings. That was delicious. 🙂 Later I got to see my friend Emily-Anne when she was home, and we talked again until it was time to go to sleep.

Wednesday morning Christian took me to Mama Mocha’s Coffee Emporium and Roasters (somehow I had never been there, even though I spent four years in Auburn!), and we had good coffee with even better conversation. Unfortunately, we couldn’t stay long because she had a music lesson to teach. So, she took me back to her house, where I waited until my brother could pick me up for lunch. Alexander and I went to Chipotle around noon and got to spend more quality time together before he took me back to the house and went back to work for another few hours.

I spent some more time watching TV/packing/cleaning up some as payment to my friends for letting me stay with them, then my friend Anna picked me up and took me to her house where we had a meal before worship that night. We didn’t get to spend as much time together as we would have liked, but it was wonderful to catch up with her and get ready for worship at her house like old times. (I didn’t live with her, but I spend 50% of my time at her house my Junior year of college and a lot of my Senior year there, too).

I hadn’t gotten to visit Auburn since January, so worshiping with my brothers and sisters there was so encouraging! There were a lot of new faces since it’s a college town, but I did get to hug some college friends and catch up with them while I was there.

 

// This is it for part 1 of the trip. Part 2 of our Memorial Day Trip & Mini-Vacation is coming tomorrow! 🙂

On Singleness, Dating & Marriage

This is going to be a long post, so if you’re interested in this topic, please stick around! But if you’d rather not read over 2000 words about singleness, dating, and marriage, feel free to move on – I understand!

I’ve written several posts in which I talk about what I’m learning from marriage and my experiences with it so far, but a friend requested that I write this as a recently-married twenty-something who is still close to the stages of singleness and dating. Now, I don’t know everything and I don’t know everyone’s situation, but I can give you my point of view and the issues as I see them.

Hindsight is 20/20. And that’s not always a bad thing! Many of the things I’m going to say are based on my experiences or things I wish had been explained to me more. So, because of my point of view, I’m mainly going to speak to girls – although some of the points might be helpful for guys, too. I don’t know everything, and I’m still joyfully learning – but here’s what I’ve found so far.

Singleness & Dating

I strongly believe that the purpose of dating is to find the person or type of person you may want to marry. Dating is fun. It’s exciting and it feels good to be doted on and cared about.  But sometimes it’s too easy for girls to rush into dating and forget the purpose or forget to be intentional about what they’re doing. They can get swept away in the emotions of it all and the joy that comes from being noticed, making it difficult to truly treat the guy right. People have varying opinions on dating, but after high school I began to view it as an opportunity to learn and grow while I found someone to marry. So, I didn’t get into the whole “dating for fun” scene. While nothing’s really wrong with that, I just knew it would be harder for me to be serious about it and keep my mind focused on my idea of the purpose of dating.

That being said, the single/dating phase can be rough. It certainly wasn’t easy for me. There’s low self-esteem (I actually wrote about self-esteem here) and there’s the obsession over the impression you’ll make, rushing into dating or dating for the wrong reasons, being honest with yourself and the guy about how you feel – all kinds of things.

I’ve found that all of of these are highly spiritual issues – a thought that I wish I’d had long time ago, but as I’ve grown I’ve realized that it’s not a me issue; it’s an issue of faith and strength in God, and in turn confidence in yourself as a person.

Trust in God first.

Being single and dating sometimes blur together a bit. Some people say you’re single if you’re not married and some say it’s when you’re not dating – my generation has always used the latter. Either way, being single & dating (together as a phase in your life) is a period when you should be preparing yourself to be the person you need to be.

You should take this time to prepare yourself to be the person you need to be as a Christian, as a friend, as a daughter, and as a person. I realized that when I started bettering myself and stopped completely obsessing over having someone to date, things started falling into place, including my spiritual strength.

When you’re single/dating is really the perfect time to work on this because you’re more vulnerable to heartbreak and roller-coaster emotions. You’ll have those awkward, in-between phases when you’re hoping for the next possible relationship to pop up, and you should think of these times as good rather than lonely. Use them to your advantage, and examine yourself as a person and a Christian. How can you improve yourself? What do you need to do to grow closer to God before you find a boyfriend or a husband? When you’re grounded and solid in yourself and God, you’ll be more likely to find a grounded and solid guy to date or even marry down the road. This carries over to the impression you’ll make on a guy. Being grounded and solid in yourself and God will lead you to confidence in the dating world. Then, if the relationship doesn’t turn out how you’d hoped, it won’t seem like the end of the world, plus you’ll put faith in God and His will for you.

Date at the right time and for the right reasons.

There are a variety of reasons for rushing into dating or dating for the wrong reasons. But nine times out of ten, it’s because of the low amounts of “godly-esteem” you (as a general term) have shown in that area. This lack of a godly view of yourself will lead to the lack of a godly view of dating and relationships. Don’t think that having a boyfriend will change your current situation, be a quick fix for self-esteem, make you popular, make you feel better…whatever it is. It could be a distraction for a second, but in the long run that’s hurtful to you and your significant other. Throw out personal gain.

Use wisdom when you choose who to date, when to date, and why you date because dating isn’t trivial. My advice is to take a step back and ask yourself why you’re dating. If the answer is something that’s going to harm the relationship, you’ll need to re-evaluate yourself and your motives.

Although it’s probably an innocent motive, it might not be healthy – that’s when you need to consider spending some time to grow. I wish I had done more of this before I got serious about dating – especially because I tend to have a wide range of strong emotions that can be difficult to reel in if I’m not careful.

Be completely and totally honest.

I know.  We all talk ourselves out of our feelings and sometimes our wisdom because it’s just too hard to face them.

It’s so hard to be honest with yourself about how you feel. It’s hard to be honest about the right thing when the right thing doesn’t feel good. It’s hard to be honest about something when you know it might end badly. Sometimes it’s hard to be honest even when you know it might end well. And it’s hard to be honest with your guy about all of the above. I’m intentionally not being specific here, but I just want to make it known that honesty is best every time because it falls under the category of godly communication.

This is something I really wish I had been able to handle easier when I was dating (and still work on now). Be honest up front and continue to be open about your thoughts and feelings – we need more of this in relationships. When you hold your thoughts and feelings in (because you think it could be harmful or painful or even just because you’re confused or embarrassed) they will continue to build up until one day they explode, and things are worse than if you’d opened up. If you start practicing this while you’re dating, marriage will be that much easier.

Forget about society’s views.

Our society places a huge emphasis on the “glamour” of dating or being in a relationship, and most of the time the way it defines that relationship is through the romantic or even sexual aspects of it. It ignores the fact that the only place sex has is in marriage, but it also forgets that love is more than a romantic gesture of flowers or a meal or a love letter. Love is more than mushy feelings when you’re at your best. Society defines a simple dating relationship based on what’s being done instead of character and its Creator’s intentions.

Now, I enjoy a good Nicholas Sparks movie or romantic comedy – but it’s just not realistic. Love isn’t simply gifts or showing off the nice things you have and can do. It’s an active appreciation and care for someone – a huge part of the relationship you actually have to work at.

Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth;  bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. –1 Corinthians 13:4-8a

He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. -1 John 4:8

You have to know what love really is before you can truly be successful in a relationship. Christians, especially, need to stand up for this and teach their children what love is because real, godly love is being, and always has been, attacked. People need to see godly love.

So, really, it’s all a spiritual issue. Each of these aspects are important to being single & dating because they’re important to God. They’re things you need to learn while you’re in this stage of life because it will be that much easier and your dating period will be that much less of a roller coaster if you continue to focus that time on God. If you’re right and strong in God then your waiting game will all be worth it (Romans 8:28).


Marriage

So, you’ve been preparing yourself through singleness and dating, and you’re ready to think about marriage.

First, I want to say: marriage is truly a wonderful gift, but it might not be for everyone. And that’s OK! The apostle Paul wasn’t married (that we know of), and look what he did for the kingdom of God. You don’t have to be married to make an impact in the kingdom and on this world. You just have to be focused. But since I am married, and I believe my husband and I can do a lot of good as a team, you’ll get that perspective.

To those people who grew up (or are growing up) in the church, I know this is a topic you hear a lot – how serious marriage is. But they aren’t kidding. And I’m not kidding. Take it seriously, and try not to get tired of hearing about it. Accept the advice willingly because it will make your life easier. Believe me, you can always learn something new.

In a biblical marriage, the husband is the head and should love his wife just like Christ loves the church, and the wife should submit to and respect her husband – really the same way she would Christ (Ephesians 5:22-33). This doesn’t mean that the husband is better than the wife or that the wife is a weakling; it just means she’s valuable in her own way. The wife was made to be a helper for the husband because man didn’t need to be alone (Genesis 2:18-24). Men and women are vastly different, and because of that, they were given vastly different and equally important jobs in their lives and in the church.

Just like the church, both parties have a different role in the marriage, and both are of equal importance for the marriage to be both godly and successful. And it’s designed to represent the relationship between Christ and His church, so it’s really not something to be tampered with. All of this is incredibly important to understand before you marry and remember throughout your marriage.

So if I haven’t stressed it enough in the paragraphs above, marriage is a big deal. Anyone who’s getting ready to be married needs to be serious about the marriage and the guy and know what you’re getting into. You need to possess a certain level of maturity and understanding before you get married, but keep in mind that you will always grow and you can always continue to let God mold you into a godly woman – growth, not perfection.

Have a solid understanding of marriage.

For a while before I was married, especially during the figuring-it-out phases of dating, I thought that marriage was going to be something in which I would magically change into a perfectly put-together, confident woman who never had to deal with another personal problem. Obviously that’s not true, and thankfully I formed a more solid view of marriage as I was preparing to be married.

Even though I’m embarrassed to admit that I thought all of that, I think a lot of girls believe it to be true because of the way it’s portrayed in society.

You’re not Cinderella. You won’t change overnight. There won’t be a magical transition into adulthood in which you suddenly know everything about everything – you’ll simply keep learning. And these are all good things! It would be lame if the husband and wife both suddenly changed and didn’t know each other anymore the minute they got married. But people tend to think and teach that if you have your dream guy by your side then you can conquer the world (YAY!!!!).

Ladies, only God can do that for you. Husbands are amazing and encouraging and helpful, but they aren’t God.

While that huge, magical shift to perfection would be nice, marriage is simply a bigger step forward in life (an awesome one!), and you still have to work on your priorities and mindset and everything just as much, if not more, than you were before.

There are huge differences.

You’re working as a team now. You should be heirs of the grace of life together (1 Peter 3:7).

Be aware that when you get married, you have to alter your mindset to think about two people instead of just yourself. And this applies in every single situation. Every action you take and word that you say will affect your spouse somehow. Because of that you have to make an extra effort not to be selfish, whether or not what you’re doing would be considered selfish in the first place. Even if something you’re doing doesn’t violate God’s commands or your conscience, it may be an annoyance or even a hindrance to your spouse.

Your husband is still a person, and he’s still a child of God – not an emotional target. This means it’s necessary to remember to treat him as you would any other soul, with love, respect (in all situations), and understanding.

As a woman, it’s all too easy to forget that I think and operate differently than my husband. And I always have! I just didn’t realize it as much before we got married because we didn’t live together and see each other every single day. I have work to control my emotions and think logically based on what’s best for him and our marriage, while he has to work to understand my emotional needs for the same reasons. No one’s challenges will be the same, but most of the time, there will be significant personality differences in the husband and wife. Because of these differences, you’ll have to be even more in tune with each other and what works within your marriage so that you can constantly grow. Pay attention to your husband so that you know what to expect and how to be considerate.

Don’t lose sight of your before-marriage relationship.

You’ll still have fun together, and you won’t lose all of your friends. You still get to go on dates and hang out together. Although there will be big changes, you’ll usually be making decisions about them as a team, and if you’ve stayed focused on God and each other, you won’t lose sight of what you already had. 🙂

Marriage is absolutely beautiful and wonderful and one of my favorite gifts from God – but just like all the other gifts from God, it needs to be taken seriously. The best part is that, even though you might not change overnight, you get to change together and grow together “’til death do you part.”

What’s most important is simply to be intentional and thoughtful and always put God first. That’s the biggest and best thing you can do for any relationship on this earth – because if you do that, everything else will fall into place.

 

// So, there it is. Over 2000 words on what I think about singleness, dating, and marriage. What about you? Do you have any advice or lessons learned to share?

To My Friendship Circle

When you grow up with such a large, tight-knit group of friends, it can be easy to forget that they’ve been there for you – some since birth, some since elementary school, and it just keeps going from there. It can be hard to thank each of them for just how much they taught you, gave you, and helped you. You forget to thank them for what really matters.

So, to my Friendship Circle,

Past and present – you know who you are. I thank God upon every remembrance of you (Philippians 1:3).

I wish I could bring you all here together, take you out for coffee, and tell each of you how much you’ve meant to me over the course of my 23 years. But since I can’t, this will have to suffice.

Thank you for deciding to be my friends when we were little and bright-eyed (and some of you when we were going through that horrible awkward phase – you know the one). I still remember how some of us became friends, but the majority of you just seem like you’ve been there the whole time. There’s not always a definite beginning because, especially when we were young, it didn’t matter who it was or how it happened – we just made friends and we always loved each other.

Thank you to the ones who’ve drifted away. You were there to help me grow as a child and a weirdo middle schooler, and some into high school. We may not always be close, but I cherish the memories we made and the times we had because I’m certain that you were in that season of my life for a reason. We all change, but what your friendships meant to me never will.

Thank you for crying with me through the bad times, laughing through the good times, and celebrating through the best times. We’re all so different, but we love with the same big heart, and for that I’m grateful.

Our GIF texting conversations and hideous Snapchat faces will never fail to amuse me no matter how much I forget to reply – just remember, I really am reading them. 😉 And really, one more Netflix marathon couldn’t hurt.

We’ve all had our fights and differences and little rants, but I’m glad most of you have stuck with me. We didn’t all hang out at the same time, but we all had different fun, and I’ve loved each of you equally. From aspiring fourth-grade rock band members to hosting fake TV shows to singing together in recitals to those horribly-executed study parties, we’ve pretty much done it all. And I wouldn’t take any of it back for a second.

I’m thankful to have friends from all walks of life, and all kinds of places. Some of you I became friends with later in life, and we’ve made up for lost time with heart-to-hearts about our fears, hopes, regrets, dreams – anything and everything. You might not all know each other, but to me you’re part of that never-ending circle of friends (“the circle is round, it has no end, that’s how long I want to be your friend,” TBT to Brownies) who I love and care about just as much as the others.

We all have our weaknesses, and because they’re all different, we complement and push each other along. You let me totally obsess over all things Christmas and every puppy I see. Some of you brought me ice cream when I was sick and drove me around when I didn’t have a car or was just too afraid I would get lost. You listened to me go on and on about everything that seemed the end of the world to me and didn’t ask me to stop. So thank you for understanding me when I’m completely out of my mind and loving me when I’m the least lovable. For showing me compassion and empathy and grace and kindness even when I don’t deserve it.

I know you support me in my dreams even though you don’t always tell me out loud; I appreciate each of you for that.

Thank you for all the times we’ve sat in our cars and talked for hours, “Random Thursdays” spent in Wal-Mart, and late-night Taco Bell or coffee runs when we were supposed to be taking care of real-life responsibilities. It was needed for our hearts and our souls and our friendships. Thank you for correcting me when I needed it and encouraging me every day. You’ve all been your own kind of light.

I imagine it’s the same for most friend groups, but this one is special – because this one is mine. I’ll cherish your friendships for the rest of my life, no matter what happens.

Thank you, friends, for being you. I couldn’t do life without you by my side. There will always be room in my heart and a spot on my couch for you. 🙂

In Honor of Six Months

It’s been almost six months since our wedding – time is flying! In honor of our almost-six-month mark, I want to share it with you.

I was surprisingly calm all day – if you know me, you would have thought I would be nervous and jittery. But I was all smiles, and simply ready to get married. From what I hear, John Mark seemed the same way! Neither of us were worried about the outcome or the weather, we just knew that by the end of the day, we would be married and off to our new life together. (Also, thanks essential oils for helping me stay level-headed). Just to give you a peek at how chill I was, one of my bridesmaids took this picture about an hour before the ceremony, after we had taken all of our formal pictures:

12249681_10207815006515586_6159958706365409579_n

Back to seriousness – I was overwhelmed by the amount of help we received throughout the entire engagement process, day before and of our wedding, and we couldn’t have done it without all of these wonderful people – some of whom I don’t even know about, I’m sure! Most of the day was sunny and hot, but right before the ceremony, rain started to pour – which didn’t stop many friends and family from coming. It rained through the entire wedding, and cleared up just in time for our outdoor reception. We had removed tablecloths, centerpieces, and the photo booth so everything wouldn’t get soaked, and many of our guests (in their wedding clothes) helped dry up tables and put everything right back where it belonged. By the time we walked back outside after toasting and greeting a few people, it looked perfect. We were so humbled by this visual of how many people love and support our marriage to the extent that they served us no matter the circumstances (or outfit).

We got married in my hometown, at Athens State University, and pictures by Elles Photography of Athens, Alabama. We had an indoor wedding with an indoor/outdoor reception of heavy hors d’ouvres – emphasis on the heavy (and delicious) – that my honorary aunt and her friend were in charge of. Seriously, they cooked everything and set it all up beautifully.

Getting Ready

My bridesmaids, flower girl, and I had so much while we were getting ready. We listened to music (AKA the wedding playlist I made), ate food, and just generally hung out like we normally would.

These sweet bridesmaids of mine and my lovely mom presented me with a scrapbook filled up with pictures and notes from each of them. I had no idea and was so surprised and thankful to have such a sweet memory to hold on to – tears were shed. My hair was done by Andrea, a friend of mine, and she did a wonderful job! I did my own makeup because I was of the “well I can do it just fine, so why pay for it?” mentality. Again. Too chill. Andrea and her assistant did all of my bridesmaids’ hair and they either did their own makeup or had each other help out. There was a lot of love going on. 🙂

First Look

My mom did help me get ready, but I guess she technically still had a first look after Andrea secured my veil. After that, I met my dad, then my brother, and last John Mark for a first look with each of them. They were such sweet moments that I wouldn’t trade for the world. Earlier in the summer I had bought John Mark and personalized pocket watch and a Moleskine journal that I wrote in almost every day of our (a little over 3-month long) engagement. He was completely surprised, and that was my favorite part. 😉

The Mr. and Mrs.

I found my dress at The Something Blue Shoppe in Hartselle, Alabama. I wanted head-to-toe lace, and I wanted a train. I thought I wanted something super flowy, but I surprised myself! My mom mentioned Audrey Hepburn to the person helping us, and he immediately brought this gorgeous dress with a lace “jacket” with a collar to go over it. I fell in love. I’m a firm believer in covering up more – I want to draw more attention to Christ, less to myself, and save anything else for my husband eyes only. So, we had the jacket affixed to the dress and lined to my liking. I don’t mind telling because 1) I want to share my convictions about modesty. 2) It looks like it came that way, amiright??

John Mark got a new black suit, and so kindly wore this tie I found that would blend both his groomsmens’ ties, and my girls’ dresses perfectly. If I had gotten him a full bright pink tie, he probably wouldn’t have been so accomodating. 😉 We compromised! And he looked handsome. I just love him.

The Wedding Party

John Mark and I had eight attendants each. That makes for a very long line of people – and we loved it! Like I said, we’re blessed with so many loving friends and family. These were several of our helping hands before and after the wedding. They were emotional and moral support throughout the entire day, and from what I hear, they helped with clean-up after the wedding (around ten at night). Not to mention their help after the rehearsal the night before. There are true servants in these pictures.

Family Pictures

We loved our family pictures! By this point, it was starting to rain and thunder some, so we all retreated indoors where we finished up pictures quickly before guests started arriving early. Each and every one of the people pictured is so special to us, and we’ll always treasure having these too look back on. We have every variation of family members (mostly immediate).

Before the Ceremony

I don’t have pictures of this part of the day, but it’s worth sharing. The wedding party and I had been watching the rain pour and guests scuffle in, and I remember thinking how perfect it was. I wish my guests didn’t have to get wet in the rain! But the rain didn’t matter in terms of the wedding. I was surrounded by my friends and family, and I was about to get married, and it was perfect. Then matron of honor led my other seven bridesmaids and me in a prayer before they were all called out to line up. She prayed for all of us, our friendship, and John Mark and me.

They all went out to line up in order of the ceremony, I hugged my parents so my dad could take my mom to her seat, then one of my directors came in and said, “OK, I’m going to leave you alone now. It’s just you and God.” She turned and left, and I immediately started to pray – it was the first time I had been alone all day. I prayed for John Mark and my marriage, the ceremony, and I distinctly remember thanking God over and over for helping me get to where I was that day. For John Mark. For my family. For everything, as I held back my first real tears of the day (while smiling the whole time). It seems terrifying to be completely alone directly before you walk down the aisle, but I suggest this to anyone getting married. It is scary when they tell you you’re about to be alone, but I’m so thankful for this short time I had to recognize that it wasn’t all about us. It the first time I had really been alone all day when I could just breathe and remember that God deserves all of the glory. It was exactly what I needed right before I walked down the aisle to my husband.

The Ceremony

I wanted the room to be light, simple, and cheerful to minimize the amount of clutter and work since our reception was going to be larger. So we did window coverings (which were more work than I expected, really), a white pergola with minimal decoration, one big flower arrangement, and lanterns down the aisle.

Both John Mark and I aren’t fond of standing in front of people for long periods of time, so we opted for a short and sweet ceremony that both glorified God and showed who we are. Our good friend and John Mark’s former roommate performed the ceremony, and my uncle led us in an opening prayer before we began. Another of our good friends played the songs I picked out on the piano. Three of them are popular songs, and another is instrumental. The piano gave the ceremony just the right amount of class. Our grandparents and moms were escorted down the aisle to “Here Comes the Sun” by the Beatles (I love them), the rest of the party walked to “Glasgow Love Theme” and my dad escorted me to “A Thousand Years” by Christina Perri (also The Piano Guys). We walked back down the aisle to “I Do” by Colbie Caillat, and went on to the reception. It all felt like a dream, but I remember so much more than I expected to after such a busy day – I’m so thankful for that!

Wedding and Reception Details

The ring bearer pillow was so very important to me. My mom made it out of one of her dad’s button-down shirts that he used to wear to work. I also had my mom’s wedding handkerchief wrapped around my bouquet stems.

Programs // John Mark’s brother designed the inside pages of the program for us. After we got those back, we used antique-style scrapbook paper for the front and back cover with a strip of lace down the front. My mother-in-law sewed them together (yes, sewed).

Guest Book // Our guest book was a large note-taking Bible. We asked that our guests highlight a verse and sign their names. Unfortunately the rain hindered this part a bit, but I have pictures of most of who was there, plus their RSVP cards! And the places that are highlighted and signed are treasures.

Our reception was amazing. I picked a classy/vintage theme, and we used mostly china for eating and drinking (much of it was my grandmother’s), regular silverware (wrapped in handkerchiefs as napkins) with lots of lace and floral touches. Most of the decor were gifts I was given and sentimental items. My honorary aunt had prepared food for everyone and set it all up beautifully. I didn’t get to see the finished product (or my finished cake!) until after the ceremony, and I was so happy with the results.

Photo booth // We went with a more casual photo booth where people could just take pictures with their personal cameras or phones instead of asking the photographer to provide another service. Everyone enjoyed just hanging out – and playing dress up 😉

Our venue was understandably strict (because it is a college campus that tries to stay clean and professional) about what we chose to be thrown at us when we left. I Googled all different kinds of confetti and found something called Ecofetti. It was biodegradable which helped tremendously on the clean-up end I’m sure. And it was pretty when they threw it! A couple of friends helped me make little cones out of old book pages to put it in.

Memory table // The memory table was actually a piano. It contained pictures of deceased loved ones plus dried bouquets from weddings I’ve been in or to, my mom’s veil, and ribbons from my mother-in-law’s wedding bouquet. The sweetheart table had similar items.

Toomer’s Lemonade // John Mark and I met in Auburn, and Toomer’s Drugs (a drugstore right downtown) is a big part of Auburn’s culture. The lemonade was something we could fit into the wedding without having orange and blue thrown around everywhere, making the theme look tacky. Our lemonade stand was very popular!

The Reception and Leaving

We had a white-grape-juice-punch toast and fed each other cake. We had made a deal not to smash it in each other’s faces. Sorry. 😉 After most people were done eating I did a bouquet toss. John Mark decided to throw and Auburn football – we find the garter toss terribly awkward, so we changed it up a little. After an evening full of memories and loved ones, we were seen off by a tunnel of people, flying confetti, Spongebob, and orange balloons. I wouldn’t have had this night go any other way.

Wedding Video

OK, you knew it was coming. Our wedding video. Another friend (we have so many loyal friends) shot this video for us, and did such a great job with all of the music and edits. I’ve watched it at least one hundred times, and it never gets old. You can watch it here.

wedding video still

// What we wanted most out of the wedding was for it to be Christ-centered – a wedding in which we could glorify God through our actions, ceremony, vows, and even the act of being married because it all points back to Him. He’s the reason we live and breathe, the reason we were standing there that day, and the reason we get to strive to go to heaven together.

We wouldn’t have been standing there without the guidance of our families and close friends because they helped to make us who we are. It was such an honor to be able to share this milestone in our lives with people we love and look up to. It was a blessing to have had so many of our closest friends and family there to witness this and celebrate with us.

While I know some of my readers don’t know who these people are, I want you to know that they’re reflections of Christ. The people I mentioned and the ones we were able to share it with that day are all, in some form or fashion, reflections of Christ because of their servant’s hearts and big love. They each came to be with us as we vowed to each other in the presence of our Lord because of that love.

And I don’t think I’ve ever been more humbled.

 

A Tale of Three Fish

I’ve gone through two pet Betta fish, and am now on my third. I’m the type of person who treats her pets like friends, no matter what they are, so my fish deserve some kind of recognition on my blog, am I right? They’re really a solid part of my life at this point.

*Disclaimer: if you don’t want to see more of my weird side, click x now. But if you do, I thank you! Please stick around.* 🙂

Henry

Henry was the first. He’s the one who started my very long, probably never-ending fish journey. I bought him the summer before my senior year of high school because my mom told me that having something of my own to take care of could help me manage the stress that would come from an AP class and getting ready to make a college decision. She was right on that end, for sure. He was a fairly large Betta fish, all red, and oddly chill for a fish. Sometimes he would swim to the side of the bowl and stare at me while I studied, I would say “hi” and move on with what I was doing. He never jumped and he handled bowl cleanings really well – the ultimate stress-relief fish. All in all, Henry was a perfect pet, a model fish for all the other fish out there.

But Henry lived longer than I expected (because I had only ever owned goldfish – you know how that goes), and *lightbulb* I was going to need to take him with me to Auburn, four hours away from home. I went into problem-solving mode, because I really didn’t think I could leave him behind (like I said, he was my friend). Stick him in a cup of water, put him in the cup holder, and drive on down. I found him a nice little home in my apartment, and he lived there for another couple of years. During that time, I mostly went home on weekends, but there was nobody to take care of him over Christmas Break or Spring Break, so what did I do? Once again, I put him in a cup, put him in the cup holder, and took him home with me each time. He stayed on weekends since he could handle a few days without a feeding. As a matter of fact, I think he enjoyed it.

One day, Henry died. I walked downstairs (my brother and I were about to go somewhere), and he was sitting on the bottom of the bowl. Not the top. The bottom.

Panic.

I had planned to have a funeral for him, but instead I just flushed him through streaming tears. That was the last we saw of Henry.  It was the type of thing where my friends actually hugged me as I told them the story because it was like I lost a family member; they were all very sympathetic, by the way.

Feebz

The next fish I got only a few days later was most likely sick. My poor fish, whom I had named Phoebe (later realizing it was most likely a boy, shortening it to Feebz), was extremely uncomfortable in every possible situation. He was small, kind-of rainbow and opaque, and he really didn’t like being a fish. He splashed around for some unknown reason, didn’t like feedings simply because my hand was hovering over his tiny fish body, and then he wouldn’t even eat. I don’t think he ever learned that I was feeding him so he could actually continue to live. He hid under rocks so often that I occasionally thought he had disappeared from his bowl without leaving a note. Yeah, he was a little paranoid.

Feebz especially didn’t like those Spring and Christmas Break rides home, and flitted around the whole time as if something were attacking him – I couldn’t ever stop abruptly for fear that he would jump out of his scales.

One day Feebz started trying to swim on his side with only one fin, until a few weeks later he also died. I loved this fish, but something was off, so for his sake it’s best that he’s gone. I cried a little less about him and flushed him in the same toilet that I had flushed Henry (both of whom I watched swirl all the way down in my grief). After Feebz, I told myself I wouldn’t ever get another fish.

And then a week later I did.

Fish

Great news! Fish is still living to this day. As you may have noticed, he is only named Fish (sometimes called Feesh to mix it up a little). I gave him a name when I got him and unfortunately forgot it because I’ve had so many fish. Despite his namelessness, I really do love him.

I bought Fish when he was a tiny, almost-invisible baby Betta, and raised him to be the fish he is today. He’s a dark blue, iridescent color, and he shimmers in the sunlight. I watched him eat and grow, and taught him all he knows (which isn’t much).

With Fish, I had a similar dilemma as when I bought Henry. Because Feebz had gone to his grave so quickly, I thought the same would happen again, and that Henry was just a good-luck fish. I learned that the same was not going to happen, and that I was going to have to move him several times – from Auburn to home, home to a new home with my husband, and on all Christmas vacations (and later to a house when we get one).

The thing about Fish is that he likes to stare, and he attacks his food. He is no stranger to food, and I’m always afraid he’s actually going to fly out of the bowl, into the floor, and to his death simply because he’s trying to eat – although I understand his excitement. When he’s not eating or basking on a rock, he slowly swims to the side of the bowl and stares at whatever human happens to be in the room at the time (sometimes he does this because he’s hungry – like a dog). I’d like to know what he’s thinking and sometimes, I admit, I ask him what he’s doing.

He never answers.

He’s stayed with our friends for a week where he met a baby and a cat, and has gone home to both my parents’ house and my in-laws’ house, where he almost met his doom in a garbage disposal during a bowl cleaning. Fortunately he has lived the tell the tale. He doesn’t particularly enjoy rides home, as he stays at the bottom of the travel cup most of the time, but once he’s in a real bowl in a sedentary position, he enjoys his life much more.

It may be that Fish leaves the earth sooner and it may be later, but I I hope to have many more days of looking into his creepy fish eyes as he stares at me from across the room.

 

 

Chronicles and Reflection of This Holiday Season

I’m dreaming of a 75-degree, rain-soaked Christmas. Where the weather is, indeed, frightful, but the family is delightful. A Christmas filled with laughter and love and home-cooked ham. Where the gifts are many, but the spirit is more. A busy, busy Christmas that can make you exhausted in only the best of ways. Far-away family returns for a meal and a swapping of gifts, and children come to you with big hugs and bigger hearts. In this Christmas, families and friends are united, the days are merry, and the homes are ever-bright with both Christmas lights and thankfulness.

This was my Christmas. But before we can get there, the rest of the season has to preface. Christmas isn’t just a day to me – it’s a whole, month-long holiday season (as I briefly mention here) that starts with overwhelming love and thankfulness.

Home is Where the Christmas Trees Are

John Mark and I had a long Christmas, starting with decorating our little home (which may explain why I’ve been so quiet the past couple of weeks). I think it’s important for couples to start their own traditions after they marry because traditions can help them bond even during the busiest and most stressful times if they keep it up – that goes for anyone! Our first new tradition (which I hope will stick) was to buy a live Christmas tree, even though our apartment would probably be considered too minuscule for most people to house one, but we determined to make it work.

So, after I had sufficiently decorated the rest of the apartment, we set a day to drive down the road to the little Christmas tree lot we kept passing. When that day came, we got in the car after he came home from work, went to buy Christmas lights, and then drove to that Christmas tree lot. This is something I’ve only done once, so it was exciting to be able to pick out a live tree to put in my apartment. (A real tree! In my house! I’ll never be over it). We picked out a tree within our price-range that looked perfectly symmetrical and perfectly green and perfectly perfect in every way, and we brought it home. As soon as the tree hit the tree stand in our apartment, I was opening boxes of lights and ornaments, completely ready to go. I was finished decorating it by that night, and could not have been more proud of our first tree. Something about the twinkling lights giving off the only light in the room makes my heart happy.

IMG_3519

A Surprise Birthday Party and Other Shenanigans

We have a couple of birthdays in the family thrown in right before and right after Christmas, so we always take time to celebrate those, as well. John Mark’s is one of them. His comes a week before Christmas, and I was determined to celebrate. My friends and I threw him a “reverse surprise party.” This was a last-minute, thrown-together, completely hilarious little party that I would definitely repeat. While John Mark was at a Bible study (in the home we would be having the party), my friend Bess and I went to a few stores. Read: way too many stores for our time slot. We picked up ice cream, cupcakes, candles, helium balloons, party horns, and sports-themed hats. While she drove us back to her house with a very sleepy, unhappy baby in the back seat, I assembled 29 candles in the ice cream (yes, the ice cream), which is his favorite – Blue Bell Cookies ‘n’ Cream. Bess and I got to the house completely flustered and we told her husband and another friend we were there, and that they needed to come outside. As we were all outside getting ready, John Mark was watching the baby inside the house. So we donned our party hats and horns, clumsily walked to the front door, gathered like carolers, and rang the doorbell. It took him a minute, but eventually he opened the door, and we immediately started singing “Happy Birthday” to a very embarrassed and thankful John Mark, after which we made him put on a hat and blow out his candles.

Later in the week we went home to spend some quality time with our families, celebrate his birthday another time, watch a dear friend graduate from nursing school, then we came back here for his actual birthday. (Oh, you thought that already happened? Nah). That Sunday we went to worship services as usual, and I made him a cake before he opened his present from me. Which, by the way, was all six of the Star Wars movies that are already out.

IMG_3595 (1)
Here we are with hats and our friends’ baby boy.
IMG_3583
John Mark with the cake I made him

And So Christmas Begins

The next week we planned for Christmas. I had already bought and wrapped most of the presents, so I just had to get ready to leave (more about that here) and, because we were going to be staying for over a week with our families, we had to make sure all of our overnight plans for the week of Christmas were in order. We had picked a day out of this week to spend Christmas as a couple – something extremely important to me. We opened our gifts to each other that Thursday night by the light of our tree, and planned to do stockings the next morning. When we got up the next morning we both opened our stockings, which was very much like an extra Christmas morning and children excitedly chattering about Santa’s arrival.

A few hours later we were on the road to home once again! We split the time as evenly as possible with our parents and stayed part of the week with both. Our family Christmases didn’t start until Christmas Eve, but we spent some relaxing time with his family for the first few days. Once Christmas Eve hit, we were hit head-on with that that crazy-busy Christmas I described way up at the beginning.

Where do I start?

It was an odd Christmas this year. Most of the week we (mostly just me because I’m nervous about bad weather upon hearing it might come) watched the weather because of tornado warnings and heavy, heavy rain. We spent Christmas Eve with John Mark’s dad’s side of the family. We gathered for a meal and gifts, the next day was Christmas morning -there were three different celebrations that day: Christmas morning with my side’s immediate family, then my mom’s side (described here – scarily accurate again this year), then back to John Mark’s parents’ house for his immediate family. The next day we met his mom’s side of the family for a lunch get-together, and then went back to my parents’ house for my dad’s side of the family. Not only was Saturday Christmas on my dad’s side, it was also his birthday! We had a two-in-one Christmas and birthday party that night. He has a selfless heart, so he never likes to pair his birthday with Christmas – he just wants to let the family open presents without the attention on him, but we always have a cake and presents for him anyway. Are you dizzy yet? Me, too. In a wonderful, beautiful way.

I’ve always loved how just a simple meal can bring about the happiest of conversations and the best memories. It’s rarely about the food when we get together for holidays; it’s about the hearts and souls coming together to share love and light during a special time of year. We had family of all ages, and we enjoyed every bit of it. All of us different, but all united in purpose and love. I couldn’t help but sit back and be thankful for overwhelming amount of family we have. The word “overwhelming” takes on a different meaning when you change your mindset. So many people complain about how busy their holidays are because of how much family they have to see and how busy they’re going to be. Those things are true! I understand the stress. But once you realize that all of the “overwhelming” family is there out of love, you’ll think of it a little bit differently. I tried to take on a slowed down mindset and applied some of these principles even during the busiest of days because it’s the best kind of stress. It’s the kind that’s only harmful if you let it be harmful. I chose to sit back, soak it in, and let it be.

From Thanksgiving to Christmas, birthdays to holidays, it was beautifully busy. Now, it’s time to turn over a new leaf, and I wouldn’t have had the year end any other way.

IMG_3624
Merry Christmas and a happy new year from us to you!

 

 

 

I Got My Dream Job

When I was in elementary school, I wanted to be a marine biologist (what was I thinking? I’m not good at science). As I got a little older, I thought it would be cool to be a journalist in a big city, which morphed into just wanting to write.

By my transition from high school to college, I wanted to be wife and later a mom. I went through college, and eventually earned my Bachelor in English, but I didn’t feel like I fit anywhere; I was restless and thought what I was doing was pointless (deep down knowing it really wasn’t). There was never an academic niche I felt like I really fit in and had a passion for. I knew I could write, but I never thought I was getting anywhere with it. So I hoped and prayed I could have the “job” that I wanted. The one I didn’t always like admitting to people. The one I got funny looks for talking about.

I wanted to work from home. By that I mean be a homemaker and write in between, but it’s hard to do that if you’re a family of one, providing for yourself. So I continued school and my on-campus job, patiently waiting to see what opportunities would be opened to me. God has answered my prayers beautifully. He’s opened up doors for me that let me write, be what my husband needs, what my church needs, what my friends need, and what I need.

Two years ago I found a man that I fell in love with (actually, he found me). Here are our first photos together. 🙂

Thankfully, his job allows me to stay home and be his helper. To most people it’s an old-fashioned, unconventional job.  My husband goes to work Monday-Thursday, and I get to keep up our apartment, cook our dinners (or try to – still working on that one), and make time to help others when they need it. I get to be and feel useful.

IMG_3427
My husband is a forester. I have to share this precious picture of him before work Monday morning. I got to go with him part of the way to work because his work truck was in the shop.

God has allowed our relationship to grow in a beautiful way. It’s a way in which our lives aren’t rushed, and we can spend time growing together in Him. There’s not a better feeling than knowing I’m doing a job that God intended me to do (Genesis 2:18). I’m proud to have a job that can further His kingdom, one in which I get to respect, love, submit to, and work with my husband. Because I married such a loving man, it’s easy for me to submit to him. He doesn’t abuse his headship or leave me out of decisions. We’re equals in our relationship – equals with different and important jobs, and we both recognize this. We both recognize that we’re useful to each other equally. I’m thrilled to see this part of God’s plan working in my life.

Apart from my home life, I still get to write. I get to use my gift to share my life with others in an effort to encourage and inspire. I no longer have to squeeze this kind of writing into my schedule like I did in college, feeling guilty that I never had time in between classes and homework. Writing is something I get to make time for during my day, and it’s something I can do while still carrying out my  stay-at-home wife responsibilities.

11895171_872607106153002_8729459140147426202_o
Wedding photo courtesy of Elles Photography

I’m not a mom yet, but one day I hope to be, and like my marriage relationship, I hope to be a mom who glorifies God. Because it’s all going to be part of my exciting, God-given, life-fulfilling job. I know it takes patience, and my job will always come with its own challenges, but I also know that I can have joy through those challenges with God in my life and Christ in my heart.

Romans 8:28

And we know that all things work together for good for those that love God, for those who are the called according to His purpose.


i-got-my-dream-job-2