What September Promises

I should have written this weeks ago. October always seems to come barreling in with such a push to savor all the moments that few are left savored. Instead, it bulldozes anything in its path in favor of all things pumpkin and leafy and football. Yet it still stands near the top of my list of favorite months.

September held special memories, though, that cannot be overlooked. I had the privilege of cheering on the Rome Braves to an SAL championship as the 2016 baseball season came to a close. What a bittersweet time as the Atlanta Braves closed the gates at Turner Field for the last time. The Ted holds such fond memories in this heart of mine, but I’m so excited for the days ahead at SunTrust Park.

 

As many of you know, I’ve recently started attending a different church. I have experienced the difficulties a Sunday morning encompasses when one is faced with getting out of bed to go somewhere new alone. It shouldn’t be so daunting to be in a room full of believers, whether or not you know them. I’ve never walked this sort of season before and I’m so thankful God has had me here, difficult though it may be. You see, I grew up going to church with my parents or with friends, and while in college I always had pals to go with on Sunday mornings regardless of where we went to church. As a post-collegiate single adult, that can be a daunting task if only because the enemy loves to use our perceived weaknesses and imperfections to keep us from pursuing Christ and community with His kingdom. I was blessed to be met this first Sunday at a new place by a friend of a friend, gracious and full of hospitality, that led me to the coffee and to seats with their family. It’s so interesting the things you notice on this side of things and here is my wisdom gleaned:

To churches as a whole: it’s not you, it’s us. We have crowd-fright quite often and simply fear being noticed as “the outsider” when really all we want is to belong. We don’t often want to be the loner, so we check our phones too often and rush through the entering and leaving to avoid the awkward. Truly, you are doing a good job, just bear with us.

To fellow believers seeking a new home: go. Your potential gain greatly outweighs the discomfort you will feel for a moment. And you’ll easily find that you were meant to be there, to experience what you experience, to learn what you learn, and to see what you see on a Sunday morning. It’s ingrained in the way your heart beats.

To my friends who just don’t do church: we’re sorry for greeting you too much from such a surface level and never following up with you later. We’re also sorry for not ever talking to you. We fear the awkward just like you, but that’s no excuse. We mean well, but we’re often terrible at putting it into action. We still value you. We still see you and want to know you.

To those of us now accustomed to the cadence of our own congregation: make hospitality your priority. Invite your new friends, but in such a way that they know you want them there. Be there for them through the whole process and introduce them to new folks. Make them comfortable the way you would if you were inviting them into your house. After all, it’s the same thing. Hospitality is at the heart of Jesus and the disciples and the early church we so fondly reference these days. They broke bread together, they met together daily, they picked each other up and sacrificed for the strengthening of the weakest among them. Live interrupted and live loved.

 

One of my favorite characteristics of this new place is their intermingling of hymns during worship. I’ve reached a place in working out my faith where it’s less in the volume and fullness of it all and more in the simplicity of the words. It’s less about consuming the newest worship and more about what my heart is speaking. It’s more about rest, more about shabbat and sabbath and stillness. It’s more in paying attention to the movements of the Spirit within and less in the movements around me. I had the pleasure of attending a sweet homecoming at a little church just north of here where congregants old and young told tales of God moving through His people. 2 Corinthians 4 says life and light are continually at work in us. What a legacy we leave, no matter what we do. Let us seek a life so full of Christ that we inherently leave a legacy worthy of the presence of Jesus. It doesn’t matter how many people you influence if you cannot see the one that needs what God has given you to speak.

September was also a time of goodbyes and closed chapters. I worked my last day at Chick-fil-A on September 30, surrounded by dozens of donuts (and I do mean dozens..at least 3 I think!). To say I have learned so much in the last ten months is the biggest understatement. I have learned about character and attitude, my own shortcomings and strengths, and what it takes to serve those around you in the midst of chaos. I have met incredible people, from customers who drive up to that window regularly for breakfast or lunch or six cups of ice on their way to work, to some of the sweetest folks I get to carry in my heart forever. I’m sure I said this in, say, February or March, but Alison, Christy, and Debbie have challenged my faith, and helped me grow in so many ways, and have laughed so hard with me over the silliest of all things like snapchat filters, tall tales, or arms piled high with parchment paper from sheets of cookies. There are memories of stuffing boxes, taking pictures, bagging orders, and seeing familiar faces that will never be forgotten. Oh, and that time we ran a 5k in tutus. I am endlessly thankful for these sisters and so many others and for this incredible season at CFA.

But, October brings cooler temperatures, celebrations of Martha, and a newness that can only be found in the last loveliest colors of the year. There is so much stillness on this horizon of mine, so much savoring, resting, and being. So much yoga, coffee, decorating, and steps as bold as my lipstick.

 

One more thing before I go. My dear friend Morgan is engaged! We met in Swaziland back in November of 2012 when I walked into the team house from a full day of travel to her Auburn sweatshirt and potato salad. We became fast friends and have kept in touch through my eleven months abroad, time when we were both in the States, and now. We cheer for different football teams, but still love each other a whole bunch. She’s been back in Swazi for a little over 2 years as a full-time missionary. During this time she met the love of her life and they are getting MARRIED!! How exciting, right?! Needless to say, I am beyond thrilled to stand with her IN AFRICA as she commits herself to the love of her life. If you’ve gotten this far, you know that means I’m going to Africa!!! I will be there for about 2 weeks in March, doing work with her ministry for the first week or so and celebrating her wedding before coming home. I know this is a bit of an unconventional mission trip, but I am so excited to go back to this country that made such a deep impression on my heart and hug these sweet folks again. It is such a tiny country in southern Africa, but it holds such a large part of my heart. If you’re interested in more details on the ministry we’ll be working with or how you can support them (or me!), shoot me an email, leave a comment, or find me on social media. I would LOVE to share photos and tell you this sweet story.

Enjoy October with all its flannel, apples, football, and fellowship, sweet friends. It is a month bursting with blessings and cherished memories.

August Rush

Do any of you remember that movie? The one with the little boy that drums on the guitar to make rhythms and cadences in the most unique way and ends up finding his parents in the heart of New York City? Something about it gives me heart flutters and makes me want to dance in tall grass with fireflies all around. I feel this way about this month that disappeared like a flash of heat lightning in the middle of summer.

In some months I see God pursuing me in the simplest ways – the smallest moments that make deep impressions and get written and counted in this journal of mine. But this month He has pursued me with the flash of the blazing sun and the splendor of the most magnificent wildflowers you’ve ever seen.

I’ve spent a lot of time at the baseball field. Atlanta’s doing pretty good, though we’re still making tough trade decisions and no where close to the post-season (but I digress..). Rome is the second-half division champ, which means more baseball in Rome for a few weeks. It’s like Groundhog day, but instead of seeing fall rushing in, summer’s going to take its slow sweet time leaving us. This is the part I love: when the sun starts to set just a minute earlier and a fall breeze barely rustles the highest leaves in the trees. We know it’s coming and our anticipation is full, but we aren’t ready to give up on lazy hot summer nights and wearing tank tops just yet.

Running and yoga have become staples recently and I’ve stopped taking as many naps as I did in June and July. All of which simply proves that this body of mine is on the mend. Carving out time to be healthy and make healthy choices, both physically and spiritually, isn’t as easy as I’ve always been led to believe. It’s more like carving a masterpiece out of stone, like Winged Victory. It takes vision, forethought, upper body strength, and the right tools to persevere.

we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. Romans 5:3-5

My sweet college pals and I finally got together to celebrate the beginning of the Olympics and later in the month for a celebratory birthday brunch (we delivered the last of our Christmas presents, if that gives you any idea how long it’s been since we were all in the same room). I am so thankful for these three and the friendships we have forged through fire. For the longest time in life, I never believed I would have friendships that would last forever; they all seemed so fleeting and temporal for so long, even with these sisters. But we four have been through so many seasons together in our seven or so years of friendship. We’ve fought like mad and made poor decisions, but we’ve also chosen to show up for each other. One of my greatest memories of Madison is just a small moment from a few years ago. I was sick with a stomach virus of some sort and out of work on the Mountain for a week. Madi showed up at my apartment door with saltines, ginger ale, soup, and powerade after spending a whole day teaching. She didn’t stay long, but it was more than enough that she came and it left an impression. I feel like our friendship in college and in the years since has been just that – choosing to show up, sometimes in hard seasons or times when we don’t agree with the decisions the other is making. Nonetheless, we still show up and hustle alongside each other. This is what friendship looks like and they have taught me so much about loving others. God teaches me so much through this little sunshine gang.

Ironically enough, August marked one year from losing my job. I’m not sure how many of you have been on unemployment before, but I can attest to how defeating it is to spend weeks applying to jobs with no response, especially when you have a college degree and pretty good experience. It can lower all sense of self-esteem and value in your skills and talents. To attest to God’s faithfulness, however, I will tell you that this season at Chick-fil-A has been one full to the brim with innumerable blessings and lessons. In one of my first weeks, I remember walking from my apartment and seeing such a magnificent sunrise. Since then, it has been such a powerful moment each day to notice the sun rising outside the windows of the store and remember the faithfulness of God. In a similar vein, I’ve spent so much of this month interviewing for jobs, some as a result of someone who got my resume this time last year. Yes, you read that right – last year. Sometimes, God’s timeline makes me laugh like Sarah when God told her she would, indeed, bear a child in her old age. We laugh at His timing because we are so hell-bent on it being our timing. So much so that anxiety and worry and fear overtake us. I am guilty as charged. Something Beth Moore said on social media this month stuck with me:  When the tide of anxiety rises, let’s sit like watchmen on a wall, thanking God in advance, expecting His faithfulness. His Grace. His Power. How blessed I am to wake up well before the sun these days and thank God in advance for His faithfulness, even if that’s as simple as the sunrise. He always comes through. Never late, but, bless it, never early. He is always on time.

And, sweet friends, there is no question that God’s plan in this moment and the coming days, months, and years is His BEST plan. We can take that to the bank. We can anchor all our hope in His character. I finally finished Annie Downs’s new study: Looking for Lovely. I highly recommend it. To be honest, I went into it not expecting much, which was a mistake on my part. I have learned so much, especially about hope and joy. These words have become so important to me. Keywords that, when I hear them or read them, I immediately start listening more intently. 1 Peter says we have been birthed into a living hope. Much like God’s Word, this hope is alive. It will not disappoint us or leave us or put us to shame. It isn’t stagnant or stone. It is living. So we may go through suffering, but we will gain endurance to push through, and that endurance will change our character into greater versions of ourselves, the ones you can depend on. And through this whole process, we breathe deep a living hope.

I cannot remember the last time I wasn’t afraid to hope. My fear over time changed the very definition of hope in my mind and heart to something unneeded and basic and flimsy. Most of that stemmed from believing that hope was centered on my ability to come through, and Lord knows I have failed every single time. I’ve never chosen hope because I am so aware of my humanity. What I’ve learned in the last few months has revolutionized my view. Hope is the foundation, the anchor, the roots from which all else grows and is sustained. In which case, “When I am scared to hope, I remember that my anchor isn’t me — it’s Jesus.”

He holds me steady.

 

May the God of hope fill you with all joy  and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Romans 15:13

 

July & Fireflies

July is one of those months that always seems so hazy with heat. You can fan yourself half to death and still be hot. July breezes are more like being in a convection oven – they cook you faster. I don’t remember a July in my life that didn’t feel overwhelmed with heat in a fearful sort of way. Even torrential downpours haven’t cooled this little mountain oasis off in the last month.

I love to look back over the years and see how I celebrated July 4th, my favorite holiday. This year was incredible and one I will always remember. I had the opportunity to design some pretty great shirts for our crew at Chickfila that worked the Rome Braves game. I threw a t-shirt from the dugout to the 200s, which made me feel like a boss, and at one point we ditched the game for Cookout because the lines were too long. The fireworks were amazing as always, full of those weeping-willow ones and the super sparkly ones. I am in love with fireworks. Maybe I’m a slight pyromaniac, but I think it’s the light in darkness – the glimmer of hope in the midst of nothingness. A spark. I love them with the fascination of a child even at the age of 26.

I’d be lying if I said the rest of July wasn’t filled with coming up with ideas to escape the heat. It baffles me that I don’t know more people who have swimming pools.

I spent a couple sabbaths in Woodstock with my little nugget, Isaac, and his great parents that I love. Here’s a tiny glimpse at him because he is irresistible. I’m sorry in advance for what his little eyes will do to your heart:

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Somewhere in the last week of this hot month I finished my fourth list of 1000 Gifts and had a deep heart moment over the smallest little things in the last 8 months that have been reminders of God’s constant presence.. little grace notes everywhere. Friendships springing up out of empty wells and moments when He forced me to rest. Gratitude has trained my mind to whisper to my heart that this is enough. He is enough.

In the end, someone told me that my heart is that of a 90-year old; deeply rooted is the wisdom and scripture inside it. But I still have the brain of a 26-year old that has trouble keeping up with the heart knowledge of who God is sometimes. I feel like Mulan training to be a warrior, in the thick of learning so much about who I am and who I need to be, not strong enough but learning to be stronger and walk taller and push harder. It has been a Romans 5:4 season.

we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character,and proven character produces hope. This hope will not disappoint us…

We did manage to find a sweet place to dip our toes in this summer heat, a true mountain oasis, and it was wonderful. That’s how I spent the final day of this mid-year month: floating in mountain spring water with tiny fish all around (then we ate McDonald’s..so it wasn’t all Thoreau quotes and hipster photos and modern-day Little Mermaid).

There were some hard parts tucked in there, sandwiched between an adult decision or two, but it was such a wonderful month. And I learned that there is some kind of significance to the bitterness of wine taken during communion that grape juice just doesn’t convey. I could go on for days about Passover and broken bread and eucharisteo and poured out wine, but I won’t. I’m still mulling over this wine significance, but there’s something there, some shock to the senses that’s important.

Count it all joy, James says, because the trying of your faith produces patience or completeness or stronger character. It makes a thing happen that’s important. This month has been joy-filled, both in the hard moments and the bright ones. I’m still thankful for every moment spent laughing to tears and every moment learning from my mistakes.

Don’t tell summer, because I love it so, but I am so thrilled at the prospect of cool evenings and apple pie that will fly toward us in just a few short moments. I love summer and I recognize that fall is always so unbelievably packed full, but I anticipate it in a big way. I love the smells it brings and the deep hunter greens and rust reds. And what girl isn’t secretly waiting for pumpkin spice lattes and pumpkin bread and everything else pumpkin you can imagine? But I digress. August has already proven itself an interesting month, full of surprises and sweet changes. I can’t wait to tell you what’s next.