Texas Getaway Recap // A Grateful Heart

I’ve always had a heart that yearns to travel and see as much of the world as possible. I may not always have the funds for it, but the desire is always there. This year, I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have been able to take two trips to places that I had never been before. I traveled to Michigan in June and just over a week ago, I traveled to Texas.

Though I spent most of my time in Austin, I was also able to spend a few hours in San Antonio as well. Both cities are very unique but I definitely want to go back and explore San Antonio some more. Between the missions and the Riverwalk, I definitely only scratched the surface of things to see there.

I arrived in Austin around 11am on a Wednesday and immediately set out for downtown once I had obtained my rental car. I knew I wanted to see some of the UT-Austin campus and pick up a shirt or something with the Longhorns emblem on it (I’m weird, I know) and grab some lunch. Well, I had recalled a couple days earlier that there was an In & Out Burger in Texas and the Austin location wasn’t far from downtown and the University. In & Out and I didn’t have to travel to California to get it? Perfection. Central Texas was in the midst of a heat wave (heat indexes in the 102-105 range) so I didn’t do much walking around, but I grabbed an Iced Coffee from Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf (another California favorite!) and perused the University Co-op and the cute little courtyard that was out back. Awesome “Greetings from Austin” mural and giant Texas Longhorn? Check.

Later that day, I ventured out to Gourdough’s Public House for dinner, which I was actually a little nervous for! Dining out alone always seemed kind of sad and lonely, but let’s face it, I wasn’t going to be able to experience Austin’s great food scene unless I ventured out there. Gourdough’s is known for their donuts…and they use them in everything! As in, even their chicken and dumplings are made with donuts. The dumplings are donut holes and are served with a garlic and herb donut. My appetizer was garlic parmesan donut holes as well! Sounds odd, but trust me this place was delicious!

The next morning, I woke up early (to try and beat some of the heat) and drove down to San Antonio. I got to the downtown area just as the Alamo was opening and it was so nice to be able to explore the grounds with a relatively small crowd. I just wish we were allowed to take pictures of the interior; so cool! After the Alamo, I ducked down to the Riverwalk for a few moments before driving down to Mission Concepcion.

Mission Concepcion is just one of several missions on the San Antonio “mission trail” and it was absolutely gorgeous. It’s been renovated on the inside and is actually still a functioning Catholic church every week!

The church is almost haunting from the outside and as you walk around, the rich history is nearly palpable. I couldn’t help but kneel by a pew and spend a few moments in prayer and gratitude, not just because I was raised in a Catholic church but because in that moment, I just felt so thankful for the opportunity to travel and to see beautiful sights like this.

What are you grateful for this week? Link up with Ember Grey‘s Grateful Heart linkup and share the love!

There’s Your Sign // A Grateful Heart

This morning, I am grateful for many things. The ability to travel, returning home safely from a fun four days in Texas, but mostly I am grateful today for how God has been calling to me lately and my ability to recognize that.

There’s a stand up comedy bit called “There’s Your Sign”, although I can’t quite recall which comedian made it popular. This past week or so, I cannot deny that God has been actively working on me to see a particular sign from Him.

The past two sermons at my church have both discussed the Bible and how we should actually be making a point to sit down and really study it. Not just glossing over the verses in our devotionals or being able to recall particular verses but actually praying over them and reflecting on what it means for our lives. Being completely transparent with you guys right now, I am absolutely terrible at this. I read my daily She Reads Truth verses and passages and mark them off, but I never really allowed myself to give them the proper reflection that they deserve. Reading the Word and studying the Word are not necessarily the same things.

In between those two sermons, I happened to discover the ESV study bible through my sister and her roommate who uses it. This, coupled with the sentiments from the two sermons definitely seemed like God calling me to spend more time with him through study and reflection. I recognized that and I began to take steps to do just that. For the past week, I have been carving out a time to spend with God each day; not just with my Bible app but with my ESV study bible, a highlighter, and a journal. We’re not always able to slow down and catch those signs that God is sending our way, but I am grateful that I recognized this call from Him.

That alone would, of course, be enough to make me very grateful this morning but what really makes me smile is what occurred yesterday. I was having lunch with my sister at one of our favorite Durham spots, and she tells me that she has a gift for me. It’s not my birthday and Christmas is (unfortunately) still months away, but she had a gift for me all the same. It was a Write the Word journal from Lara Casey.

This beautiful little journal has a specific verse or passage each day with a space for you to write out the word, then a space for what’s on your heart. I think when my sister handed it to me, I just started giggling because all I could think about was God saying, Ashley, there’s your sign.

This post is part of Ember Grey’s weekly Grateful Heart linkup! Add your link here. What are you grateful for today?

My, How Time Flies // A Grateful Heart

View of LA from The Getty Center
On Saturday when I woke up and checked Facebook I was reminded, thanks to their “On This Day” feature, that one year ago I was in Los Angeles for what is certainly one of my favorite trips! This was not my first trip to California or Los Angeles by any means, but it was the first time that I visited completely by myself. Like, I rented a car and braved the infamous Los Angeles traffic and the 405 all by myself and lived to tell the tale. Definitely a personal victory.
This time last year, I was still an entertainment blogger and ran a blog that covered films and television news that was related to projects that had been adapted from books. I was very fortunate and had been invited to Los Angeles for the press junket ahead of the release of The Giver, starring Jeff Bridges, Brenton Thwaites, and Meryl Streep. Just a couple weeks prior, I had participated in a phone interview with the author herself, Lois Lowry, and at the press junket I was able to interview her face to face along with Brenton Thwaites, Cameron Monaghan, and Odeya Rush. If you want to hear me be super awkward with Brenton, you can watch that here (I’m at 0:34).
While traveling by yourself may seem kind of sad and lonely, I’ve learned that it’s actually kind of nice. You can go where you want and not have to worry about accommodating anyone else, but I will say that unless you’re a shameless selfie-taker (working on it) then you will come home with a lot of landscape photos and not very many photos that you in them. While in LA, I was able to see a couple of my fellow blogger friends which was wonderful but one the one full day that I had free, I was super pumped to drive out to the Inland Empire aka San Bernardino! I originally wasn’t going to rent a car, but the night before I left I realized I was going to have a full day to myself and that I could drive out to San Bernardino to see some of my family. My dad was raised in San Bernardino and this was actually the first time that I had been back since my dad’s brother and sister passed away. I called my great-aunt to let her know that I’d be driving out and when I got there, I was greeted by her, a couple of my dad’s cousins and two of my great-uncles. Then, I drove to Moreno Valley to see my cousins, the daughters of my late aunt. 
Truthfully, I think what made this trip so memorable was that I was able to do it completely on my own. I paid for my flight, rental car, and arranged for sleeping accommodations at a friend’s apartment. Thanks to my trusty GPS, I navigated the city with ease and I just felt like a real adult for the first time. Even though I don’t do that type of blogging anymore and that chapter of my life has ended, I have so much to be grateful for.
I was invited to this press junket thanks to a friendly word from a PR guy and mutual friend that I met through working with Summit Entertainment for Divergent a few months prior. This same PR guy is the reason that I am heading out to Austin, Texas this Wednesday. He was kind enough to allow me to visit his agency so that I can learn a bit more about what they do now that I am pursuing a masters degree in mass communication. God is so good and was so clearly guiding me through a season that has ultimately led me to where I am today, well before I even knew that I wanted to go back to school at all. 
What are you grateful for today? Share your link as part of Ember Grey‘s Grateful Heart linkup!

A Heart Full of Gratitude

Hello sweet friends! It has been much too long since I have sat down to do a Grateful Heart post as part of Ember Grey’s linkup!

Summer Vacation // This teacher is finally on summer vacation, you guys! This was a long and hard school year and I have been soaking up all of the extra time for fun projects and relaxation. Plus, extra time to spend here, with you, blogging about life lately is just what the doctor ordered.
Travel // I am heading up to Michigan this weekend for some much needed friend time with my dear friend, Sarah and her sweet family! I’m such a travel junkie that airports are some of my favorite places (I’m weird, I know)!
YouTube Vloggers // This may seem a little strange, but I have been loving the opportunity to sit down and catch up with my favorite vloggers. It’s like a reality show, but you know…they’re actual people and super relatable. My favorite planning vlogger is Lisamarie with Paper & Glam, but my favorite beauty vlogger Rachel from Glow of Grace has recently started daily vlogging about life with her sweet family! Their new channel is The Graceful Life! She is super sweet and her vlogs really make you feel like you are a part of the Weiland family!
Project Life // I’ve recently become kind of obsessed with the Project Life method of scrapbooking! It’s a beautiful way of marking time and celebrating all of life’s little moments.

What are you grateful for this week? Sound off in the comments below and don’t forget to join Ember Grey’s link up!

Finding Peace in the Uncertainty

This post is part of The Peony Project’s monthly linkup.

One of the more consistent things in life, I’ve found, is that life is usually in a constant stay of chaos and uncertainty. Perhaps that’s just me and my life, but I’d imagine that this would ring true for a few others as well. For me, there’s the hustle and bustle of juggling work life with school life and somehow trying to fit in my sometimes nonexistent personal life into the mix. If you were to ask me when and where I feel the most peace, I may try very hard not to laugh out loud. Life is stressful and overwhelming, but it’s also something that I truly enjoy…even if I forget to show it sometimes.

So let’s go through a checklist, shall we?

I have a good job as a Pre-K teacher. Sure, it’s a little thankless at times and working with special needs children brings its own unique dynamics to the workplace, but I am still blessed to have employment in this day and age and with kids, which I do love. Check.

I am enrolled in graduate school online through a great university (Go Gators!) and I am pursuing a master’s degree in a field that I am truly passionate about – Mass Communication with a specialization in Social Media. I have always said that I didn’t just want to stop with a Bachelor’s degree and that I wanted to pursue a higher degree and I do feel very blessed to have the opportunity and financial means to do this so soon after graduating with my Bachelor’s degree (in completely unrelated field). Check.

I have an amazing new church home and growing church family to begin doing life with. In the year and a half following my return home after graduating in Spring 2013, I really struggled with not having a circle of close friends within driving distance anymore. My closest friends all lived almost two hours from Charlotte or out-of-state and at the time, I was working both a full-time job as a teacher and a part-time job in retail, consistently working seven days a week, with little time for socializing with folks my own age, much less enriching myself with church each week. Discovering my new church home and finding a small group full of amazing and faith-filled women has done wonders for my heart and soul already just in the almost five months that I’ve been going there. Check.

God has clearly blessed my life with amazing people, experiences, and opportunities…so why do I struggle so much with being at peace with where I am in life?

Quite simply, I am a planner. I tote my beloved Erin Condren Life Planner almost everywhere I go, and I’ve always been the type of person to try and plan/map out every detail of a trip, right down to utilizing Google Street View to get a better idea of where we’re going. Only problem with these kind of tendencies? I consistently find myself looking forward to the future, rather than taking the time to slow down and appreciate where God has me right now.

Right now, I am teaching and slowly but surely working towards that graduate degree that will pave the way for a career change in 2-3 years (see, planner…). This would probably be a bit easier to deal with and work towards if I hadn’t been dealt with quite the challenging first two years of teaching. On my worst days at work, the yearning and longing that I feel for time to speed up so that I can be in any other career is overwhelming. And admittedly I do feel a little ashamed and guilty for admitting that to all of you right now. But it’s the truth. But I am not ready for that career change just yet, no matter how often I yearn for it. Something that is approaching in the more immediate future is the possibility of me changing schools and school districts for the upcoming 2015-2016 school year. I have enjoyed the school where I currently teach very much. I have learned so much amidst the stress and challenging behavior of my kiddos and I have been blessed with the sweetest woman as my assistant and spiritual mentor. While I do feel like it’s time for me to look at other options closer to home (I currently commute 40 minutes, one way), the uncertainty of reentering the job search is nerve-wracking.

As I sat down to reflect on this topic and area of my life ahead of writing this post, the obvious answer for achieving peace and contentment with my current life stage is God. Loving and trusting in Him to continue to provide for me and make clear to me the path or paths that will allow me to learn and grow in the ways that will continue to enable to me to glorify Him in everything that I do. I wasn’t raised with the practice of memorizing scripture, but it is something that I have been working on lately. Two of my favorite verses that I have come across recently and kept close by are from both Matthew and Philippians.

Matthew 6:34 – “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Philippians 4:6-7 – “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

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