Getting to Know Me, Part One

I hail from a small town in North Carolina, just over the Catawba River from Charlotte. Most people have never heard of this little town, so I usually just settle for telling people I’m from the “Charlotte area.”

I was born and raised here. In fact, I still live in the house that I grew up in. North Carolina is my home, but I consider myself kind of a blend – of cultures, ethnicities, and stories. A mixture of East and West.

My roots run deep not just through this North Carolina soil where my maternal side of the family have farmed since before the Revolutionary War, but also through the dusty, desert lands of California and New Mexico where my paternal side of the family settled after coming to the country from Mexico in the early 20th century.

I’m proud of the diversity in my heritage, I believe that it is an interesting foundation to my story.

Words have long since been my preferred method of communicating. As a child, this was expressed mostly through my obsession and fierce love of books. A love that continues today. Once I got a little older, this transitioned into an interest in journalism that never really panned out in terms of college plans.

For most of my teenage years, anytime that I thought about what I wanted to do with my life I usually went back and forth between journalism or teaching. I’m not entirely sure where the journalism came from, but my Aunt Kay was an elementary school teacher and I spent a lot of time with her growing up and I always liked kids. My senior year of high school, though, I was selected for the North Carolina Teaching Fellows program, a scholarship program that provided roughly half of your college tuition in exchange for teaching in North Carolina for four years post-graduation. I kind of applied for it on a whim, but found myself being selected for a regional interview shortly after completing the initial round of interviews at my high school (only 500 students get picked for this program each year from across the whole state). Believe it or not, I applied for the scholarship with the intent of majoring in Spanish education but that only lasted until my second day of college (seriously) and I realized I was much better suited for the early childhood world.

Once I headed off to Appalachian State, I placed the desire to write and pursue journalism on the back burner. I never actually thought that I’d have an opportunity to do anything with it until the Fall of my sophomore year of college.

In the Fall of 2010, I first discovered the world of blogging. Twitter had only been a thing for about four years at this point, but in my circle of friends it hadn’t quite hit it big yet. I had created my account sometime in 2009, but since I didn’t know anyone with a Twitter account other than my best friend at the time, it was basically just another vehicle for the two of us to communicate for awhile. Though it causes me some embarrassment to admit this now, it was during this time of my life that I was a complete fanatic about Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series. I absolutely loved the books, the movies, and my pop culture-obsessed self was all about keeping up with the cast of the series.

I remember seeing a tweet from Team Twilight, one of the leading fansites at the time, that was welcoming a new writer to their site. When I saw this, I paused – struck by the realization that regular people could actually write for sites like this. This was nearly seven years ago now, but I still remember the giddy excitement that I felt. Maybe my dreams of writing could be more than a dream, I wondered.

I inquired about writing for the website with Lindsay, who ran the site (and still one of my good friends to this day!), and shortly after I officially became a blogger.

Seven months later, towards the end of May 2011, I read Divergent by Veronica Roth and my life began to change. The book had only been released about two weeks prior but had already been optioned for film by Summit Entertainment and many people on Twitter and other young adult fiction fans were raving about the book.

For the next week or so after I finished the book, I was in a state that many book lovers know as the “book coma”, also known as the period of time following the completion of a really good book in which you feel lost and basically don’t know what to do with yourself anymore. During this book coma, I kept mulling over the idea of creating my own fansite that was centered around this new series. After some research, I realized that there were only a handful of other Divergent sites out there at the time and if I were going to start one, now would be the time. So in June 2011, I took what I knew about blogging and fansites and Divergent Nation was born.

For the first few months of Divergent Nation’s tenure, the only posts that I was able to generate were various book reviews, fan art, and various updates regarding the publication of Insurgent, which was due out the following year. Slowly but surely, with more and more readers discovering this series, my site began to grow.

In April of 2012, about a month before the sequel Insurgent’s publication, I was contacted by the team at Harper Collins, the series’ publisher, about collaborating on a fun internet campaign to promote the book. I, along with 50 other blogs, were selected to participate in the campaign that involved being divided into five factions and creating various fan challenges and activities to receive the most traffic. These blogs were a mix of Divergent fansites as well as generic book review blogs and the faction that earned the most traffic would receive a personal thank you from Veronica Roth. Divergent Nation was assigned to the Dauntless faction and I was sent an early copy of Insurgent as part of being a participant.

Although Dauntless was not the winner of this competition, it was still an incredible thing to be a part of. Because of our involvement with the campaign, the names of every administrator of these blogs were listed in a special acknowledgement page in the back of the hardcover edition of Allegiant, the final novel in the series. Being involved in blogging and fansites in general would prove to be a totally surreal experience, but having your name printed in the pages of a New York Times Bestselling Novel was so crazy to me and I ate it up.

I was beginning to get glimpses of that glamorous life that I dreamed of in high school, and I just knew that I wanted more of it. …

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Freedom

This week has felt like a sort of “farewell tour”, which I think is kind of funny. On Saturday, July 1st, my parents and I are embarking on our first Whole30. Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been eating different foods and going to certain fast food chains in order to have my favorites from there “one last time.”

Sure, I know that this is just thirty days.

And that saying “goodbye” to certain meals is kind of sad and a little dumb.

But I’m really not going into this month ahead with the mindset that it is truly just thirty days. It is my hope and prayer that it becomes forever.

My relationship and my attitude towards food has long needed an overhaul and I have literally prayed that this new journey will bring some major changes to my life. My plan right now is to shift over to a mostly Paleo diet once Whole30 is done. I first became interested in the Paleo lifestyle back in 2015, but I truly believe that God needed to change some things in my heart and in my life before I could fully commit to pursuing it.

I’ve seen God move in my life and in my heart in beautiful ways over the past four years and I’ve experienced far too much with Him in that time to think that He wouldn’t see me through this too.

This concept of “wellness” and “living well” isn’t just about health. I think that to truly be well, we have to feel it in our bones. Live it from the depths of our soul. You see, I’m not viewing this journey as strictly a food thing. Scripture tells us in 2 Corinthians 3:17 that “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”

And I’m seeking freedom.

I’m seeking a relationship with my Maker unlike anything I’ve experienced before. I’ve tasted and seen of the kind of peace and joy that He provides in some of my darkest hours, but I am human. I fall short, and sometimes I return to a state of thinking that I can do it all. That I have some control.

I need to be consumed by God. I know that He desires my heart and that He delights over me with love and singing (Zep. 3:17), and it’s high time that I learn how to seek Him and fall that deeply in love with Him too.

For some, a Whole30 is just something trendy to do and something to post about on Instagram. I’m sure I’ll be doing that too, but I’m doing my best to see this as the starting point of a grand adventure. An adventure towards finding favor, friendship, and a deeper relationship with the Lord. Every journey begins with a single step, and I pray that this is mine.

Brave Surrender

Lately, it seems as though God has laid bravery on my heart. At nearly every turn, whether through messages at church or in books and blog posts, courage and bravery have been at the forefront for weeks.

For the longest time, I viewed bravery as doing something big. Something that no one would ever think of doing. I viewed courage and bravery as being fearless, but maybe that was just my young adult fiction obsession (oh hi, Divergent series) setting in at the time.

I think bravery and courage can look differently for different people, depending on a variety of things. For some, bravery may be taking that job in a new city or saying a resounding yes to a mission trip in another country. For others, bravery may just mean simply surviving and making it through the storm in their life at that moment. No matter the circumstance, I believe that God calls us into seasons of boldness. Seasons of putting our money where our mouths are, so to speak, and actually doing the things that scare us. Actually doing the things that God has ordained for us so deep in our hearts.

Truthfully, I just love the word bold. I love the sound of it and I love the imagery that it evokes in me. To speak it aloud just sounds brave and powerful, doesn’t it? Dictionary.com’s first definition of the word is: “not hesitating or fearful in the face of actual or possible danger or rebuff; courageous and daring.”

I just want to slap that on a Post-It and stick it in just about every area of my house.

But being bold requires faith. It requires trust that is placed in Jesus, not in something man-made or temporary. Sometimes one of the first bold acts we can do is place our hopes, our trust, and our fears in the arms of Jesus. The second is to then go and do. I’m currently in the midst of reading Shelly Miller’s book, The Rhythm of Rest, and in it there is a sentence that reads, “Faith is a brave surrender, an unwavering commitment to trust in a Savior who takes care of the details despite hurdles and hardships.”

I can admit to you that I know this is easier said than done. I believe that God has been bringing this theme and topic to my heart for a reason and not because I’ve mastered it.

I’m nearing the end of a long season of preparation and preparing to trade it for a season of action, a season of doing. Beyond that, a season that I already know will be one of the most bold and courageous things that I have done. I’ve written of it before, here and here. Beginning this summer and through the rest of 2017, I will be spending 1-2 evenings a week volunteering in a local pediatric emergency department with child life and wrapping up the rest of my online courses.

This Fall, I will begin completing and compiling everything I need for the application packets that I will be mailing to the 20+ hospitals across the midwest and eastern parts of the country in hopes to try secure an internship placement for the Fall 2018 semester. Should I receive an offer to intern somewhere, I would then enter into a season of unemployment and unpaid internship life for several months. It will be one of my boldest moves – trusting God with my future, with my finances, and with my security as a whole.

I’ve never thought of myself as a particularly brave person, but even I have to admit that it takes some semblance of bravery to trust God with every aspect of what I am embarking on. This career path, this journey, is one that I felt God calling me to back in December of 2015, three months after losing my grandmother and my aunt less than 48 hours apart. That experience had grabbed ahold of my heart and shaken me awake. It was, and still is, the moment where I felt God’s peace and power the most profoundly and deeply. I remember like it was yesterday, the way it felt as though Jesus was actually physically there next to me, arms wrapped tight around me and whispering to me that He would use this pain for something bigger. Something more than I could even imagine in that moment.

This time of brave surrender to God’s plan for my life comes from three years of learning who God truly is and who I am in his sight. I know that He is good. He is faithful and loving and powerful. He is my heavenly Father who seeks the best for me just as my earthly father does. My dad used to tell me all the time when I was growing up, “You can be scared, but do it anyway.” I’m sure I laughed at the time, my dad has the tendency to sound a bit like a fortune cookie sometimes, but the words stuck with me into adulthood and have only been echoed by God.

He tells me to feel the fear and the worry that I have, but to give it to Him and go do it anyway.

What I know about God is that he will bring this season to completion and fulfill every promise made to me in the process. There will be hardships and fear and uncertainty but I have experienced far too much with God to start doubting Him now.

“There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears.” – Philippians 1:6, MSG

He Is Risen

This Easter comes at an interesting time for me this year.

I’ve just returned from a much-anticipated family vacation to Arizona and the Grand Canyon and truth be told, I’m still a wee bit jet lagged. But that’s not why this year is interesting.

For much of the past week, I have had a front row seat to some of the most awe-inspiring and beautiful God-breathed sights that this world possesses. North Carolina is plenty beautiful, don’t get me wrong, but it almost seems like child’s play when compared to the grandeur of the Grand Canyon.

Earlier this week, I posted a picture that I took of the sunset at the Grand Canyon on Instagram. The picture truly doesn’t do it justice, the sight of the moon rising over the canyon as the rocks were painted with a beautiful shade of red. I tried to capture as much of what I experienced as I could, but I truly had to learn to just simply live in that moment and use my eyes to truly see what was in front of me.

The thing that I was continually reminded of on this whole trip was how insignificant our time really is on this Earth. Not insignificant in terms of what we choose to do, but insignificant when compared to the vastness and enormity of God. I mean, think about it. The God who chose to create these rocks in Sedona with the most stunning shade of red is the same God who created me. Who created you.

Sedona, AZ

The God who can create some of the most magnificent sights on Earth is the same God who decided that the world also needed me in it. Who am I when compared to the splendors that God has formed? Who am I to walk on this blessed ground that God created when I am nothing more than a flawed, imperfect, and sinful human?

Who am I? Who are we?

We are God’s chosen sons and daughters. We are the ones who Jesus gave His life for, the ones whose debts He paid with His blood. We are the sons and daughters of a God who loves His children so deeply and so fiercely that He would give his own Son for us, despite our sinful ways.

To celebrate this Easter morning, in the wake of being so deeply humbled by our God is a unique and special place to be, friends.

“He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said.”Matthew 28:6

Eight Years

Last Friday, The Vampire Diaries ended its eight year run on The CW. Why am I writing that here? Because the show’s ending is actually very bittersweet for me personally.

(Which does seem a little funny and almost embarrassing to admit, truthfully.)

The Vampire Diaries played an important role in my life. I came upon the show not long after discovering the Twilight series and both franchises helped to alter the course of my life, believe it or not.

Full disclosure, admitting my fangirling nerdiness to you in this moment feels very strange, but bear with me.

As I think back to the past eight years that I was a fan of this show, it’s truly incredible to think of the ways in which I have changed in that time. At the time, I was a freshman in my first year of college. I was naive about the world and thought that I had my future mapped out. I was a freshman education major who was obsessed with pop culture and yearned for a career in journalism – covering my favorite celebrities, books, and films. It wasn’t much after this that I stumbled on the world of fansite blogging and found the way that I could write articles on the things I loved while also keeping myself on the more realistic path of teaching.

It opened the door for me to learn and fall in love with writing and blogging. Through Twitter, I found other women who loved the same books, movies, and TV shows that I did and our friendship has lasted through marriages, pregnancies, and endures still today.

After joining a Twilight fansite as a contributor and learning as much as I could, I launched a site that centered around The Vampire Diaries. It was short-lived, but it was a stepping stone towards launching my second site for the Divergent series. From there, I found myself running headlong into a life that was glamorous, exciting, and wholly unexpected.

I visited film sets, attended Hollywood premieres with a press badge, and interviewed celebrities in the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills. I became obsessed with social media notoriety, with the names of those that followed me on social media, and finding a way to make this life my reality for as long as possible.

Throughout all of it, I pushed God out to the wings and kept my distance. I didn’t want to ask Him what my future really looked like because all I saw were the bright lights and glamour that I thought could keep me satisfied. I decided to pursue a master’s degree in mass communication and I thought I was set. Until it all came crashing down when I entered a season that led me to lose six family members in two years.

I’m not the same person that I was eight years ago.

And I have God to thank for that.

I do feel incredibly honored that God would allow me the chance to live out my dream like He did over the past eight years. He didn’t have to. I wasn’t even in the practice of communicating with Him at the time back then, but He still knew my heart. He knows all of my hopes and dreams. Though a career in journalism or social media marketing never quite panned out, that time still represents a period of my life that I will never forget. God granted me the opportunity to live the live I had always wanted – and then led me to the life that would sustain me far better than the other ever would have.

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