In Between

You may have noticed this space has been a little sparse lately.

To be perfectly honest, friends, I haven’t wanted to write here for some time and that has been so hard. This blog is like a sanctuary to me. In many ways, my heart and my soul have been bared in this space over the past year as God both wrecked me and restored me.

Since I began to blog about things more personal, rather than the superficial pop culture articles I wrote back when I first started blogging all those years ago, I’ve learned something about myself.

It’s really hard for me to write on a whim.

As much as I wish I could pop out post after post that both inspires and encourages, I just can’t. Try as I might, I just can make this space look like the rest of the lifestyle blogs out there who have seemed to master weaving their faith together with topical/promotional posts.

When the Lord moves me, I write. When He teaches me, I write.

It’s not that the Lord hasn’t been teaching me in this absence. On the contrary, He has been working so hard in me these last few weeks.

This school year is hard. The Lord has entrusted 16 children into my care this year and oh, how their needs are overwhelming. I long to have all of the answers and somehow find the magical intervention and visual aid that will solve the developmental and behavioral struggles we face.

I am weary. By Friday afternoon, I am lucky to be able to string coherent thoughts together. Hence why the post is a little on the ramble-y side….

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What the Mountain Teaches

What the Mountain Teaches

For me, going to the mountains has always felt like going home. My heart and my soul just work a little easier when my body is breathing in the fresh, mountain air. My mind eases it’s racing and my lungs exhale a little deeper.

I consider myself wholly blessed to have been able to live in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina for four years of my young adult life. I attended Appalachian State University, just a stone’s throw away from the Blue Ridge Parkway and Grandfather Mountain, in Boone, North Carolina. I’d gaze up to the tops of the surrounding mountain peaks as I walked to my classes and I’d sled down many a hill when the snow kept classes from being held.

Everything just seems to be a little clearer, easier even, when on mountain time.

A few weeks ago over Labor Day weekend, this special sense of relaxation found me just in time; amid a sea of assignment due dates and a million back to school tasks for my classroom. This choice was my own, to be both a teacher and a student, but the hustle and bustle of this season still takes me by surprise two years in. A year of pursuing a master’s degree in social media marketing followed by my choice to pursue a much better suited career as a child life specialist. Two years of wearing two hats at once. For most teachers, back to school season means long hours preparing for your new class but when you’ve got end of semester papers out the wazoo it all gets overwhelming very quickly. I become chained to my laptop and burdened by the hands on the clock that still have not found a way to slow down to let me get more done. I worked on my eight page paper right up to the hour before we hopped in the car to leave, hitting submit with a sigh of relief so that I could go and throw some clothes in a bag. As we inched closer to our destination, I mentally prepared myself to disconnect. The second we turn off of Interstate 77, our cell signal and access to the outside world disappears. And on this particular day, my entire being exhaled.

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I Love You, a Bushel and a Peck

It’s hard to believe that it has already been a year since everything changed. In some ways, it feels like yesterday and in others it seems as if it were a lifetime ago. From December 2013 to January 2016, I lost six of my close family members but it’s these losses, these two in September 2015, that grabbed a hold of me and crumbled every wall and every barrier that I hadn’t even realized I had built. One year ago, not long after this post will go live, I stood at the foot of my grandmother’s hospital bed as she left this world for God’s kingdom. Less than 48 hours later, I stood outside of her house at 1:45 in the morning as her youngest daughter, my Aunt Shelia, joined her.

Grandma & a Baby Ashley

My grandmother was one of the strongest women that I know and to know my grandmother was to be loved by her. She raised her ten children to be the best aunts and uncles (and mom) I could ever wish for, something she did primarily on her own. Though her first taste of work was growing up on a tobacco farm, she worked as a waitress, a cook, a hairdresser, and a third-shift textile worker to help support them before eventually settling into her role with an organization that provided residential services to adults in the community with intellectual disabilities. She loved on her clients just as she loved on her own family, something that I hope I carry on in my own current role as a teacher to children with special needs. And although she had 15 grandchildren, she had a unique way of making each of us feel special when we were with her.

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Wreck My Life

Wreck My Life by Mo Isom Aiken

Sometimes it just amazes me at the ways in which God orchestrates certain things so that they all come together at exactly the right moment for exactly the right people. It’s pretty much been the story of my life for the past couple of years but it’s also how I feel about Mo Isom’s book, Wreck My Life. This book and Mo’s incredible story came to me exactly when it needed to and left me truly inspired and encouraged by each and every word.

Up until recently, I really wasn’t familiar with Mo Isom or her incredible story, I actually just happened on this book one day as I was scrolling through Twitter. Annie Downs, another (amazing) Christian author, tweeted that everyone should check out Wreck My Life and mentioned something about a launch team. It grabbed my attention and I saw that to apply for the launch team, you just had to send Mo a direct message on Instagram. So, I snapped a quick selfie with the caption “this is my excited face” and sent along my information. I’ll do anything for a book, apparently. A few days later, I got a selfie back from Mo and she said that I was a part of the Wreck My Life launch team so clearly my not-so-inner dork prevailed….

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True Thanksgiving

True Thanksgiving

Last week, I found myself attending a funeral for a member of the church family at my childhood church. We celebrated the life of a sweet lady who was so instrumental to the life of the church and whose son was a friend of my dad. It was a beautiful service and led me to reflect on the past year and the three funerals that I have attended for my own family members in that time.

During the service, some time was spent reflecting on the act of giving thanks to God and it was said, “when we experience true thanksgiving, we allow ourselves to be open to the reality of what God can do.”

Open to the reality of what God can do.

Isn’t that just a beautiful statement? And it paints an even more beautiful image of joy and hope. There are many things that I discovered about the experience of losing loved ones as I’ve journeyed down this path for the past two and a half years. One of them being that, no matter how much it may defy your logic, it is certainly possible to experience joy and gratitude in the face of immense sorrow.

The experience of grief is a choice. Whether or not we experience grief is not one of them, for we all must do that, but we certainly have a choice in how we experience it. And I firmly believe that there is no right or wrong way to experience grief as long as Jesus is our anchor….

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