Life

2015 Recap // A Year of Grace, Grief, and Hope

Happy last week of 2015! We all say it every year, but where did the time go?! It’s so hard to believe how quickly time can get away from us. 2015 was a year of many ups and downs, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Let’s look back, shall we?

January

My sister and I got to explore a bit of the Sarah P. Duke Gardens during my MLK Weekend visit! She’s so lucky to have this place so close to her! It was gorgeous, even in the winter!

March

This is one of my favorite pictures that I have with my Grandmother. In March 2015, we celebrated her 89th birthday and I’m so glad we snapped this picture of the three generations that day. Unfortunately, we lost my grandmother in September, making this memory extra sweet.

May

My birthday fell on Mother’s Day this year! It does that every few years or so. My mom’s family has done a “reunion” of sorts every year for Mother’s Day and Christmas for most of my life and I’m so thankful that I got to spend my birthday with my entire family! The night before, my sister and I celebrated with a Needtobreathe concert.

June

I visited Michigan for the first time (and technically Ohio, since I flew out of the tiny Toledo airport to save some money on airfare home)! I spent a long weekend in Detroit with my dear friend Sarah and her precious family.

I even attended my first major league baseball game at Comerica Park! So fun!

August

Note to self: never visit Texas in the summer again. On my first trip to Texas, I visited Austin and San Antonio! My trip also happened to fall during a slight heat wave and the temperatures were above 100 every day. It actually made me appreciate the North Carolina summers just a teensy bit more. Sure, it can get hot and crazy humid, but not prolonged 100 degree days like that.

My sister and I went to our first Panthers game! Which is kind of sad, considering we are from here and the stadium is only about 20 minutes away. We must have been good luck charms because the Panthers have had a fantastic season so far.

September

In September of this year, my family lost my grandmother and my aunt, just two days apart. Even though this later part of the year has been marked by grief, for me, it has also been a season of profound trust and rejoicing in the grace of God. He loves us so much that I only need to say a “see you later” to these two incredible women in my life.

October 

I love taking day trips back up to the mountains! For my Dad’s birthday weekend, we drove up to Boone, where I lived for four years for college, and took in some of the last of the Fall colors.

December 

The first Christmas without my Grandmother and Aunt Shelia was surreal, but if strength is in numbers, than my mom certainly has that. My grandmother’s wishes were for our family to never stop coming together on December 26 for our Christmas gathering, and I think we did her proud,

Oh hi, Graham Gano (#9)
Love this city!

My mom and I always seem to get into the silliest adventures, but this one was pretty fun! The hometown team, the Carolina Panthers, have had a spectacular season so far, despite their first loss this past Sunday. 14-1 is nothing to be ashamed of! I’ve never watched as much football as I have this season, but the excitement and pride in Charlotte is contagious and this season has been a blast! We joined hundreds of other fans at Bank of America stadium to welcome the team home after their loss to Atlanta, which I think surprised a few of the players. Go Panthers!

What are some of your highlights from 2015?

Every Bitter Thing is Sweet // A Grateful Heart

Good Morning, my lovely friends. It’s the last Monday of 2015, can you believe it? As I sit here, curled up with my cup of coffee, I am overwhelmed with the gratitude that I feel. I feel grateful for the precious moments with family from the past few days and I even feel grateful for the hardships that we have faced, not just in 2015, but in the last two years. God has certainly worked within these heartaches to bring me closer to him and I could not be more thankful for that.

This Christmas certainly looked a bit different than those of previous years. Christmas Day is a pretty low-key affair in our house. We wake up around 9 or so and get ourselves some coffee before diving in. When my mom has opened her gifts, she heads into the kitchen to make sausage biscuits for everyone. The rest of the day is spent packing coolers and preparing to drive up to see my mom’s side of the family. My mom’s side of the family does their big Christmas gathering on the 26th, in order to give everyone a chance to spend Christmas with their individual families.

What I love about large, Southern families is that any gathering brings out all of the delicious family recipes. We divide up the cooking responsibilities between the children and grandchildren, although many of my aunts and uncles are passing down their dishes/recipes to my cousins and I. I can see that in the next couple of years, my generation is going to be running the show soon enough.

Despite my Grandmother and Aunt Shelia not being with us, the family carried on as we always do; through lots of love and laughter. I can’t put into words how grateful I am for my loud, crazy family. The best I can do is just say that, growing up, my sister and I were blessed with aunts and uncles that were like “extra” parents to us. I felt a slight pang in my heart when I realized that there were only nine people in this photo, rather than the 11 it was at our last gathering in May, but the amount love here is indescribable.

My mom and her brothers and sisters!

I hope that you all had very blessed and precious memories made with your families this Christmas and I pray that we all begin this new year with a heart full of immeasurable gratitude for this sweet life God has blessed us with.

This post is a part of Ember Grey’s Grateful Heart linkup and it’s open all week long! Check out her blog here and link up your blog post!

A Grateful Heart with Ember Grey

I Will Sing of Your Love // Psalms 59:16

“But I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble” // Psalms 59:16

November seems to be the unofficial month of gratitude, all due to Thanksgiving. Personally, I think our society needs to get better about expressing our gratitude the other 11 months of the year as well…but that’s just me.

Sometimes it feels like so much of this blog is me looking back. I guess it’s only natural when there are so many things over the course of the past 2 years that have truly shaped the person that is sitting here today typing this.

Instead of hopping on the bandwagon and sharing one grateful thing every day in November, I wanted to wait and share my greatest gratitude on one day. One particular day, in fact. November 19. If you have followed this blog for any length of time (and if you do…hi there!), then you will know some of what I have experienced since 2013. The loss of two of my dad’s siblings ten days apart, followed by a stressful school year at work with an aggressive, emotionally-draining, but very special little boy, and more recently, the loss of my beloved Grandmother and Aunt two days apart this past September. But there’s been something that I haven’t really talked about here.

One year ago, on November 19th, my Dad was admitted to the hospital.

His hospital stay lasted six days and he was discharged two days before Thanksgiving. When your dad comes from a family of six and his father, brother, and sister all died of cancer…your anxiety flares and worry begins to creep in. Thankfully, what was ailing my Dad was not cancer, rather, an auto-immune disorder that had been attacking his kidneys, but you can imagine that worry that was felt and the prayers that were prayed.

Those were probably the longest six days that we had ever experienced. There is something very strange about seeing your father in a hospital bed and your mother looking so scared yet still staying strong for everyone. My one consolation was the fact that, despite his ailments, my Dad was probably the healthiest looking one on the whole floor. From the outside, you would have never guessed he was sick.

The fact that I have my Dad still with me today and sitting in the other room, fills me with a gratitude that is indescribable. For days and weeks we prayed for answers to what was ailing him and that it would be treatable. Our prayers were answered and then some.

If I have learned anything in the past two years, it is that in those moments when we feel broken down to nothing, those are the moments in which the Lord is doing some of His greatest work in us. As much as I wish the pain of the past two years didn’t happen, it has molded and shaped me in ways I never imagined. I recently discovered Clayton King and his amazing book, Stronger, and it is there that he phrases it perfectly.

“The thing that is hurting you is the thing that is humbling you, and the thing that is humbling you is actually helping you to get a clearer view of God’s holiness, beauty, and strength.”


This post is part of Ember Grey‘s weekly Grateful Heart linkup! Hop on over there and rejoice in the gratitude shared by her and many other fantastic bloggers!

This Profound Hope // Psalms 119:50

“My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life” // Psalms 119:50

The thing about suffering is that we are all guaranteed to experience it. To be human is to be susceptible to pain, no matter how much we may try to avoid it. God never promises us a life free of suffering, but He does promise us an eternal life if we believe in Him and trust Him enough to lead us through the hard times.
I wish I could put into words how the losses from the past two months have impacted my family. My grandmother was the light of all of our lives. I’ve never met anyone stronger, more quick-witted, or more giving. My aunt was the baby of the family, the youngest girl. She was quick to tell anyone that she was the baby. She was also one of the funniest people that I’ve ever met. You could not be around her and not be laughing. To know that these two amazing women are gone from this Earth is absolutely heart-wrenching. My mom’s family is very close knit and the pain of these losses will be felt for a very long time. 

When horrible things happen in your life, I think the tendency is to retreat inward and shut yourself off from everything that is causing you this pain. We want to go home, throw on the sweatpants, grab the ice cream and wallow and dwell on what is happening to us. I don’t know about you, but all wallowing seems to do is prolong the journey that we all must go through in order to come out of these seasons. While it may seem like these seasons of hurting are never-ending, particularly when the hits keep coming, if we trust in the Lord as we say we do then we automatically have a light shining at the end of the tunnel. The hope that can only be found in Jesus Christ is powerful enough to restore and renew even the most broken souls.

The hope that we are promised through Christ eases my aching heart in ways that are inexplicable. Our God loves us so much that we need only say a “see you later” to our loved ones and even in great loss, we the incredible gift of profound hope in Jesus Christ.

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