Life

Favorite Books of 2018 + What I Want to Read

Happy Book Lover’s Day! I love anything that celebrates books and reading. This year has been pretty different for me in that I haven’t really read as much as I normally do. But this year has also held a lot of changes and transitions, so I’m sure that has a lot to do with it. I wanted to share with you some of my favorites that I’ve read already this year, as well as a few titles that are on my “to-read” list!

Book Lover's Day
Photo by Alisa Anton on Unsplash

Favorites of 2018

Everybody, Always // Who doesn’t love Bob Goff? I mean, really. This book was everything and I just want to be Bob’s best friend.

Little Book of Hygge // I loved this little book and it definitely made me want to hop and plane bound for Denmark. The concept of hygge – coziness and connection and comfort – is one that I strive for in my life all the time, but it was fun to read about a place and a culture that prioritizes and celebrates this too!

The Sacred Enneagram // Like basically everyone else lately, I absolutely love the Enneagram. I am Type 9, but also tied with Type 6 in my results from quiz at the Enneagram Institute. I absolutely loved this book and how it connected traits from each type to our faith journey and how it can help us grow in our identities as we grow in our relationship with God as well.

Sweet Laurel Cookbook // I’ve been a little cookbook-obsessed this year and this one is not only beautiful, but the recipes are absolutely delicious! My favorites have been the German Chocolate Cake, Baked Churros, and Vegan Caramel. Everything is free of refined sugar, gluten, and dairy and absolutely delicious!

What I Want to Read

The Life-Giving Home

The Life-Giving Table

Come Matter Here

Begin Again

Happy Reading!

Community, Rhythms, and Other Thoughts on Moving

And suddenly there were just four days left. Four days until I fill my car one last time and make the drive from Charlotte to Raleigh. Wasn’t it just yesterday that I had no idea what this Fall was going to hold and I thought that I would be packing a car bound for Illinois and grad school?

Community, Rhythms, and Other Thoughts on Moving

I’ve been laughing to/at myself for weeks thinking about how much of a wreck I would be if that was actually the path that God decided to keep me on. The amount of feelings and anxiety I’ve had about just simply moving 2.5 hours away? I can’t even imagine what that’d be like if I were moving 12 hours away. You’d find me rocking in a corner somewhere. But even that, like so much in these past few weeks/months, is something to rejoice in. Even though I felt so strongly just six months ago that my path was going to take me to Illinois, I love and serve a God who protected my heart through rejections and lovingly led me to this current path to Raleigh which was an answered prayer just two-ish years “late.” I used to pray and yearn for a way to make the Raleigh area my home just a couple of years ago and clearly, God’s plans were to make a way for me there much later than what I thought. Thank goodness for timing and plans that are not my own. I can’t help but believe that He knew that my heart just wasn’t ready for that massive of a change. He knew how much it would take for me to pick up and move 2.5 hours away. It’s been a recurring theme throughout my story and my walk with Him – He is constantly guiding me but hemming me in with His perfect peace and protection….

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Clarity

Earlier this year, I shared a little about how I was reading through the Old Testament and how it really resonated with me and the journey I felt I was on as I began this year. Much like Moses’ journey with the Israelites into the wilderness, my walk at that time was very much in a transitional and “in-between” place. Not yet to point B but not all the way back at point A.

When I wrote of this back in March, I felt that I knew the general direction that God was taking me. I’d spent the past 2.5 years working towards a career as a child life specialist – preparing myself to move into either full-time grad school for two years or into a full-time child life internship for four months. But then, the plans changed. These two things that I’d a spent so much time praying over and preparing for were no longer in my immediate future. To be perfectly honest, as someone who plans for every possible outcome, I wasn’t completely prepared for this one. My answer to people who asked me what I planned to do if neither grad school or an internship panned out was “I’ll just stay here and keep teaching,” but there was a part of me that really didn’t think I’d need to consider option #3.

I think most of us have been in places like this. Surprised, anxious, and a little confused as to how we ended up here when we expected to be somewhere else entirely. It certainly isn’t a fun place to be in the moment, but when viewed in hindsight it is one of the most beautiful of spaces. Uncertainty forces us to face head-on this unpleasant reality that we are human and that we have a limited view of the world around us. It forces us to make a choice, even though I think we often fight against the obvious one. It’s the choice that we make to look to and rest in the One thing that is certain in this world. The One who created the world and everything in it and therefore knows exactly what we can’t see or decipher.

I don’t share my stories with you because I’ve figured out the secret to all of this and have navigated the uncertainty and fear that have been near-constants in my life perfectly. I truly have not. Many of my prayers in the wake of these changed plans looked and sounded a bit incredulous. I had to spend some time reconciling with God this new reality and why He didn’t give me some sort of heads up that He was switching things up on me. This was about two weeks of my life before He shared some powerful words with me.

Disappointment shouldn’t make me desperate and hard seasons shouldn’t put me in denial. Denying myself of hope, of joy, or of just simply the opportunity to trust my Creator fully and completely is exactly what the enemy wants. The enemy wants us weak and fearful and so easily crumbled when things don’t go our way and life gets tough.

Somewhere along the way within my story this truth become sort of the backbone of who God is shaping me to be, I think. He still has to stop and remind me of it along the way, as He did recently, but with every new page of this story it becomes easier to choose God over whining or desperation. Sometimes I think faith is like a muscle – we have to put it to use and actively work to strengthen it or it just becomes wasted. The person I was before God transformed my heart and my life through a season of loss and uncertainty was someone who saw disappoints and hardships as anything but the perfect opportunity to give it over to God.

There’s been several moments over the past few months when I felt like other people didn’t quite understand why I was doing what I was. Why I only applied to one grad school program and a small handful of hospitals for their internships programs. Why I was prepared to move to a small town in Illinois, where I knew absolutely no one, if I had gotten accepted to graduate school. Why I moved away from option #3 to pursue option #4 – realizing I needed a change of any kind and applying to several job openings in North and South Carolina. The simple answer is that I was just simply doing what God told me to do, even though it didn’t make complete sense to me either. A slightly longer answer is that I’ve learned that loving and following Jesus often means moving boldly forward, even (especially) when you don’t actually know what He’s moving you toward.

But just as God carried the Israelites through the wilderness and into the Promised Land, He has carried me to a place where I can finally say that I do know what the immediate future holds. And He so beautifully paved the way for this to come to fruition.

In early May, I accepted a teaching position at a new elementary school in Wake County, NC and I will be moving to Raleigh in July/August 2018. The area is a familiar one with many extended family members nearby, but also my older sister who has lived there since college and who will be my new roommate! These past few weeks have truly been humbling as I think about how God wove things together, answered prayers, and provided clarity that had been lacking for more than two years. Humbled and overflowing with gratitude as I pray and prepare for this new chapter!

Waiting Well

Since the start of the year, I have been reading through the Bible chronologically each morning and I have to say, I have truly been loving it. Sure, wading through the Old Testament can be daunting and overwhelming but the timing of what I have been reading lately and the pull to read through the entire Bible this year in particular are surely all connected.

Currently, I am in the middle of Deuteronomy as Moses is preparing the Israelites to enter the Promised Land.

I can’t help but feel that it’s not a coincidence that I have been reading through this particular part of the Old Testament at this moment of my life. It’s not a coincidence that I would be reading of Moses leading the Israelites into the wilderness for a 40 year journey to the land that was promised to them by God while they were enslaved in Egypt.

40 years!

While this journey of mine has (thankfully) not lasted 40 years, it was not without great hardship and struggles along the way. What probably kept those people going throughout the 40 years was a great sense of hope that God would do what He said He would do. Was it a perfect 40 years? Of course not. The Israelites lost sight of the vision multiple times and they wavered. They doubted and they rebelled but guess what? God was still there, ready to fulfill His promise to them at the perfect and appointed time.

Waiting
Photo by Matthew Sleeper on Unsplash

Part of what makes their journey and this story resonate so deeply within me is the use of the word “wilderness.” Throughout these past four years, that has been the word that came to mind most often when describing the state of my life and the state of my heart. So much of who I was and what I knew about life was falling away with each new hardship that came my way and wilderness was just the best word to describe it. Just this week, in Shelly Miller’s Sabbath newsletter, she wrote, “Life is a continual paradox of joy and suffering. We tend to avoid the suffering at all costs, but the wilderness is our Harvard and Yale on the true meaning and purpose of life. Without wandering in the desert seasons, the Promised Land is an idealism.”

Yes and Amen.

The promise found in Isaiah 43:19 that God would make “a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland” has been a promise that I have clung to for nearly three years. It’s a promise that I heard God himself whisper to me in the midst of the deepest pain that I have known in my 26 years – the moments after hearing that my Aunt Shelia had gone to be with Jesus less than 48 hours after her mother/my grandmother had. You see, the promise of freedom and restoration was what kept the Israelites moving forward and it was this same promise of restoration that nudged me forward as well. The promise whispered at 1:45am that said that He had been with me through all of this and that He was doing something good with this pain – just wait and see. It was more than enough for me to stand, with a broken heart and shaky hands, and do whatever was needed to move towards this vision of hope and restoration.

And so, now I wait.

The immediate aftermath of that promise was a two year season of preparation and of action. I withdrew from a school and master’s program that no longer held any passion in favor of plans and preparations for a new passion and pursuit – becoming a child life specialist. This two year season held more online courses and assignments and it held countless checklists making sure that I had everything needed to submit my applications this year – both to grad school in Illinois and six children’s hospitals across the East Coast and Midwest. But as of March 2, that season of preparation has given way to what I am sitting in now. A season of waiting.

There are no more applications to write. No more resumes to edit and no more transcripts to copy. The work has been done and I’ve begun to realize this past week just how hard waiting is when you’re not the one holding the timeline.

Sitting in this state of just simply waiting and not doing is incredibly difficult since it’s not really in my nature to rest – at least not this much. But there’s truly nothing more that I can do to affect any part of this next season. The work has been done and while it definitely feels strange, it also feels a little unnerving in some ways and I’m finding that I am having to make sure that I am always conscious of the state of my heart in this time.

You see, it’s in these times of waiting that I feel like I can’t hear God as clearly anymore but that’s just what the enemy wants so that he can worm his way in. I can see in some ways how he has already done that – using the stillness and expectancy of this time to try and get my guard down – getting me to think that the longer it takes for me to hear back from any of these places that God really isn’t working in this. And I know He is, friends, even if it’s not visible right at this moment.

In Habakkuk 2:3 (CEV), we read, “At the time I have decided, my words will come true. You can trust what I say
about the future. It may take a long time, but keep on waiting—it will happen!” and it is exactly the burst of fire that my heart needs right now.

I don’t know when I will hear anything about the next steps in this journey and while just simply typing that sends me teetering on the edge of panic and worry, the next thought in my mind is always of Jesus. It’s a gentle reminder to myself that this God I love and serve has a firm grip on me and will, in fact, fulfill each and every promise He ever makes to me. We don’t have to know the timeline to know this heart that wants nothing but the best for us. And that my friends is good news in this season of no news.

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