Today is a major day in the state of Alabama. It seems the whole nation is watching what we do. Today, someone will be elected to a seat on the Senate. During the last election, our local mayoral elections, I reflected about how only recently I've realized what a privilege it is to vote. And that many people, especially women, have fought hard for me to even have the right to vote. As of writing this, I still have not gone to vote in the Senate race. I've constantly been going back and forth, weighing all options in my head, praying about what is "right". I've looked to see what friends have done (peer pressure, y'all and curiosity), read countless articles, and still, I just go back and forth. There are only certain things I know to be true and knowing anything about politics is certainly not one of them. I don't see myself as a traditional Republican, nor a Democrat. Like many other areas of my life it seems, I struggle to figure out my place and where I belong. Despite my stubbornness, I've never been one to argue (sorry discuss) anything political. I hate listening to it on the news, because instead of actual conversations, it becomes person after person yelling over one another. If I have to yell over you to try and get my point heard, it's not worth my time. I'd rather have a legitimate conversation with you and learn from each other, rather than get spit in my face from you trying to convince me you are right and I'm wrong. I live in between cynicism, pessimism, and optimism. I want to believe that everyone has some good in them, that they are looking out for others and not just themselves, but I know it's often not the case. We are a selfish people. One of the fights of this world today is serving the self, finding out ways to only satisfy us and not serve our neighbors. While I want to believe in and find the good, I tend to hold people at arms length. My lack of trust in others makes me need them to prove to me that they are capable. To do what they say they will. To stand behind who they say they are. Even if there is doubt on my end, part of me is cheering for them, wanting them to succeed and prove to themselves, to me, to everyone, that they are who they say they are. That they can do it.
That is what makes elections hard for me. I want to vote for the one who has proven to do right. For the one who stands entirely behind what they say they do. To not back down at every turn, but to remember who they said they were during the campaign. To actually be for the people who voted for them. For the ones who depend on them to be their voice when theirs isn't always heard. I want to build trust, not fall into pessimism over and over again. Voting today is often about choosing between the "lesser of the two evils." That's not what I wish voting was like. I wish I could walk confidently into my polling place, cast my ballot, and be perfectly okay with what I just did. I honestly can't say that I have ever had a voting experience like that. I'm not sure if I ever will.
Living in between cynicism, pessimism, and optimism, trust is hard to find. And though I will carry out my right to vote today, after lots of prayer and back and forth, I'm quick to remember that ultimately all authority belongs to God. Whoever fills the seat, this year, and the elections that come after it, He reigns. All powerful. All authority. Almighty. There is no voting to take place, no questions to ask, no worries to wonder. His seat is one that is already filled and will never be filled with another.
Snow in the South is something that doesn't happen often. So, when it does, everyone stops and stares. Schools close, bread and milk disappear, and social media becomes a virtual winter wonderland of picture after picture of snow covered trees and bright, white scenery. While many of my friends woke up to white, fluffy stuff (or let's be real, maybe more ice), here in South Alabama I woke up to another rainy, cold day. Basically, every other day here in Mobile. Looking at the radar, the line goes from blue to green right about where I am. Typical. No winter wonderland here. But, with each picture I see, it reminds me of the snowy days spent in Tahoe. Shoveling more snow than I've ever seen in my entire life. Watching it blow from the tops of the pine trees. Attempting to learn how to ski on the same mountains that the professionals do. The stark contrast of the blue skies against the white ground. That's my favorite. So, while a lot of central Alabama and parts of Mississippi and Louisiana and Georgia all enjoy their wonderlands today, I'll just be staring over these pictures and more while remembering those quiet, peaceful hikes through snow covered trails.
September has come and gone (and I can't believe it). That means fall has started, Alabama Football is back, my best friend became a mom, and I completed my full first round of Whole30 (and I can't believe it). It was great and will definitely be happening again. But, right now I'm tired of meal planning, so I'm just trying to eat as best as I can and will get back on that train again soon.
With September being gone, that means October is here! Fall is in full swing, pumpkin patches are everywhere, the fair is coming, and the Write 31 Days Challenge is here! Last year was my first year to participate and I made it about halfway in my writing on finding rest. I learned that that series was much more for me and what the Lord was wanting me to see, rather than writing for others. I also learned to give myself grace in my writing. So, with taking those lessons, I'm joining in Write 31 Days again this year...but on Instagram! Every day (hopefully), you can head there and find some short mini essays. I'll be updating this post by adding each day, but honestly, it may not get updated quickly or every morning. If you don't want to miss a day, make sure you check out my Instagram account, as well as my Facebook page. You will for sure see the latest writing there! The writings will vary in different subjects, but I hope by the end of them they will have you thinking about what you will simply choose to do next. "Simply choosing" is a phrase that the Lord brought to my mind last year around Advent. There is so much going on in the world around us, we constantly have things thrown at us from every direction, our feelings alone make us crazy sometimes, and it's hard to step back, quiet down and simply choose the Lord above all of that. I realized that I had a choice. Either choose the world or choose Him. What was I simply choosing to do? Always I want the answer to be the Lord, above everything. When I think about all I have and all that I want, I realize that He is literally everything I need. I simply need to choose Him. So, over the next 31 days, I'm writing about that. Hoping to point you, and keep reminding myself, to simply choose Him. Above all. I hope you join in.
A couple of years ago I attempted the Whole30 and didn't succeed. I made it about halfway through and quit it. I don't remember if I got sick, just sneaked something and completely ruined it, or it was just my horrible ability to follow through on something that caused me to quit. But, I did. Today, I began Whole30 again. It's been around for a bit now and it's a big trend that many people follow. If you aren't familiar with the program, check out their website for SO MUCH information. The ground rules are: whole foods only...which means eliminating sugar, alcohol, grains, legumes, soy, and dairy from your diet. A.k.a. taking away all the good things, most would say.
The last time I attempted Whole30, I'm not sure I was as prepared as I am this time. Although, there are still moments where I'm like, do I really want to do this or can I do this? And I'm only halfway through Day 1. But, the reality is, it's only 30 days. Breaking it down into weeks and meals makes it seem much more doable. Will it be hard? Yeah, probably. Will I miss some things? Most definitely. I love food you guys. It's not a secret. But, I also think I have a problem with food. I definitely don't eat as I should. I eat crappy 85% of the time. I eat out for MANY of my meals, which I feel leads me into spending more money. One thing many people say is that Whole30 is expensive. And while it's true that it can be, I honestly think I spend more money eating out than I do buying groceries and cooking for myself. So, why not take all that money I would use to eat out and buy things that actually help me? I will probably end up eating a lot of the same things and I won't be buying everything organic or grass-fed. I'm single and work in ministry and have student loans to pay. I don't have money to buy different aminos or flax seed everything. Meat and veggies? Possible and doable. Doesn't have to be crazy.
Also, I know that because I have it in my head to do it now, I NEED to do it now. Despite September being the start of college football weekends (Roll Tide), an out of town weekend trip, birthday celebrations, and a wedding at the end of the month. I could find an excuse for every month of the year. So, I'm stopping the excuses and I'm doing this!
My Whole30 Guidelines*:
*These are guidelines I set for myself after I read It Starts With Food. It helps me reach other personal goals, not all are actually set by Whole30.
Are you doing #Whole30September?
Have you completed it before and doing it again or is this your first attempt?
I'm up for any and all helpful tips and recipes!
I don't know that I've ever posted any fiction writing on here. And if I have, it's been forever and I don't remember. It's not something that I write often, so if you find some and it's horrible, just keep scrolling. With that being said, today you get fiction. I found this piece below on my computer that I wrote back in 2014! I searched the blog and didn't find where I had ever shared it. So, here ya go!
Casey definitely could not see herself living here permanently, for the small town life didn’t suite her well at all. But, she didn’t mind visiting every once in awhile. She adored her parents, but could only put up with her Mama for a short period of time, and her Papa was her best friend.
“Friday night in a small town, so it makes sense that everyone and their brother is in this place.”
“Well, you know, if it isn’t football season, there isn’t anything to do here.” Mama replied.
“Do you even remember the name of this book?” Casey asked, trying to sound helpful and not at all annoyed.
“It was either ‘She Remembered Everything’ or ‘She Taught Him All.’"
Casey continued running her hands up and down the spines of books, looking for what seemed to be the needle in a haystack. There were tons of mysteries at her fingertips, her Mama’s favorite genre nowadays. She could never get into them, maybe because they all seemed the same. Or maybe she just got enough of that at work. Casey's whole week, day in and day out, revolved around mysteries. She spent sixty hours a week hunched over reams of paper and drawing on whiteboards piecing together clues. Missing children, missing wives, missing husbands, possible drug cartels; she has worked them all.
Casey pulled another book from the heaping pile, “Is this it?” she asked handing it to Mama. Mama opened it up and began reading the first few pages. Casey looked back to see Papa who was propped up against a shelf reading the newspaper. He had tuned everyone in the store out. Turning back to Mama, she saw she had put the book down.
“It sounded very interesting, but that wasn’t it.” Mama said unsatisfied.
“Well, why don’t you get that one? We may never find the other one in all of this mess.” Casey encouraged.
Mama looked up at her, about to reply, but then was suddenly looking past her.
“Jason!” she yelled throughout the store.
No one seemed to notice, as they were busy searching for their own hidden treasures. Mama dropped her book and ran past her. Casey picked up the book and swiveled on her feet, stopping when she finally spotted Mama and Jason. He looked familiar, but she couldn’t quite place him. High school? Rivaling high school? Elementary school? Casey had lived here her whole life, but she managed to escape without fully knowing everyone. She kept wondering where she had seen him before. Mama may have remembered him from long ago, but she felt like she had only recently met him. Work? It was possible, but she had been working so many cases lately that she had been introduced to so many people. He didn’t look like a detective or a cop. He was tall and dressed casually in jeans and a button up. A normal, small-town guy, boy next door type. Casey heard her name as she snapped back into reality.
“Do you remember Casey? She is here for a visit and you must come say hello! Come, follow me.” Mama ordered.
Casey turned around and looked at her papa who was observing the whole situation from the top corner of his paper. Her eyes met his and she gave a pleading look of help. He just smiled and went back to reading his paper. Thanks, she thought to herself and off she took. There were plenty of people in the store, so she could easily escape and hide to where Mama couldn’t find her. But, she hadn’t been in this store forever and was forgetting how it all connected. Plus, the people! There were so many of them. Why had everyone decided to come here tonight? She couldn’t complain much right now though as they were helping to hide her from Mama. Mama always did this when Casey came home for a visit. She would magically find someone that Casey hadn’t seen in forever, or someone she thought was nice, or someone who was new in town, or someone she thought was very handsome, or someone that was all of the above and single. It was the game to play. Casey comes home, she visits for a while, let’s find her a husband, Casey runs away. Casey ducked down an aisle just as her Mama turned right after her.
“Casey, where are you? I have someone you need to meet!”
“I’m coming down the aisle Mama, be right there.” She lied, as she was really going to get out of this aisle and then bolt to the front door. As she got to the end of the aisle and could see the door in her sights, Mama stepped out in front of her. Defeated, Casey let out a sigh and straightened her dark jeans and blazer. She has won again, Casey thought.
“Jason, I found her.” Mama said as she reached for the man’s elbow, pulling him along. Where did she know him from? It was killing her that she hadn’t figured it out yet.
“Hi, Casey.” Jason said, like speaking to an old friend.
“Hi, Jason, was it?” Casey retorted.
“Yes, that’s right. Enjoying your visit home?”
“Sure, as much as you can enjoy being in a crowded store on a Friday night with the rest of the town.” Mama gave her a look of “be nice” after that one.
“But, yes, I am enjoying it. It is a nice change of pace from work.” Casey said, as she reluctantly changed her tone.
“It definitely is that!” Jason replied in agreement, like he knew exactly what she was talking about. She had to have seen him around work. She still just couldn’t place him.
“I’m sorry, Jason. I’m just trying to place how I know you and I just can’t seem to figure it out.” Casey questioned.
He shifted on his feet and looked at her Mama, then laughingly asked, “And you say this is her eighth year in Intelligence?”
Then, it clicked. Casey finally knew where she had seen him.
He was a cop.
I don't know if anything else will get written about Casey and Jason, the cop. But, hope this was a fun read for you on a Monday!
The older I've gotten, the more I've gotten excited about the idea of settling into one area. My college summers and the year after graduation were all spent in different places. I know I was meant to be in each of them. And when memories come flooding in from all of those places, when the faces I remember come back to mind, a smile comes on my face, followed by a sweet sadness.
When the memories flood in, I realize how fast time truly went. I immediately want to go back, to remember.
I want to snap my fingers and be back in the ice cream shop in New Orleans, that one night when camp was over, and we would all be leaving soon. I want to stay in that space, laughing forever. I want to hop a plane and be back on the shores of Lake Tahoe and I want to walk the Rim Trail knee deep in snow for just a mile longer. I want to always be among the snow covered pine trees when the wind blows and snow falls gently to the ground. I want to go back and sit with all the kids I've met for a little while longer. Read one more story as they sound out words, color one more picture. I want to go back to that one hill in Arizona, and sit there every night as the sun sets in the desert. I want to go back to the first time I saw the Grand Canyon and sit on the edge for just a little longer.
I want to go back. I'll trade my days of being settled and in routine, to go back to the days that I want to last just a little bit longer.
Like the college nights spent sleeping over at a friend's house when we watched nothing but The Office and made pallets in her living room. Or the nights spent cheering on our favorite football team. The nights we would fill up our favorite restaurants and stay until they turned out the lights. Those nights we made blanket forts and ordered way too much pizza. When we would push together the tables in the dining hall, so we could eat as one big family, going back for countless bowls of ice cream. The time we crammed more than enough people into a beach house. The night we went looking for a meteor shower and never found it, so we turned on music and just danced beneath the clouds.
I want to go back. I want to make myself stand back for just a minute longer and take it all in a little deeper and longer. To remember the smells of the summer night, how the water felt when I ran through it, the excitement of family all around, the breeze as it gently went by, the smiles and laughs of friends who wouldn't be friends always...
I've become used to the idea of being settled. But one thing I will never be completely settled in doing? Saying goodbye.
Saying goodbye to family, to places, to friends. I never want my best memories to become hazy, or worse, lost.
It's true that each day there are new memories to be made. God has written this incredible story that only He could write. The only thing I can do is walk into the new page each morning and see what He has written. I've walked quickly through some of those chapters in the past, barely stopping to see what He wrote on the pages beneath my feet. And that's why I want to go back, that's why I want to trade my settled routine. I want to go back and see those pages again. I want to go back and read them a little slower, as my feet move from one word to the other, syllable by syllable. With each step I want it to be stamped into my memory bright and full, like I'm living it again.
But, with the turn of each page, it becomes just another memory. Another goodbye. Another part of a chapter, filling a book, with a story where I vaguely remember the beginning and don't know the ending. Memories don't keep the goodbyes from happening. But, I have to look for the greetings of each new day.
I have to look down at the words on the next page. Because new memories are unfolding and, for today, I can be settled. Today I can walk the pages a little slower, take in the words a little slower. Because in another five years, ten years, twenty years, I'll look back and want to come back to this chapter. I'll want to come back to lazy rainy days, to the nights spent on roofs, to the sound of waves rolling in from the Gulf. Back to the moment your best friend finds out she's having a baby boy, when you watch a friend graduate, when families invite you into their homes.
I need to read these words slowly, Lord. Don't let them pass until I've taken all of their meaning in. Keep the memory bright and full. Keep me settled in today, so I'm always looking at the pages that You've put under my feet.
While in Las Vegas, we had the opportunity to do a little exploring. We either were heading to The Hoover Dam or Red Rock Canyon. And although I hate that I missed out on making dam jokes, I'm so glad we chose Red Rock Canyon! After leaving California about three years ago, I have missed getting outside everyday and hiking outside in the beautiful west. While the South is beautiful, the West is equally breathtaking! Red Rock is about 30 minutes or so outside Las Vegas. Huge rocks with red stripes plopped down in the middle of the desert. Put it against the backdrop of a bright, blue sky and it's magnificent!
Have you ever been to Red Rock Canyon or Las Vegas? Where is your favorite place to get outside?
Check out more photos from this trip here.
I sometimes think it would be fun to have job where travel is a big part of it. Then, I realize that I very much like to stay at home. I love traveling, I love flying, I love exploring new places, I love meeting people from everywhere. But, I also really love the weekends where I don't leave my house. Those are the weekends that I look forward to after nights spent out or weekends spent traveling. April was a month filled with busy weekends! Something that usually doesn't fill my calendars. While it physically and mentally exhausted me, I absolutely LOVED all the moments and getting to spend time with friends and family. The first week of April was spent celebrating my mom and dad's wedding anniversary (aka our familyversary). They stayed in Mobile, explored during the day, relaxed, and then we had dinner each night they were here. (It was great for me! Thanks for all the meals, Mom and Dad!) One night they were here we watched the movie Vegas Vacation, all in preparation for my trip to Vegas. It is a hilarious movie and if you haven't seen it, watch it. So funny!
My trip to Vegas was actually nothing like Clark Griswold's. One, the only time I set foot in the casino was to eat at a buffet and grab Starbucks. And we didn't visit the Hoover Dam, but if we had, I wouldn't have veered off the tour and tried to climb the thing. I would however have made plenty of "dam" jokes. It just required people. You can't pass up that opportunity. Just like the many times we would travel to Sardis Dam in Mississippi when I was younger. On the way we always passed The Dam Store. And every time, it never failed, my sisters and I would make dam jokes. And the whole car would laugh and we would just lose it! We still make those jokes and laugh today.
So, there was no veering off tours or winning of cars (seriously watch the movie, it's hilarious). I was in Las Vegas to partner with a church plant and help them get ready for their neighborhood Easter Egg Hunt. We stuffed 15,000 eggs and passed out thousand of flyers around the neighborhood. 15,000, you read it right. It was at times monotonous and annoying when the plastic eggs wouldn't close. But, once we had a good assembly line going, easy peasy and smooth sailing. While there we got to visit a couple church plants and it was great! One was pretty similar to the church I attend (and work at), the other two were plants with small congregations. I really enjoyed being a part of their fellowships for the weekend. It was refreshing and encouraging to be reminded of the simplicity of the Gospel, and how ultimately, our mission as believers is to love people where they are at. It's what Jesus did and it's what I want in my relationships. How can I not offer that to others? That's a post for another day. Today is for a photo dump of photos from Las Vegas!
One of my absolute favorite things about flying out west is that there is a good chance you will fly over the Grand Canyon. I've stood on the rim before, but flying over it gives a while new perspective! So amazing. One of my favorite places and sights. When we weren't stuffing eggs or passing out flyers, we got to visit around and see the city some. One evening we went and walked The Strip. Each casino is themed differently and it was literally like we went to another country when we walked through them. The architecture was awesome! At The Venetian there was a Carlo's Bakery, from the man behind Cake Boss, and it was delicious! I got a Hazelnut Lobster Tail and oh my goodness. I want one every day. We watched the fountain show at The Bellagio and went to the conservatory inside. It has tons of flowers! I read somewhere that all the flowers are changed out every two weeks there! The top of The Bellagio offers a great view of The Strip! And lastly, I can't head out west and not hit up In-N-Out Burger. So yummy, I love it. Those cheeseburgers, fresh fries, and chocolate shake. Yes, please! Glad we got to stop there for a bite to eat!
Have you ever been to Las Vegas?
I remember going on my first mission trip ever when I was in high school. It was the first time I had ever really been away from my parents, my first time really out West, and my first time on an airplane. I was so excited, but also nervous. Stepping into Arizona was a new world to me, even though I was still in the United States. It brought me new friends, new realizations about people and life, and challenged me greatly in my walk with Christ.
One of the most memorable moments is when I was standing on a plateaued hill, in the desert of Arizona, watching the sunset. The sky literally seemed to be painted, as it turned so many different colors. God as Creator became real to me then and He's never let me forget that moment. Since then, I've tried to serve Him locally and domestically as best as I've can and go wherever He has led.
He really does work in mysterious and sometimes funny ways. Like when as a freshman in college, I sat with a friend at a cafe in New Orleans and told her that I felt like God was leading me there. And He did in the summer of 2011. Or the summer I served in Mobile, many years before I would eventually call that city home, as I do now. Then, He somehow got me to California, the absolute farthest I had ever been from home or anyone I knew. I went fresh out of college and knowing no one. Simply ready for adventure. And that it was.
Because when following the Lord, it is certainly an adventure. A beautiful, fun, crazy, most times scary, adventure. I've visited places I've only dreamed about and somehow, I'm not sure how, but I love them all so much. I smile when I think of them and I love when they come up in conversation (or let's be honest, when I bring it up because I want to talk about it). I smile because of the places I've been, the people I've met, the pictures I've taken, or simply just my memories. I smile, because I often can't believe that the Lord would give me such great chances. And I smile because His love is just that great, that He did, and still does, give me those chances.
It was way easier to say yes to those chances when I was in high school and college. Now, I feel like there are so many other things I have to think about, or work out, before I can say yes. And because of thinking that way, I wonder what I've passed up, because I didn't say yes...
Missions is in my heart. The people, the places, the food, the smells. They get in my heart and they never let go. I don't want them to. I want to hold on to them forever. I want the memories to grow stronger, but also make room for new ones to form. With new places, new faces, new smells, and new sunsets.
Every place has its sunset moment. Lord, I pray I don't miss it...
A few weeks ago, the tree in my front yard was full of bright, pink blossoms. A hint of spring in the middle of winter. Today, the leaves are green, bright and colorful in the midst of other trees still bare. Yet, nearby, pink azaleas, both light and vibrant, are already blooming as well. Petals and green leaves hold on tight under a sky mixed with grey and white clouds with a hint of blue sky, as the wind blows dead, brown leaves across pavement.
I love watching the wind blow. You can see it travel, first hitting a tree way off and then others following suit as their branches and leaves begin to sway side to side. Petals and green leaves seem to dance, while the dead leaves tumble across the driveways. I want to be like the petals and green leaves. Holding tight to their branches, dancing as the wind blows by. Blooming. But, I find myself more like the dead, brown leaves. Tumbling, head over heel, as the wind blows. Thrown from driveway to driveway, trampled by feet and car tires. Nothing to hold on to.
My mind doesn't dance with the wind, it tumbles with constant worry. Worry about all the things that can go wrong. Worry about what I will do next. My mind doesn't dance with the wind, it tumbles with constant sadness. Sadness over things I do not have. Sadness over how lonely my heart often feels. My mind doesn't dance with the wind, it tumbles with being angry. Angry about all the things I can't do. Angry about how things always seem to be just out of reach.
My mind tumbles, but what does it take to dance? What does it take to bloom? The petals, green leaves and dead leaves all feel the wind. The wind moves them all in some way. Attached to their branches, the petals dance as the green leaves follow. The dead leaves tumble by, no longer is their place on the branch. They all feel the wind, but whether they are attached to the branch or not, determines how the wind moves them.
Apart from Christ, my Branch, I can do nothing. My mind will tumble all day long, as the wind blows, and as long as I'm not connected to Him I'll keep tumbling. But, how is it, why is it, that even when I find myself attached to the Branch, I don't always see myself blooming? Or dancing? Only tumbling? I know the source of everything I need, but I'm not letting Him nourish me. Instead of letting Him grow me, I'd rather fall off the Branch. Yet, I know that the moment I leave the Branch, nothing will be the same. And all chances to bloom will be gone, tumbling down the pavement with me. Apart from Him, I can do nothing.
The wind is coming, it's inevitable. Worries, sadness, anger. If I'm the dead leaf, I'll only continue to tumble when the wind reaches me. But when attached to the Branch? I'll have life, vibrant and bright. And when the wind comes, I'll be able to dance. And one day, if I keep hanging on, I might even bloom.