Photo by Tim Ard
Dear First Responder,
A couple days ago, your world was turned upside down and stopped for a moment. On what was a beautiful day, the night was just the opposite. You lost a fellow officer. A friend. And while I didn't know him personally, or the bond you held with him, I know there is pain. A pain of something unimaginable and yet now, so real.
There is one thing I do know: he was brave.
And so are you. For every day that you wake up, put on your uniform, and head out the door, you also carry courage. Strength in the face of pain or grief. That is you, every single time. And especially today.
Words do not always express what we want to in these moments and a "thank you" seems so small, needless. But I also don't think it is said enough. And now more than ever, in silence that can seem deafening, I want you to hear it. Thank you.
Thank you for your service to our communities, but thank you, especially for your bravery. I don't think you can have one without the other. Thank you for fighting to keep us safe, for protecting, for always being ready, come what may. Thank you for being dedicated. Thank you for putting others first.
Thank you, brave one.
Continue to find and carry courage each day,
A proud citizen
Tuesday night, the Mobile Police Department lost one of it's officers. Officer Justin Billa was killed in the line of duty, while working an investigation. He leaves behind a wife and one year old son. Click here if you would like to donate to The Officer Justin Billa Memorial Fund.
Each year, I set a goal of what books I want to read. And usually, I make it nowhere close to that goal. I say this same thing each year as well: this year will be different. So, whether that happens or not, we will see. Regardless, this year I wanted to read more of the books that are on my shelf. Because, friends, I buy so many books. Yet, I don't make the time to read them. Which is so sad to me, because I love to get lost in a really good book. With the exception of a couple of books I had pre-oredered, most books for my list this year are already on my shelf or Kindle. If not, I'm making a trip to the library! I also wanted to fully take part in the reading challenge by Modern Mrs. Darcy. Each year she hosts a reading challenge with great categories. Lastly, I wanted to challenge myself to read one classic a month. There are still a couple of spots to fill, but here are the books I want to read in 2018.
Modern Mrs. Darcy Reading Challenge
What is on your reading list this year?
Affiliate links are present on this post. Meaning if you purchase, I also get a little something.
There is a quote, that I can't for the life of me remember right now. Something about holiness and something about hard places. But those two words have been repeating themselves over and over in my head this past week. Since the start of the year, I've been wanting to find my one word for the year. A word that could encapsulate the year and help me keep my focus throughout the year. I went over word after word, never feeling like it was quite the one.
About a week ago, I finished reading a book that is coming out in March, "Sex, Jesus, and the Conversations the Church Forgot" by Mo Isom. I was on Mo's launch team for her first book, and while this one is quite different in content, I felt like I needed to apply to be on her team again. So, I did. And when I learned I was on the team, I thought to myself, "Now you actually have to read this book." I wasn't sure what to expect in between it's pages, but I was intrigued.
If anything, I thought it would be a great resource for later, when or if, I got married. But now, after finishing, my kindle version is highlighted up and down of truth that speaks so much new life into my singleness. That is one thing that I wasn't expecting. But it was something that I've been unknowingly praying for. Another prayer that I had forgotten I was praying. When all the chapters were read, a renewed singleness is what I found.
Honestly, I've been over it. Completely over being single and all that it offers...and doesn't offer. I've struggled through my singleness more times than surrendering it to God. But why? Why would I constantly want to tie myself to bitterness, anger, loneliness, and jealousy? Those things only inflict more of themselves. They lead me nowhere towards light and only deeper into darkness.
The crawl towards light seems to be a never-ending, all out fight most days. There is lots of kicking and screaming, much like a child. And while a lot of that has been directed to God in my anger, I also throw a lot back to myself. Because when you're the only one in the room, it's easy to make yourself the target. And words thrown at myself are easier to fix than holes in the wall. Or so I tell myself.
Words are powerful. They speak life and death. No matter if you are speaking them to others or yourself. And before reading Mo's book, one that I didn't know how much I would relate to or needed, I wasn't expecting to read words that gave me a new hope in my singleness. But that is what came.
And while I highlighted up and down, there are some thoughts that I wrote down from Mo that I have been clinging to in the week since I finished her book. Each day, I pray through one of them. Expectant that God will answer. That my daily surrender of my singleness will pull me closer to light than the darkness. That each day, my focus would not be my singleness, but of what God has for me that day. That each day would drive me closer and closer to His holiness. I've prayed that God would use every second of this time and for Him to encounter me. To equip me with strength. To teach me daily how to walk. And for His love to compel me.
I've realized over my prayer journey, that oftentimes I pray for the wrong things. Always masking my true agenda in words that seem right. Never quite praying in God's will or for the things He would have for me. But, the past week I have watched as He has answered my prayers, in ways that may seem small, but speak in such loud volumes, that I cannot ignore it. When I prayed for Him to encounter me, He met me in a quiet, morning moment of bright stars shining down into my backyard. When I prayed to be equipped with strength, He met me at a hard day at work. He is daily teaching me how to walk, how to give Him moments that matter. And when I asked for His love to compel me? He brought a college friend to my mind as I sat in church this morning and then again as I sat on my bed weeping, as that same friend posted that she had lost her earthly father.
I almost wanted to take back my morning prayer today. As sitting on my unmade bed crying wasn't what I expected when I asked for His love to compel me. But His love compelled me to call out to Him on my friend's behalf. To offer words, then tears when the words wouldn't come. Sometimes, my tears are the only offering I have to give to God.
And while I can't remember whatever that quote is, I'm learning that holiness is found in the hard places. That there in those moments, where the stars shine bright and where I'm left crying on my bed, in those hard moments, He is revealing Himself to me, showing Himself holy. When the prayer has left my lips, I then anticipate His answer. I wait with great expectation.
That word for the year? Expectant.
Expectant of what His answers will be. Expectant of what He will show me. Expectant of what hard times will inevitably come, but expectant that His holiness is always to be found if I ask Him to show it to me.
This year, Lord, with my heart renewed, I wait, expectant of all that You will do.
More Things From Mo
Click here to pre-order Mo Isom's new book, "Sex, Jesus, and the Conversations the Church Forgot", available March 6th!
Click here to order Mo's first book, "Wreck My Life."
Follow Mo on Social Media (for words of wisdom and lots of laughter): @MoIsom
Click here to check out her website.
Affiliate links are present on this post. Meaning if you purchase, I also get a little something.
One of my favorite things is to be a tourist in my own town. It's why I started the series #SnapshotsOfMobile that I hope to revitalize this year! Yesterday, I learned about a walking tour around downtown Mobile that highlighted some Mardi Gras spots. It's been a long debate as to where Mardi Gras actually began -- Mobile or New Orleans. I lived in New Orleans before I ever lived in Mobile, so I have a big place in my heart for both. They share so many similarities in architecture, food, music. I've done Mardi Gras in New Orleans and Mobile and one year, hope to experience it in both cities in the same year. So, where do I stand on the debate of the first beginnings? I say it began in Mobile, but New Orleans made it famous. But, that doesn't mean that Mobile doesn't know how to throw a party, because it does. And the party starts this Friday! Here are some photos from our tour yesterday. Cooper even came with us and he was quite the trooper and made lots of new friends!
Yesterday at work, we all watched the radars and alerts to see if another round of "snow" was coming for us. I use snow loosely here, because it's always almost a dusting this far down South. We got word that work would be canceled on Wednesday and I even braved Walmart after work. Not to get bread and milk, because, well I'm not eating either of those right now (hello again, Whole30), but to get a few things for the next week's meals. I survived and made it home. No sign of ice or snow yet. Just cold wind. Cold, cold, cold wind. Usually it is wet down here, but this felt drier, almost like the Tahoe cold I remember. I thought about staying up and waiting to see flakes, but when nothing was still happening at 10:00pm, I decided to call it a night. Maybe I would wake up to a bright lit room, a sure sign that snow had fallen and covered the ground, like I remembered from when I was little in Memphis. Something woke me up around 3:30ish and I peaked out the window. A 29 year old, desperate to see snow falling, like a little kid. Nothing. I curled back up under my layered blankets and went back to sleep. I woke up again around my normal time, looked out the window sure that something was covering the ground. And I was met with disappointment. No snow covered trees. Just spots of white sprinkled around and ice more than anything. This isn't what I wanted! If I was getting a freebie day off of work, I at least wanted something fun to look at. Nothing. I laid back in my bed and soon started seeing all the other pictures of snow. And from those who had a snow day just weeks before! It seems like a silly thing to be jealous for, but I just want to live somewhere that gets to experience actual seasons. All four of them. Not just one extreme or the other. Alabama weather literally seems to be either extremely hot or terribly cold. I decide to get out of bed and make breakfast. After all, there aren't many mornings that I get to take it slow and not rush. Making breakfast, I realized that today is now an unexpected sabbath. Far from a disappointing day, this is the day I've been asking for. The past several weeks have looked nothing like my normal routine. Over Christmas, we moved into a new house and so it seems that my days have been full of staring at boxes, unpacking, cleaning, piles of trash or donation, work, sleep, and repeat. Things aren't where I expect them to be, my mornings have been off since moving, and I haven't yet felt completely relaxed in our new place. Throw in a couple days of feeling sick and literally sleeping for 13 hours at one point, I just feel out of whack!
So, today, when I woke up to what I first saw as disappointment, really it's the day that I've been wanting. A day where I could wake up slowly and literally just start there. I was able to establish new routines that I've been thinking about. My brain finally felt organized and I rejoiced when I realized that today was the unexpected Sabbath I've been wanting. I had my prayer time, I did some Cover to Cover Bible reading, I wrote, I'll start a book later and hopefully finish one. I listened to a podcast while making breakfast. I still have piles of things in my room, a trunk of things in my car to donate, and dishes to do. But most importantly, I said yes to things today that I needed to say yes to and no to the others. I don't want disappointment to rule, when something unexpected, yet needed, is waiting at the same place. So, while snow didn't blanket my part of the world, the unexpected, yet needed, rest and new routine did.
If you know me, this is of no surprise to you. NEEDTOBREATHE is my favorite band. I frequently joked that if I could follow them around forever, I totally would. Well, this year, I did that in my own way.
For the past couple of years, I have missed these guys when they have gone on the road. Due to different reasons, it always seemed that whatever show I was planning on going to, something would happen and I ended up not being able to make it. Instead, I would cling to the memories of the times that I had seen them and stalk the social media of all my friends who were lucky to be in attendance. And of course, listen to album after album non-stop.
This year, they went on their ALL THE FEELS TOUR. Which was three different legs: Under the Stars, Electric, and (for the first time ever) Acoustic. I knew I had to be at every leg to make up for the lost years of not seeing a show. I've never splurged so much on myself and had a slight panic attack the moment I paid for all those tickets. But, the day of fan pre-sale, I did it. Two tickets for each leg of the tour. (All I can say is thank you for tax refund and a paycheck in the same week!) I got tickets to the first show in Memphis, a show in my town, Mobile, and the last show of the tour, Nashville. Each was incredible and better than the one before it. Each literally gave me all the feels. I'm not sure how they will top it, but I'm sure they will probably find a way. Here are some of my favorite photos and moments from each show.
Leg 1, Under the Stars | Memphis, Tennessee at Mud Island
To have Memphis be their first stop on the tour was awesome for me, because it's where I'm from. My sister joined me for this show at an awesome venue on the Mississippi River. Also fun, because our parents used to see shows here all the time! Outdoor venues are always some of my favorites. Put that venue also on a river, in my hometown, I can't not love it. Gavin Degraw was set to be with them on this leg of the tour, but ended up having to cancel a part of his tour. This would be redeemed before the tour actually finished though, stay tuned for how that happened (or just scroll if you can't wait). The New Respects and The Lone Bellow stepped in as openers and in November, I went to Birmingham to be front row for The Lone Bellow. Also an incredible show.
Leg 2, Electric | Mobile, Alabama at The Saenger Theater
I was so excited to see this show on the list of places they would be touring! They haven't been to Mobile on a major tour ever, so to be coming to the place I now call home and literally ten minutes from my house, I wasn't going to miss it. This was also my first show to see at the Saenger here. It is such a beautiful place and I hope we hosted them well enough that they come back to see us here.
Leg 3, Acoustic | Nashville, Tennessee at The Ryman Auditorium
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!