This advent season, I'm trying to focus on preparation; not preparation by buying all my gifts early (still have way more on that list) or baking millions of cookies, but preparing my heart & focusing on the true meaning of Christmas. I can get so caught up in the hustle and bustle this time of year. The shopping, the parties, the christmas card writing (or not writing in my case), so.many.thing. All of these things are wonderful, but sometimes I get lost in them. I lose sight of that sweet little baby born in the stable & the HUGE gift that he gave us. I won't lie that I'm still making shopping to do lists like crazy and huffing at the lady who almost hit my car while backing out of the shopping center parking lot, but I'm talking little steps towards a new mindset.
In focusing on changing my mindset, I am beginning to notice a few things that I may have missed in previous years. People are SO generous. I knew that & I had seen that, but this year I am really seeing it like I've never seen before. I am blown away by their kindness and desire to love on other people.
Our church had an angel tree this year with over 40 children on it. We are a fairly small church so that was truly a lot. When there were children still left on the tree, we began asking other people in the community to participate. My school took on three children; I talked with the students and then sent out a school-wide email. I was absolutely blown away by the response! Almost immediately I was receiving emails from parents telling me what they were buying for the children. The students were excited to help too & have been so proud of the gifts they are providing. It's wonderful to see people so thrilled to give even when they know nothing about the person or family to whom they're giving.
A small group from another church heard about our weekly tutoring that I've mentioned before and wanted to help one of those families. They planned to give a $100-200 gift card to Walmart to a family with four children (two of which come to our tutoring). The father recently had surgery and has been out of work. The mom works as well, but money is very tight. The parents are so supportive of their children and are always looking for ways to help them improve in school. We got a call from the small group last week to say that they would be providing a $1000 Walmart gift card to this family. Tomorrow, I get the honor of presenting this to the mother and father. I'm am literally grinning from ear to ear just thinking about it. (Not sure if I'll be able to concentrate & think in Spanish to translate because I will be so excited!).
This Christmas season, I am seeing the good in this world, the joy and the generosity of so many. Our world can be awfully dark at times, but I can see the light shining so bright & it is spreading. Joy to the World!
Wednesday, December 11, 2013
Monday, December 2, 2013
We spent Thanksgiving with my mom's side of the family as we've always done. This group is always so fun and I enjoy catching up with everyone while sampling all the good food [my family is full of good cooks]! Also, my family is known for wonderfully hilarious stories. I was cracking up at childhood stories from my aunts & uncles with Grannie's snide comments added in.
When I look at this picture, it really hits me. We are so blessed. I love being surrounded by a large family. I know that many spend this holiday alone or have never experienced the joyful chaos of a crowded kitchen. We are so fortunate to be so familiar with the smell of turkey and sweet potatoes, the [very loud] sounds of people gathered together and sharing stories and the taste of the annual "log" cake that Grannie makes each year. We are blessed & thankful.
And now it's officially the Christmas season! We've started decorating & plan to get our tree this coming weekend!
Monday, November 25, 2013
This past weekend, my friend Lia and I took a quick trip to Charlotte to go to the Southern Christmas show with my parents. It's a tradition in my family to go to the Christmas show every year and once I found out how much Lia loves Christmas, I knew she needed to experience the Christmas bliss.
It's super crowded and packed with vendors, food and decorations so its a little too crazy to photograph. Typically, I hate those kind of settings but it doesn't even matter for this. It is WONDERFUL. It always puts me in the Christmas spirit and gets me excited to decorate the house.
One of my favorite parts of the show is a food vendor that has been coming for as long as I can remember. They serve apple and cherry pastries that are delicious! You can smell them, along with the spiced pecans/almonds, as you're walking into the building. And did I mention there are FOUR buildings stuffed with Christmas items, crafts, food and more?
It was so fun to share our tradition with a friend & I am already looking forward to next year!
I can't rush through Thanksgiving too much though, as it is one of my favorite holidays. We're spending it with my mom's whole side of the family. As always, it will be complete chaos and such a blast! Looking forward to leaving in just a few days.
beautiful leaves at my parents' house
Tuesday, November 19, 2013
"In in the midst of all your try-hard effort to do love right,
you are missing out on loving well."- Emily Freeman
My heart is bursting with joy. Experiencing and recognizing a time when you are fully alive is incredible. Today I had lunch with some of my favorite kiddos and I left feeling so blessed.
I'd thought of the idea of going to have lunch with the kids I tutor and had briefly mentioned it to them (side note: never promise a child something you're not going to do... they NEVER forget things!). They were thrilled and begged me to make sure I'd really come visit. I'll admit it, the idea seemed great, but this morning I started having the thoughts, "it would be nice to just stay home and get a few things done" and "what if the kids aren't at school today... that would be awkward.." Ridiculous thoughts that were trying to drive me away from my origin desire. I ignored those ideas and headed for the school. As I walked into the cafeteria, I was suddenly met with fear. There were TONS of kids in the cafeteria and I didn't recognize any of them. How was I going to find the girls? Then, I saw a familiar face and was greeted with a hug. Another girl that comes to tutoring recognized me and began pointing out LOTS of kids that I knew from tutoring. More and more kids would see me, smile and then run over to hug me. I was overwhelmed with joy and love.
By the time we sat down for lunch, our table was filled with kids that come to tutoring each week. We giggled and chatted about the mile run (they thought it was the worst thing ever), crushes and upcoming classes. I felt so alive as I was hugging on those kids and talking with them about their day.
When I started tutoring these kids I felt very unqualified and unsure of how I would teach them. I was assigned to the 4th graders and we began tackling multiplication, spelling words and reading comprehension. Working with students who spoke little English, I was clueless as to how to teach them reading and writing. Yet, I am seeing over and over again how I need to stop waiting to be qualified for a task, but rather just show up and simply love. The kids are so dang good at that; I need to learn more from them.
"What is alive within you that you can now give to someone else? What does it look like for the artist to move into her world fully alive and available."- A Million Little Ways, Emily Freeman
I am still learning and discovering what it looks like to be fully alive and how to share that with others, but I know that today I felt alive and it felt incredible.
Monday, November 18, 2013
This past weekend, we headed up to Asheville to see our friends Reiss & Jane get married. Will & Reiss have been friends since they were really little & Will was honored to be a groomsmen. We had a blast celebrating the two of them and exploring the quirky town of Asheville. Unfortunately its a haul from Wilmington (6 ish hour drive) so we didn't get to spend as much time exploring as we would have liked. We'll be back for ya, Asheville.
I'm still learning more about photography and using the Canon 5D Mark II. Here are a few shots I took this weekend (with a few of Will's shots mixed in).
I'm still learning more about photography and using the Canon 5D Mark II. Here are a few shots I took this weekend (with a few of Will's shots mixed in).
Naturally we found a wonderful, local coffee shop called High Five Coffee. I had a wonderful cup of peppermint tea & we sat outside, enjoying the mountain air.
iphone picture from the wedding-- really regretting not bringing the Canon for the wedding & reception! Everything was beautiful!
I loved all the musicians on every corner in downtown Asheville!
While waiting for brunch at Mayfels (highly recommended), I snapped this picture of Will. It's so fun traveling with him & being his date to weddings! Can't wait to come back to Asheville.
Tuesday, November 12, 2013
It was a beautiful fall day on Sunday, one where the sky is perfectly blue and the clouds are fluffy and light. The air was cool, but the sun warmed things up quickly. It was the perfect weather to connect with survivors, friends and supporters and walk to raise awareness.
As we have for the past several years (see last year's post), we walked in the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention's (AFSP) Out of the Darkness walk. The point of the walk is to unite those who are survivors (people who have survived the loss of family members/friends to suicide), as well as other community members, and walk to raise awareness of mental illness and suicide. I've mentioned in the past the stigmas associated with suicide and how so often people feel that they can't talk about it. We've got it all wrong; we must talk about it to everyone- to teens, middle aged adults, veterans ... everyone. The more we talk, the more help we can provide.
"...studies have consistently found that the overwhelming majority of people who die by suicide—90% or more—had a mental disorder at the time of their deaths. Often, however, these disorders had not been recognized, diagnosed, or adequately treated " (AFSP website). Many of these deaths could have been prevented, let's learn the warning signs & be more aware of how we can help ourselves and those around us.
If you want to learn more about this organization or how to find a walk near you, click here.
If you need support for overwhelming feelings of doubt and depression, there is hope & help. Depression is not a character flaw or weakness, it is a disease. Click here for resources on where to get help.
Monday, November 11, 2013
This weekend, I volunteered at the 14th annual Latino Festival! It was my first year attending, but definitely will not be my last! I had such a blast meeting people, making & selling cotton candy and tasting yummy food. They had singing & dancing, as well as tons of vendors. Next year, I want to spend more time walking around and checking out all the vendors (I caught a glimpse of some really beautiful Mexican crafts).
The cotton candy was definitely a hit among the kids.
Beef empanadas from Colombia- yum!
Thursday, November 7, 2013
"But having a dream is
evidence of a person who is fully alive.
Having a dream is a reflection of the image of God."
A Million Little Ways- Emily Freeman
I'm continuing on with a topic in Emily Freeman's book because it has stuck with me and I've found myself contemplating it a lot over the last few days. As part of uncovering our art, she talks about remembering your childhood dreams and desires. I really loved the section where she talked about dreaming and when reading the above quote, I thought, yikes ... if someone asked me to write down my dreams right now I'm not quite sure what I would write. I've been thinking about it and how I can begin more conversations with family and friends about their dreams.
Emily talks about how her husband, John, has a friend that he meets with and always enjoys their time together because his friend listens to his dreams. Her husband says "...when he asks about my desires and dreams and takes them seriously, it means he believes I am a person worth dreaming with." This is so true and yet I rarely ask others about their desires/dreams. I think I get so caught up in the day-to-day that I forget to ask these questions. Others feel so valued and encouraged when we ask these things. John described his time with his friend as "life-giving and encouraging;" I want that to be how my time with others is described. Life-giving.
While driving the kids that I have the privilege to tutor back to their homes, I decided now is the time. Let's dream together. We began discussing what we want to be when we grow up. I heard doctor, teacher, and my personal favorite... "adult-- so he could be tall;" it felt so good to dream and encourage them to think big. Emily talks about how dreams come so easily to children because they are not afraid of critics or the impossible. She encourages us to rescue our childhood dreams because they reveal our true desires. "When we rescue the dreams of our childhood and respect the hope of things to come, we are agreeing with the Trinity: I am an image bearer. I have a job to do."
I recognize that I have not been life-giving in many cases and haven't asked or encouraged others to talk about their dreams. Or worse than that, I may have asked but didn't take them seriously. I am working on that and also working on uncovering my own dreams and desires.
"There is only one place to go when our hands are filled with dreams and desire. It's time to sink into God."
Wednesday, November 6, 2013
I joined a book club recently. A book club for two (and I promise its not Clyde & me). My sweet friend, Laura, who moved to Colorado & I were discussing books and had several of the same books on our "want-to-read" list so she suggested doing a book study together. It has been wonderful and I look forward to our skype discussions so very much. It also helps me process the book and probably spend more time contemplating the content versus just flying through the book.
Our first book is A Million Little Ways by Emily Freeman. Her words are beautiful and I find myself re-reading paragraphs just to soak up all the goodness she has to say. The book presents the idea that we are all artists and are born to live that out. Just take this in ...
"God is not a technician. God is an artist.
This is the God who made you. The same God who lives
He comes into us, then comes out of us, in a million little
That's why there's freedom, even in the blah.
Hope, even in the dark.
Love, even in the fear.
Trust, even as we face our critics.
And believing in the midst of all that? It feels like strength
and depth and wildflower spinning; it feels risky and brave
and underdog winning.
It feels like redemption.
It feels like art."
Yep. Beautiful, right? I feel like I am learning so much already and feeling freedom in the idea that ... "We are not trying to become a better version of ourselves. Instead, we begin to uncover the person whom we have forgotten we already are."
There are so many quotes and stories I want to share but it would be unfair to do that. You simply must read the book. Read. Underline. Discover & uncover. Discuss. Share. I promise you will savor every moment while reading this book.
There will be more posts to come on this & all that I am learning, but for now, another beautiful quote from Emily Freeman.
"You have to uncover the art before you can release it.
The problem for most of us is, we have let the negative emotions
decide for us that the art isn't worth uncovering.
We have allowed the terror of exposure and the risk of failure
to outweigh the truth of our remade identity."
Monday, November 4, 2013
This past weekend we went for a hike at Carolina Beach State Park. We camped there recently and explored a few of the trails, but it was dark and we turned around pretty quickly. It was fun to explore during the day & the weather was perfect. I've never really been to a state park where there's a beach too ... my kind of park for sure!
Here's what I have to say about this man. He loves me so well & has more patience with me than he should. I am constantly amazed at how selflessly he loves and serves everyone.
When we were camping here a few weekends ago, we went on a night hike in search of "sugar loaf," which is a historic landmark. The trails aren't marked very well and you can imagine that in the dark it was pretty difficult. We eventually turned back, never finding sugar loaf. Will & I decided we would find it this go around. We eventually found it (hiked a little farther than we planned) and here it is ...
haha, not quite what I was expecting, sort of just looks like sand & some trees...
We had such a blast hiking and just soaking in a crisp, fall Sunday afternoon. I love the feeling in the fall/winter when your face is still really cold but the rest of your body is warm. We're already thinking of where we can go hiking next weekend. Get out & enjoy the weather ... some fresh air can do us all some good.
Also, I've set a goal that by next summer (we're planning a big trip for next summer), I want to be better at using a camera. Will let me use his Canon 5D Mark II on our hike & gave me some lessons. I'm really enjoying learning something new & hope to get much better. These shots are what I took yesterday!
Friday, November 1, 2013
Let's be honest about a few things this morning. Our culture glorifies busyness. We LOVE to brag about how busy we are to others and sadly, we miss a lot of conversations and relational growth because we are too dang busy. The older I've gotten, the more prevalent it has become and the more I hate it.
At UNC, you've got all the over-achieving, over-committed, president- of- seven- clubs people all in ONE place. It was there where it became clear to me. Our culture loves to be busy and even when we're not busy we find a way to PRETEND that we are busy. How ridiculous! I can remember on many occasions fellow students discussing and practically arguing over who was busier. Really? I'm not judging though because I took part in these discussions... and lets be honest Spanish majors really didn't have as much work as say Nursing majors. Yet, I still felt the need to exaggerate alll of my homework, projects and FIVE page papers in another language!!! Again, how ridiculous!
Have you ever noticed that most other cultures don't do this? In fact, most cultures encourage rest times and vacations. In Spain and some South American countries, everyone takes a siesta in the middle of the day. Shops close and people go home, nap, then go back to work. This does not mean they're lazy though, in fact, Hispanics are some of the hardest working people I know. Also, lets look at Europe. Europeans take month long vacations in the summer. They leave work and spend a MONTH just relaxing with their family. I'm really not sure why Americans glorify busyness or when it began, but I think we seriously need to take a look at our culture. The stress levels, mental health problems, obesity and so forth could be reduced if we learned to cut things out of our schedules and rest.
I am just now learning in this stage of life that this glorifying busyness needs to stop. I will no longer take part in this. I refuse to cram my schedule full of activities, over-committing and draining myself until I have a breakdown (this happens, I know from experience). I'm learning to say no and not because I have so many other activities but because its important to set aside time to be still, to read, to grow and to rest. I am learning to be confident in this decision and be honest that yes, I did just spend two hours relaxing and reading. Taking time for yourself to rest and rejuvenate is not being lazy and sadly, so many of us think that way. Even as I have begun to realize the importance of rest, I am still struggling with appearing lazy to others. We have all had it pounded into us that we must be the busiest, the most involved and that it's completely normal to rush from one thing to the next. Let's stop glorifying busyness; we were never meant to live this way.
Thursday, October 31, 2013
Happy Halloween! Here are a few pictures to enjoy from the good ol' days.
My memories from Halloween have always been sweet. All the excitement throughout the school day, then we would rush home eat an early dinner & dress up. Our neighborhood was full of children & our best friends lived down the street (see pic below). All the families would meet and we would hit the streets together. It seemed like hours of trick-or-treating, but I know that it was probably more like one hour. After we'd filled our buckets, we head back to our house to start the trade. Y'all, the trade was serious business. I, being the weirdo that I am, don't like chocolate and never have so usually the trade would begin with me sorting all my candy into two piles- chocolate and other sugary treats. Sadly, a lot of people gave out chocolate so my brother really lucked out in this trade. Also, Adam, being three years older than me, I'm sure was wiser and could convince me that that ONE piece he had was really worth TWO of my pieces. At the end of the night, though, we always felt like we had gotten the better trade & were pleased with the loot. The only other thing I remember about Halloween is that we had way too much candy and inevitably when Christmas rolled around we still had quite a selection. As I got older, I learned that Halloween candy makes for great gingerbread house decorations and that its smart to save some for that project.
Oh Halloween, you've always been a blast! Its such a fun day filled with imagination, homemade costumes and sugar-highs. I look forward to the day that we can dress our kids up and share in the memories of trick-or-treating.
Tuesday, October 29, 2013
Over the past few days, I have been reminded of how short our time is here & how no day should ever be taken for granted. In my classes, we are talking about día de los muertos (day of the dead) and I was explaining how Mexicans use yellow marigolds to represent death and as a reminder that life is short. As I explained this to these sweet children, it really hit me that no life is guaranteed, even these young lives. Fast forward a few hours later and I received a text from one of my best friends about her six year old cousin who may have an inoperable brain tumor. Followed by hearing of a young man, just twenty-five, that passed away from leukemia, leaving behind his young wife. Life is unpredictable and incredibly short. My heart is heavy for those that have lost husbands, wives, children, mothers, fathers and friends too early. I am comforted by the fact that through Christ our destiny is secure and where we are headed is so.much.greater.I am reminded that we must not hold back. Words of encouragement you've wanted to say to someone for some time, today is the day. The time you've been meaning to spend with the Lord but seems to get pushed to the side? Stop that email and pray. The phone call to your grandmother, do it now. I am so guilty of putting things off. We must not wait, for each day is a gift, and tomorrow is not a given. My hope is that I am not afraid of this, but that it pushes me to live my life differently, boldly and purposefully. We have been given this life and are called to bring glory to His name and shine His light. Let us not hold back, but rather dive in head first because tomorrow we may not be able to swim.
Monday, October 28, 2013
This week, I am thankful for ...
this view-off our front porch
children & their desire to learn
pumpkins on porches
warm slippers for crossing hardwood floors on cold mornings
a quiet, empty beach
Cats in bow ties (he hated every minute of it)
afternoons spent fishing in our neighborhood
halloween parties and wonderful friends
Saturday, October 26, 2013
Over the last few months, I've been beginning to understand what is true rest. I think this partially comes from moving into a job where I work significantly less hours, but I am beginning to see what it realistically looks like for me. I'm realizing that everyone experiences rest in different forms, but its important to find what works best for you.
A cup of steaming hot, breakfast tea, a slice of pumpkin bread and a cozy seat by the window with my journal- thats what rest looks like to me. An afternoon spent reading a book or reading blogs while sitting on the back porch or an hour or two volunteering with some kids. All of these things are restful for me. I realize that the volunteering, to some, seems like work and it absolutely can be, but to me, volunteering has always been an outlet, a getaway where I can use my gifts to serve others.
In a current house, theres a place that I always sit to rest and relax. We have a kitchen "nook" with a small table and built- in seating around that have cushions on top. The nook is, as must usualy are, beside a window and I love to sit there in the morning and afternoon, as the sun is shining in. Will laughs because if I'm awake when he gets off, I am typically sitting in the nook. I just love it! Its perfect for some quiet time in the morning with a cup of tea, or in the afternoon to do some reading. I think its so important for us to find places where we can rest and let go of the worries of the day. We are called to rest and seeing a husband who works 75+ hrs a week with little rest, let me tell you, we NEED rest.
Will snapped this of me in the nook. Bed head, mismatched pajamas and all....
Even Clyde loves the nook!
Clyde seems to make an appearance in every post. This is not intentional, but has more to do with the fact that he is at my side at ALL times.
Thursday, October 24, 2013
I'm always looking for new books and wanting to share what I've been reading, so I thought I'd write about what we've been reading the past few months.
So fascinating & a great read for parents & teachers, but honestly anyone
I have a whole new perspective on introverts now & find myself recognizing them & how to encourage those who are introverted. I even realized I have introverted qualities (not a ton, but some).
This is a late elementary/early middle school book, but it is beautifully written & we all could learn a lot from Esperanza. Also, love that the family is Hispanic. Really, its SO good!
All time favorite books:
Same Kind of Different as Me- Ron Hall
Wild at Heart-John Eldredge
Captivating- John Eldredge
I have a list that is ridiculously long of what I want to read. I'm currently reading Yes, Chef, a memoir by Marcus Samuelsson. Memoirs are typically my favorite genre because I'm fascinated by others' lives and their stories. Will is reading The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger (sounds super nerdy, but apparently its really good).
Other books on my "to-read" list:
One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Exactly Where You Are by Ann Voskamp
Power of Play: How Spontaneous, Imaginative Activities Lead to Happier, Healthier Children by David Elkind
A Million Little Ways: Uncover the Art You Were Made to Live by Emily Freeman.
Let me know what you're reading, I'm always looking for more suggestions!