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Showing posts from 2015

Christmas In The South

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It's what I keep hash-tagging all of my Christmas Facebook posts. It's what I am calling this trip home in my head. It's how I motivated myself through a twenty-four hour long day of travel.

But what is Christmas in the South?

Well as we approach Christmas week, let me welcome you inside my little Christmas world.

Christmas in the South is ...

Palmetto trees decorated with Christmas lights.

Blow-up Santas on tractors decked out in Christmas (fairy) lights (I kid you not, there is one in my town).

Nativity scenes in every other yard.

Christmas in the South is ...

Food. So much food.

Decadent breakfasts.

The best Southern casseroles.

Family recipes that have been handed down through generations; the ones that we make together because that makes the dish.

Christmas in the South is ...

Church services where we sing Christmas carols.

It's little children dressed as Mary and Joseph for the church play.

And a country Christmas themed cantata sung by the adult choir.

Christma…

Lost & Found

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I am officially back in America for Christmas break. Three weeks with family and friends to celebrate one of my most favorite holidays. I love the trees, the lights, the songs, and the food. I love catching up and spending time with the people I love. But to get here I had to cross an ocean on Monday.

Four airports.

Three flights.

Two car rides.

One lost laptop.

Yes, one lost laptop. After arriving in America, I found the gate for my last flight and went in search of food. As I was placing my wallet back in my backpack, I realized that my backpack seemed far too light.

As my heart hit the floor, I quickly stepped to the side of the concourse and unzipped the main compartment of my backpack only to have my fears confirmed. My laptop was missing.

In that moment I felt so nauseated; my heart stopped beating and for a moment I couldn't breathe. I could literally picture myself placing my laptop beside me on the bench after I re-cleared security in America. I knew I had left it there.

Valleys: Bad ... Or Good?

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I wrote this last year; I had just gotten back from Rome, the last stop on my 21st birthday Italian adventure. My flight back was over the majestic Alps. These were my thoughts. I was looking through some old things I had written and writing some new when I found this tonight. I didn't share it then, but tonight I will. Because it reminded me that, when it is all said and done, Jesus is in control even when we don't always see it.

Valleys. I think when we hear that word we tend to associated it with bad things. We think valleys equal despair and darkness and sorrow. And I think part of that is right. After all David wrote in Psalm 23 about "the valley of the shadow of death." It doesn't get much tougher than that. But I've been thinking about valleys lately. As you may know, I have this love affair with the mountains. Mountains of all shapes, sizes, and locations. My favorite mountains are the Blue Ridge of the Appalachians. However, I've recently had the cha…

City or Country?

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If you know me, then you know I'm a country girl. Well, to an extent. I'm not a country girl like some of the girls I know back home; I don't hunt, or fish, or drive a truck. But I do love living in the country. The peace and quiet. Looking outside and seeing green grass in the spring, watching it fade under summer heat, seeing the trees turn during autumn, and enjoying the evergreens against winters grey backdrop. I find serenity in the country.

And yet, here I find myself in the heart of the city that sits at the center of the 4th biggest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom. This is big time for a little country girl. Tonight as I sit here writing, my window is cracked just a bit to let in the crisp autumn air, and I can hear all the sounds of the city. The sirens, the traffic, the people. Every once in a while church bells will toll and a plane will fly overhead.

I was sitting here wondering at that the other tonight.  The self-professed country girl ends up in the …

Adopted

After a nearly month long absence, I'm back. I'm not here to wow you with pictures, stories of trips, or anything along those lines. Because none of those things have happened. If you'll allow me a moment of honesty, the past few weeks have been about keeping my head above the wave of classes, reading lists, assignments, and life. And wondering what I'd gotten myself into. There was more than one day when I read my 'stone of remembrance' draft blog post.

But that's not what I'm here to write about either.

I want to share with you about adoption.

Today is Adoption Sunday in the UK. We talked about it in church this morning. Physical adoption. And spiritual adoption.

Allow me to share with you (some of) the verses that were shared with us this morning:
"For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry 'Abba, Father.' The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit th…

The First Two Weeks!

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I've been meaning to write this post for a while. It's been on my to-do list since the beginning of last week. But then came the onslaught of four days with six hours of lecture - to be fair, there was one day in the middle without. All of the readings, problems with my asthma, grocery shopping, laundry, and the list goes on and on and on. Hello, everyday life.

But finally, I have a moment to just sit down and write. I could write about so many things, but let me just give you a quick update.

England is fantastic! There are just enough things from home to be familiar, but just enough things that are different to take me outside of my comfort zone. Like looking the opposite way I think I should when going to cross the road. Yep, that is a biggie. Also, while all my American friends are sitting down to watch their college (American) football games, England is entranced with the Rugby World Cup. Still trying to figure that sport out, though I think (maybe) I am slowly getting it.

Stones of Remembrance

"When the whole nation had finished crossing the Jordan, the Lord said to Joshua, "Choose twelve men from among the people, one from each tribe,and tell them to take up twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan, from right where the priests are standing, and carry them over with you and put them down at the place where you stay tonight."" (Joshua 4:1-3)

Joshua calls them a memorial. I like to call them stones of remembrance.

When God does something great, you take something to remember it by. When time has gone by, you look back at that 'stone' and you remember what God has done.

In the passage above, Israel had just entered the promise land. Quite spectacularly, I might add. God had dried up the Jordan River so they could cross. To remember what He had done, He instructed them to take twelve stones and place them together as a monument to Him. When future generations passed by, they would ask what the stones were there for and the story would be told of …

Hello England!

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It's been almost two months since I have posted a new blog. I hope you will forgive me, my faithful followers. It has been a busy two months of preparation for what has finally arrived: moving to and settling in Leeds, England.

Yes! I am here and settling into my new flat (that's apartment). So here is a little bit about my adventure so far!

I arrived in London last Wednesday and was met by Lottie, a friend I made during my year in France! It's quite nice to get off of a seven hour flight, go through boarder patrol, and walk out to a familiar face in arrivals!

We went from the airport into London and then caught a train up to the area of England where she lives. I have to give a huge shoutout to the McDonald family for their warm welcome during my stay with them! (Lottie's Mum even sent me to Uni with homemade plum jam!)

While I was there, I got to see Nottingham and Nottingham Castle (The Legend of Robin Hood, anyone?).

 I also had my fist afternoon tea in the city.


I…

Summer Updates

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Hello, dear blog followers. It has been a while; I am sorry. Sometimes I forget that my life is still interesting - at least, I think - even though I am not traveling and living abroad. Thus I forget to clue you in on how it is going.

It is hard to believe that we are halfway through the summer. June has come and gone, we're in the middle of July, and August will soon be upon us. Then there will be September, and I will be on my way to England. But that is for then. This is now.

I love summer in spite of this heat - well over 90F/32C most days. I will admit I had forgotten how intense Southern summers could be. I'm extremely grateful to be reminded of how thankful I am for air conditioners (an undiscovered treasure in most of France)!

To cope with the heat, I've been doing a lot of indoor activities this summer. Lots of preparing for England. {Did I mention that I was awarded that full tuition scholarship? Yay!} The visa process is, as it was before, slightly intimidating.…

Perspective

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Sometimes in life you need a little perspective.

For the past few days, my youngest sister, a friend, and I have been camping and hiking in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

The view in the picture above in from the highest lookout on the shorter of the two trails we hiked. If you can see the white area in the middle, it is Linville Falls. It is quite the view. The picture doesn't really do it justice.

I love the mountains, especially the Blue Ridge Mountains. I love driving on the Blue Ridge Parkway - which is where we camped and hiked.

The reason I love the mountains so much is because they make me feel small.

Yep, you read that right. The mountains make me feel small.

Why do I want to feel small?

Because the God who created those mountains, who arranged every hill, He knows the number of hairs on my head.

I love being reminded of how small I am because it reminds me of how big He is, and how much He loves me.

I've let life and the things in it get in the way of that lately. I'm…

Today Is ...

The first time I tried to write this post, I started off with "Today is graduation day for Francis Marion University's Class of 2015." There is nothing wrong with that statement; it is entirely true. But it wasn't quite right.

Do you know what the word graduation means?

Google "graduation definition" and this is what you will find:
the receiving or conferring of an academic degree or diploma Graduation is about the award you get for finishing the academic work you started. It's about an ending.

My university, like many others, does not call today's celebration a graduation ceremony.

No, today is commencement day for Francis Marion University's Class of 2015.

Do you know what commencement means?
a beginning or a start Today is not the end; it is the beginning.

Today is the start of a new adventure. Today is the start of the rest of our lives. Today is a brand new chapter with blank pages just waiting to be written on.

When I looked up the definitio…

The Harbor

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Over a year ago, when I was living in France, I wrote this post.

But I didn't publish it.

It's one of the few that are just kind of hanging out in my drafts folder. For whatever reason, I couldn't hit "publish" so it has remained there. But now, now it is right.

I really love travel quotes. I think they're pretty inspiring.
I ran across one tonight that has quickly claimed a place as one of my favorites. "A ship is safe in the harbor, but that's not what ships are built for." - Gael AttalWhen I came across the quote, I fell instantly in love.

When I was younger, I would have friends and even strangers ask me about homeschooling and why I liked it so much. After a while, I came up with a simple analogy to explain it.
"You know about ships right?" I'd ask. "When a ship builder decides to build a new ship he doesn't build it in the ocean. He builds it in the shipyard. He builds it, shapes it, and prepares it for its purpose. In the…

The Plan, A Plea, and A Praise: Part 2

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The moment it hit me that there was never an actual plan, yikes, talk about throwing me for a loop.

So if there isn't a plan ... What now?
Trust Me.
Now if you've read any of my past blogs, you'll know that there was no excited "OK!" after that one.
Trust Me.
That moment is like standing on the edge of a cliff, back towards the fall, just leaning back. And letting yourself fall.
I thought it would feel like a free fall.
It didn't.
Because all those times I've been trying to stick to the plan, that's what free fall feels like. Desperately trying to grasp something, anything, to stop. Sliding down the cliff, digging in your heels, hoping that by some miracle there is a bottom.
No, falling over the side of trust felt more like floating. Like gently being grasped in loving hands and slowly lowered.
I am still not sure what's at the bottom. And I am not even going to pretend that this is easy. There are still a few things I'm grasping at because I st…

The Plan, A Plea, and A Praise: Part 1

This is not part of the plan.

I'm nearing my college (university for all my European friends) graduation. In fact, my wall calendar helpfully pointed out that 41 days from today, I'll be accepting my diploma.

And (can I just be honest here?) things don't look at all like what I thought they would look when I got here.

Not part of the plan.

Somewhere deep inside of me has been screaming that for the last few daysweeksmonths forever. But let's just focus on the last few weeks.

Mayday, mayday! We have left our course. We are not on the plan anymore!

What plan was that exactly?

You know it wasn't one moment. And it wasn't an audible voice. But this past week or two, as I've been watching my graduation day approach and listening to that part of me that is screaming that this was not part of the plan, I've heard the gentle whisper of God too. And He's the one asking, "What plan?"

And quite honestly, that question blew me away. What plan?

Well, uh, u…

Trust: Abraham's Story

You know when you go to write a blog post and you just can't quite figure out how to say the words you want to say? Yes? No? Well, that's where I am tonight. So many things floating around in my head that want out. I'm not sure how to put them on paper though; or if they need to come out at all. You are currently reading the third version of this post, mixed with a few portions of the second.

Right now, I'm curled up on my couch under a big fluffy blanket. It was a snow/ice day today. Mostly ice, but, oh well. Today I just tried to stay warm and get some work done (though the dreary weather wasn't helping my motivation much).

Just me, myself, and I, hanging out. Trying to process research - sometimes with more luck than others. But I've been processing other things too. A book - hey, I needed a break from the ... well, you probably wouldn't find my research too terribly interesting - and Genesis, too.

Yep, Genesis. It kind of just crept in there. I've b…

This Year's Big Announcement

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It just seems right. This blog has seen so much of my life since I started it. It's recorded some the highs and the lows of the past year and a half of my life. And it is time to record the next big thing.

You might know what I am talking about if you've been reading for the past few months.


Yep, I got a letter today. Well, it came yesterday, but I don't have mailbox keys.

So Hannah came home from work this morning. And at 7:30 AM she was knocking on my bedroom door. She had just checked the mail, and there was my letter.

"I am pleased to offer you a place at the University of Leeds."

Edit: The offer is for a place in the MSc Sustainability and Business program.

(Silent screaming inside).

So I don't have the finances for it yet, but I'm still trusting that God has that worked out. I'll be applying for more scholarships soon.

Once I get that figured out, it looks like I'll be headed to England in September.

Another adventure. I don't know that I…

Messiness

Dear blogosphere,

I have not abandoned you. Yes, I realize it has been quite a while since you have heard from me. I've been ... adjusting. Sometimes I have done that well; other times it has been a struggle.

It's called re-entry. Or reverse culture shock.

StudyAbroad.com describes reverse culture shock as having four phases:

DisengagementInitial euphoriaIrritability and hostilityReadjustment and adaption Yeah, I'm in stage three. Not so fun. Though that title may make it sound a little over dramatic. I'm not walking around like the Hulk. I just tend to frustrate easily: when things aren't like they were in France or I feel like someone doesn't understand where I'm coming from. Oh, did I mention the disorientation? I can't quite seem to get a grip on my schedule; some days I am pretty sure that if I didn't have my head screwed on, I would walk out the door without it. I lost my keys the other day. In the car.
How to describe it in one sentence?
I love…

Learning To Be Still

Almost four months ago, I shared with you about my fear of hitting one small button. Once I did, I would have submitted my application for a grant to the Fulbright program. Do you remember why I was struggling to do it?
"What if I did something wrong? What if it's not enough? What if I don't get it? What then?" And after rereading the story of Esther I came to this conclusion:
"If I did something wrong, I did something wrong. If it's not enough, it's not enough. If I don't get it, I don't get it. What then? Then God." So I hit the submit button.

And yesterday I got the reply.

No.

You know what my immediate thought was?

What did I do wrong?

That was quickly followed by: What now?

Now, be still.

Not audible, but I heard it all the same. A whisper that is becoming familiar. You see my first instinct was to do something. I am a doer. That is how I handle most situations. I do something.

But right now God is asking me to be still. I want to react by c…

The 60 MPH Slow Down

Yesterday I was driving to my new apartment. It's actually my sister's apartment, but for me it's my new apartment. It will be home for the next four months at least. It was "move-in day".

I was driving along the back country roads that lie between my parents house and the city, going around 60 miles per hour (96 kph).

It felt like I was crawling.

Honestly, I think I was counting the number of weeds along the side of the road. For an American road, going 60 mph is pretty quick. Unless you're on the interstate. But still, it is nothing to sneeze at.

Unless you're used to high-speed trains that zip through the countryside at 200 miles per hour.

After living in France and taking their high-speed train network everywhere I went, my perceptions on speed changed. 60 mph feels like crawling.

I didn't actually want to drive any faster; I was after all in control of a huge piece of metal. I wanted to stay in control. But it felt like I was moving in slow motio…

Looking Forward

This morning I pulled out my journal. The same one that I've had since 2010. Yeah, I don't journal much. I was on my way to the back of it to write (obviously, right?). But as I flipped through the pages, I slowed to read a few entries. And sighed.

What I read didn't make me happy. That journal is nearly five years old now. In it I have written my mountain top moments and my low moments. And as I flipped from entry to entry, I read the same things over and over again.

Here I was thinking that this past year had grown me so much, yet I was struggling with the same things that I had five years ago. Same struggles, same mountain top moments. Had I made any progress in my walk with Jesus? Talk about dissatisfying. And feeling like a failure before my God.

But then I hit the entry for July 14, 2013. When I got to the bottom of that entry and read the words, I was shocked. Not at the prayer itself, but in realizing that a year and a half later I could see the answer.
"God I…