Monthly Archives: April 2015

Visiting Wilmington

If you know the Chapmans, I could end this post here and you’d know our family trip to Wilmington a few weeks ago was a blast. Lots of laughter…like ridiculous amounts of laughter. Usually directed at one person (love you mom).

Since we stayed at their house, and since they spoil us rotten, this isn’t going to be the greatest “on a budget” post, but Wilmington is one of those places that you could just grab a seat on a downtown bench, look around, and be satisfied. The small-town feel, with the beach and river just minutes away, is glorious. My sister has been saying for the past few years that it’s the greatest town on planet earth, and, while I still would choose my mountains, I have to agree that Wilmington is up there on the list :).

No blog post is fun without a funny Morgan story. He woke up around 5 a.m. on Friday morning to head out of town for a work event. We left Radford for Wilmington around 5 p.m., and he’d already driven about 6 hours that day. Understandably, he asked me to take over driving around 8, with about 2.5 hours left. If you’ve ever driven to Wilmington, that final stretch of 40 is rough. Especially at night. No one was around, it’s flat and boring, and I was losing steam quick. Not to mention my precious, hard-working husband was essentially snoring in the passenger seat. Blaring the Avetts wasn’t working, so I shoved him to keep me awake (#love). Morgan’s version of keeping his sleepy wife awake at the wheel? “What’s your favorite number?” “What’s your favorite letter?” “Who was your favorite president?” Bless his heart. I asked him to please return to sleep.

Despite the rain, we spent the first part of our first day there driving around town to see all the favorite spots. There was a surf competition in Wrightsville Beach, so we pretended to be gnarly beach bums for about 17 seconds and then wimped out because it was too cold. Since Morgan and I are diehard One Tree Hill fans (he’s going to kill me for making that public), walking down the riverfront was like a glimpse into Nathan, Haley, Brooke, Lucas, and Peyton. We’d point out benches and scream, “I bet they sat there,” much to the joy of our family. It was a pretty dreary day, but we made the most of it!

IMG_2107The Old Wilmington City Market, an adorable peach-painted, brick building on Water Street, was my favorite stop on Saturday. It reminded me of a much smaller, more manageable version of the Charleston City Market in South Carolina. All five of the others found benches to sit on, but I took off exploring. Just look at this shop!!

IMG_2124I would’ve bought everything. But I have an ounce of self-control and just stuck with the free samples of pecans at another little shop in the market.

At around 3, the clouds parted, and the sun came out full blast. We rushed back to the house, put on our bathing suits, grabbed some books and towels, and headed back over the bridge to Wrightsville. Craig and Morgan braved the water temperatures and swam for a few minutes, and Taylor and I got to share some solid “sissypoo” time (The phrase has been passed down between sisters for generations. We can’t escape it. And we really don’t try.).

IMG_2129I’m kind of a beach snob–we vacationed to the Outer Banks my entire childhood, so I usually will opt for that. But Wrightsville is pretty amazing. Wide beaches with level sand made for great walks, and we got to watch lots of surfers out and about. I, of course, barely even got my feet wet because that water is meant for penguins in April. But Morg and Craig said it was great ūüôā

After leaving the beach, we grabbed burgers at the grocery store, grilled out on the back deck, and sat around the table for hours, talking and eating one of my favorite desserts. My favorite part of family time is simply being with each other, and this weekend didn’t disappoint.

Sunday started with church (which is probably a post for another day, but I was overcome with the goodness of God that morning–all my favorite people, praising our Savior together for the first time in probably 10 years. So good. Getting all emo typing this so I’m going to stop.) and a trip to Dockside, a restaurant overlooking the water. Best part of this restaurant was that they gave you a free basket of hush puppies. Golden.

Mom, Dad, Morgan, and I spent the afternoon exploring Airlie Gardens. My mom spends time volunteering there when she’s in Wilmington, and we fell in love with it. (Well…I fell in love with it. I think the boys were just trying to appease us.) We came a few weeks after North Carolina’s annual Azalea Festival, so we got to see bright bursts of pink every now and then. Side note: when we were growing up, we never got season passes to amusement parks. Nope–we got season passes to Colonial Williamsburg. Not much has changed, because the whole Chapman family now has a membership to this garden. Thanks Mom.

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(This tree just screams the South.)

The winner of the best food of the weekend award goes to K38 Baja Grill. Oh my goodness. I didn’t take a picture of my massive “Vegeta-Bowl” because I inhaled it immediately. Trust me. This is a must-try.

Before we left on Monday morning, we went on a family run at “The Loop.” No Chapman family vacation is complete without a group exercise…though Morgan asked us to drop him off at the beach before the run. Mom took the dog, but Dad, Taylor, and I looked like three little ducks in a row as we ran (read: slowly jogged) The Loop. It goes from the mainland, over a bridge, down a beach road, and back over another bridge. The first half was fun, and then I almost cried because this mountain girl is not used to that beach humidity yet. Which is no excuse because my dad, who literally lives on top of a mountain, was channeling his inner motivational speaker as he backpedaled to encourage Taylor and I. Over it. I sort of survived, and I got a new t-shirt out of it.

We went to Wilmington anticipating time spent with the greatest family in the whole world. We got that and a new found love for Wilmington, which has all the charm of a small town and all the calm of a beach town.

Have you visited Wilmington? Tell me your favorite spots–we’re heading back down there in a few months!

IMG_2116Because everyone needs some awkward Chapman girls in their lives.

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Book Recommendations from an English Major (that aren’t boring)

Let’s just get this out in the open. I’m a writer,¬†an English major, and a devourer of books. And my favorite authors are completely and totally from this century.

Sophisticated and intimidatingly intelligent people often ask me the ever-daunting question, “Who do you read?” (which is a snooty way of asking what books I enjoy). I quickly rack my brain for those senior year seminar courses where we read what felt like a classic per week, and I just throw one of those literary masterminds out to impress them. It’s horrible when they ask follow-up questions because then, I not only have to think back to those classes, but I also have to remember what I read on SparkNotes.

I want to take a moment to thank SparkNotes for all its assistance in my educational career. Wouldn’t be who I am without ya.

In reality, my favorite novels–and the novels I love to recommend to people–are those that I can’t, for the life of me, put down. The ones that keep me up past my 10 p.m. bedtime. The ones with characters that feel like lifelong friends and settings that feel like home. The ones that make me want to read thought-provoking passages aloud to Morgan (he loves this…). The ones that serve as an escape, a haven, a different reality–if only for 300ish pages.

I don’t think you can ever read enough of those kinds of books. Even if the author isn’t from the 1800s and canonized in my 4000-level college courses.

Judge me, academia. Judge me.

As you might remember, I’ve got an affinity for sassy Christian women authors. I read those constantly (currently laughing my way through¬†A Little Salty to Cut the Sweet), but, after a full day in my journalism job, nothing feels sweeter to my brain than a novel.

In no particular order–here are my favorites I’ve read recently!

  • The Invention of Wings, by Sue Monk Kidd. When I was commuting to Blacksburg every day, I’d get audio books to make the drive easier. I listened to The Invention of Wings, and there were many afternoons that I’d pull into our driveway and sit in my car for an extra 20 minutes to find out what happened next. Over a fictional 35 years, Kidd tells the (very embellished) story of Sarah Grimke, an abolitionist and member of the early women’s suffrage movement, and her relationship with Handful, a slave “gifted” to Sarah when she turned 11. It’s empowering to read about two women who didn’t let cultural norms slow them down. Handful is also hilariously sassy.
  • Little Bee, by Chris Cleave. The Washington Post says, “Little Bee will blow you away.” I couldn’t say it better myself. I actually read this for the first time a few years ago, but it’s one of those books that sticks with you. I can’t really tell you a plot without giving it all away, but it’s about the woven together lives of a Nigerian orphan and a wealthy British couple. Though the themes are deep, dark, and pretty harrowing, Cleave sprinkles in just the right amount of humor.
  • The Pact, by Jodi Picoult. I just want to get inside this woman’s brain. After reading almost all of her unpredictable books, I’ve come to predict the twists–but that takes nothing away from her brilliance. The Pact is my favorite of her books–it’s a suspenseful legal-drama about a teen’s apparent suicide and relational dynamics in the midst of mourning. I know what happens in the end, and I’d still read it again.
  • The Kitchen House, by Kathleen Grissom. If I had all the money in the world, I’d buy all of the people in it this book. The bond formed between an orphaned indentured servant and an illegitimate slave girl stretched my understanding of history and broke my heart. It’s told through the eyes of both girls, as the color of their skin threatens to tear apart their friendship. I promise you’ll cry, but the tears are worth it.
  • The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini.¬†The Kite Runner¬†kind of mirrors¬†The Kitchen House, with an unsuspecting friendship that is challenged by society. There’s betrayal and loyalty, fathers and sons, and a lot of political turmoil. This book is well-known for a reason–and, as an added fun fact, this is Hosseini’s first novel. He’s pretty remarkable.
  • What Alice Forgot, by Liane Moriarty. Thanks to a friend’s recommendation, I read this one last week and couldn’t put it down–a woman madly in love with her husband and pregnant with their first child wakes up after falling at the gym and realizes it’s 10 years later than anything she remembers. A deep theme of remembering and appreciating those you love runs through this book, and it’s also just a super interesting concept. Moriarty has tons of bestsellers right now!
  • The Book Thief, Markus Zusak. So good. “Death” narrates the story of Liesel, a foster child living in the slums of Nazi-Germany during World War II. She finds solace in books (stolen books, to be more specific). She learns to read, makes friends with a neighbor, and helps her family hide a Jewish man in the basement. Just wait til the ending. Woof. (Also, my dream library is described in the book. I know you’re dying to know all about it, but¬†you gotta read to find out… ūüėČ )
  • The Guardian, Nicholas Sparks. This wouldn’t be a 20-something’s favorite book list without a Sparks piece. I’ll read his books on the beach, but I’m usually not a huge fan–until I read¬†The Guardian.¬†Yes…it’s part¬†mindless romance novel, but it’s a thriller with creepy characters. And the love¬†part is sweet, too.
  • The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison. I guess this is the closest I’ll get to a “classic” on my list. The Bluest Eye rocked my world when I read it the first time–it’s arguably the best piece of fiction I’ve ever laid eyes on. Morrison contrasts the “American Dream” with the life of a child named Pecola Breedlove. Caution: not an easy read for the tenderhearted–though unquestionably eye-opening. Amazon puts it well: “A powerful examination of our obsession with beauty and conformity, Toni Morrison‚Äôs virtuosic first novel asks powerful questions about race, class, and gender with the subtlety and grace that have always characterized her writing.”
  • The Glass Castle, by Jeannette Walls. Okay, this is a memoir, so it doesn’t exactly fit the novel requirement, but, in a melancholic¬†way, the story seems so outlandish that it’s easy to forget Walls lived this life. Her parents lived a wandering life, bringing their children along with them for the adventures that turned into failure upon failure. Throughout it all, though, there’s this sense of unconditional love that Walls feels for her family.
  • Little Princes, by Conor Grennan. I’m finding that it’s really, really hard to wrap up this list, so I’ll end with one more memoir. A UVA (the only bad part of this book) graduate heads overseas for a year-long trip¬†around the world, but finds himself entranced by the orphans (that aren’t really orphans)¬†of Nepal. He decides to devote his life to finding homes for the “little princes.” And there’s a really cute love story throughout.

I’m always game for recommendations. Let me know if you’ve read any of these and if you’ve got others on your list!

The Real World is Hard

I have some pent up anger¬†towards Morgan regarding his use of windshield wipers. And by use, I mean the fact that it can be pouring down rain, and he refuses to let the wipers run at a fast past.¬†And by “pent up,” I actually mean that¬†I’m incredibly vocal about this anger. In a¬†pseudo-friendly passive aggressive way, of course.¬†#wifeoftheyear

Morgan’s a big fan of the wiper speed that pauses between wipes. Which is great during a nice little sprinkle, but absolutely terrifying when it’s pouring down rain. While I get annoyed when it’s literally impossible to see the road ahead of us, he gets annoyed at the slight squeaky sound when the windshield isn’t quite wet enough for the constant wiping. (I hope my car terminology is impressing you all.)

He sees perfectly fine¬†through the¬†blurriness¬†of the rain-splattered windows, and I just want to see what is ahead of us. I just want to¬†know what’s coming.

Oh what a picture of my heart.

When I talk to¬†those who are about to graduate college, I so want to be encouraging. I want to say, “OH the best is yet to come! You’re going to find a job you love! It’s going to be easy! And always fun! And you’ll love being an adult!”

But I wish more people had been blunt with me. The past two years have been really, really difficult.

We’ve¬†moved into the three different homes, lived in three towns, and traveled all over the place.

Between the two of us, we’ve had eight jobs. EIGHT JOBS. I’m sort of embarrassed to actually admit that, but also find it hilarious in a self-deprecating way.

When Morgan and I graduated from Virginia Tech in 2013, he had a teaching job lined up in the Roanoke area.¬†I remember thinking, “Nailed it! We’re set!” A paycheck was a paycheck for two recent graduates, and I was thrilled to know what our lives were going to look like.

Look how naive we were!(Look how naive and adorable we were.)

There was a sense of security in knowing we’d have¬†money coming in each month, and we started to focus on what was next. Always what’s next. I got a job at a preschool, we got plugged into an incredible church, and we lived happily-ever-after in a sweet tiny house. In my head, I had already jumped to forever. We’d live there forever, have these friendships forever, and have paychecks FOREVER!

What came next was unexpected, and it rocked our worlds. Morgan quit his teaching job a month into the school year. This has a big story tied to it, and we have a lot of peace that it was the best decision at the time.

All the security, all the plans, all the expectations, all the peace— poof. In a matter of days, we abandoned 3/4ths of our income and the sole reason we had moved to Roanoke in the first place. Not to mention we were left in the wake of a really terrible job situation which turned into a really terrible heart situation and a slap-in-the-face within the first six months of our newlywed bliss. I still get a sick feeling in my stomach when I remember those nights we’d sit silently at the dinner table, both holding back meltdowns because we felt like two little infants thrown into the real world. We simply had no clue what we were doing.

A temporary new job fell into place quickly, but so did the job search process. We were both working at a local homeless shelter, so we were grateful to be serving our community–but, financially, we knew it couldn’t be long term.

Over the next year, Morgan interviewed for nine jobs all over the east coast. That temporary job turned permanent without us wanting it to, but we were left without a choice.

My husband—a man who has worked in the agriculture field for 13 out of his 25 years, grew up on a massive research farm, and has two degrees in the field—literally couldn’t get a job. He was told he was both over-qualified and under-qualified, which was just about the most frustrating thing ever. One door would close on a job, and another would open. After each interview, we’d get this refreshed sense of confidence, we’d plan a potential move, and we’d let all our prayer warriors know that “We think this is it!” And over and over again, we’d humbly return to them, saying, “Not this time.”

And me, the girl who so deeply desires to see our future clearly and confidently, had to sit back and trust in the only One who knows what’s ahead. It was as if, when we got married, I thought I could snatch our plans and our future out of the Lord’s hands–confident that my plans were perfect and His were second-best.

I was being forced to sheepishly hand them back over. Not because I wanted to, but because there was literally nothing I could do.

In this still, small, overwhelmingly powerful voice, I heard God say, “I know exactly what I’m doing. I made you, I know you, and I love you. Trust me.”

Slowly, my grip let up, my anger softened, and I learned to rest in His promised faithfulness.

The God who holds the whole universe in the palm of His hand, who knows the names of each and every star, and who so purposefully orchestrated the most beautiful story line from the creation in Genesis, to new life in the Gospels, to forever life in Revelation, didn’t stop there. Our lives–our messed up, unexpected lives–were part of the big story.

God provides constantly. He’s not smaller than meeting our needs even before we cry out for help. He can do whatever the heck He wants. I think He does that all the time, but we’re so unaware. Because in the midst of abundant provision, we are quick to forget who the Provider is.

It’s in these moments of I-just-want-to-give-up-and-hide-and-cry that His provision is proclaimed. He is the Savior of our souls, but also the Savior of our joy and our hope and our peace. He saves it and brings it back to life because He loves us. He absolutely adores us.

Life after college can be really, really hard. As much as you might think you know what you’re doing, you have absolutely know clue. You’re 24. And guess what? That’s okay.

From teaching preschool, I learned about patience and the joy in simplicity. From our jobs at the shelter, we learned that our hearts were huge and they broke for the homeless. And from teaching, we both learned that we are not in control–which, surprisingly, is wonderful. Now, we’re in such a fun place of resting in His provision, but we’ve learned to let go of unrealistic expectations about post-graduation life.

There’s this stupid notion that you’re supposed to land the perfect job RIGHT NOW, find the love of your life RIGHT NOW, move into the most wonderful home RIGHT NOW, have it all together RIGHT NOW. Which is so ridiculous because we are just a few short years past being teenagers.

My mom has wise advice whenever I come to her freaking out about how our lives are a hot mess. She says four simple words:

“Life is for living.”

With living comes life. With hardships, confusion, and unmet expectations come understanding that this life is so not about me and my glory and all about Him and His glory.

Those obnoxiously blurry windshields? Just another beautiful reminder that I’m really, truly not supposed to see every single thing that’s ahead. I’d rather trust the sovereign One.

(Dear Morgan, We are supposed to see some things. That’s why we should use windshield wipers. Love, your wife.)

My Favorite Completely Unoriginal Recipes

I absolutely adore my mom, but I came to college with the following skills: cereal, microwaved hot dogs, frozen chicken patties, and a mean PB&J. OH, and break-and-bake cookies.That are somehow always a little too burnt when she makes them.

When Morgan and I got engaged, I knew that menu just wouldn’t fly, so I started to find and make one new recipe a week. In the process of learning how to cook, I learned to love to cook. Cooking, to me, became a way to serve my husband and a way to make our house a home to our community. Over time, it’s turned into a weirdly-relaxing hobby that I genuinely enjoy. I’m no where close to being a master cook, and I kind of like that. The “oh my gosh I made this?!” feeling after that first bite is unmatched.

The only thing better than really good food is really good, cheap food, and, with a budget like ours, that’s about all we can hope for. When I’m meal planning for the week, I peruse Pinterest to put together meals that use ingredients that are on sale that week at our grocery store. I keep handy foods stocked up, like baking supplies, cooking oils, canned goods, and spices, and I load up our freezer with meats that are on sale.

I’m all about sharing recipes! I’m hooking you up with my five favorite side dishes, main dishes, and desserts. You’ll notice some trends, like my heavy reliance on Ree Drummond, the fact that I use chicken all the time (it’s my favorite), and the disturbing amount of chocolate called for in each of the desserts. These are tried and true recipes, so dig in!

Top 5 Sides

Roasted Lemon Parmesan Asparagus

Mexican Three Bean Salad

Corn Casserole

Mediterranean Orzo Salad

Warm Thai Peanut Quinoa Salad

Top 5 Main Dishes

Apple Spice Pork Chops

Bang Bang Shrimp Pasta (I usually substitute chicken for shrimp)

Crock Pot Chicken Caesar Wraps

Sweet Potato Chicken Chili

Chicken Quesadillas

Top 5 Desserts

Chocolate Chip Cookie Pie

Lazy Cake Cookies

Oreo Delight

Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownie Bites

Peanut Butter Ice Cream Pie

(pictured below. and tastes even better than that picture looks.)IMG_1547

“It Must Be So.”

It’s hard to consider Good Friday good.

Maybe more like tragic, painful, heartbreaking, humbling, devastating, sickening.

But that’s when I look at Friday and forget about Sunday.

It’s when I look at the death of my Savior in the most humiliating, excruciating, demeaning manner–my King with nails in the exact same hands that gave sight to blind eyes, gave motion to lame legs, and gave breath to a dead man–and forget that, just two days later, He rose.

He died–because it must be so. From the beginning of the story, it had to be this way because our imminent death and sin and pain infiltrated the earth with a single bite of an apple. From that moment on, it must be so.

The same people who watched as He turned water into wine, who sat in awe as He fed five thousand with five loaves and two fish, who were left speechless as He walked effortlessly across raging water, who welcomed him mere days earlier with shouts of “Hosanna!” changed their cry to “Crucify Him!”

As promised hundreds of years prior, Christ was brought as a lamb to the slaughter. He didn’t hide his face from their shame and spitting. The one true Truth was called a liar, a fake, and a criminal, yet He didn’t defend Himself. Why?

“Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then must the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?” Matthew 26:53-54

His death created life everlasting. My King was murdered so that I may live.

He died, but He rose.

“Man’s Maker was made man, that He, Ruler of the stars, might nurse at His mother’s breast; that the Bread might hunger, the Fountain thirst, the Light sleep, the Way be tired on its journey; that the Truth might be accused of false witness, the Teacher beaten with whips, the Foundation be suspended on wood; the Strength might grow weak; that the Healer might be wounded; that Life might die.” (Augustine of Hippo)

Lord, my prayer on this best-of-all Fridays is that I would be one who falls at the foot of the cross, mourning Your death, yet rejoicing in Your promised resurrection. You give me confidence that You never break a promise, especially this one. Thank you for dying in my place, rising in power, and defeating death once and for all. You came for me. Help me live in light of this reality.

“God raised Him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for Him to be held by it.” Acts 2:24

This Friday is good because Sunday is coming.

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