10 Promises To My Grieving Friend

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My friend experienced a loss deeper than I can fathom this week. It was sudden, heartbreaking, and left us all in the wake of uncertainty and doubt.

I’m a fixer. I don’t grasp the notion of “wait,” and it took everything in me not to pack up my car and drive the 4.5 hours to her mere minutes after hearing the news. I’ve had the privilege of walking alongside this sweet friend the past few years–learning together and growing together–so my smothering/mothering instinct kicked in. Never have I dealt with a friend this close deal with a loss this deep, so I did what any naive idiot would do: I googled “things to do when your friend loses a parent.”

Nothing made sense. I can’t do a single thing. I want to fix, but that’s not my job.

Below are all the things I’ve been repeating incessantly the last few days. The things I want her to know and what I would want someone to remind me of in the midst of tragedy.

  1. I don’t understand, I won’t understand, and I’m not supposed to understand how you are feeling. I hope I never come across as empathetic or “I-understand-how-you’re-feeling.” My feels have literally zero bearing on your feelings. In addition, my (lack of) head knowledge on loss and grief is pathetic. Read and hear my words to you as a desperate longing to walk this ugly, horrifying, and disgusting road right by your side, not as someone who “gets it.”
  2. God is sovereign, even though we don’t know what His sovereignty looks like. This is in our classic Christian-ese language, but it’d be a disservice to the Lord we know so dearly to forget this. A song I love says, “I don’t know what You’re doing, but I know who You are.” In His position as King of the universe, not one minute is outside of what He has planned. This didn’t surprise Him. It reminds us of our position of unknowing and our trust in the All-Knowing.
  3. I’m not going anywhere. I am willing to have tearful, hard conversations with you, and I’m willing to smile with you when you’re ready. I want you to know that I am here at 2 a.m. and at 2 p.m. and this week and next month and forever. I’m not going anywhere.
  4. I solemnly swear to never, ever chant Romans 8:28 to you. You know the one. The “all things work together for good” one. You and I also know that it is true. But Lord help me if I hear a single person say that to you. This–this pain, hurt, and sorrow–is not good. It’s a tragedy, and I promise not to use this verse to sweep it under the rug and pretend it’s not there.
  5. You have every right to say any curse words you want. Enough said. Curse it out, girl. I’ll drop some bad words right there with you, if it makes you feel better.
  6. When the world goes back to normal, your world doesn’t have to. There is no deadline for your grief to subside. Life won’t be “normal,” because someone you loved who made it normal is gone. Grace abounds for you, sweet girl. Take time. Process. Cry a lot. Remember a lot. There’s not an iota of rush in mourning.
  7. You are braver than I ever knew. I thought I knew you inside and out, my friend. You have blown me away with your courage, your steadfastness, and your hope. You are brave. Never forget that.
  8. One thing the Lord promises is that He will keep us. Psalm 121 calls the Lord our “keeper.” He keeps us from harm and evil. I hesitate at that, because what you are in is all harm and all evil. The psalmist is talking about eternity, though. Jesus said that the world will bring us troubles undoubtedly, but He has the victory. In the lowest lows, He will keep you. You are His forever, and He won’t let you go. There is such peace in that.
  9. It’s okay that prayer is hard. God hears you, even when you simply whisper. When we’re in the trenches, He promises to be beside us in the depths. It’s just not in His character to force you to wade through deep waters without wading right there with you. Whisper–if only a single cry for help–and He hears. How wonderful it is to be loved by a Savior who hears our tiniest prayers.
  10. God is still good. Speaking of His character, it never wavers. Hebrews tells us He is the same yesterday that He is today and that He will be forevermore. If you believe nothing else, believe this.

To you, my sweet friend. You are loved and cherished, and you have an army of prayer warriors by your side. I love you.

Temporary Homes

Moving four times in two years is normal, right? That’s what people do? I’m just going to convince myself that it’s totally chill and that I shouldn’t be feeling like a complete and utter crazy woman.

From Blacksburg house to Blacksburg apartment to Roanoke duplex to Fairlawn house to Blacksburg townhouse, you’d think we have this packing up our lives thing down. We know the best moving truck companies, our packing days consist of the routine blaring of Pandora and lots of unhealthy stress eating and me crying constantly, and our families are saints. My dad declared in the last move that he will never move our double-reclining leather couch ever again. Or, if he had to, he’d saw it in half to lift it easier. (If anyone was wondering where I get my blunt honesty from, look no further.)

Our moves have ranged from 2 miles away to 40 miles away. We started in a 900 square foot apartment and dropped down to 800 in our duplex. Our current house is bigger, our next house will be even bigger, and we just keep accumulating stuff. We also are accumulating foster children, so that’s insane. August is a month that we’ve deemed “take-one-day-at-a-time-and-don’t-have-too-many-panic-attacks” month.

I’ve been marinating on these moves the past few days, and boy oh boy we are different people than we were when we first packed up 40 ABC Store liquor boxes two and a half years ago. We’ve gone from giddy newlyweds, to shambly unemployed post-grads, to defeated worriers, and to our present state–anxious and excited future foster parents. What a ride it’s been.

These homes represent stages of life to me. I can close my eyes and picture cooking our first meal as husband and wife together in our little apartment, and memories of tearful nights in our duplex cast a dark shadow on those years. Our current house will be hard to leave–we’ve made the best new friends, have filled our living room to its capacity with people, and have lit up the backyard with summer BBQs and bocce ball games. Hard times and fun times, but all good times.

If four moves can teach us one thing, I want it to be that physical houses are temporary.

I dreamed of moving straight into our perfect home after our wedding. Of filling the walls with pictures and painting hallways and renovating kitchens and building fences. It took just one move to remind me that these places we live are houses. They are four sided boxes of walls. They are teensy tiny apartments. They have a front door and a back door and a whole bunch of windows. Our stuff sits in them, but they are simply buildings.

They are temporary, but what happens inside of them holds eternal significance. 

Hard conversations full of “what-ifs” and “why-nots” and “how-much-longer” happen inside. Snuggles on that dang double-reclining couch as we argue over what show to watch on Netflix happen inside. Doubling the recipe last minute to accommodate spontaneous dinner guests, lighting pumpkin scented candles in September, leaving the bed unmade daily, squeezing in my yoga mat to tiny living spaces, laughing until midnight with better friends than we even knew were possible–all memories that simply happen inside.

Jen Hatmaker said, “Home should be a comfortable, safe place that restores what the world steals.”

These 4-walled buildings inhabit love and life and loss and learning. They serve as a place to house the memories that come with being two 20-somethings in the midst of figuring life out.

When we transplant Jen’s words onto heaven, the house of the Lord…the depth of restoration leaves me breathless. He will restore what the world has stolen.

Temporary houses make us long for our Forever Home. Can you even imagine the day when houses are no more and home is home? We’ll enter those pearly gates without a single ABC Liquor Store box, and we’ll never have to call UHaul again.

Today, I bask in that promise, as I wrap up yet another glass into yet another box.

“One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.” Psalm 27:4


The timeline of homes:

IMG_05411. The FriendZone. 2011-2013. Moved out of this house after the wedding.

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2. “Buckingham Palace.” May 2013-August 2013. Though short lived, this basement apartment had a pool, so it still ranks as our favorite home thus far.

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3. Roanoke. August 2013-December 2014. The excitement in his face was fake. We were so sad to leave Blacksburg that August, but I remember saying, “Let’s go outside and take a happy picture outside of this house. It’ll make us feel excited!” Note: fashion. Crocs and socks.

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4. Our current home in Fairlawn (only known for the Fairlawn Walmart, that we conveniently live directly across the street from). December 2014-August 2015. We live behind the waiters of the local Mexican restaurant and diagonally from a church. It’s weird, but we love it.

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5. Back to Blacksburg. August 2015-whenever we can save enough money to buy a house. You can tell from this picture that we are sick of smiling for “yay-new-house” pictures.

An Update on Fostering

We probably need to ask for a whole bunch of forgiveness on this. You guys are the best and so supportive and ask us all the time how this journey is going, but I rarely talk about it on the blog.

My one excuse is that really, up until the last week or so, our fostering journey has been understandably and predictably slow. We went through training back in May, filled out a stack of paperwork that was about six inches thick, and have spent a lot of time seeking wisdom and encouragement from the people who know us best.

We’re reading a lot and praying a lot and I’ve entered into the phase where I’m crying a lot. Morgan and I are also basking in this time where it’s just us–this is all we’ve known in the nearly 2.5 years we’ve been married, and foster kids means the end of this sweet phase of our lives.

A quick update on where we are in the process:

  • Training: Done. We need to do 10 hours of training in a year, so this is ongoing–but our initial training was completed in May.
  • Paperwork: We were so confident that we were done…but then realized we forgot to make copies of all our important documents. This will be checked off the list at the end of the week! (Or maybe next week. I’m not quite as confident in our getting-this-done as I used to be.)
  • Home studies: The fostering process in our county consists of three home studies: individual interviews, an interview with both of us together, and a house walk-through. We did our individual interviews last week and have our next study planned for the end of the month. The final walk-through will be in the first weeks of September, and then we will be ready to roll (insert me starting to cry and shiver and giggle with excitement and go cross-eyed with anxiety).
  • The actual, physical, getting-ready stuff: Yeah. We haven’t done that. I’ve started to compile a list of items we need to buy, like baby gates and outlet plugs and cabinet locks and more. I have one cute piece of neutral-colored decor. Which is contrary to what was expected of me. I walked through IKEA and actually bought nothing for this child. (That’s a good thing–we want to personalize as much as possible, and, if they’re older, we want them to have a say in how their room looks, just like any other kid.)
  • The big move: Can we just not talk about moving until we physically have to put the couch in the truck and drive the 10 miles down the road? Because let’s be so honest right now: our house looks so comfy and cozy with the sun beaming through the windows and the refrigerator is full of food and our bed has tangled sheets and my clothes are still hanging so organized in my closet. And I have no plans for the packing of all of the things. But, alas, our goal is to move slowly in the next few weeks and be settled in Blacksburg by September 1. (Classic Morgan–up until two days ago, I thought we we had no set move date and were relaxed. And he said, “Oh. Did I not tell you that I told the landlord we’d be out by the end of the month?” Bless.)
  • Our hearts: In the midst of the chaos, we have such a sense of peace over us right now. We can’t wait to welcome whoever into our home, and our hearts are also burdened with prayer for their biological families. We have this sense of anticipation to watch and see what the Lord is going to do, and we have a certainty in hope that it’s going to be so, so good.

What’s next? After the move and the final home study, we are ready to roll. We are guessing we’ll be certified by the end of September at the latest, and we could have a child in our home within a few days or within a few months. It really all depends. The foster care system processes quite a few more placements at the beginning of the school year because teachers start to report signs of neglect to Social Services, so September is a busy month.

(Teachers, have I ever told you how much I respect all that you do? You are the watchmen of these sweet children, and you are brave enough to report the really hard stuff. Thank you for loving these kids. I promise I will shower you with teacher appreciation gifts if we have a school-aged child placed in our home. Expect baked goods. Probably break-n-bake cookies if I had to guess at this point.)

Also, if you’re the praying type, Morgan and I would love love love your prayers. At our home study this past week, we were asked to make a really big decision and consider some different options than we originally had planned. Would you pray for discernment and wisdom? And for the acceptance of whatever God has for us? We’re learning that He likes to throw us off our plans and remind us that His plans are always infinitely more glorious. We love that, but it’s not always super easy to accept and work though.

When we have shareable information, I promise I’ll be better about blogging these updates! My goal: an update every week. Don’t hold me to that too fiercely.

And finally, just as a heads up–we won’t be able to share pictures or names or the background stories of our future foster kids on the internet. It’s not our story to tell, and we’re also legally bound to confidentiality agreements. But you can meet them in real life! When we talk to our social worker, we gush about our community and how our support system is actually unbelievable. Y’all are the best. It takes a village to raise and nurture these kids, and we can’t wait to do it alongside you.

Five Word Vacation Destinations

As summer seems to be flying by, I find myself daydreaming about vacations of yesteryear. We just got back from the beach, and I am already looking forward to our next vacation (Disney Cruise in November!!).

My parents sacrificed things for trips as we were growing up, and I can’t be more thankful for that. We traveled all over the country and the world, and, today, I’m nailing down my 10 favorite vacation spots in no particular order.

To make it interesting, I’ll only use five words or less to describe each of them. Which is quite the feat for a words-person such as myself, so give me a high-five (get the pun?) the next time you see me.


Walt Disney World: most magical place on earth

Outer Banks, North Carolina: quiet beaches, shopping, dunes relaxation

Brussels, Belgium: waffles, chocolate, and history overload

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(I have to break the 5-word rule with this one. This popped up on Timehop the other day, and it left us rolling. I don’t even think this was in Belgium. It was Europe somewhere. This picture caption is pure gold, though.)

Boone, North Carolina: mountain getaway with breathtaking views

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Shepherdstown, West Virginia: small town hippy vibes

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Castaway Cay, Bahamas: Disney’s private island for cruisesIMG_0125

San Antonio, Texas: River Walk, Alamo, Mexican eats

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Charleston, South Carolina: pastel houses line historic streets

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Chicago, Illinois: clean city full of touristy spots

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Copenhagen, Denmark: cobblestone streets and boat-lined waters

Lessons From Vacation

Each summer, I count down the days prior to leaving for vacation. I anticipate the feeling of pure relaxation, envisioning myself alone and lounging by the shore with an ice cold beverage, wind blowing through my salty hair, and a 3-foot stack of books by my side.

And each summer, vacation never lives up to the expectations.

For some reason, there are loud children on the shoreline. My pile of books go unfinished. I get burnt on day one. Dreams of early morning runs on the beach seem amazing at night and ludicrous in the morning. The weather doesn’t cooperate. It’s never quite as dreamy as I dream it to be.

Because heading down to the beach is not a dreamy individual. It’s me, exhausted from a year of work, with entirely selfish goals going into a week away. I want my time to be relaxing and become bitter at anything that gets in the way of that–even a slightly stormy day.

I came to this week determined to not be bogged down by flawless hopes for the week, and it’s working!

I lounged on the shore this afternoon with my Kindle, settling into a few more hours with the novel that had sucked me in. Once glaring bright, it viciously greeted me with every Kindle-user’s worst nightmare: “Plug in your device. You’re at 10% battery power.”

Nightmare, right?!

I decided to suck it up because that is just the most pathetic first world problem ever. I spent some time just staring into the ocean and thinking, and these are all the good things vacation is teaching me this year:

My natural state is absolutely vegetative. I am a straight-up beached whale and want to do nothing but do nothing while on vacation. I am so freaking amazing at relaxing, and I love that about myself.

I am blessed by family. I grew up going to the beach each year with my family, and my childhood is earmarked by long and lazy days in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Life changes, and, with a house near the water now, a weekly beach trip wasn’t on our radar with my family this summer. Perks of marriage #942=more opportunities for free beach trips. My in-laws are the most generous and hospitable people, and I’m grateful to be living large at Emerald Isle this week.

As I was staring into the waves today, I watched a beaming grandfather looking over his brood of probably fifteen grandchildren. They were all young, and he looked at them as if to say to the world, “These are mine. This is the work of me and my bride.” His smile was infectious, and it reminded me of the years vacationing in Rehobeth Beach in Delaware with my fifteen cousins. My grandfather passed away years ago, but watching this man today made me reflect on his legacy.

Getting older means gaining more family. I love it.

I love watching my hard-working husband relax. When someone asks me to describe Morgan’s character, one of the qualities I talk about is his work ethic. He works hard, long hours and never complains. He is good at what he does and is quick to be respected for how much effort he puts into each and every task. As much as I love to watch him work, I love to watch him relax. He is on cloud 9 this week, with his big brother and best friend by his side to boogy board, play paddle ball, and talk soccer, bodily functions, and theology. The sun kisses his super handsome body almost immediately, and it makes me swoon. Seeing him breathe a little easier this week is making me smile every time I lock eyes with his. Did I mention he’s got the most gorgeous baby blue eyes I’ve ever seen?!

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Ain’t nothing better than good seafood. We’ve been demolishing some seafood this week (shrimp and grits are my new favorite). I had a horrific realization today that I’m less than two weeks out from rocking a bridesmaid dress. Grateful for flowy fabric.

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This restaurant is AMAZING. It’s in Morehead City, North Carolina. Make sure you get the rum buttered sweet potatoes or fried scallops.

I could do without my phone more often. I am loving feeling disconnected this week. The earth still rotates when I’m not checking social media and email constantly. Who knew?

Podcasts are AWESOMEWhy did no one tell me about these?! I’m hooked. (This point is right after the point about staying disconnected, but I promise that I’m only using my phone for podcasts!) Yes, I’m a year late, but I’m loving Serial. I keep going on long walks on the beach to hear the next episode to see if Adnan’s guilty. I’m on episode #8, and I’m thinking he’s REALLY guilty. Also, if you know me, you know I love hilarious Christian women. Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey is a podcast that interviews a bunch of my favorites, and I sit with headphones in and just giggle and giggle. It feels like you’re at happy hour with these super funny women, and you’ll just love it. Best part of podcasts=they’re FREE!

God’s creation is powerful. I always look at His creation as awe-inspiring. But it’s also full of power and wrath and justice, just as He is. The ocean is such a beautiful metaphor for God’s character and love–it’s deep and wide and bigger and stronger than we can fathom. It’s perfect. It can’t be reckoned with and never changes. And its beauty is overwhelming.

The ocean is the home of sharks. If sharks came into my home, I’d eat them. I’m just dipping my toes in the water this week because I have a strong appreciation for all of my limbs. Also, please tell me you’ve seen this video from the wisest woman in the world.

The best thing about vacation is that home is just as wonderful. It’s easy to come home when home is peaceful and relaxing and full of joy. For that, I’m thankful.

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What To Do With A Massive Zucchini

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This sucker was graciously gifted to us by our friends who get a crop share weekly. I think it was sort of a sick (albeit very generous) joke. What the heck do you do with a zucchini that’s the size of your torso?

I love this vegetable, though I propose we ask Kroger to put a special sticker on zucchini to distinguish it from cucumbers. Because roasted cukes aren’t quite as tasty as roasted zukes.

If you’ve got some ridiculously massive zucchinis in your garden, or you have ridiculously friendly friends like we do, try out some of the recipes below. These are tried and true unoriginal recipes–but I guarantee you’ll love them!

Grilled ZucchiniI would like it if Ree Drummond would move in with me. We’d laugh together about how stinky our farmer husbands’ boots are. And then we’d eat grilled zucchini until we turned into massive zucchinis ourselves.

Chicken Zucchini Casserole: This is very comfort-food-esque. If you come across zukes in the winter, this is the perfect meal choice. But really, these days I’d be unashamed to just crank the AC, light some fall-scented candles, and snuggle up in some plaid blankets while devouring this casserole.

Chicken Enchilada Stuffed Zucchini BoatsCan’t really imagine making these with a massive zucchini, but I’d like to see you try. Skinnytaste is one of my top three trusted sites I go to for recipes, FYI (along with Mel’s Kitchen Cafe and The Pioneer Woman).

Summer Macaroni Salad with Tomatoes and Zucchini: Speaking of Skinnytaste…this pasta salad is my forever go-to, and it’s healthy!

Roasted ZucchiniAs a super simple side dish, roast zucchini and yellow squash together and top it off with parmesan cheese.

And…because you’re all curious what we did with our child-size zucchini:

Parmesan Zucchini and Corn: The perfect side dish for our small group potluck this week. And free–thank you, vegetable friends!

Escaping the Registry

I was a bride two years ago and LOVED creating a registry. One of our favorite self-deprecating stories to tell is about the day we went to Target to register, and, because we were babies and were used to buying all cooking supplies from the Dollar Tree, Morgan scanned “Room Essentials” brand everything for our registry. And we fought and fought because I wanted the fancy stuff (read: I was a diva bride). It didn’t take but a few hours for both of our moms to check our registry and call to tell us we needed to delete everything we’d scanned, start over, and scan nicer things. People like to get the bride and groom nice things.

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But, when I say “people,” I mean people who are a bit farther along in life. People who are capable of buying “nice things.” One day, I hope to enter into the “people who buy nice things” category, but I’m still very much in the $1-$3 aisle at Target (anyone else unable to walk past there without picking up some animal crackers? no? just me?).

Even though all I really wanted were things off my registry when I was a bride, I’ve become a bit selfish in my post-bride days. And, because our budget would often only allow us to buy a spatula and slotted spoon for wedding gifts, I like to get a little creative. Let the old folks buy the skillets and toasters and bed linens. The Paulettes will do our part to raid the dollar bins for you, dear newlywed friends.

I was at a shower earlier this year, and my sweet friend Ashley had the entire room crying with her gift–she gave the bride a box full of presents that all had marriage wisdom attached to them. Giftcards for date nights with a card about the importance of dating your spouse. A book about biblical marriage with a note to encourage the bride to keep pursuing it. A live goldfish in a bag with a note that said something about playing pranks (I didn’t catch the full back story of that one…). So many sweet, sweet gifts.

I decided to do my own little version for my friend Stephanie’s bridal shower back in May. Cost-efficient and with a lot of thought behind it all, feel free to steal Ashley’s idea just like I did!

IMG_2179The finished product. Probably would’ve been much cuter with some clear wrapping over it and a huge bow, but this is all I got done, people.

IMG_2187“Cook him good food. Remember his favorite meals and surprise him with them. Men LOVE food, and nothing says lovin’ like fresh from the oven.” Wooden spoons: $.99, Walmart

IMG_2186“Faithfully pray for him each and every day. Pray together. Tell him how you see Christ in him. And never stop thanking the Lord for Chris.” Prayer Journal: Walmart, $.99

IMG_2185“Affirm him. Tell him how handsome you think he is. Thank him for the little things. Leave love notes for him in secret places.” Blank notecards: Dollar Tree, $1

IMG_2184“Kiss him on the lips. Every single day. For a long time.” Lipstick: Target, $3

IMG_2183“Travel together. Just the two of you. For no reason other than to escape for a few days. (We go on weekend getaways every few months.) Budget these in!” Travel bag with travel toothpaste, deodorant, etc. inside: Target, $5

IMG_2182“Think big picture. Let the little things go and remind yourself (and him) that your marriage is much bigger than forgetting to fold the laundry. Forgive often and easily.” Frame: $5, Walmart; Print of couple: $2, CVS

IMG_2181“Spend time with your girlfriends! You need them, and it’ll make your time with Chris even sweeter. (Bros before hoes, though. Always).” Wine: Target, $9 clearance whaddup! Also, I apologize for the use of the word “hoes,” Mom, Dad, and Lucy.

IMG_2180This one was stolen straight from Ashley, and I love this wisdom so much. “It’s okay to go to sleep on an argument. It’s not okay to go to bed angry.” Chamomile tea: Target, $5

Not pictured: $5 giftcard to Target, with a note that encouraged them to date each other weekly–and to always leave the phone in the car to avoid getting distracted. Also not pictured was some pre-wedding-night-girly-things.


Shower your bride-friends well! Happy wedding season!

Taking Stock 6

Posting this after a two week hiatus AND I’m posting it on a Thursday! Crazy! I like this whole “make up your own rules” thing.


Cooking: We grilled a whole bunch of vegetables and some pesto-marinated chicken the other night. Drizzled some honey balsamic dressing over it, and I decided eating all those leftovers at midnight that night was necessary. Because it was so good, y’all. (Skinnytaste is my go-to blog for healthy recipes like this.) Another night, Morgan picked a whole bunch of fresh blueberries at work so I made these galettes and topped them with some vanilla frozen yogurt. Super easy, super fancy looking, and super delicious. “One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” (Virginia Woolf)

IMG_2508Drinking: Water, coffee, wine (food pyramid=serving of fruit). I’m trying to embrace summer vibes as much as possible, and this beer that our friend from Alabama brought over for dinner solidified that summer-flavored anything is on point. Fall-flavored things are better, but summer is second best.

Reading: About to start The Language of Flowers. The librarian and I had a sweet moment when I checked this out–it’s about a girl who just aged out of the foster care system. The librarian was a former social worker, so, as a line of impatient bookworms formed behind me, I got to share my fears about the system and she got to relieve them. I’m also chugging along in Changes That Heal and loving the way it’s beginning to peel back the layers of my “everything-is-perfect-and-nothing-needs-to-change” heart.

Wishing: That I could hire a whole team of people to pack our house up because surprise we’re moving again! (Guys…I can’t even. I know it’s ridiculous. Four moves in two years. I promise we have a good reason behind it. At least that’s what I’m telling myself.)

IMG_1763Just a few more months in this cute house…we’re moving back to Blacksburg!

Writing: I’ve got all kinds of dreams, and a lot of them revolve around writing. I’m sold on the idea that words are power, and the idea that I can create that is exciting yet intimidating. As big as I am on the “no rules in writing” philosophy for this blog, I need to start putting pen to paper to create a framework for these big dreams.

Enjoying: Nights on our back deck–nights when it’s just Morgan and me, and nights when we have to haul out all the chairs in our house and move the grill so everyone can fit. And nights on other people’s back decks and back yards and sofas and dining room tables. We sat with some friends the other day and I just looked at them and said, “Can you believe that we have this?” Life happens in community–we are creating this thing that transcends what we can do alone. We are better because of the people around us, and I am so grateful.

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Noticing: Through a friend’s puzzled look while she watched me inhale some watermelon, I’m noticing that it’s not normal to eat the seeds. Who knew! I just chew straight through them. She was like, “Holly. Oh my gosh. You’re not supposed to eat those.” I froze mid-bite, and, with some watermelon juice dribbling down my chin and black seeds probably stuck between my two front teeth, I shrugged and said, “Whateva.”

Waiting: The month of July is going to be a fun one. July 4th weekend in Wintergreen, bachelorette party at the lake, my sister coming to visit, and a trip to the beach! Fighting myself to not waste my days yearning for the next day, though.

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Little bitty Holly and Morgan! I think this was just a few months in…the beach is our happy place.

Listening: We went to a beautiful wedding a few weeks ago, and the bride and groom danced to this song. Since then, I have: forced Morgan to learn it on the guitar AND sent texts that say “how long will i love you” and, when he doesn’t respond within five minutes, I text back the next lyrics “as long as stars are above you.” And so on and so on until the song is complete or until Morgan responds with a frustrated: “I love you too babe.”

Loving: I got the RunKeeper app a few weeks back to start tracking my workouts a little better, and I love it! It’s nothing fancy at all, but it tracks my split times and has really helped me to set goals, accomplish them, and track my growth. The one thing about the app that ticks me off is when I get a notification that says, “You haven’t gone running in a few days. Don’t you think you should?” It’s like…stop judging me, RunKeeper.

Dreaming: The house we live in now is great–and have I mentioned we really like our back deck?? But the downfall is that our landlord won’t let us nail holes in the wall. Note: I swear to you that this is not why we’re moving. I’m dreaming about filling our new walls with nail holes to hang up art and pictures and signs that make home feel like home. And, in all of our moving history, the inevitable fight that will be had is Morgan not wanting to screw any more screws into the walls. The fight ends the same way every single time: I start crying and convince him that it won’t feel like “our’s” without 90% of our wall space filled. #wrappedaroundmyfinger

Pondering: This notion of “preference over prescription.” If you’ve been following along, you know I’m pushing myself hard to become more open-minded. My instinct is “I’m right. You’re wrong,” way before I even let “you” speak. It’s ridiculous and a terrible quality, and, to quote Pitch Perfect, “I hate myself everyday because of it.” Jen Hatmaker says, “Sometimes we are so incredibly convinced, we elevate principles over people, forgetting that only a very small handful of human issues are concrete; most are fluid, nuanced, contextual, subjective. Different does not mean against, nor does it mean wrong.

Watching: Everyone needs to see Inside Out. It is not only hilarious in both sly and blunt ways, but it teaches a lesson about how to love those who are sad. This movie is the shiz. Another watch-worthy movie is McFarland USA. Copious amounts of tears were shed…and, as I ran the other day, I pretended to be Danny Diaz listening to Kevin Costner’s advice: “You’re my anchor, and not just because you’re fat. I mean, you are a little fat, but…you’re important.” and “I hear they can’t run without a cop behind ‘em or a Taco Bell in front.” (Amen.)

IMG_2505We dropped the boys off at Jurassic World and hit up Inside Out. We were those obnoxious girls cackling in the back row.

Marveling: Nicholas Winton died this week. I didn’t know who he was until I ran across this story on Buzzfeed yesterday, but you can bet that I sat at my desk with tears streaming down my face. You have to watch the YouTube video embedded in the article–this man risked his life to save hundreds of children during WWII. His life is a marvel, and the world is a better place because of him.

Craving: On the first Valentine’s Day that Morgan and I spent together, a new “Japanese steakhouse” had just opened up in town. Thinking that it was a fancy-schmancy hibachi grill, he got reservations and we dressed all nice for this date. We pulled into the parking lot and noticed there was a drive-thru line–needless to say, we were overdressed and for sure did not need reservations, but Sakura has become our favorite cheap date, and I would kill for some hibachi steak with a whole lot of yum yum sauce on top. Like so much yum yum that you can’t see the steak.

Rocking: The past few nights have been spent in my bridesmaid dress for my sweet friend’s upcoming wedding because 1. we had to try on different shoes for it and 2. I feel like a mix between Taylor Swift and a princess in it. Glitz and lace are my guilty pleasure.

Thinking: Nothing has fully encapsulated my heart toward last week’s SPOTUS decision as this article. (My dad said, “Please try to use a filter and don’t write your opinions about this on the blog.” But I didn’t write it…so it doesn’t count–right, Dad? 🙂 )

Feeling: A truckload of sadness on my heart following not only the Charleston church shooting, but the sequential burnings of so many black churches in the South. Are you kidding me? This world is ugly, corrupt, full of sin, sadness, and pain. But burning a house of worship or killing innocent people who just want to pray is just about the lowest low. And if anyone wants to fight me on that, come at me, bro. My favorite part of this news story is when they describe what was left over after one of the churches burned down: “Only two walls and the steeple still stood, with a large, unscathed white cross on top.

Admiring: Whenever something horrible happens, we Christians hold our heads high and say confidently, “The Lord will bring good out of this.” But, honestly, I struggle to believe that in my heart sometimes. And when I woke up that Thursday morning and learned of the Charleston shootings, my prayer was less of “You’re good” and more of “I have no clue what You are doing.” My doubting, faithless heart trembled as I listened to family member after family member publicly forgive the man who killed their loved ones, and I knew that this is what God is doing. He’s putting a face on grace, and that face is sketched over the mourning sobs of those who deserve to feel anger and pain. But nothing is out of His realm.

Bookmarking: Elisabeth Elliot died two weeks ago, leaving a legacy of faith and wisdom that’s unmatched. My favorite quotes of hers:

“Leave it all in the hands that were wounded for you.”

“I realized that the deepest spiritual lessons are not learned by His letting us have our way in the end, but by His making us wait, bearing with us in love and patience until we are able to honestly to pray what He taught His disciples to pray: Thy will be done.”

“Of one thing I am perfectly sure: God’s story never ends with ashes.”

Disliking: What the heck is up with all these shark attacks?! I think I’ll bring one of those blow-up kiddie pools to the beach this summer. I’ll inflate it and set it next to my chair and splash a bit in that thing when I get too toasty.

Giggling: Long days should be filled with 15-minute YouTube videos of the top 10 funniest scenes from Friends. Including my favorite: Joey trying to speak French.

The A to Z Guide For Those Ignorantly Entering Adulthood

I was straight-up blindsided by what it meant to be an adult. Throw a wedding in two weeks after graduating college (with a degree I didn’t have to pay for, rent money provided by my parents, and Mom and Dad a quick phone call away whenever I needed them), and I was a hot mess.

But, two years later, I am alive, cross-eyed from all the craziness, and loving being a “grown up.”

Below is an A to Z list of the lessons I have learned along the way. I am SUCH a real world amateur, but I feel like an expert at navigating (not always successfully) through the rough waters of ignorance.

Note how I had to stretch my imagination for a few of these, including but not limited to: Q and Z

The A to Z Guide For Those Ignorantly Entering Adulthood

A: Ask for help. A few weeks after we got married, I had a full-blown freak-out when I realized that Morgan was about to start a job to which he’d have to wear ironed shirts. I had never ironed a shirt! That’s what my mom was for! I called her crying (a little dramatic) because in my brain, not being able to iron my husbands shirts meant I was a total and complete failure as a wife (again, I was in a dramatic state. Give me grace.). I asked for help, and, because she is super-mom (and because she realized I was essentially in shambles), she drove down for a day to teach me how to iron. And she brought me cookies. People want to help–everyone’s been there. Just ask.

B: Go to bed early. Ha! Maybe this is just me. When we were in college, we stayed up until 2 a.m. and slept until noon. Now, my eyes start to flutter around 9:30, and I try to go to sleep by 11. Thankfully, my best friends are the same way, so our hang outs rarely go late. Going to bed early means waking up early, which is what adults do. I’m more productive and don’t feel like I’m wasting my day away. (There are obvious caveats to this tip. Sleep in if you want to every now and then. Remember: you’re a big kid now and you make your own rules.)

IMG_2481The only reason we were able to wake up at 5am for these impromptu bridal portraits with my girl Kaitlyn was because of an early bed time. [This caption is a stretch but I just love this picture so much.]

C: Cook food. It’s so good, it makes you feel great, and it’s cheaper than going out to eat all the time. I went from not knowing how to cook eggs to making many meals per week. Not only do I enjoy eating real food, but I also get to serve my loved ones in a super tangible way.

D: Dream big dreams. You’re in your twenties with limitless doors to try and open. You want to leave your office job and become a teacher? Do it. You want to run a marathon? I can’t wait to watch you as I stand on the sidelines. You want to pack up your house and move overseas? I will be your biggest fan. There is nothing stopping you except for your pride, your fear, and your agenda.  Dreaming big dreams is far from ignorant–it’s ambitious and it’s powerful.

E: Ignore expectations. If I was reading this list to you, I’d scream this one. Coming out of college with massive expectations of perfection royally screwed us up. We were certain we knew exactly what was going to happen next, and when the opposite happened, we felt like our lives shattered around us. Now, we’re fixated on Christ, remembering that: “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.” (Proverbs 19:21) Seriously…don’t bother putting plans and deadlines and timelines on your expectations. Sometimes it’ll work out exactly as you hoped, but sometimes it won’t; when you ignore expectations, you trust in the only trustworthy One.

F: Find friends and invest in them. The biggest lesson that Morgan and I learned post-graduation is that community is not easy to come by. While you’re in school, relationships are handed to us on a silver platter–you’re in clubs, on sport teams, ride the bus together, or live on the same hall. We moved into a neighborhood that was very hood-like a few months after getting married, and we realized that we were going to have to go farther than next door to find our people.

G: Grocery shop with a list and a meal plan. We stick to a really, really tight grocery budget easily because I know what I’m getting, how much it will cost, and where it is in the store. Full disclosure: we work to stay under $65 a week, and we eat meals full of really delicious meat and vegetables–lots of that food being organic or local. And I promise my husband doesn’t go hungry (he relies on a diet of pretzels and saltines, but that’s his choice).

H: Be hospitable. Shauna Niequist writes this: “The heart of hospitality is about creating space for someone to feel seen and heard and loved. It’s about declaring your table a safe zone, a place of warmth and nourishment.” Open up your home to your community. Make yourself uncomfortable so they can be comfortable. We are all about our open door policy. If you need a listening ear, come in. If you need a shoulder to cry on, come in. If you need a bowl of ice cream and a chick flick on Netflix, I’ll snuggle you on the couch.

I: Invest in your health. It’s so easy to get caught up in work and friends and great things and forget to work out and eat healthy. An unhealthy lifestyle will sustain you only to a certain point, and, truly–it’s worth it to invest in living healthy. Your energy will be higher, you’ll be happier, and you’ll look hot.

J: Join a church. Or a community group or a gym or a book club or a service team or whatever tickles your fancy. Be a part of something that is bigger than yourself–it reminds you of your smallness, introduces you to people with similar interests, and–lets be real…it gives you something to do on days you’re feeling lonely.

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This was one of the best moments of my life. (Yeah I got baptized in a cow trough.)

K: Know your limits. We found out the hard way that we can’t fill our schedules to the brim and still have a healthy marriage and lifestyle. When you reach your limits, rest. There is so much goodness in resting–it’s where I reflect and grow the most.

L: Act justly, love mercy, walk humbly. AJ-LM-WH. These letters are tacked up on my desk and engraved on my heart. These words from Micah 6:8 define how I want my life to be lived–seeking justice, giving grace, and remembering that I am so tiny in comparison to my King.

M: Find mentors that are in the stage of life ahead of you. People who will invest in you, be real with you, and guide you in directions you want to go. Two of the most influential people the first year of our marriage were this couple from church who simply let us in to their lives. We were really fragile after a whole bunch of unexpected failure, and they provided wisdom and listened. We love you, Taylors! Mentors walk alongside you, and you need that in the murky waters of adulthood.

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N: Watch the news. I hear so many people say that there’s just too much sadness that they don’t want to see, but, if you’re unaware of the sorrow of this world, how are you supposed to work toward change? I read the news every day, and, in addition to keeping me up to date on the world, I always have a fall back conversation in place for when I’m stuck in awkward small-talk conversations. “So, did you hear about Caitlyn Jenner…?” always gets people talking.

O: Be open-minded. Man…I am working so hard on this. I’ve wasted too many opportunities to learn and grow by shying away from the hard conversations. When I jump in and decided to listen, I am SHOCKED to discover that sometimes…just sometimes…my assumptions are wrong.

P: Pray. Pray for your family, your wife, your husband, your friends, your community, your world. Be intentional about thanking God for things–both the blessings and the struggles. Nothing makes Him more real than the way He rescues us from trials, so tell Him that. Here is my Bonhoeffer quote of the day (by this blog you’d think I read a lot of Bonhoeffer. That’s false. My wise husband does and I reap the benefits.):

“A Christian community either lives by the intercessory prayers of its members for one another, or the community will be destroyed. I can no longer condemn or hate other Christians for whom I pray, no matter how much trouble they cause me. In intercessory prayer the face that may have been strange and intolerable to me is transformed into the face of one for whom Christ died, the face of a pardoned sinner. That is a blessed discovery for the Christian who is beginning to offer intercessory prayer for others. As far as we are concerned, there is no dislike, no personal tension, no disunity or strife that cannot be overcome by intercessory prayer. Intercessory prayer is the purifying bath into which the individual and the community must enter every day.”

IMG_2480(Praying over my sweet friend Cary at her wedding last year. Another hats off to Kaitlyn.)

Q: Don’t take stupid Facebook quizzes. I don’t care if you’re more like Elsa or Olaf or if Facebook thinks you’re going to die at 112. Get off Facebook and start living.

R: Read books. Read fiction, read non-fiction, read magazines, read your Bible, read everything!

S: Serve the people around you. There are a million ways to do it–volunteer at an event, bring a meal to a new mom, offer to babysit for free, clean up someone’s mess, or–hey–become foster parents (Just kidding. You don’t have to do that. We know we’re crazy.)

T: Travel. Y’all. This world is so beautiful. If you don’t have money to travel the world, travel around your town. We are really intentional about traveling every now and then because we get a greater understanding of people, places, and God’s creation.

U: Unplug. A few weeks ago, I was lying in bed on a Saturday morning, perusing my Instagram feed when a message from a friend popped up. She was sharing this article with me. The timing was obnoxiously ironic, and I threw my phone aside and headed straight downstairs for some coffee+Jesus time. Ever since, I’ve been plugging my phone in across the room at night. It means that the last minutes before falling asleep are not spent staring mindlessly at a device and the first minutes after waking up aren’t either.

V: Be vulnerable with your friends. It’s not enough to have surface-level friendships just to have people in your life. Let them in.

W: Hang out with people on weeknights. I used to live for the weekends. We counted down days and dreamed of all the goodness that’d come starting Friday at 5. Then we started to realize that we make our own rules, and part of those rules is to have fun all the time. We love having friends over for dinner, going on random dates in the middle of the week, and staying up “late” (AKA past 11) to watch Netflix with our favorite people. Living for the weekends is a pathetic way to live. Have fun on Tuesday, people!

X: Explore the town you’re living in. We have it easy–we know we’re in love with the New River Valley. I was talking to my cousin who moved to Fredericksburg recently, and she was saying that, after a few months of settling in, they hit up downtown and realized that they love this little town they’ve moved to. She said they’d never realize how rich the history is, how interesting the culture is, and how cool the downtown is if they hadn’t intentionally explored.

Y: In the midst of trying to act old and mature and seasoned, stay young. You are young. Embrace the screw-ups and laugh at the mistakes because you’ve got a hell of a long life to live.

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Z: Go to the zoo. I don’t know. I can’t think of another Z. Enjoy the animals.

Taking Stock 5

Cooking: I cooked maybe two meals last month. Due to this new healthy eating thing, I cooked so much this week! I forgot how good fresh food is!! My saving grace the last few days: homemade Ranch dressing. Except let’s not call it Ranch, because if you call it Ranch, you’ll be disappointed. BUT–you can use a ton of it and not feel guilty, and it tastes really, really good! Also, this chicken stir-fry. This is so good and so guiltless. Like, so good that I’m tempted to say it was better than take-out Chinese. I SAID IT.

Drinking: Water and coffee. And after I went on a run UP A MOUNTAIN with my friend Nichole, I rewarded myself with a Gatorade. (It’s sad when that’s your reward. But that’s the place I’m at, friends.)

Reading: Another turn for the better!!! I’ve officially reached the mark in Shanghai Girls that I feel confident to recommend it. Really good book that’s hard to put down–however, beware of some tough topics it covers. Not for the faint of heart. I started Changes That Heal this week–I’ve wanted to read this for years but am just now getting around to it. Bracing myself for some harsh convictions and beautiful life changes.

Wanting: “Sunny and 75” every day of this summer. It doesn’t hurt to dream.

Wishing: That there were more people in the world like Sue, the mom of my good friend from college. A few days ago, I came home from a long day overwhelmed and exhausted. I was feeling so down about expectations and failures and our crazy schedule that never slows down. At our front door was a package, and inside was a monogrammed casserole dish and note. She reads my blog (I still get so excited when people tell me that!), and, encouraged by our foster care journey, she wanted to bless us with this gift. Sue, you’ll never know the blessing you were to me that day. Thanks for bringing me back to reality and for making my YEAR. Your generosity spoke volumes to my soul.

IMG_2434Writing: I’ve been stressing myself out to write as much as possible. And that makes writing not as fun. So I’m praying for inspiration and direction, while chilling out and giving myself a break.

Enjoying: Spontaneous memories with my family that were made this past weekend. Saturday started with what we thought was going to be a trip to the Churchhill Downs parking lot just to catch a glimpse of the track, but we were easily convinced to stick around for some horse races. We ate Hot Browns (actually I got a stupid salad), drank mint juleps at 11 a.m., and bought $3 tickets to get in. On a whim, big Dan bet $5 on horse #2 AND WON! In my head, I was certain we were leaving Louisville with $1,000 minimum. Alas, he won $12.50, but I still smile when I think of him standing on the chairs yelling for a horse whose name he didn’t even know.

IMG_2407Noticing: That I’ve been blogging incredibly inconsistently for two years but today is the first day that I realized I can change the size of images I put in posts. LOL. Cheers to big pictures!!!!

Waiting: We’re floating down the river in big tubes with some of our favorite people on Sunday. Have I mentioned how much I love this small town we live in?

Listening: Pandora shuffled to Hootie and the Blowfish’s “Waltz Into Me” yesterday, and I about fell out of my chair. It is a little known song by Hootie, but Morgan and I danced to it as our first dance. I listened to that song on repeat all day Thursday.

Loving: How this man will forever and always be my dance partner. He rocks his signature moves, and, when Nelly’s “Just A Dream” comes on, people need to learn to CLEAR OUT because that’s his jam.

IMG_2419Dreaming: Back to the days of Pine Cove. Can I get an amen? Those were three of the best months of my life. When I tell people about PC, they call it more of a resort than a camp (which is fairly accurate), but all I know is that Jesus shows up in big ways in Tyler, Texas from May to August. I saw lives transformed–not to mention the work God did on my heart that summer. If I could rewind the years to any time, it’d be the summer of 2011.

IMG_0071(This was a just your classic summer morning at camp.)

Pondering: “There isn’t a person you wouldn’t love if you could read their story.”

Watching: FRIENDS! Can’t stop, won’t stop. Well…we’ll stop when we reach season 10. But we’ll probably need to go through counseling when the series ends because it’s a sick obsession.

Marveling: At how accurate this is. They set up motion-sensored cameras in the Serengeti. And then made memes out of their findings.

Needing: A tan. Woof.

Smelling: That smell of summertime. When you can sense rain is coming without noticing grey clouds, when grass is freshly mowed, when grills are lit and sunscreen is lathered on and citronella candles exude that anti-bug smell. I love that smell of summertime.

Wearing: All the shorts and tshirts I can find because IT’S SO HUMID HERE. And I had a realization yesterday that it is only June. There’s a slight chance I may have a heat stroke by August 1.

Craving: Remember last week when I said I was craving healthy foods? That was cute. Because right now, I want a massive ice cream sundae with a gooey chocolate chip cookie on the bottom. Thanks.

Rocking: The same outfit I wore for Easter this year. Whatever. Ain’t nothing like a classy Friday. (Or a not-classy Easter. You decide. Hint: I’m wearing jeans.)

Thinking: About the future so much that I so often forget about the present. I’m trying to be intentional about living in the now instead of always dreaming about and hoping for what’s next. Because there is so much beauty in today. How can we accomplish our dreams if we’re stuck in daydreams about the days to come?!

Feeling: So good! I guess people weren’t lying when they said eating good food makes you feel good.

Admiring: The woman in the peach jacket in the picture below. That’s my grandma, y’all. She raised six amazing kids and what seems like a billion grandchildren, displayed beautiful and sacrifical love to her husband of nearly fifty years, and, following his death, has continued to be the stronghold of our family. Most of all, she taught all of us about Jesus. She’s the ultimate picture of grace and truth and beauty and love, and my favorite moments are ones spent around her table following dinner, when she pointedly asks every single person, “Tell me how your heart is.”

IMG_2421(I don’t know that man in the center.)

Bookmarking: “There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.” Ernest Hemingway

Disliking: My heart toward horrible drivers. Confession time: while driving to work one morning this week, I found myself thinking, “I hate all people.” The condition of my heart is BLACK at 7:30 a.m. (While I am disliking my heart toward bad drivers, I still dislike bad drivers. Get off the roads during morning rush-hour if you’re tryna take in the scenery, folks. We may live in small town USA but some people need to get to work on time.)

Giggling: The livefromsnacktime Instagram account. It’s brilliant. Kids say the darndest things.

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