Saturday, May 31, 2014

the book list


I made a goal last May to read a book a month during my 25th year, and I can proudly say that I surpassed my goal! Many friends ask me what I'm reading currently or what I recommend, so here is a list of the books that I read during my 25th year:

A Thousand Tomorrows by Karen Kingsbury
Between Sundays by Karen Kingsbury
Shades of Blue by Karen Kingsbury
The Wedding by Nicholas Sparks
The Choice by Nicholas Sparks
And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini
The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants: The Second Summer of the Sisterhood by Ann Brashares (for probably the third or fourth time)
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (for the second time)
The Fault in Our Stars by John Greene
Divergent by Veronica Roth
Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Sparkly Green Earrings by Melanie Shankle
One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp (for the second or third time)
Paleoista by Nell Stephenson
The Pioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels-A Love Story by Ree Drummond
Anything by Jennie Allen
Boundaries in Dating: How Healthy Choices Grow Healthy Relationships by Dr. Henry Cloud and John Townsend
God Is Able by Priscilla Shirer
Freefall to Fly: A Breathtaking Journey Toward a Life of Meaning by Rebekah Lyons
7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker
Notes from a Blue Bike: The Art of Living Intentionally in a Chaotic World by Tsh Oxenreider
The Price of Stones: Building a School for My Village by Twesigye Jackson Keguri
How To Get A Date Worth Keeping: Be Dating In Six Months Or Your Money Back by Dr. Henry Cloud

I can honestly say that I thoroughly enjoyed just about every one of these books. Let me know if you want more commentary about what was my favorite and what I'd recommend! What have you been reading lately?

Friday, May 30, 2014

on summer goals

Wormsloe Historic Site, Savannah- last summer.

It's no secret that I love lists. I don't know if it is a "girl thing," this satisfaction I get from making lists and checking things off, but I love a good list. That being said, I have been reading through some new blogs and came across one called In Its Time that I really enjoy. This monthly link-up challenged readers to write out their goals and share them with other bloggers. The following are my summer goals for this year, which I hope to complete in June and July.

  • Read five new books.
  • Get my classroom ready at Downtown Academy before pre-planning in August.
  • Buy and complete the Blog Life e-course from the A Beautiful Mess shop.
  • Complete summer bucket list with friends.
  • Return to memorizing the book of James verse by verse.
  • Host a 31 Bits party.
These goals are not particulary lofty, but they are important to me. It will be fun to write about them as I check them off of the list! What are your goals for this summer?

Thursday, May 29, 2014

on genuine beauty

On Tuesday, our team returned from Uganda. I am feeling all the feelings. As in, I am processing and thinking through so many different experiences from this past week. It was, in a word, amazing. There is much to be shared, and I will do more of that in the coming days. Right now, I am mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausted. But it was so worth it, and I will return one day. :)

Y'all know my dear friend, Gretchen. I have written about her in the past as a friend who loves the Lord and has encouraged me so much in my walk with Christ. She is a dear friend and one of my closest sisters in Christ. Recently, she created a beautiful journal called the Give Me Jesus journal that's purpose is to inspire women to dwell in the Word. As an avid journaler, I can tell you that this journal is beautiful and practical-unlike any other journal I've used before. I bought one for my mom for Mother's Day and will be purchasing another for myself soon. The Life Lived Beautifully community is currently studying through 1 Peter, and this morning, as I caught up, I was struck by the truth in this Scripture:

Do not let your adorning be external-the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear-but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious. 
- 1 Peter 3:3-4

The entire time I was in Uganda, I wore no makeup. My clothing was simple- a white men's t-shirt with a long skirt and Chacos or little tennis shoes. My hair was up in a bun. I felt gritty and gross at times but just didn't worry about it too much, knowing that there wasn't much I could do to change my appearance. In "real life," my concern about my physical appearance is much more extreme. I have to pick out my clothes each night before work because otherwise I'll spend forever in the morning contemplating what to wear. Clothes are something I love and always have loved. I have to take little fasts from shopping so that I exercise self-control and don't spend all my money on new shoes, shirts, and other deals found on clearance at Target. Or Loft. Or Gap.

Meet my witty friend Stella, who took a week off of school to help prepare meals and take care of the home during our team's stay at Pastor George and Irene's house.

As a twenty-something woman in the United States, my perspective on beauty is warped, to say the least. The images we encounter through television, movies, magazines, Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook are all enough to drive a girl crazy. Whether we realize it or not, we all aspire to these images in some way; it is reflected in the way we shop, dress, and relate to other women. We all desire to be known as a woman of beauty. The beauty and fashion industries boast sales in the billions each year, because we are always looking for the latest and greatest way to improve our outer appearance.

But Peter states that we've got it wrong, backwards in fact. Our goal should not be to constantly seek outer beauty and the improvement of our physical being, but rather the eternal beauty which resides in our soul. Christ has gifted each and every one of us with talents and abilities to give Him glory. Yet our desire is far too often to look good in front of our fellow man.

In Uganda, I had the privilege of visiting several different village churches. At every single church, the people greeted us with smiles, handshakes, and bows. They were incredibly kind and genuine. These people live in huts and sleep on mats. There is no running water or electricity at their disposal, and they do not measure their lives by the amount of likes they get on Facebook or Instagram. Most likely, the women have never gotten a mani-pedi or waxed their eyebrows. They do not own dozens of pairs of shoes or the latest shade of lipstick. And yet they are beautiful.

Women at Kiceke (key-check-ay) Community Church.

These women are beautiful because their eyes shine with the love and joy of Christ. They love the Lord because He is their all. Their praise and worship is loud and lively because they know the One who saves. Their eyes shine and their hearts are bowed low. We could stand to learn from them. When I stood before these women and their congregations, I realized that just because I come from America doesn't mean that I have the wisdom and words to share. They were the ones who ministered to me and showed me what true beauty is. I pray I never forget. May we pattern our lives after the women who have found the true secret to beauty-Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Tuesday ten: for the grads

So there are a few friends I know who graduated this past weekend. To say that I am proud of them would be an understatement. Graduating from college is a huge milestone and an accomplishment with a feeling that can't be beat. I remember the day I graduated from UGA so vividly, and it was four years ago. To say that I was happy would be barely scratching the surface of my emotions. I loved my time at UGA, and donning the cap and gown in May of 2010 was one of the happiest days of my life.

With Early Childhood Education friends after our dept. graduation, May 2010.

It's been four years since I donned my cap and gown and headed out into the "real world." Attending my sister's graduation this weekend was a walk down memory lane for me. There is so much that people don't tell you, and there is so much to learn. Here's my advice for all you recent grads (in no particular order):

1. Be honest.
-Honesty truly is the best policy. Even when it's hard. Just trust me. It will get you far as people notice that your commitment to truth sets you apart from others trying to get ahead.

2. Don't be afraid of failure.
-You're most likely not going to land your dream job right after graduation. Or, you could land what you think is your dream job and not enjoy it one iota. Don't be afraid to fall.

3. Do what you love.
-Can't stress this one enough. Yes, you have bills to pay and responsibilities to uphold. But don't sacrifice your quality of life for a job that you hate and that makes you miserable.

4. Keep the faith.
- Times are going to be hard. Your life will not be carefree and easy. Know that the Lord is for you, not against you.

5. Make a budget and stick to it.
-Um, yeah...still learning this one. The hard way. Do everything you can to not buy things on credit. Live below your means. And be generous to others and the least of these. No matter how "broke" you are, you're still much richer than much of the world.

6. Embrace a "YOLO" attitude.
- Sounds stupid and childish, but realize that life is short. We do not know how long we have. Be wise with your days and live them with reckless abandon, knowing that adventures are worth it.

7. Be grateful.
-Comparison truly is the thief of joy. Do not, I repeat, do not, waste your time comparing your life to others. Everyone's story is different. Period. Be grateful for yours and know that there is a purpose in every circumstance and situation.

8. Invest in people, not things.
- Things will rot. They will be destroyed and will not give us any lasting satisfaction. And while people can let us down, they are what is most important. People will be there for us and can surround us in time of need. Do what it takes to create and foster a community, and hold on to them for dear life.

9. Travel.
-Get out of your box. There is so much to be seen and discovered in this world. Go somewhere off the beaten path and learn how others do life and walk in this world.

10. Take your time.
-Know that while life is speeding by quickly, it is not an emergency. It is a gift. So savor it. Go slow, and be aware of the beauty before you. Don't be too hard on yourself, and gratefully take the second chances given to you.

“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of - throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”

-C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Sunday, May 4, 2014

for Nanny

It is never easy to lose someone you love. No matter the circumstances-expected or unexpected-death is something that we do not like and oftentimes cannot understand. We have difficulty accepting it and question the timing and purpose for it. Ecclesiastes tell us that "He (God) has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, He has put eternity into man's heart, yet so that He cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end."

We do not like death because it is unnatural for us. Our Creator and Lord made us for eternal life, and anything that interrupts that life is a threat to our understanding and our ways. But the Lord tells us over and over again in His word that His ways are higher. He knows everything-literally everything-about every circumstance, thus, He alone has the sovereignty needed to orchestrate events in His perfect timing.

My Nanny, Edna Ruth McMorris, was an amazing woman. Her husband, William McMorris, was a baker and cook for the service, and he traveled all over the world. She had my mom and her two older sisters in three consecutive years, and when her husband was away for months at a time, she was able to raise them and hold down the fort as he served our country. Sadly, he died of a sudden heart attack in his forties, and she did not remarry.

William "Mac" McMorris

In a phone conversation with Nanny several months ago, she was candid with me and told me stories of her childhood. She also talked about her life after my grandfather, whom she affectionately called "Mac." She spoke of how she knew she could not just stop living life because her husband had died. When I was younger, I remember being fascinated by my grandmother's youthfulness and joviality. She was always so beautiful to me, and her closet was one of great envy. She dressed well and always put her best foot forward.

Mr. and Mrs. William McMorris with their girls

Throughout my childhood, I recall my grandmother travelling often. She loved to take trips and see different places. Sitting still was not something she enjoyed. I like to think I inherited my sense of adventure from her. Her desire to see the world and participate in different cultures has taught me that everyone-no matter who they are-has a life worth living on purpose.

Edna Ruth McMorris

Because my family always lived in a different city and state from my grandmother, we were not able to see her often. However, since my grandmother was a widow, we made it our priority to be with her on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning, no matter how far the drive. Some of my most favorite memories are falling asleep in her house with my sister, listening for the pitter patter of reindeer feet. In the morning we would wake up, open presents, and she would make a delicious breakfast.

Lauren and I with Nanny and her dog, Pierre at Christmas
In recent years, my grandmother's mental and physical health declined. She was diagnosed with dementia about three years ago and moved to an assisted living home. On October 10, 2013, she turned 80. I was able to go celebrate with her, and she was in good spirits. She felt special and was enjoying having those around her who she loved most. While it was hard to see her in a much weaker state than I was accustomed to, her eyes still sparkled to me. She was still beautiful.

Nanny turns 80!
Just a few weeks ago, Nanny was diagnosed with uterine cancer; a previously undetected tumor had grown out of control. Because she had weakened so much, she was unable to make it through hardly any radiation, and the Lord saw fit to bring her home one evening just days after coming home from the hospital.

While I mourn the loss of my grandmother, I rejoice that she is not in pain and that her suffering was not long and drawn-out. She would not have wanted to live that way, and we did not want to watch her lie in agony. Our God is sovereign, and His timing is perfect, no matter what the circumstances look like to us, His servants.

My family covets your prayers at this time.


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