Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Doing life WITH people

Last night I listened to a sermon that reminded me of the simple truths that we all need to be reminded of from time to time. Lately, I've taken my independence to a new level. I haven't wanted to share what is going on with anyone, and often, I would just want to stay home and do nothing instead of going to a Bible study or other function.

We were talking about the shield of faith. The speaker said that really, the shield by itself was not that great, but when combined with several other shields, a solid wall of steel is not what the attacker has to come up against. We need to do life TOGETHER. We have to have community and allow people to be there for us,and us for them.

It got me thinking about how lucky I am to have such amazing people in my life to do life together. I really can't express how lucky I am to have these people in my life, and if you're one of them, just know that you are loved.

Who do you need to thank in your life for doing life together with you?

Monday, March 26, 2012

A Restful Weekend

This weekend was one of the most relaxed weekends I have had in a really long time. I had absolutely no plans, and was totally ok with it.

Friday after work, I called my mom to see if she wanted to go to dinner. My dad was still in town, so she was cooking steak. I don't really eat much red meat, but I had no food at my house and didn't want to go to the store. I promptly drove to Brentwood to enjoy her home cooking.

It was really great to sit and watch tv and just hang out with my parents and enjoy a delicious mean. We had steak, zucchini (my favorite), french fries, and ciabiatta bread. I felt like I was eating as a princess.

My friends texted me and told me to go downtown and watch some basketball with them. I thought that would be fun, so I told them I would come. As I was pulling off the exit, it started down pouring. I don't like rain, so I decided to just go home and curl up in my bed. Best decision I could have made...

Saturday, I did some cleaning, then went to see The Hunger Games at 2. I was really excited about the movie, and left super impressed. It's probably one of the best book to movie I have seen. I highly recommend it, but I do recommend reading the book first.

Saturday night, I still hadn't gone to the store, so I called my mom. She was on her way to pick up some food for herself, so I just kind of invited myself. I, once again, drove to Brentwood and we dined at Chuy's, another favorite of mine. I watched a little television with my mom then went back home and passed out. I think my body was shutting down from going so much.

Sunday, my sister and niece were at my mom's house, so I went to Brentwood AGAIN to see them. How could I turn down this face.

We played outside for at least 2 hours. She loved playing with bouncey balls and sunglasses. And she just looked adorable.

We had another delicious dinner, and Kailee was loving me. She's usually a little finnicky, but yesterday she was so precious.

I have no idea what she was looking at.

This week is going to be a bit crazy, so I am thankful for the weekend of rest. I want to start running again, but I just can't find the motivation to do it. Maybe it will come some day...

Friday, March 23, 2012

A Longing Heart

Sometimes I forget how much I miss living in Haiti until I start talking to someone who has never heard me say anything about it. I started a new Bible study on Wednesday night with Hope Fellowship Church. We are reading the book The Story with the "mid-20s to mid-30s" group. I was extremely hesitant to commit to it, but one of the girls talked me in to it. My excuse for so long was I'M NOT MID-20S!!!! Don't say that! She assured me that it was ok for me to be younger so I hopped on board.

I was relying on my friend Adam to be there so that it wouldn't be awkward walking in to a house full of people I didn't really know. About an hour before I was set to leave, Adam told me he would be working and wasn't going to make it. I went back and forth on deciding if I was going to go, but I ended up going. As we sat in a circle and introduced ourselves, everyone would say "this is my husband blah blah" or "this is my wife so and so."

And then it got to me.

"Ummmm, I'm not really sure where my husband is right now." Literally. Luckily, everyone laughed and we were able to move on. There was one other single girl there so I wasn't alone in my "no husbandness."

The study was great and we delved in to talking about creation and Noah. After it was over, everyone was just hanging out downstairs, and I started talking to the other single girl, Jessica. In my introduction, I mentioned that I lived in Haiti for a year, so she began asking me questions about my time there.

Before I knew it, I was telling her all about the many things that I encountered there. I began to remember all the good, the bad, the pain, the happy times, the teaching moments, and everything in between.

After the conversation, I longed to be there. I do know that Nashville is my home for a reason right now, but my heart is missing those kids. Even all the pain I went through was worth the end result.

I'm really excited about the opportunities I have had this year. Working at a high school has reminded me of my love for teenagers. I want to be active in their lives and show them the love of Jesus. I've made so many great connections with several of the students, and I pray that I continue to build those and remind them of Christ's love for them.

I guess what I'm saying is... As much as I miss Haiti, I absolutely LOVE my job!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Happy Birthday Niece-y Boo!

Last Thursday, my niece turned 1! Now, most of you know that I'm not a huge fan of babies (except Melissa, Marie, and Junior of course), but I'm quite a big fan of my niece. I missed the first three months of her life, so she is just now getting used to seeing me, and she'll sometimes even come to me!

At first, she would cry if I even looked at her. Now, I think she's starting to like me! I'm excited for the days when we can play in the park or just hang out. I've always liked older children because I connect with them so much more.

I had class on Thursday, so I didn't get to actually see her on her birthday, but we had a party for her on Saturday afternoon. My sister needed me to go get some balloons before the party, so I ran off to Party City. When I left, I had 10 green balloons, 10 pink balloons, and a special one year old balloon. I looked like a clown carrying them out of the store then trying to shove them in to my car.

The party was great. Kailee was in a great mood, and didn't really cry when people ooh'd and ahhh'd at her. She wasn't really interested in her gifts, but she got some pretty cool stuff, especially from Aunt Tina!

She WILL be a Vols fan!

She will never have enough tutu's.
After she did gifts, it was time for her to dive in to the cake. My sister didn't give her any sweets until the day she turned one, so the sugary goodness was a new experience for K. I think she liked it...

We all packed up and went our separate ways. Since it was Saint Patrick's day, I ran home and got ready to meet my good friend, Matt, from college.

We were both feeling a chill night, so we went over to The Flying Saucer and hung out for a couple of hours. We got to catch up on life, and he listened to me complain about stupid boys for a little while. He's good to talk to about that stuff because he is a guy and understands what most boys are thinking when they are silly.

After a little while, two more of my friends showed up and we laughed and cut up until about midnight, which is about 4 hours past my bed time. I was exhausted, so I packed up and went HOME!

I've realized that I've turned in to a responsible old person. I go to bed at nine and get up at five thirty. I can't kick it with the young kids anymore.

Tonight, I am starting a new Bible study with Hope Fellowship. We are reading a book called The Story, which is basically just the Bible in a bit more condensed terms. I'm excited about getting to know new people and grow those friendships!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Hunger Games

Call me crazy, but I am so stinking excited for The Hunger Games to come out on Friday! Now, I am not usually a gal that reads what everyone else is reading. I didn't read Twilight, or Harry Potter, but my small group at church talked me in to reading this one. I was hooked after 20 pages. I am an avid reader, but I cannot remember another book captivating me so much that I didn't want to sleep. I read the books all day every day. I want to read them again! I'm excited to see how the movie portrays everything and if my opinions change at all once there are visuals.

When I was reading the books, it really got me thinking. What if that actually happened? I'm not sure I can digest the madness that would ensue, and I'm so thankful that I don't have to live, or die, through that.

I'm trying to contain my excitement, but boy am I so stinking pumped. I'm not going at midnight, so if anyone wants to go on Saturday, let me know!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Saturday Night in K-Town

Saturday in Knoxville was a super fun day as well. Kaitlin had super early breakfast plans, so I stayed at the house and piddled until it was my turn to go to breakfast.

My friend Matt has been an amazing person in my life since I was a freshman in college. We had English comp together, and then realized that we had lived down the road from each other our whole lives! Whenever we are in the same city, we try to meet up and catch up as much as we can. He is student teaching right now, so we usually end up talking about lesson plans and students behavior. I'm sure you would really love to sit in on our conversations!

Matt and I at a UT football game
Matt took me to this incredible breakfast spot, and we ended up talking for about 2 hours. I shared a lot of things that were going on, and he was nothing but encouraging. I felt so much better after talking to him about several personal issues. He's a guy that I know will always be just a phone call away.

Silly me, right after the huge breakfast, I schedule a lunch date with one of my sorority sisters, Amber. I ended up just getting a small plate of rice, but thoroughly enjoyed the conversation we shared. We reminisced about mixers and date parties, and talked about what our futures held for the both of us.

Before a Risky Business mixer

After lunch with her, I met up for coffee with another sorority sister, Sarah. Sarah is one of the people I admire the most. She is a dedicated runner (I'm talking half marathons, and I'm pretty sure she ran a full), incredible woman of the Lord, and a soon-to-be wife. Sarah and I did All Sing together, which is a campus wide singing competition. We connected on our mutual hatred for the competition, as well as our mutual love for the Lord. When we met, we talked about the incredible ways that God was moving in our lives. Ways that we would never have imagined. I absolutely loved hearing about wedding plans, and how her student teaching is going, and how the Lord is revealing Himself to her. I hate that I only get to see her once every blue moon, but it was so great to sit and catch up with her as well.

After the long morning that Kaitlin and I both had, we decided to go to the house and rest for a minute, and freshen up before it was time to do something later that night. We ended up catching the girl staying with us and talked to her for a long time. Then there was the saga about dinner. Kaitlin really wanted sushi, but I don't eat sushi. We tried to find a place that served sushi and hibachi so that I could have something too. We tried two restaurants before we decided on one in Market Square. I have no idea what the name of it was, nor do I really recommend it. Kaitlin really like the sushi, but my food was not very good.

We decided to hit up the old city again that night, but it was not near as fun as the first night. It was extremely crowded and quite strange. But I did get to run in to ANOTHER sorority sister, whom I love so dearly! Courtney and I also met through All Sing, then randomly became pretty good friends at some point. She is so great and I am blessed to have her in my life.

Courtney and I

Kaitlin and I left at 6:00 am the next morning to head back to Nashville. As much fun as Knoxville was, we were exhausted after go-go-going all weekend long.

I got the pleasure of attending a wedding shower Sunday afternoon for some friends. It was so great to be around old friends and reconnect and talk about where our lives had led. Two families even offered to host me for dinner! I guess they could tell that all I eat is sandwiches and never cook. BUT I'm doing better about that! I'm actually cooking tacos tonight!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Rocky Top... You'll Always Be

Home sweet home to me.

And that was true this weekend. I had been feeling a little anxiety about being in Nashville for so long, so my good friend Kaitlin and I decided to go on a miniature road trip to Knoxville. It was much needed for both us, but we knew our lives would be crazy for the two days we would be there.

We left at 8 am on Friday morning and made the trek towards K-town. Kaitlin and I have been friends since we were 5, but have gotten a lot closer in the past few months. She attends Cross Point church with me, so I get to spend some time with her every Sunday night. The car ride flew by as we talked about everything from where we wanted to eat lunch to some deep aspects of our faith. We were so excited to arrive, but I really cherished the three hours we got to spend together. And of course, there was some really great singing involved. :)

Kaitlin and I

We got to Knoxville and decided to eat at Firehouse Subs. I do love that place, and now they have these incredible drink machines that are touch screen. You can pretty much make any concoction of beverage you can dream of. So yummy.

One of Kaitlin's friends was kind enough to allow us to stay at her apartment. After lunch, we went over there and spent some time with her and heard all about her life. It was really great for them to catch up, and I enjoyed getting to know her better. We got ready for the rest of the day, and went to meet up with one of our friends from college.

I have known Philip since I was a measly little Freshman in college. We went through the PR program together, and ended up becoming pretty close friends. Over the summer, we spent quite a bit of time together reconnecting and learning about each others lives. It was really great to just sit down with him and hear about how things are going. He is also in a band, The Black Cadillacs. He has a great heart, and I'm blessed to have spent some time with him.

Philip and I after one of his shows a while back

After meeting up with Phil, we went to Starbucks so Kaitlin could chat with a friend of hers. I sat int he corner thinking I would do some much needed work, but the curse of free Wi-fi got me and I spent the entire hour doing things that were extremely unimportant. It was still great just to relax and drink some yummy coffee.

We got hungry pretty quickly, so we ventured down to Market Square to grab some food. After going in 34231345 restaurants and trying to decide where to go, we settled on Oodles. If you live in Knoxville and haven't been there, I definitely recommend it. During our light-hearted dinner talk, Kaitlin and I begin to talk in a very raw fashion. She knows a lot about what is going on in my life, and we began sharing many of our struggles that are difficult. Really heavy dinner conversation, but so so great to talk in such a raw fashion.

We ate, then moseyed on over to the Bijou Theatre to see The Black Cadillacs and The Dirty Guv's. Both of these groups are Knoxville bands that we have grown to love over the years. It was a terribly fun show!

The Guvs!

The Black Cadillacs

We decided to go to the Old City, which is downtown Knoxville, after the show. All I can say is wow... So many random people that we could not contain our laughter. From a 40 year old man with jeans tighter than mine, to a birthday girl that gave us stick on tattoos, to some crazy people rocking it on the dance floor. We had a great time watching these characters and listening to lots of cool music.

This post is long enough, so I'll post about Saturday later on.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Happy Birthday Sweet Baby

Today would have been Melissa Hope's 2nd birthday. I always thought that on this day, I would be celebrating with her, and the Chapman's, the family that was in the process of adopting her. God had other plans.

I will never forget Melissa and the impact she had on my life. You can read about that here and here.

This has been an especially hard day, but I have felt God's presence so strong and He is giving me peace as I continue this journey. One of the songs that really helped me get through this time was By Your Side by Tenth Avenue North. Here are some of the lyrics:

And I'll be by your side Wherever you fall In the dead of night Whenever you call And please don't fight These hands that are holding you My hands are holding you Look at these hands and my side They swallowed the grave on that night When I drank the world's sin So I could carry you in And give you life I want to give you life Cause I, I love you I want you to know That I, I love you I'll never let you go
On my way to work this morning, this song played on the radio. I knew that God was speaking to my heart and reminding me that He was here for me and was going to get me through this day. Then, we had chapel this morning and the first song the praise band played was this song. I began to tear up, but tried to hold it together. I just closed my eyes and felt God's presence all around me.

As sad as I am that I don't get to hug her and hold her, I know that she impacted so many, and that God will use her story for years to come. But even knowing that doesn't necessarily make it any easier. I covet your prayers as I continue about this day.

Monday, January 16, 2012

That One Star Flag State

My roommate, Michelle, and I decided we needed a little vacation. So in October, we found a cheap flight and went to Dallas, Texas. We had no expectations, and no plans, except for a concert on Saturday night. We flew in on Thursday and went straight to our hotel.

Cue creepy thrasher movie music. Our hotel was a bit terrifying, but what can you expect from a cheap flight + hotel combination. We grabbed some food at a local Mexican restaurant and then decided to go to Billy Bob’s, which is a famous nightclub in Ft. Worth. We were expecting it to be kind of like the Wildhorse in Nashville, but boy, we were wrong! Ever heard of the Texas two-step? That is was EVERYONE was doing. It was really fun to watch then twirl and spin and dip, but it got boring after a little while. Apparently, this dance is in everyone’s blood. No beginners were on the floor, just seasoned veterans. We left after a little while and decided that we really needed to learn how to two-step.

Friday we woke up and headed to Dallas. We rode the downtown Trolley and ate at a yummy Chinese restaurant called Lovers Egg Roll. I could eat that every day.

After riding around on the trolley, we decided to go to a pumpkin festival! It reminded me of Cheekwood. There were so many pumpkins! We even found an orange and white house!

After walking around for a while, we decided to go see Cowboy stadium. Who wouldn’t want to see where the Cowboys play! Sadly, there is nothing on the stadium that even says “Dallas Cowboys.” It was a major letdown.

Right next to Cowboy Stadium was Ranger Stadium, where the Texas Rangers baseball team plays. The Rangers were one game away from going to the World Series, so it was pretty cool to see where they play. The stadium was super nice. After adventuring around the stadiums, we headed to Arlington to see what it was like. We detoured and say Dallas Baptist University. Such a little school, but extremely nice. On our way to Arlington, we heard on the radio that Chris Young would be playing for ten dollars! You better believe that we planned on doing that for the night! Before we did that, we drove around University of Texas, Arlington. We weren’t really impressed with the school. We decided on some Mexican food again, then headed to the concert.

I officially LOVE Chris Young. He was so great! We had a really great time at the concert. I looked at my phone when we left and I had a text from a random Nashville number that said “what are you doing in my city?” Creepy! I found out it was an old high school friend, and he wanted to meet up the next day. UT was playing so we decided on going to Buffalo Wild Wings and watching part of the game. Before we met up with him we went to see Gaylord Texas and Grapevine Mills. We had the best barbeque we had ever tasted and realized that Texas had a bit of a Nashville feel to it.

We raced back home to get ready for Ranch Bash, a huge festival in Fort Worth with Casey Donahew. It was so fun, but extremely crowded. It really made me appreciate Texas country music a whole lot more.

Overall, it was a really fun trip, and I would love to go back any time.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Moo Boo

Melissa Hope. A lot of you know my personal journey with this amazing little girl. When I moved to Haiti, I never expected to do many of the things I did. I went down with an eager heart to serve a people group to the best of my ability. I went to Haiti with a fear of caring for children, but God knew exactly what He was doing when He placed me in Haiti.

After doing volunteer work for a few weeks, Quisqueya Christian School offered me a full-time teaching position at their school. QCS is a unique school, in that it was originally meant to educate children of missionary families, but has turned in to a school where many Haitians want their to kids to learn. QCS offers a top-notch education in English, and I was honored to be on staff. I had never taught before, so the learning curve was steep. I was lucky to have such great support at the school to help me learn as I was teaching.

My main goal with my students was to invest in their lives and let them know I really care, while teaching them about the incredible authors and works of literature that I have loved. Leaving there was one of the hardest things I have ever done, and I think about my students daily.

If having a brand new job wasn’t enough of an adjustment in a foreign, third world country, Melissa came in to the picture. After Melissa was abandoned, I somehow opened my mouth to say that I would care for her. I thought caring for her meant a couple of days or weeks, and at the time, I didn’t realize that I would end up caring for her for 5 months and think of her as my child.

She was about 6 months old when she was abandoned, but was the size of a tiny newborn, suffering from a heart defect, Down’s syndrome, and malnutrition. In my short time with her, I learned more about myself than I could in any other situation.

I thought I was incapable of taking care of a child. The Lord made me capable. I was terrified to be her caregiver. The Lord calmed my fears. Many times I said, “I can’t do this! I’m 23!” The Lord matured me and reminded me that He was working through me. I didn’t know how to change a diaper, fix a bottle, or love a child. With the help of some friends and a lot of prayer, I learned all of those skills.

Melissa changed my life in a drastic way. I loved her with everything in me, and even though she couldn’t “love me back,” it was enough to know that she was changing my life. It was incredible to see her mimic some of the faces I would make to her. And who knew that I could talk to a baby! I sure didn’t.

When I moved into an apartment on campus, I was devastated to leave my Melissa Hope. In those few months, she became a child of mine, and I loved her as a mother loves a daughter. It basically ripped my heart knowing I wouldn’t see her as often. Little did I know I would only get five more minutes with her.

Jenny Chapman was in the process of adopting Melissa Hope. She had been doing everything in her power to get Melissa home, but kept hitting snags. When I left Haiti in May, all I could think about was getting to see Melissa more often once she was home with Jenny in Alabama. A short drive, and I would be reunited with this child that I loved. On September 5th, I was on my way home from a canoe trip with my church. I checked my Facebook and I had a message from Jenny saying, “Call me ASAP.” In my head I was hoping she was going to tell me that Melissa was coming home, but in my heart, I knew that would not be the case.

The night before, we had a worship night, and I couldn’t stop crying. If you know me at all, you know that I NEVER cry. I think my tear ducts have dried up. I had no idea why water was flowing my eyes, but now I believe that God was preparing my heart for what I was about to hear.

I called Jenny, and from the moment she answered the phone, I knew something was wrong. She put it plainly and softly said, “Melissa died this afternoon.” My head started spinning and I started to cry uncontrollably. My heart felt like it was broken in half, and I couldn’t even breathe. I didn’t want to believe it. I wanted it to be false. Jenny explained to me what happened, but I didn’t comprehend it very well. As far as I knew, her oxygen level had dropped, and she passed away peacefully.

I don’t understand it. I’m not sure I even believe it as true. I keep thinking that I’ll get to go down to Alabama for her homecoming and spend more time with her. It’s so surreal, and the hardest death I’ve had to face thus far.

So where do I go from here? Some days I’m paralyzed by the fear that I have. I loved Melissa with my entire heart, and now she’s gone. As much as the pain is still there, I have to remember the amazing things that Melissa did in her short life.

She changed my life. She changed a lot of other people’s lives too. If her only purpose in her 18 months of life was to radically change my life, then I can rejoice in her death, because she definitely fulfilled that purpose. I’m not sure I knew what it meant to love until I loved that child.

I’m definitely one to say, “I love you!” to everyone that I know. I want people to know that I care about them, and I try to invest in others lives. Since knowing Melissa, that is even more true now.

As much as it sucks to know that I’ll never see her again, her story will live on for years. She was a very special little girl, and I have no doubt that hundreds of people will carry on her story. The Lord has blessed me with the opportunity of caring for her, and I am so thankful that He allowed me to do that. As much as I said, “I can’t do this!” He has proved faithful and will continue to help me every step of the way.