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September 2015

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Southern Comfort Zone

So tonight I ugly cried. In no way shape or form did I look beautiful while I cried but every single one of those tears was beautiful. This cry was one of grief, one of realization and one of utter joy and beauty. Anyone who knows me knows I am a crier–I cry all the time, happy things or sad things, it doesn’t matter I cry. So for me to have moved from my comfort zone and into a very different country and this be the first time I have cried, it is pretty shocking. And do you want to know what made me cry? Have you ever heard Brad Paisley’s “Southern Comfort Zone?” I was listening to music as I worked on my French translation and this song randomly came on. And as I listened to the sound clips from the Andy Griffith show and listened to the lyrics, I was hit with a moment of realization that this describes what I am going through perfectly.

I am from the South, I love biscuits (I mean the big fluffy ones you can get from Bojangles not the delicious cookie I eat with my tea here) and I love who that sound clip from Andy Griffith reminded me of, my BigDad. That song brought up all the beautiful memories of my childhood growing up in the very unique and truly wonderful South. My mind crossed over the ocean of life that I have lived in just 22 years. I saw glimpses of my childhood, my high school years and my most recent college years. I saw and remembered many people who have left their hand-prints on my heart and felt the love that is warmed by their hand-prints. I was reminded of the bitter-sweetness of some hand-prints. I was reminded of the bitter taste that this beautiful world can have and I was reminded of the sugary sweetness this world can hold as well. I was rejoicing while also grieving the shedding of who I once was so I can live fully into the new woman I am/becoming.

This song reminded me that my memories have added a distinct flavor into this life. I realized that I am ready to turn the page on the last chapter and enter into this new chapter that God has so beautifully designed for me. I have realized that it does not mean that those memories are gone, no it reminds me that memories are what sweeten and flavorize life. Memories are the spices, salts and sugars that are added into the delicacy of life. They are what shape us and shape this life into a masterpiece that is all our own.

As I ugly cried I had a beautiful revelation: I have these incredible memories from my childhood, growing up and going to college but I am in this new stage of memory making. A stage that is me set out on my own with God. In a wonderful place that is absolutely where I am meant to be. A stage that has already created memories that I will smile about for years to come. So just as those memories that my family, friends, childhood, Charleston, PC and I have created make my heart smile I know that these new memories, though flavored differently, will and are making my heart smile. I am glad I finally let it out. It has been a rich emotional moment of simply recognizing life for the incredibly difficult, incredibly spectacular, glorious mess it is.

And maybe one day as I am talking to my baby as they are on their own adventure, I will look back on these memories and will remember just how overwhelming and rewarding it all is and my heart will smile. My life is forever being changed and it is priceless to be experiencing it. God is truly writing me an incredible story and I am so thankful.

Brad Paisley’s “Southern Comfort Zone”

“And I Miss my Tennessee home
I can see the ways that I have grown
I can’t see this world unless I go
Outside my Southern Comfort Zone

I miss your biscuits and your gravy
Fireflies dancing in the night
You have fed me, You have saved me
Billy Graham and Martha White

I have since become a drifter
And I just can’t wait to pack
Cause I know the route I leave on
It will always bring me back”

2 Corinthians 5:17

“So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new.”

Open your hearts to all the messy feelings. Allow yourselves to enjoy your memories and to maybe ugly cry, tears can bring a unique healing. Be blessed my friends, love with all you have and spread kindness. May the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

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It’s Hard but…

I am going to be honest, it is hard. It is hard to be so far away from my family. It is hard to walk around and explore a new town in a new country without someone familiar to share it with. It is hard to undergo this gradual transformation, growth and discovery without the people who could really recognize the shift. It is hard to walk into a store I know my Mom would love and not being able to share that moment with her. It is hard to be alone in a foreign land.

BUT, it is sweet. I told my friend yesterday, as we sat in our own rooms in two different counties on two different continents, over Facetime that the hard things in life are still difficult but they have lost their bitterness. Since I have invited God into every aspect of my heart and life, all the good moments and all the bad moments, the hardness of life has lost its bitterness and has gained a sweetness that only God can provide. My faith doesn’t make the hard things any less hard, it just makes them so much more worth it and it makes me stronger and more capable to cope with the difficulties in life. I am continuously being shaped, at every moment of every day. And even when I forget that I am not really in control, I can feel God’s hand molding and shaping me.

Something has shifted in me, I think its a combination of many different factors: a breakup I went through right before I graduated, the trial of being at PC (a place that while so wonderful was also a trial all four years for me socially) after that breakup, the liberation and joy of graduation, the head on challenge with my insecurities, the self love workshop that my summer turned into, ultimately ending in my departure and arrival in Scotland. All of these factors combined with a whole lot of faith exercises launched me into this new realm of self. As I FaceTimed with my friend yesterday, I realized that I was positive, that I was all about butterflies and sunshine that I had finally become a truly peppy person. And I love it! Life is not a perfect picture; it is messy, scary, dirty, emotional BUT absolutely mindbogglingly beautiful! Life was never meant to be only pretty in a picture. It was meant to be spectacularly, take your breath away beautiful. And that is what I have decided to try and live out each and everyday. My family gets mad with me because I forget to take pictures when I travel, but the pictures never turn up as beautiful as the real life experience. Its a cheapened version of the real thing, and I don’t like wasting precious moments of enjoying the real beauty, by trying to take the perfect photo.

Perfection is only allusion. And allusion that I have stopped wanting to portray. Life is hard, it is not a perfect picture. But its the rocky roads, the uphill battles, the sweet moments of peace and the incredible joys that make life so wonderful to live. Friends, take a moment today to live. Let all of life’s ups and downs mix together in the presence of the Lord and see just how beautiful life can be.

So yes, I am doing well! Yes, I love Scotland and never want to leave. But yes, it is hard. This is a personal struggle that I am dealing with everyday, but trusting and allowing God to make it something that will always be a shining star in my life. Life is a combination of the good and bad, and it is how we allow ourselves to react to both the good and bad that determines our life. Invite God into your hearts and fully into every crevice of your life and see just how beautiful this life is–it just might take your breath away.

Genesis 1:31

“God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good.”

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The Odd One Out

Many of you know that I have moved to Scotland to pursue my masters in history. I never would have guessed that I would do something quite this big, that I would leave the safety net and move halfway across the world, I never thought I would have enough faith to do something this big. And then I did it. I got onto a plane and flew to a different country, alone. But I clearly wasn’t really alone–I am never alone. God promised me that he would be with me every step of the way and that I would be okay. Even then it was hard to get on a plane, fly to a foreign country, make my way to a cab, maneuver around a city, stay in a hotel and make it to my school and get settled. But can I just tell you friends, God truly was with me. Every little prayer about every little thing was answered. I in no way believe in a genie God but in every way believe in a faithful God. God was faithful, faithfully helping me tackle every little thing that I needed to do.

I know we have all felt like the odd one out at some point in time and, for lack of a better word, it sucks. It is hard to come to a school and not be a freshmen but not be a returning student, you’re stuck somewhere in between. It is hard to be the, seemingly, only person who believes/worships God. It is hard to be so far away from home. And miraculously I have handled this transition fairly well. Has it been perfect? Absolutely not. There was a moment last week when I had a little cry session to a very kind police officer and a very kind Scottish lady. But guess what, now that I look back on that time I realize that God was so faithful, putting kindhearted people directly in my pathway. Like my new friend, I had only known for about 3 days, who sat me down in her apartment and made me dinner. Kindness, whether expressed in a situation of faith or just as a genuine act is a beautiful language and we all need to strive to be more fluent. I barely knew these people, and even if they may not believe in God or maybe do, I know that God put them in my life at precisely the right moment, knowing I would need some coddling.

It is okay to be the odd one out. It is good for us to be placed in a situation where we are challenged. It is amazing what happens when we are forced to be vulnerable. For me, I have learned a very valuable lesson, be kind to others. Share love, it does not matter if our beliefs are different, love and kindness are universal languages that everyone can relate to. That day could have been a truly awful one but it turned into something much better, because people chose to be kind.

N. T. Wright has a beautiful quote that I discovered my last semester of undergrad, and I just believe it really puts things into perspective:

“Love is the language they speak in God’s world, and we are summoned to learn it against the day when God’s world and ours will be brought together forever. It is the music they make in God’s courts, and we are invited to learn it and practice it in advance. Love is not a duty,even our highest duty, it is our destiny (After You Believe, 188).

This has become one of my favorite quotes. Brothers and sisters, let us please just love and be kind to one another. I cannot express how thankful I am to those who were so kind to me during a time that I desperately needed it. And I know that God heard my prayer that day and put some wonderful people directly in my path.

May the peace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.