Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Currently Reading

I am a book nerd. I love to read. Love, love, love to read! Over the past few years, I've really discovered what genres I like to read and I tend to buy any and every good book I can get my hands on. I am known for reading nonfiction, memoirs, and youth fiction. Yes, youth fiction. I missed out on a lot of good books in my middle school/high school years, so I've recently fallen completely in love with books like Tuck Everlasting, Nightjohn, and The Giver.

Books are expensive and, lately, my collection has been at a standstill. Like most book-lovers, I buy more than I can read - especially if I can get books at a great price. Ed McCay in Greensboro, NC is one of my favorite bookstores. I bought six or seven books there when I visited in March and only spent about $35-40. Garage sales are great places to find good books - I bought a whole collection of Shakespearean plays for 25 cents each. Now, I will probably never read all of those (though I do love to read "A Midsummer Night's Dream"!) but they do look good on my shelf!

Anyway, this summer, I was on a mission to read. I read a lot last semester because I was in a children's literature course. I did love the books I was reading, but found that I didn't have time for any outside reading. So, it seemed like a summer full of free time would be a perfect time to catch up on books I've bought but hadn't read yet.


I think I read two books in May and then.... NOTHING. Nothing in June OR July! Part of the problem was that I wanted to read a specific book, but couldn't get my hands on a copy. I'd try to start another book and then realize that, no, I wanted to read the other book. Being the cheapskate that I am, I refused to buy it full-price. But, the library didn't have a copy, either. I tried to borrow a copy from my pastor, but he didn't have the book. I was stumped.

And then, one day, as I was browsing a consignment store, there it was! Respectable Sins: The Sins We Tolerate by Jerry Bridges... AND the discussion guide! I bought both books (which were in BRAND new condition) for less than $5, for a total savings of about $30. That made me super happy. I am already in love with the book... the topic is so heavy and something I have been needing to hear.

So, I just started reading it and THEN.... Then, I watched an episode of Oprah. One of her guests, a Rhodes Scholar named Wes Moore was telling his story of his fatherless childhood in Brooklyn and how he rose up from a crime- and drug-infested neighborhood to being a White House Fellow and studying at Oxford University. What's so interesting is that there is another Wes Moore from Baltimore who is around the same age and grew up in a similar family, similar neighborhood and is incarcerated for life for the murder of a police seargeant. How is it that these two men have the same exact name and incredibly similar childhoods but have drastically different lives? I'm going to find out because I bought Moore's book (The Rhodes Scholar) The Other Wes Moore for my birthday.

I've gone from reading zero. Zilch. Nada. Nothing. To reading two books. While I'm at the start of a busy semester. Welcome to my life.

I guess I should stop typing and go read!!

Friday, August 20, 2010


Most of you who will read this know that I recently turned 25. I have said this a thousand times before so I won't belabor the point, but I am not at all where I imagined I would be at 25! I had this perfect plan - graduate from college at 21 (ha! what a dream!), get married at 22, and start having babies around 24. Needless to say, those things haven't happened the way I planned and I'm quite grateful it didn't work out my way. If I'd married who I was dating at 21, well... we would've been in a world of trouble.

What I've noticed about getting older is that I am getting better about knowing what I value and then making those things my priority. Life feels more "real" and like I have more responsibility. Over the past several months, I've really learned about making personal boundaries which has changed my life dramatically. I am still in the hyper-boundary-setting stage (where I am setting up electric fences - don't mess with my boundary!!) but I will eventually find a balance that works for me. But, I'm finally learning that I can say "no" to people and not feel guilty about it. Want me to go out with you every night until 2am? No. Want me to volunteer for six different activities a week? No. Want me to let you borrow my homework? No. Want to let you plan my wedding? No. :) No, no, no! It feels SOOOOO good to say that word!!

But, I am also saying YES to a lot of things!!! During my summer internship, our pastor, Jon Quitt, emphasized and re-emphasized this invaluable quote: "Vision is knowing who you are, but also who you are not." You can have that one for free. :) Once I can establish who I am and what my "purpose" is, I can also establish who I am not and the things that I am not "led" to do. I have permission to start saying "no" to the things that will take away from the things I should be saying "yes" to.

When I focus on my "calling" (I hate those terms!), then I find myself happier, more peaceful, more challenged, and more in love with life. I LOVE teaching. I love teaching so much that I am going into debt with the federal government so that I can be a teacher. I am sacrificing well over $40,000 (I'm including all the money I'll have to spend of my personal money to run my classroom) to take a career that will get me $35-45K per year. I'm spending three days a week (24 hours - that's a part time job!) teaching in a classroom and then going to class (15 hours!) two days a week. Basically, school is my full-time job right now! Then, when you add my invovlement in the worship team, kids' program, commitment to Bible study and memorizing verses, outreach programs, helping Blake with youth, co-leading a small group, planning a wedding, and still trying to see our family & friends... I'm exhausted just thinking about it!

This semester, more than any semester before, I am going to have to say "no" to a lot of things. And I won't lie, saying "no" is hard! I feel like I'm missing out on things. But, what I know is that I am saying "yes" to my passions, to things that God has called me to. There is nothing better to say "yes" to than those things! Anything that hinders or impairs the things I mentioned above will just have to come last on my list of priorities. And even those things are prioritized!

My goal in life is not to be one of those people who boasts about being super busy so that I feel important. Not. at. all. In fact, I hate being super busy! But, this is a period of my life where there's just no way around the busy-ness, so... I'm just going to have to deal. At 25, I am much better at handling my priorities than I was at 20. I used to cry out of tiredness because I was taking 12-15 hours and then working 20-25 hours at the bookstore. Psh! I wish I could go back to that time - my schedule was so easy! But, I guess growing up will do that to you. I love growing up. I love learning. And, so far, I love being 25.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Saving Money, Senior Year, and.... Getting Married

Saving Money:

Today, Blake and I tried our hand at "extreme couponing." We scoured the sale papers, cut coupons (okay, by "we," I mean "I" - Blake just did the shopping!), and made lists of everything we could get and what coupons we had to get it. We went to three different stores... Target was a bust. I accidentally confused last week's sale paper with this week and thought we'd get a deal on something, but we didn't. I was bummed, ready to quit. Then, we went to CVS - I spent $15 and saved $14. That's a win! I got two $5 Oral-B toothbrushes for just $2.49! That alone is a savings of $7.50! Then, we hit up The Pub(lix). I spent $103, saved $40. Blake spent $86, saved $38. I'll take that! For our first go round at "real" coupon using, I think we did quite well. I can't wait to try again next week!

Senior Year:

It just hit me that Wednesday (which is also my 25th birthday) will be my first last day of classes for my undergrad. This semester, I will have classes two days a week and I will teach in an elementary classroom three full days a week (24hrs/wk). Needless to say, the semester will be busy! In January, I will start a full-time internship at an elementary school. In May, I will graduate! And, Lord willing, next summer I will be preparing for a classroom of my own! It's exciting to think about all the things that will happen in the next year - graduating, getting a job, and getting married! I almost convinced myself that Blake & I should start trying to have a baby sometime soon after we get married... it took me all of about 25 minutes to re-think that idea. :)

Getting Married:

Last Wednesday, Blake & I booked our caterer and decorator/florist. At the end of the day, I felt EXTREMELY productive! We have a location, pastors, a wedding party (though not entirely complete b/c we haven't picked a flower girl or ring bearer!), a photographer, a cake, my dress, a caterer, and now a decorator/florist, plus the 100000 friends who have said they want to help us! That's a lot!

Then I remembered how many more things have to get done before June 25! Bridesmaid's dresses and shoes, groomsmen's tuxes, videographer, games/entertainment, rehearsal dinner, invitations, thank you cards, registering, planning a honeymoon... the list goes on and on.

Though it's a lot, I know it will all get done and it's fun work. Even when it's stressful, it's fun because I know that at around 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, June 25th, I will have not just A husband, but THE best husband that God could've sent to me!!

Those are all the updates for this week!

Monday, August 9, 2010


Every now and then, God sends me a little reminder of what He's up to. He does this for everyone, but I like to pretend I'm unique, okay? The past week has been full of reminders.

I planned on writing this long explanation of these reminders, but I'll just say this: All that really matters in this world is Jesus Christ.


Leading worship is such an honor... my favorite place to be on Sunday morning is on stage. Not because I like being on stage, but because it gives me the opportunity to see each and every face worshiping at the Vineyard. Yesterday, I saw some faces that brought tears to my eyes.

I won't go into detail, except to say this: All we have to do is do what God is telling us to do when He tells us to do it. When we tap in to what He's already doing and just partner with Him, things happen. Miracles happen. People find salvation. People find hope and community.

What a wonderful reminder.

Monday, August 2, 2010

The End...

This summer, I had the opportunity to serve as an intern at my church (Vineyard Community Church) here in Tuscaloosa. I debated for a few weeks about whether or not to submit my application, and I think I even submitted my application on the deadline. Not that I was wavering between wanting and not wanting to learn about ministry, but because I knew it would be difficult and that there would be much required of me. James 3:1 warns us, "Not many of you should presume to be teachers [leaders], my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly."

Thanks, James, for that encouragement... But, his words are true - and rightfully so. And that's what scared me. Big time.

But, I turned the application in and started working as an intern around eight weeks ago. I've been through the gamut of emotions regarding ministry. Excitement, enthrallment, disillusionment, challenge, heartache, frustration, comfort, confusion, awe, joy... you name it, I probably experienced it. I cleaned the church, planned & implemented outreach projects, worked on the website, meet with newcomers, put together communication stuff, led a small group, started another group, went to meetings... and I got engaged right in the middle of it all!!! I really got to jump in and get right in the middle of ministry and loved every moment (even the moments where I thought I'd never want to go to church again because I was so tired!).

The biggest challenge of the internship was something rather unexpected. About half-way through the internship, I started having real trouble keeping up with my memory verses and Bible study. WHAT!? I would go a few days without cracking open the good old B-I-B-L-E! It was such a struggle and the feeling of not wanting to spend time in the Word was the hardest part of the whole summer. I felt like I was really being tested and Satan was feeding me all sorts of lies and half-truths. I was feeling like such a hypocrite. Thankfully, though, I was surrounded by incredibly encouraging people who offered advice and encouragement and helped me get back in the groove.

Anyway, every single struggle or tear or bit of frustration was confirmed yesterday. I knew that all my work would be worth it before I even started the internship because ministry is always worth it and "results" aren't always immediately seen. But, yesterday was a huge blessing and confirmation that everything I went through this summer was for a purpose because it was for the work of God's kingdom.

Yesterday, Jon Handy & I had the honor of teaching the entire church. We talked about service & evangelism, something that we worked on a lot this summer. Right in the middle of my part of the talk, a HUGE group of people (two adults and 8 or 9 kids) that we had met through a recent outreach project showed up at church. I knew they were planning on coming, but after I didn't see them around 10:30, I assumed they weren't going to make it.

But, God had a surprise planned... and they were it. I wanted to drop the microphone, run and hug them, and cry. I was just so happy to see them, so happy to know that God was watching what we were doing, and that He sent THEM to ME to affirm what the Lord has been doing in and through me all summer.

In the end, all the hard work was worth it. God is moving in our church and in our city and it is such an honor to be a part of what He's doing. I can't wait to see what's next.