1. I am currently lying in bed listening to the hum of the new window AC unit Justin installed today. It isn’t pretty, but it’s a blessing during these hot summer months. Out of the corner of my eye, I can see the glowing flicker of a pumpkin pecan waffle scented candle against the wall. The label of the candle says “Flipping Awesome” which only makes me love it more. There’s also a small lamp lit in the opposite corner of the bedroom. Still, the room is dim. I’m tucked beneath a simple patterned quilt and atop freshly laundered sheets.I tried to make Justin come lay in here beside me so he could appreciate how cozy it really is, but he was preoccupied and- to tell the truth- I’m not sure if it would have been the same with someone else in here anyway. I took my Bible out instead and enjoyed what felt like a retreat with God. I just can’t get over how blessed I am… to know Him, to have found the beauty in these still moments, and to have become intentional about scheduling them. #simplejoys
2. The past month has been one of the craziest that I can remember. With the start of a new school year, I became busy with decorating my classroom, preparing lesson plans, and welcoming a new class of 18 third graders. School began on a Wednesday, so for the first three days I poured my heart into making those sweet babes feel welcome and loved. I started the next week- the first full week of school- with a solar eclipse and ended it with Hurricane Harvey. Flooding from Hurricane Harvey prevented our buses from being able to reach some school campuses, so school was cancelled the following Monday. When we returned on Tuesday we had health screenings scheduled for the remainder of the week, so I taught what I could around them. It was a very disrupted schedule. The following week was Labor Day, so again we had Monday off of school. Tuesday, after learning that Hurricane Irma had strengthened to a category 5 storm with the eye predicted to pass right over our hometown, Justin and I made the spontaneous decision to evacuate. We helped to hurricane-proof my parents home as quickly as we could, packed a single suitcase for the two of us, and then set out on the road by midnight. School was cancelled Wednesday-Friday due to the storm, so I only missed a day of work. We drove straight through the night until we reached Knoxville, Tennessee. Because the path of Hurricane Irma went straight up the middle of the state, nearly all Florida gas stations were without gas. The day after we left, we heard that the interstates throughout Florida and Georgia were so crowded that it had become a 20 hour drive just to get out of the state of Florida. For us it had been about 6. We were so blessed to leave when we did. We spent the next 8 days in Tennessee, closely monitoring the weather channel and praying for friends and family who had made the decision to hunker down.
When we returned home- once we were sure we could find the gas to make it- we returned to a home without power and, even worse, without air conditioning. If you’ve visited Florida in the summer months before, you know what I’m talking about. The inside of our house reached temperatures above 100 degrees. We took showers in the cold rainwater pouring through the place in the soffit where Hurricane Irma had ripped away one of our gutters. Then we went to bed with wet hair, hoping it would be enough to cool us down to sleep peacefully. Justin thought it would be funny to Snapchat me under that stream of water in my sports bra and gym shorts, hair all lathered up with shampoo, and submit it to the official Hurricane Irma story. I panicked a little reminding him I had students and students’ parents who could be watching, and then he panicked trying to figure out how to erase the short video from Snapchat. He figured it out, but kept a copy of the video on his phone that he’s been showing to family. When Justin’s grandmother got her power back before us, we spent a few nights with her and finally returned home two nights ago to face the task of cleaning up and addressing damages. Tomorrow is the first day that I’ll return to work in over 2 weeks. On Monday my students will be back.
Through all of this craziness, you might have thought that my To Do list would have grown twice the length. That I would have tacked on additional projects and repairs to a list of things I was already responsible for. That I would have worn myself out trying to get back to normal. Surprisingly, that wasn’t what happened. In the midst of all this commotion, I had a moment of clarity. Kind of like the eye of the hurricane- which did end up passing straight over my hometown, by the way. The eye, or the true center of the hurricane, is a profound place. Though the winds swirl and cause destruction all around, there is a stillness at the center. A few moments of calmness. It’s beautiful, in an eerie way.
In all of our packing and evacuating, our sharing hotel rooms and prayer requests, our rainfall showers and couch-surfing, our making plans and changing plans, I realized I had become bound by a routine. I saw an opportunity to let God change that in me too. I surrendered the idea of routine altogether and gave Him any moment of my day that He asked for. I learned how to stand right up in the middle of a hotel room full of friends and dismiss myself to be alone with God. And in doing so, I learned how to better support my friends and family through this devastation. I learned how to rely on God alone too. It was the first time I was going to be without my family through a major event, and although I lost my peace when they first announced they weren’t evacuating, I quickly found it in God. I trusted that they would be alright. And they were. Three days later they decided they would evacuate after all, and I didn’t even have to spend those 3 days trying to convince them and getting sick with anxiety. The Lord showed me He truly has us in His hands. When I worry, I suffer unnecessarily.
So, though I’m ready to get back to my students and to get into a routine with them, I’m not going to be devastated when it’s interrupted again. Instead, I’m going to know to keep my eyes open for what God wants to do this time.
3. When Justin and I evacuated to Knoxville, Tennessee we shared a hotel room with six other friends from church. All of the guys shared one hotel room (with our hound, Tally, too) and all of the girls shared another (with a friend’s cat named Riley). The two rooms had an adjoining door, so we were able to travel back and forth throughout the week and visit with one another. It was so much fun to spend time in a new city with friends we love so much. Not many of the activities we did cost any money (we made sure of that since the trip hadn’t been planned or budgeted for prior to the day we left), but that doesn’t mean it was any less amazing! We toured the University of Tennesee and even picked up Vols shirts for Saturday’s game. We enjoyed a local farmers market one morning, visited the botanical gardens, hiked along the Blue Ridge Parkway, climbed a waterfall, walked the streets of downtown Knoxville, explored a few antique malls, and sampled so many Southern treats including ice cream from the Cruze Dairy Farm’s ice cream parlor, which is only open seasonally. We made it there the day before they closed down for the winter. SCORE!
4. I am loving Justin with a new intensity lately! I mean, all the time. God strengthens my love and respect for him every day, but in the last few weeks it’s increasing rapidly. Before leaving for Tennessee, Justin helped my parents to put up their hurricane shutters, take in all of their outside furniture and décor, and move the chicken coop inside the garage where the chickens would be safe. Then, as we evacuated, he drove straight through the night. I know he was exhausted from all the work he had done, but he never admitted it. While out of town, he took sole responsibility for Tally. He walked her down three flights of stairs every time she needed to go outside- even in the middle of the night. Even while battling a cold. When we returned to town, he worked alone to clean up my parents’ yard, including pieces of a tree that had fallen and had to be cut up with a chainsaw. After he had finished, he left our house to go help other families from the church to clean up their yards too. On top of all of that, he has been so patient with me as I’ve been overwhelmed. I can get so set in routines and the way I think things ought to be, but not Justin. He’s not rattled by the difference between the way things are and the way he feels they should be. He just takes things as they come and finds a way to have joy through each one. I really am learning so much from him about how to live in the moment. Even the moments that I don’t particularly like. I’m so glad God let me do life with him.
5. I have developed an affinity for lattes and hot chocolates! I used to despise hot drinks because, well, I live in Florida. They would make me sweat! I ordered my coffees iced and felt quite content without those cardboard Starbucks sleeves. Recently I tried hot drinks again though. Our friends Thalita and Maarten, from Brazil and Holland, both enjoy drinking coffee after dinner in their cultures. So, whenever we’d go out to eat with them, we would also go with them to a coffee shop afterwards so they could order what they liked. We’d sit around talking and laughing as they drank their coffee (Justin too sometimes) and I really began to love their cultures for it. Soon I started asking Thalita to try the drinks she ordered. She had mentioned that they made her feel so warm and cozy and ready for bed. That was all it took! I have been ordering mocha lattes, hot chocolates and-now that they’re in season- pumpkin spice lattes as after dinner treats since. She’s so right… they make you just want to curl up with a blanket and settle in for the night. (Isn’t coffee supposed to keep you awake?)
6. About a year ago I told my friend Bryanna that I just had to know what made her house smell so good. She introduced me to the “Marshmallow Fireside” candles from Bath and Body Works. I never purchased one for myself though until just two days ago. For some reason, Bath and Body Works had only that scent marked down to 10 dollars from 22 dollars. When I heard, I asked Justin to take me to the mall just so I could buy it. It smells like toasted marshmallows and reminds me of bonfires with friends. The more people I tell about it though, the more people I hear are already Marshmallow Fireside fans. So, maybe I just missed the memo. Maybe you had missed it too. If that’s the case, you’re welcome…
7. I started working on my gifted endorsement, which qualifies me to teach children identified as gifted. My district offers the five courses required for the endorsement free for teachers. I finished my first course just before the summer and was getting ready to enroll in another, but started to feel so challenged. The classes are not hard but take up so much of the little free time I have. I would rather use that time to keep learning about and diving into God’s Word. There are a variety of books and sermons that I have wanted to get into but feel like I never get time to. The photos and note sections on my phone are full of titles and authors I’ve been trying to make time to check out. On the list are…. I am number 8 by John Gray, How’s Your Soul by Judah Smith, The Best Yes by Lysa Terkeurst, Fervent by Priscilla Shirer, and Girls With Swords by Lisa Bevere.
8. I am learning how satisfying it is to live with less. Donating clothes. Condensing belongings. Trading in visions of large farmhouses for smaller ones with fewer rooms and walls to separate me from the people I love. Only keeping two salad dressings on the fridge door at a time. Am I the only person who has had a collection of what seems like 12 at a time?
9. The only material thing that I do want more of is pictures. I am creating a wish list just so I can add a camera to it. It’s true that I want fewer things and more experiences, but I want to be able to capture those experiences. I want to be able to pull out photo albums and spend hours gathered around them with family, laughing and reminiscing about the events pictured in them. Those were always my favorite days spent at my grandma’s house as a child. I can’t tell you how many times I looked through her 1950’s wedding album, or how much my heart exploded at the black and white prints every single time. My dad just bought this amazing new camera. SLR, or SLD something. I don’t know. I don’t keep up with technology. After all, I’m using an old school Macbook to type this. The all white kind. And I never saw a problem with it until a friend from church informed me they don’t even make these anymore and hash tagged the word vintage. Ha! But the camera is the new top of the line, and the pictures are unbelievable. I would love to have one of my own.
10. Yesterday I found 5 of my childhood journals tucked away at my moms house from the years 2003-2009. I spent a few hours lying in bed reading through them and cracking up. It’s so funny to have insight into the things that I was thinking and feeling at different ages. Reading those journals reminded me how much I loved to write…even when there was not really any big reason to write. When I started this blog, I thought I’d only write when I had received a really amazing revelation from the Lord. I’m realizing now that I don’t want to let you in on just the really earth-shaking revelations the Lord delivers. I want to let you in on the little moments too. All the in betweens. The every day life that happens from one revelation to the next. I want you to truly see what a life looks like when you’re learning of and living from your identity in Christ. Because it’s a process. So, consider this blog post the first of many in which we get a little closer, sister. I love ya!