Annapolis

Over Memorial Day, I got to spend time with one of my very best friends in the entire world: Nat Mal. There are a million and one things I love about Natalie, but at the top of the list are her fun-loving personality and Christ-centered heart. I hadn’t seen her in almost a year, so it was pretty fantastic to get to spend an entire day with her in a cool little town.

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Being reunited feels SO good!

We got into town just in time for the end of a Memorial Day parade

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My favorite part of the town was visiting the Naval Academy

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The halls and memorials on campus were absolutely stunning!

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The incredibly beautiful Memorial Hall

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I have the utmost respect for all service members, and it was especially meaningful to see so many heartfelt tributes on this particular day.

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Nothing better than Maryland crabcakes!!

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“Natalie, pose along this urban wall!”

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Newest favorite picture of us…water and best friend, could you ever need anything else?

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I don’t always eat dairy, but when I do it’s ice cream!

Annapolis the cutest little town...if you've never been, definitely add it to your list of places to go!

Annapolis the cutest little town…if you’ve never been, definitely add it to your list of places to go!

Taking on Chicago!

I love travelling and I love being a stereotypical tourist. One of my New Year Resolutions was to visit a few cities…Chicago was one of them. So, at some point a few months ago, I convinced my friend Cassie to go with me. Her sister was going to be staying in the city, I love Cassie, she’s familiar with the city…it was all a perfect fit. In the weeks leading up to our trip, I read all the blogs about what to do, where to eat, and how to get around. I also hauled major overtime getting enough homework done in advance to be completely stress-free for the weekend (and let me tell you, it was SO worth it!).

Here are some of my favorite pictures and memories from the trip. Shoutout to Cassie and Christy for putting up with my incessant picture taking!

Geekin out cause I'm finally in Chicago and at the oh so famous Bean!

Geekin out cause I’m finally in Chicago and at the oh so famous Bean!

I am so so so thankful for this girl and her consistent friendship throughout many years!

I am so so so thankful for this girl and her consistent friendship throughout many years!

Check out the skyline's reflection in the bean

Check out the skyline’s reflection in the bean

This is a playground for grown ups...need I say more?

This is a playground for grown ups…need I say more?

Getting ready to go down the giant slide!

Getting ready to go down the giant slide!

How cool is this? All the helmets for the NFL teams, in preparation for the draft!

How cool is this? All the helmets for the NFL teams, in preparation for the draft!

GO Patriots!!!

GO Patriots!!!

Samantha was hands down my favorite toy as a child, so we had to visit the American Girl Store!

Samantha was hands down my favorite toy as a child, so we had to visit the American Girl Store!

My buddy Shaun suggested that we go to Giordano's Pizza...it was pretty good (I definitely paid for it later though...)

My buddy Shaun suggested that we go to Giordano’s Pizza…it was pretty good (I definitely paid for it later though…)

Chicago skyline from the end of the Navy Pier

Chicago skyline from the end of the Navy Pier

Of course we went to the pier, and rode the giant ferris wheel overlooking the city...they aren't lying when they call it "The Windy City"

Of course we went to the Navy Pier, and rode the giant ferris wheel overlooking the city…they aren’t lying when they call it “The Windy City”

Garrett's Popcorn was one of those places "that you just have to try"...it was pretty tasty!

Garrett’s Popcorn was one of those places “that you just have to try”…it was pretty tasty!

Ending an action-packed day with some fancy wine & cheese

Ending an action-packed day with some fancy wine & cheese

My favorite meal of the day will always be brunch…and Yolk. is the place to go (apparently all of Chicago thought so as well). Shoutout to my homegirl Alyssa for the recommendation!

 

Geekin' out cause it was my first time taking an actual Taxi-Cab

Geekin’ out cause it was my first time taking an actual Taxi-Cab

Asrai Garden is a cute little boutique that I found in a Better Homes & Gardens magazine...everything was hella expensive, but it was adorable!

Asrai Garden is a cute little boutique that I found in a Better Homes & Gardens magazine…everything was hella expensive, but it was adorable!

Our last stop: Bang! Bang! Pie & Biscuits. This was another place I found in BH&G…it was SO good!!
So thankful for these two and their indulgence of all my tourisy-ness

 

Chicago is such a fun city! So much to do, see and eat! Not as fabulous as Atlanta, but better than NYC. If you’ve never been, you definitely have to check it out!

It’s wonderful to be here in the great state of Chicago.– Dan Quayle

Keep Me Near the Cross

Oh death, where is your sting? Oh hell, where is your victory?

Easter Sunday is hands down, my favorite day of the year. Spring is in the air, everything seems fresh and new; signs of life are everywhere. I absolutely love the parallel: because Chris rose from the dead our very lives are being made new—just as the blossoms and leaves are sprouting anew.

This year, I observed Lent for the first time. In the past, I always dismissed it as being something only for the Catholics. What I learned was that Lent is a season of quieting your heart and preparing for the celebration of Easter. It’s about taking a break from the daily routine and basking in the love of God; it’s about fixing your eyes on the Cross.

  • Gave up: Coffee (trust me, this was quite the challenge!!)
  • Devotional: She Reads Truth: Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross. (SRT is an awesome app that has great, short, simple devotionals)

Never have I felt so hopeful for the redemption and restoration that comes through the cross than in the past 47 days. I spent the first few weeks of Lent focusing on the condition of my heart. I became painfully aware of just how selfish, unholy, and prideful my heart is; morning after morning, my heart was broken by my own sin. Praying for the Lord to convict you of sins in your heart is quite a dangerous thing, and believe me when I say it hurts. Even little things in my day to day conversations began to feel uncomfortable as I thought about the spirit behind them.

“Left alone, sin will strangle the life out of our heart and soul. It debilitates, destroys, and divides. The tighter the grip, the less we can breathe to sustain the inward and outward life” – Day 15

The next few weeks were spent focusing on the unfailing goodness and love of the Lord. He loves us even in the midst of the ugliness in our heart. We have to come before His throne with more than just sorrow, we have to have a heart of repentance. God is waiting, ready and willing to extend His unending grace—if only we humble ourselves and ask. I whole heartedly believe that nothing brings him more joy than welcoming us back home with arms open wide as we present our broken, contrite hearts.

“Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a right spirit.” – Ps. 51:10

Finally, the last part of Lent was spent looking toward the Cross itself—looking toward the significant sacrifice that was to be made. Christ, who lived a pure, blameless life took on the weight of the world’s sin; he bore the wrath of his just, holy Father. Simply because he loves us, because he wants us to live in communion with him, and because it’s one step toward making all things new. Christ knew that as the people cried for him to save them on Palm Sunday, it would require his painful death and that it meant separation from his Father. But he paid that price so we wouldn’t have to. Having just spent the past several weeks honing in on the darkness of my sin and my need for a Savior, it makes the beauty of Christ’s death that much more powerful. The debt that is yours and mine to pay, is paid in full by an innocent king.

Even more beautiful still is that the story isn’t over (and this is my favorite part of the story).  Christ defeated death. He is alive! And because he lives, we can face tomorrow. We have forgiveness for our past and hope for the future! If we allow him to, he will make us new and mold us in his image of holiness.

“Because of the sacrifice of the Son and the forgiveness of the Father, you and I have a place in this story—in The Story. May we continue to walk in the narrative of grace penned with us in mind.” – Day 42

2015: Looking Ahead

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

Did you join the millions and make any New Year Resolutions?? I may be a few days late, but I think I’ve finally come up with a few things. New year, new me…just kidding…I hate that phrase. Rather than extreme dieting or some other nonsense, I’ve come up with a very doable list of 10 things to accomplish in 2015.

  1. Run a half marathon
  2. Track my finances & budget frugally
  3. Get back into the grad school grind
  4. Complete at least one Whole30 (it’s been almost 2 years since my last one…let me tell you, it’s life changing)
  5. Read 3 non-school books
  6. Travel to 3 cities: Chicago, NYC, and…??
  7. Move to VA Beach, get an apartment and establish my own HOME
  8. Learn how to change a tire
  9. Daily surrender of my life to the Lord, relinquishing the control that I fight for and imagine having far too often. May I never forget that with surrender comes peace beyond understanding.
  10. Last but not least, my biggest goal is the development of Fruits of the Spirit…primarily, kindness and gentleness. I pray that others will see these fruits, and in doing so see HIM in all things.

Moment of truth: I’ve wanted to do most of these things for a while now, but a girl can be ambitious, yeah? And besides, now that they’re written down I have to do it all.

2014: A Year in Review

What a year this has been!! It blows my mind to think about everything that has transpired over the last 365 days. Although 2014 saw its share of tears and disappointment, there were countless moments of laughter, joy and hope.

Here are my top 14 memories, lessons learned and blessings from 2014:

  1. Teaching: The hardest, yet most rewarding thing I have ever done. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about my former students. I hope and pray that I did them justice and instilled in them a desire to learn and pursue their goals.
  2. Doorholding: January-May, I had the opportunity to serve as a doorholder at Passion City Church. Serving alongside so many people and being a tiny part of the BIG work that God is doing in that church was such an incredible blessing.
  3. OCS: What an experience…definitely a once in a lifetime opportunity. I got to work with some incredible Marines, train with inspiring candidates and push myself beyond what I thought was possible. Even though it went far from how I had anticipated or planned, I wouldn’t change a thing. I set a goal, I pursued it, and I left it in the Lord’s hands.
  4. The Jacobs: I get to live life with one of the most incredible families I have ever known. I could go on and on about them, but I’ll spare you…just know they’re awesome. 🙂
  5. Grad School: After researching, touring and applying to a few schools I finally picked a graduate school and program! Regent University, here I come!
  6. Camping: I FINALLY got to go tent camping again! Turns out, I have no idea how to build a fire…
  7. Cars: This year, I went from 0 car accidents to having 2 in a 6-month time frame. Talk about stressful…road anxiety, anyone?! BUT, USAA is ballin’ and had my back both times.
  8. Relationships: This was a good year for friendships. I made new friends & kept in touch with old friends–all with a new level of authenticity that I don’t think I’d seen before.
  9. Apex: I love the church that I go to, and I have the opportunity to be a part of a great house church & small group. It’s so encouraging to be a part of a body of believers that live life together.
  10. Missing: You know what sucks? There are so many people & places that I love and miss. I wish I could move all the things that are dear to me to one location and live happily ever after.
  11. Health: After years of repetitive digestive issues, I went almost a full year without any! There’s a lot I could attribute it to (gluten-free, blah, blah, blah…), but for now, I’m just going to be grateful.
  12. Bloom where you’re planted: I’ve learned that life’s trials will either make or break you…but that decision is completely up to YOU. Embracing the season God has brought you into will fill you with joy, peace and HOPE.
  13. His Faithfulness: At this, the end of the year, I remember how faithful the Lord has been this year. I couldn’t even begin to list all the ways I have experienced His faithfulness…
  14. Eternal perspective: I have found time and time again that when my mind is set on things above, earthly worries fade. When I focus on Christ and who He is my desires and plans are transformed through the Holy Spirit and I remember that it’s okay not to have it all figured out.

Goodbye-2014-hello-2015

‘Tis the Season…

…to be THANKFUL!

I LOVE the holiday season! I particularly love Thanksgiving–not for the food, but for the time spent with family & friends and the time set aside to actually focus on being grateful. Lately I’ve often found myself anxious, envious, and/or disappointed; however, it only takes one quick look around me to realize I have SO much to be thankful for.

I am grateful for to have a job that I love even on its most frustrating days. I have coworkers that I can laugh with and vent with. I have a boss who is understanding & will do anything to help me get work done. Most importantly I get to help our clients find answers and live a happy, healthy life.

I am grateful for the Jacobs family. Words cannot express how much I love these people! Living life with this family is such blessing. Not only do they let me live with them, but their trust in & testimony of the Lord’s faithfulness encourages me every single day.

I am grateful for the Lord’s hand of protection. I was recently in a car accident that could have completely different than it did. I am so blessed to have had no injuries, no major auto damage, USAA’s amazing coverage, and the comfort of friends close by.

I am grateful for friends who consistently encourage and push me toward Christ. In the 18 months that I’ve been out of college, it feels like a lot of friends have come and gone, but I have come to immeasurably appreciate the few that have deepened.

I am grateful that Lord’s plan for my life is far greater than anything I could ever imagine for myself. Over the past year, things have gone very differently than I had planned and that isn’t easy. But no matter what, the hurt, frustration, and confusion are always overshadowed by His faithfulness. Not once have I had a need that wasn’t met; not once did I ever face life’s trials alone.

So, this holiday season, what are YOU grateful for?

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Change.

I’ve been back from OCS for a month–give or take a few days. And I’ve gotta admit, it’s been a hell of a lot harder than I anticipated. When I first left OCS, I had come to terms with the fact that I was leaving, because I saw it coming weeks in advance. Although I was ready to just be done with the misery of it all, I had not considered all of the changes that would inevitably follow.

The first few days after I got home were spent sleeping and getting re-acclimated to civilian life. I got my nails done, bought a car, and sorted through my belongings. I took the time to process what OCS was like and everything that went into my leaving. After a few days at home, I visited Harmony and some other family members, got hired at a clinic in Dayton, OH and moved back to my college town. In the midst of starting my new job, I spent several days staying with my college roommate, spent a week housesitting for a former employer and then moved into my long-term home. To say the least, life has been a whirlwind of change.

Answers to Prayer: Last time I wrote, I had three specific needs: a car, a job, and home. As He always is, the Lord has been faithful and met each of my needs.

  • The Voyager: After just a few days of being home, I found the perfect car–an ’06 Saturn ION with 63K miles on it. It was in my budget and met every single one of my mandatory requirements (my wish list included it being a stick shift–oh well, cant’ have everything!).
  • The Flexman Clinic: I got a job working for a neuropsychologist who does evaluations for physicians, lawyers, and the government–primarily we do memory screens, disability determinations, and ADD/ADHD testing. Pretty much my job is to complete the initial testing with each client, organize their chart and schedule them with a tester. I love that I get to work with a wide variety of people and use my psych background, while building my experiences for graduate school applications. Major perks: coworkers who are great people and every weekend is 3-days.
  • The Jacobs: When I attended Cedarville, I became really good friends with the Jacobs. Since then, they’ve become like family and they’ve opened up their home to me as a place to call my home. I am incredibly grateful for this family have been immeasurably blessed by them.

OCS: Hindsight

Honestly, the further out from OCS I get, the more pissed off I get with how it all went down. Yesterday was their graduation & commissioning, and it was so hard not to be overwhelmingly jealous. Jealous that they made it and I didn’t; jealous that they’re exactly where I want to be; jealous that they get to have the title of “Marine.” It’s frustrating because I’ll never know if I really would have made it all the way through. It’s also frustrating because I know people who completed the course but have no business being leaders of any kind. I’d give anything to go back and finish what I started, not because I still want to be an officer (which I do), but because I feel like I need to prove to myself and everyone else that I can do it.

Change is a funny thing: It can be so subtle it’s not even noticeable until it’s too late, or it can be so explosive that it feels as though your life blew up.

I went from being a United States Marine Corps Officer Candidate to a psychometrist in a cornfield in less than two weeks. My life completely flipped upside down. Sometimes, I’ll look around and think “what the hell am I doing here?!” this is not how this was supposed to turn out. For the first time in as long as I can remember, I am not working toward any goals or pursuing the ‘next big thing.’  To be completely honest, it makes me feel lost—like I’m just wandering with no direction. Yeah, I’m pursuing grad school, but I’m not even sure what schools I want to apply to or even for what programs. Public Health? Clinical Counseling? Nutrition & Wellness? Eeek! Where do I even begin?!

In the midst of the chaos, I’ve learned…

  1. To embrace the place that the Lord has me in this moment. This season is an incredible opportunity to really understand what it looks like to be still and find my rest in the Lord. I pray that I steward this opportunity well.
  2. The Lord’s plan is far greater than anything I could have ever imagined for myself.
  3. God’s faithfulness extends beyond anything I could ever deserve. Never once have my needs gone unmet, my prayers gone unanswered, or my future been forgotten.
  4. The failure of one venture does not change my value or identity. A friend recently reminded me that true success is found in what we do for the Eternal Kingdom. Likewise, my identity and value is found in Christ alone—nothing can change that.

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