Four Christmases (Literally)

Chaos: complete disorder and confusion. Not just a little bit hectic. Complete disorder, disarray. The last few months, I think that would be an accurate definition of my life. I am a schedule person. I thrive on knowing when to wake up, when I have to be at work, when I can rest. Disarray is my personal definition of horrible.

I am spending my day at home alone, true crime podcasts and the swishing of the washing machine tunes in the background. With the year coming to a close and having an entire day to myself, I am finally getting a chance to truly reflect on 2018.

2018 kind of felt like the longest year of my life. A couple traumatic events that brought to me literally to my knees reignited this chaotic mantra of sorts that blanketed a lot of my year. Maybe I will go into detail in another post about those times because I’d love to share with you how my husband and I overcame them. And while I can definitely say we triumphed 2018, I hate to admit that anxiety won a lot of my days.

Christmas brought my chaos to a head. I have the privilege of having two sets of parents. My parents divorced when I was young and remarried two incredible human beings. While their divorce was and is painful, I cannot imagine my life without my step parents. My husband faces a similar reality—two sets of parents. Are you catching my drift yet on how Christmas equals chaos for us? Four Christmases. Yep, four, like the movie. I’d say Brandon is more of a Vince Vaughn than I am a Reese Witherspoon though. [If you haven’t seen the movie and you want the full effect of my blog post, go watch it. It’s not too late for a Christmas movie.]

While four Christmases truly isn’t a bad thing at all, having four Christmases in two days is…difficult. The funny thing is, none of our parents are the ones making it difficult. I put it upon myself to appreciate the process of gift giving, sharing a meal, the typical Christmas traditions. But when you’re on a timeline and have to move from one house to the next, you simply cannot allot the appropriate amount of time to those things.

I look back on my Christmas morning and just cringe at myself, allowing schedule to rule. I focused more on making sure we wouldn’t be late to the next appointment than relishing in the moment. And that is something I just…hate.  I am all about quality time, experiencing things as a family. And I let myself ruin that experience.

Chaos won. But that brings me to this reflection. I already started thinking of how next Christmas can be better, how I can end the holiday season on a high rather than feeling guilty for all the time I did or didn’t spend at various parents’ houses. And I’m vowing to take more time to create breathing room, forcing myself to get my mind into a good place before going into Christmas—or any chaotic season in life that I can get ahead of.

I was not ready for Christmas this year. I got a promotion in the middle of 2018 and essentially spent the last six months of life getting sucked into treading water at work, just trying to stay afloat and dedicate time to learning my new role. In turn, my nutrition lacked, my exercise routine stopped, my relationships took a backseat, and if I’m 100% honest—I was just getting by.

Ironically, I exchanged text messages with my stepmom, Rayonna, right around Christmastime. Rayonna asked me, “Have you ever prayed asking God to give you a word?” Honestly, I hadn’t. But that question hit me like a ton of bricks. While I had never “asked God for a word,” I could barely hold it in that I felt as though he had been giving me one: peace.

Chaos had been reigning in my life for too long. That conversation with Rayonna was a successor to an already brewing thought in my head—I needed to start focusing on peace and replace the frenzy that I had been allowing to permeate me to my soul.

A few days before Christmas, my church held their first round of Christmas services in which they kicked off the service with a stunning rendition of a song I had never heard. A beautiful young woman in a ball gown belted the song “Peace,” originally by Hillsong Young & Free. And I wept through the entire thing. (Yeah, the first five minutes of service.) Thank goodness the lights were off and my husband is used to me crying in church; I have the blessing and the curse of feeling things deeply.

This song sucker punched me. It was like God sent down this picturesque young lady to sing it to me personally.

There’s a peace far beyond all understanding
May it ever set my heart at ease
Dare anxiety come, I’ll remember that peace is a promise You keep
Peace is a promise You keep

You will stay true
Even in the chaos
Your word remains truth
Even when my mind wreaks havoc
I will be still
For I’ve known all along
My Jehovah Shalom

Remember that conversation with Rayonna? Well it continued for a couple days, us exchanging different thoughts and ideas back and forth. Without really knowing my obsession with the song I previously referenced, she sent me, “Shalom: …a Hebrew word meaning peace, harmony, wholeness, completeness…and can be used idiomatically to mean both hello and goodbye.” Wholeness, completeness–I never really examined what the opposite of anxiety or chaos would be; but I think peace and wholeness sounds about right.

I hope that if you felt the utter chaos that this world produces in us over the holidays, you look to 2019 with hope knowing that you don’t have to stay there. I know I refuse to stay there. We can be our own worst enemies a lot of the time, segregating ourselves into our own heads and problems. Learning to filter out the chaos in our lives is a start to experiencing the wholeness peace provides. Whatever that means for you in 2019, find it, run with it, desperately pursue it.


Ode to Canada

If you could choose to visit any country on the planet, where would you choose? Mexico? The Bahamas? Italy? China? Growing up, I always had friends and relatives that went to tropical places on family vacations. Some ventured every year to the Carolinas, others to Florida or even further to bask in anything but Ohio sunshine.

However, I don’t think I ever went to a convention beach until late high school. Why? Because my family didn’t do “the beach.” We did…Canada.

To this day, when friends or co-workers express interest in where I’ll be taking my summer vacation, I’m often left with someone who can’t quite pick their jaw up off the floor when I tell them I go to Ontario, Canada. I mean honestly, do you know anyone who goes to Canada every summer? Me either.

I have spent every single summer vacation of my entire life in the same town—Parry Sound, Ontario, Canada. Twenty-five summers plus an additional few trips to Niagara Falls and Pelee Island. But the cool thing is, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I learned a lot about my family’s long practiced tradition on this last trip we made in July.  A long line of family members had been vacationing in the same small town long before I was even born. Same town, same “resort”, same traditions. I put the word resort in quotation marks because while the place is called Inverlochy Resort, most wouldn’t consider it worthy of that name.

To me, a resort is all inclusive, luxurious, up-to-date. I looked up the definition just for kicks and the first definition that popped up was as follows: a place that is a popular destination for vacations or recreation, or which is frequented for a particular purpose. Guess they weren’t too far off when they named it a resort after all.

To my family, Inverlochy was a place to unplug—literally. The cabins were equipped with basic needs but no televisions, no phones, no Wi-Fi, nothing electronic except a few appliances and a free-standing heater that we would sit on the floor next to on cold nights. Please picture myself, my mom, and aunt, and potentially one or more other family members huddled around a heater the size of four cinder blocks stacked on top of each other–optional towel wrapped around ourselves to ensure ultimate warmth.

Not only was it the place that held meaning, it was the people. Since the resort houses multiple cabins on one stretch of land, we got the chance to interact with other vacationers every year. Whether we saw them for a week and said our goodbyes or saw them every year for ten years in a row, we had our share of lovable Canadians to tuck away in our memories. We had pen pals (gosh, dating myself a little bit with that one), Facebook friends, friends who would drive a few hours to see us when we were there, people who invited us into their homes, invited us out for dinner, took us water skiing—you name it.

Inverlochy was different. I never once felt ashamed to scream it from the rooftops that I visited Canada every summer–because that place has my heart. I remember as a little girl growing up and being so excited to spend my days in the lake, catching frogs, going fishing, hiking up the rocks, taking pictures of the pine trees and watching the sunsets from the dock. I dreamed of the day I would take my husband, my children, anyone who wanted to come to Inverlochy.

But pause. Anyone noticed I’ve been using the past tense? “Inverlochy was…” The reason we spent a lot of time reflecting on this place on our last visit to was because it was our last. About thirteen years ago, the resort changed hands. The husband and wife duo who purchased the property purchased with the intent to bulldoze all of the quaint cottages and replace them with modern condos that they would sell off—little did we know.

Five years ago, they broke the news to us—that 2012 would be be our last summer at Inverlochy.  However, the couple was met with harsh disapproval from locals and the county association. They had a lot of hoops to jump through to make it all happen.

Fortunately for us, it took them five more years to get through all of those hoops. We spent every one of the last five summers up there like it was our last. And finally, this last time, it was. We left Inverlochy with a few stinging parting words from the owners, Our last day of operation will be in October and the bulldozers are coming on October 12th. Whew. What a punch to the gut.

Now no harsh feelings to the owners—they did also tell us not to be strangers and to come by whenever we pleased. We’re thinking they will remain with some property up there and partial owners in the whole operation.

I guess I just needed to vent, or better yet, give tribute to a place that helped shape me into the person I am today. I also want to encourage you to get out of your vacation comfort zone (Look at me, giving you advice to get out of your comfort zone when I’ve gone to the same place my whole life—haha). But seriously, I think Canada deserves a chance.

They have french fry trucks throughout the small cottage towns in Ontario. Everyone has dogs and they take them everywhere—no joke, it’s not uncommon to see dogs in Walmart. Contrary to popular belief, you can get a killer tan. Try spending a week in the Canadian summer sun and you won’t be disappointed. And I can’t neglect to mention that the wildlife and scenery top any description I could give. We’ve seen deer, porcupines, bears (I have a few good bear stories), turtles, fish, frogs…and two members of my family have seen moose!

My story does have a somewhat of a happy ending, too. While we said goodbye to Inverlochy this year, we will be saying hello to a new place next year. This year, we made it a point to hunt for the next resort where we would call home for our summer vacations. We are so attached to the area, nearby towns, water and fishing that we couldn’t bear to go far. About ten miles from Inverlochy sits Rockwood Resort. And we have officially booked two weeks there next summer!

Oh, Canada. You truly have my heart. I can’t thank you enough for the love, sunshine, french fries, peace & quiet, and the ability to love a vacation spot more than I ever thought humanly possible. To old memories, to new memories, and a wonderful place to be. To you, Canada!




Breathing Room

I’ve been spending quite a bit of time alone lately.  Brandon and I both decided it was in our best interest, for the time being, to tackle part-time jobs—in addition to our own full-time gigs.  I have been working one to two evenings a week and Brandon typically works two to four.

On evenings that I’m hanging out with me, myself, and I, I have an abundance of time to reflect.  I reflect on my day, my week, my life, marriage, money, God, politics—quiet time is my best friend.  Personally, I have always LOVED having time to myself.  Throughout college, alone time was something rarely achievable.  So as an adult, I cherish it.

While Brandon and I were slightly terrified to take on more work for fear of how it would affect our lives, it was worth the risk to us.  We spent a lot of time contemplating that decision.  But something that helped to fuel our choice was a concept called “creating breathing room.”

Andy Stanley, a pastor and public speaker at Northpoint Community Church in Georgia, did a series he called “Breathing Room.’’  This series was introduced to us around the time we moved to Columbus—a time of craziness in life.  But boy, did that series stick with us.  Andy spends the series discussing various ways to rearrange the clutter and stress in our everyday lives.  The series was simple, effective, and relatable.

My personal favorite of the series was his message on finances.  Have you ever thought about the kind of cushion you have in your own finances? I sure hadn’t gotten that far at the time.  With just starting a brand new job, less than a year of marriage, a new town, new apartment, college debt…the list goes on.  Creating breathing room was on the back burner.

But as life continued, Brandon and I realized that we needed to be more intentional with our finances.  With help from the ever popular Dave Ramsey (not him personally, just his teachings—I wish I could say personally!), Andy Stanley’s inspiration, our families, and spending genuine time planning and preparing, we blazed a path different than we ever had before.

First, we decided early on in our relationship that tithing would be something non-negotiable.  Tithing is a way that we can trust God not only with our finances, but with our lives.  Our first fruits, every paycheck, are His.  Whether you tithe, give to others, donate to charity, I one hundred percent believe this was and is a game changer for us.

Instead of spending money on things I felt like we needed, whenever I felt like it, I learned to wait for the right time.  We try to limit ourselves when we are grocery shopping to only the foods we need for that week, not endless amounts of things we don’t need.  Ask Brandon, my guilty pleasures when we first got married were baked sour cream and cheddar chips and pomegranate juice.  Don’t ask—just know I’m working on my snack addition.

Our final big step to creating maximum breathing room in our finances was to take on extra work.  However, we did this intentionally.  We applied for jobs that would be flexible and not add additional stresses and responsibilities that we felt we couldn’t handle.  We were up front with those employers in letting them know Thursdays and Sunday mornings were not in our availability.  This paved the way to keep our small group night and attending church a priority.  And we set an end date.  We have a goal that we want to work in our “fun little side jobs” as we call them until a certain time, when we feel our breathing room has been restored.

Lemme tell ya—I feel like a whole new person after going full blown “breathing room” mode for a few months now.  I can hardly believe how much less stressed I am on daily basis knowing that Brandon and I have space to breathe in our lives.

Still, we are nowhere near where we want to be in this area.  I will be the first to admit that handling finances, bills, and money is hard. But it is worth it. Even just a tiny bit of room has changed our lives.

So how will you create breathing room? Whether you decide to save a little extra money every month to put into your savings account, up the payment on your student loans instead of buying new clothes every month, or do whatever it takes to get that last credit card paid off—do it.  Make a plan.

And watch this:

Selfish Vs. Selfless

My inspiration for various blog posts tend to come from my own personal experiences–whether something I have gone through personally, or watched someone close to me endure.  But as I sit in my little living room this morning, sipping my tea, room lit by the sunrise, I have come to the conclusion that this post is one for everyone.

Relationships are one of the most important aspects of human life.  Your relationship with your creator, your relationship with your mother, brother, friends…they make you who you are.  Whether good, bad or indifferent, you are affected in some way by your relationships.

Specifically, dating relationships have taken the biggest 180 between my generation and the ones before it.  This topic is one I fought myself about covering on the blog.  The last thought I want to put into people’s heads is that I have the perfect dating track record and I know what’s right and wrong for everyone.  That is nowhere near true…for obvious reasons.

I will be throwing around the phrase “dating relationship.”  By that, I mean people who are: dating, engaged, married—I’m married (almost two years now—holla!) and I still consider myself in a dating relationship.  Dating is work, a process that never stops—even when you’re married.

But my understanding of what makes a dating relationship successful comes down to one word: selflessness.  And here’s where I want to dig deep.  I see how the world does relationships—and the word I think categorizes worldly relationships is this—“me.”  Relationships are about what makes us happy, what we like, and what we need. I’ll be honest—I’ve been there, that mindset.  It makes sense on the surface.

I want a person who will make me happy, so that’s who I will date/marry.

 But newsflash, ladies and gentlemen, people aren’t designed to be perfect, happiness bringers.  Look around, are the people of our world “happy?”

Let’s re-frame.  If you bring together two people who strive toward being selfless in a relationship instead of selfish, what would that look like?  Both people are always being taken care of, always putting their partner first.

However, this concept only works if both people are on the same page.  If one person in the relationship is selfish and one person is selfless, there will be issues, as expected.  (Raise your hand if you’ve been there—yep, me too.)

Don’t compromise.  And if you don’t know exactly what selflessness looks like, figure it out! I have been in relationships before where there was always a gut feeling saying, is this really what I want? Is this what love is? No!

Cling to one of my favorite little snippets about love: “It always projects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres (1 Corinthians 13:7).”  Does the person you think is the one protect you? Do they trust you? Do you trust them? Can the both of you persevere through life together?

Did I mention not to compromise?  Choosing who you will date and ultimately marry is probably going to be (or should be) in the top five biggest decisions of your life.  The choice is yours: selfish or selfless.

The Road Less Traveled

Expectations are terrible.

Now, don’t freak—expectations are necessary at times.  For example, I expect that my friends will tell me if I have something stuck in my teeth.  However, I’m learning that the expectations we put on ourselves can often lead to ruin.

I’ve always been the responsible child—the one who followed the rules, and walked the path that I knew I was supposed to.  I studied hard in school. I always did my homework. I worked all through school. The list goes on.  My parents were always pushing me to be the best version of myself because they knew what I was capable of.

While I think this “pushing” comes from such a good place, it struck me recently how much stress it brings along for the ride.  That little voice of deception, whether it comes from a parent, friend, or yourself, always seems to be there guiding your decisions.  You’re better than that.  You can’t pursue x, y, z.  You don’t really want that.  You’re not good enough.

 The expectations I put on myself, carried with me through college and post-graduation, led to my own demise.  I spent four years of college studying to be a teacher.  I spent (and am still spending) a lot of money on getting a degree in education.  The expectation was that I would teach until I died.  If you’re reading this and you’re a family member or close friend, please don’t take this as a, “thanks for pushing me to do something I didn’t want to do.”  That’s not it at all.  The problem was that I didn’t know I was unhappy at first.

I expected to love my job.  And honestly, I still can’t put my finger on why I was unhappy.  I love kids.  I love education and learning.  I truly enjoy standing in front of a group of eager students. I worked with wonderful colleagues and encouraging mentors.  But something didn’t click.

Regardless of why it didn’t work out, I was terrified to pursue anything else.  But why? I honestly can’t answer that question either.

What I want to share is that you don’t have to listen to the voices in your head that tell you you’re stuck going down one path, one direction, one destiny.  No one talks about that part, the idea that your life may not play out exactly as you had planned.  In fact, I am willing to bet it most likely won’t.  Everyone pursues life after high school or college with anticipation.  But you rarely hear about how life also tends to smack you right in the face with a spoonful of cherry cough syrup flavored reality.

Millennials are so beyond indecisive that it can lead to our downfall. We have never had more choices than we do in 2016. We get exactly what we think we want, or we don’t, and it doesn’t always bring the joy we expected.  But what I love about our generation is that we are fierce in pursuit of our goals.  We might not know what our goals are—but we know we have a lot to accomplish.  We have bucket lists to check off, people to love, causes to fight for, corporate ladders to climb, voices that need to be heard, and a world to impact—all at our fingertips.  The path you decide upon doesn’t have to go in a straight line.  A wise man once said, when choosing which road to take, “I took the one less traveled by–and that has made all the difference.”

Let Your Heart Not Be Troubled

I am a worrier.  I was destined to be a worrier before I was even born.  Ask the women of my family.  And as someone who is a recent college grad quickly approaching the title of real adult and no longer someone who went to college “recently”, I’ve attempted to throw the burden of worry when it comes to the future.

I can recall the exact moment when I really started to freak out about life after college.  It was at the Medina county fair at a Band Perry concert with my mom and aunt.  I had recently accepted a job two hours from home in a town I had never been to aside from the day I interviewed.  I would be moving just a couple weeks from this particular day, away from my family, away from my fiancé, to take my first teaching job after college.

So why this day? Why would a concert spark worry? Well, it kind of had to do with a particular song.  I had memorized The Band Perry’s new album, fittingly titled “Pioneer”–the name of my song. I knew and still know every single word of that album and felt like it was my life anthem.  However, until I was standing there beside the ancient folding chairs provided at the show, it hadn’t hit me–I was starting life after college.  Or it was starting whether I intended to participate or not.

Everyone has had a moment like that I think, regardless of if your moment comes when you’re deciding to move away for college, choosing to take a job right after high school, moving out, moving away, taking that first leap in life.  Mine came right then.

Where are we going
Oh I don’t know
But still I’ve got to go
What will become of us
Oh I don’t care
All I know is I’ll go anywhere

I had no idea what the future had in store.  All I knew was that I had to go–go try this thing called life.  And I won’t sugar coat it for you–it was the most difficult year I think I’ve ever had.  Life doesn’t stop for you.  The real world doesn’t stop for new additions to the adult category.  However, you learn and adapt.  You grow.  While I truly spent hours on the phone with my fiancé, my mom, my friends–bawling my eyes out because I felt like I was failing at life–I made it.

Struggle is inevitable.  Transition is grueling. Lawd, is it grueling.  But take that leap, and take it with confidence.  You come from a long line of human beings before you who had to take that same leap.

Just know that prior to taking that leap, I felt like I was one of the strongest people I knew–I was always the one who ” had it all together.” While my friends didn’t know what they wanted out of life, I felt like I knew exactly what I wanted.  And that CHANGED.  Once I got knocked on my butt, I don’t think I’ve ever fully recovered and trusted life again.  I’m working on that.

I will leave you with the thought that I truly believe everyone needs a moment like I had–a moment when you jump into an unknown of some sort and see how it changes you.  Maybe you’ll flourish and realize the person you thought you were really is the person you’ll be forever.  Maybe you’ll be like me and realize everything you thought you knew about yourself was wrong.  But you’ll find out.  You’ll thank yourself later for it.  I’m thankful every single day for the time I had in that major year of transition.  As I sit in a brand new place compared to where I was a year ago, personally, work-related, geographically, I have embraced the pioneer mindset.

I won’t run when bullets chase me
I won’t rest where arms embrace me
I will love when people hate me
I won’t hush, no you can’t make me
Send the dark but it won’t break me
You can try but you can’t change me
Take my life, they will replace me
I won’t hush, no you can’t make me
I won’t hush, no we will sing

Let your heart not be troubled

In the lyrics of the song, the line “let your heart not be troubled” always appears as a solo line amidst other stanzas of lyrics.  It’s almost like amongst all the other chaos the song speaks about, that line is meant to be a reassuring little nugget of hope–let your heart not be troubled.

*If you need a life anthem for transition too, give this a listen:


What is a millennial?

The simple definition of a millennial: a person generally born between the years of 1982 and 1994.

The complicated definition of a millennial: a person born in the 80s and 90s who does not look, sound, work, or interact like any generation before them–a pioneer with opinions, possessing a high level of civic duty, and oftentimes difficult to understand.

Now, I have a thick skin.  I’m not easily shaken.  However, in my recent job transition and re-entry into the world of job interviews, I learned the label of “millennial” is not one people use in admiration.

I interviewed for a job I thoroughly thought I wanted.  I left the first interview with that dorky grin you get when you know you just killed it at something, passed that test with flying colors.  Then, my second interview came along.  And I learned that this particular employer was not fond of my “generation.”  He rambled about how texting is one of the worst distractions in the workplace and how it costs employers stacks of cash every day.  He consistently referred to me as a millennial, often remarking on how I would need to prove myself on his list of countless tasks included in this position.

While I don’t necessarily disagree with this man, I do dispute his generalization of millennials.  I guess I never paid too much attention to that label prior to my job search.  But after sitting through an interview that seemed eerily similar to a trial in which I was a guilty criminal and the employer was an overworked, unforgiving judge, I suddenly had the urge to bust out of this “millennial” mold.  I was not innocent until proven guilty in this man’s eyes, simply just another generation Y human being.

In a quick google search of the the word following my interview, I came across words like lazy, entitled, politically unaffiliated, uninterested in the church, and technology obsessed.  I don’t know about you, but I have never strived for any of those labels.  And I don’t feel the need to defend myself against some of these generalizations.  However, my mission is to show another side to millennials.  We’re balanced, hard working, involved in politics, open to God, and savvy.

Whether you’re someone who reads the Bible or not, I think you can appreciate this quote that sums up my thoughts fairly well on this subject–a snippet from the Message version of Romans 12:2, “…Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking…” Whether you want to admit it or not, you may very well spend your life as a walking billboard for your generation’s unfavorable patterns unless you do something about it.

By the way, I didn’t want to work for that company anyway.  I’m too busy texting.