on being a squad mentor (or not…) part 2:

During the summer of 2013 I heard God speak. It wasn’t in one of those lightning bolt ways (is it ever?) but more a quiet nudge in my spirit… your role at Adventures will change. I will give you a position that requires more leadership than you are using now. 

I got the sense this change wasn’t coming any time soon, so I put that word in my back pocket and went on with life.

A year later (July 2014) one of my team leaders on the field wrote me the following in his weekly update:

Hope, through a moment of prayer, I feel like God is showing me that He has a new role in mind for you in the near future… I have the sense that this new role is something larger than you’re used to, and may make you nervous at first, but the things He has done in you in the last few years have been a time of equipping you for the task. You have reason to be confident in Him, so “go for it.”

I emailed him back, saying I had no idea what this meant but it confirmed what I believed the Lord said a year earlier.

A the end of August I went to Malawi for a debrief, and while I was there a girl named Cait told me about a dream she had in which I told her I was no longer a Squad Mentor. She laughed about it like it was a pizza dream, but I looked at her with earnest eyes and said TELL ME AGAIN because I knew it meant something more.

Mere days after coming back from that debrief I was offered a new position – program director of our high school and college age trips. As my bosses explained to me why they thought this would be a good fit for me (and ways in which I would have to grow), all I kept thinking was this is it, this is it, this is God…

Other opportunities had previously come my way, and at the time I wondered if that was what God was talking about. But when I was offered this role there was no guessing, no wondering. I knew.

There’s a deep, satisfying sigh of relief that comes with the confirmation of hearing God’s voice. I believed God had spoken about this over a year ago, but up until that moment in Steve’s office it was all based on faith and quite honestly, that’s scary. I’ve been wrong before. Being wrong about hearing God’s voice kinda messes you up, because the next time you hear him speak you’re like, “is that you? me? am I crazy?” and “can I trust you?”

God is so good to not only speak about this a year before, but to bring two other confirmations along the way. He knew I needed those nudges, those hints as to what was coming, so I wouldn’t be completely knocked off my feet by change.

Like I wrote in my last post, I loveeeee being a Squad Mentor. It’s such a great fit for me – it’s been such a gift to me.

At the same time, it doesn’t necessarily challenge me anymore, and I believe it only uses my gift packaging to a certain extent.

So I get why this transition is happening now, and I’m excited for what’s in store with this new position. But it’s still hard. I’m leaving something I’m good at – something I love – for something that is over my head and somewhat unknown. That scares me.

Two weeks ago today I came to Starbucks (where I am now) and had it out with God via my diary. I wrote honestly, with tears falling like raindrops on the table. I confessed feelings of resentment toward him for taking away something I loved (even though I’m chosing to let it go) and I allowed myself to grieve, to feel the pain of loss.

Then I wrote truth: this new role will become my dream job, and I will look back and see how God spared me from squad mentoring. Even though it kills me right now.

And then I thanked him. (Cue more tears.)

Thank you for giving me the Squad Mentor position – I believe you created it just for me. Thank you for giving me 2.5 years – for giving me G, M, S, C and F squads. They all hold such a dear place in my heart. The countries, the coaches, the racers, the squad leaders. Thank you for teaching me even more about your grace for people. Thank you I’m getting promoted and not fired. Thank you for making it so obvious – I never doubted this was all you. You are so good to me. So good. 

I’m less emotional now that it’s been two weeks, but even in this moment – reading those words for the first time since I wrote them – I feel tears creep up around my eyes. They won’t spill onto the table this time, but they’re there… representing the grieving that is still taking place. I don’t know how long it will take.

This I do know: I’m more excited. I’ve been praying for God’s heart for this new role and I can tell it’s being etched on my heart like an Etch A Sketch. Slowly, surely.

I’ve been praying more in general. God I need you, I need you, I need you… and he keeps coming through. My faith is growing.

I’m a firm believer that God breaks our hearts in order to give us something better (if we let him)- I started believing this on my race and have had seen it play out many times since then. Oh, my heart has been so broken along the way. But I’ve also been blown away along the way.

So yeah, my heart’s a little broken right now. But it’s also pumping with hope for what is to come…

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With God, it’s always going to be better than before.

 

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on being a squad mentor [part 1]:

September 14, 2010: 

I had a job interview this morning at a daycare and it has left me feeling depressed. I was excited at the prospect of working with babies, but when I was there I felt so closed in, so suffocated and stuffy. And then I fear I will never find a job that makes me feel alive – instead I’ll have to suffer in a job that makes me feel like I’m locked in a cage. But then I wonder, is that life? Am I expecting too much? Does everyone else assume position in the cage with no complaints because they understand the drill? There’s something about rigorous structure that brings about that trapped feeling. It’s times like these when I wonder if I’m really meant to work at a camp or be a youth pastor or a missionary or on AIM staff – because then I won’t feel like I’m dying. I want to trust that God has the best for me. Oh God, give me hope. 

Four years ago was a rough season for me. I had recently come back from the World Race and was trying to find my place in this world. To my dismay, the places I wanted to work wouldn’t have me (the YMCA, a youth ranch, etc etc.) while the places who did want to hire me made me cry. Applebees. A shoe store in a mall. That daycare.

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The cherry on top came in November when I was rejected from Teach for America – a dream 4 years in the making. It was more than a dream, though. I truly believed it was a calling from God.

The rejection from TFA stung, but the rejection I felt from God shook me to my core. I wrote one of the most heartbreaking entries in my diary that day, and those pages are still crinkled from my tears. Some words I’ll leave just for me, but these ones I will share…

I have too many passions. Too many places I want to live. I tried to narrow it down – that plan failed. Now I’m left on the floor of my bedroom with nothing but my tears. [...] I want to be rooted. I want to start moving forward with whatever it is I’m supposed to be doing in life. Or am I destined to wander forever…

I ended that entry with the words, “there’s something else.”

Two days later I called Adventures in Missions and told them I wanted to work for them. And I’ve been with them ever since.

Indeed, there was something else.

In the last four years at Adventures I’ve led a Passport (college-age) trip, a World Race squad, I’ve served as an apprentice, I’ve worked in recruiting/long term missions, and now I’m a Squad Mentor.

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I’ve been a Squad Mentor for nearly two years and I’ve loved nearly every minute of it. This job doesn’t make me feel like I’m locked in a cage – instead I am free to fly. To Vietnam. Guatemala. Albania. Peru. Malawi. Malaysia.

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This job keeps me on my toes – when I’m not in another country I’m often at a Training Camp or Launch or Project Searchlight. These events bring spice and flavor, preventing structure and desks and walls from suffocating me.

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And then there’s the racers. I love them, I love them, I love them. They are why I do what I do. To them, I’m someone who pops in every few months when I come to debrief. I know they don’t understand everything I do, and I know they probably don’t understand how deeply I care for them. But oh, I care.

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I want the best for them. I worry about their health and safety. I try to protect them and promote them as much as I can. I’m so proud when they press into the hard places and make the most of their race.

Every week I receive a 30+ document from each squad I mentor called “C&Cs”- celebrations and challenges. I pour over these pages. I cry when I read about the death of a loved one back home, or when they write about a revelation they are having about God. I laugh when they write about silly things, I’m touched when they write about simple things. Recently a racer wrote about how she was homesick, and could I bring her a Pumpkin Spice Latte? I thought that was so endearing.

I have listened to their stories of rape, sexual abuse and more sexual abuse. I have listened to their stories of abortions and miscarriages and codependent/homosexual relationships. I’ve heard one too many stories concerning absent fathers, angry fathers, alcoholic mothers. More than once I’ve stopped myself from screaming THIS IS NOT OKAY!!!! because just when I think I’ve heard it all, there’s another story of hurt and pain and abuse.

But it doesn’t end there. I see breakthrough. I see walled hearts crumble, I see life and laugher on faces that were once lined with shame and unforgiveness. I watch as racers learn to love that teammate of theirs that drives them crazy. It amazes me every time.

I get to witness racers come alive in places they least expect – Africa for some, Asia for some, Central America for others. It can’t be planned, and it can’t be explained when it happens. Brittany found a piece of her heart in India, Stacie found some of hers in Africa, Jessie couldn’t wait to get back to Honduras. And when they leave those places their hearts are ripped in half. They will never be the same because of it… the world will never be the same because of it. Yes and amen.

I have learned so much from these racers – one of the biggest themes being grace. Something I can’t exactly put words to, but journeying alongside of them has taught me lessons in grace. And for that I am forever grateful.

Sure, being a Squad Mentor can seem glamorous from afar – mostly due to the travel. But there are lots of emails (so many emails.) There are also lots of details… and I’m not always good with details (ENFP probs.) At times I feel like a tax collector when I have to hound people about their fundraising. There was that time my suitcase was stolen in Guatemala, or that time I was bit by dogs in Uganda, or the time I had to spend the night in the Lima airport and shivered on the cold, hard floor. There’s long, LONG plane rides – aka swollen ankles and dark circles under my eyes and at least five years lost in good looks (…but seriously.)

The only time I want to quit this job is during those lengthy plane rides back to the States.

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GET ME OUTTA THIS THING!!!!

But I don’t quit. A part of why I love my job is because it’s personal to me – I was once a World Racer. I had to learn how to love my teammates, I found some of my heart scattered on those African dirt roads, I discovered who I really was in Christ and I commited myself to him more than ever before. Because of this, I do my best to make sure every racer has such an opportunity.

There are so many other reasons I love this job. The coaches. The squad leaders. My co workers. I could go on and on and on. I find myself living through the days thinking, “how did I score it this good?”

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Such a contrast to my thoughts four years ago, when I was crying on the floor and questioning whether or not God even had a plan or purpose for my life.

It’s crazy to me now, looking back on that season. The fear, the tears, the rejection, the floor. He knew that wasn’t it, he knew there was something else, something more – he knew Adventures in Missions was a better fit for me than Teach for America. I actually think if I applied to TFA again I would get accepted at this point. But I don’t want to… this is my new dream come true. God knows what’s up. Even when we least expect it.

Speaking of which…

A few weeks ago my bosses sat me down and offered me a new position. In that moment, in Steve’s office, I knew I would take it. I was excited because I knew it was God, but the overwhelming feeling I experienced then, and in the days to come, was grief. Giving up something I love? Not easy.

But worth it.

[...to be continued because this post is already too long.]

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on being in my 20s…

The other day I was leaving a part of Atlanta I’m unfamiliar with, so I pulled out my phone to help me get back to Gainesville. After opening my GPS app I clicked “home.”

In that moment a wave of comfort washed over me. I’ve lived in a place long enough that it’s saved in my GPS. It’s been saved there for a while, but for some reason the awareness of it hit me right then.

When I was in college I couldn’t wait to graduate, to get away from the desks and walls of my university and experience the world firsthand. Less than a month after walking across stage in my graduation gown and Chuck Taylors I was in the mountains of California, followed by the slums of India.

Then came Nashville, where I slept on a mattress on a floor and used Starbucks boxes as a dresser. My only piece of furniture was at $10 Salvation Army bookshelf.

I left Nashville for the World Race, ditching my mattress and Starbucks boxes for a backpack and sleeping pad. For almost a year we moved from country to country, from continent to continent.

When I came back from the World Race I applied for Teach for America, expecting to be in the same place for at least two years. But they rejected me, which opened up doors to Nicaragua, a stint in Georgia and squad leading through Central America + Eastern Europe. Oh and two weeks in Italy. (Thanks for that, TFA.)

I moved into an apartment the summer of 2012, four years after graduating college and galavanting around the world. I thought I would be there for a while, so I painted my room. A few weeks after the paint dried, we decided to move. An adorable house with a yellow door became available.

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This month marks 1.5 years since I moved in. My driver’s license has a permanent address – THIS address. I get magazines… they know where to come. My walls are painted and I have things drilled into the wall. I have a dresser. A dresser!

As much as I love traveling, I love having a place to call home. A place that remains consistent amidst the swirl of being in my 20s. One of my roommates might move out, but my antique chair isn’t going anywhere.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my 20s it’s that people come and go. I haven’t yet figured out the formula for knowing which relationships are going to stick, because a lot of times I think they will… and then they don’t. Sometimes I don’t know which relationships to fight for and which ones to let go. If anyone knows the answer please let me know. (Note: I know there’s no answer.) (But if there is one seriously let me know.)

They say our 20s are for figuring things out – that this is the time in our lives to grow up, fall down, make mistakes and stand back up again. Sometimes with our heads a little higher, sometimes with our hearts a little more broken.

Lately, life has been swirly. Two of my closest friends moved away in July and I’m starting to feel the repercussion of that loss. I was offered a new position at work, so I’m currently in transition, which brings a batch of mixed emotions (more on that later.) I was dating someone and it didn’t work out.

All of this hit me at the same time around a week ago. That was when I pulled out my GPS, tapped on home and felt a wave of relief wash over me.

This time these walls don’t confine me, they comfort me.

Right now I’m amidst change and growth and loss and hope, but I also have the steadfastness of a place I call home…

And that makes all the difference.

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This has gotta be the good life…

The other day I came back from the gym and  really wanted a smoothie… but we didn’t have any bananas. I was pretty heartbroken about it.

I texted my girl Carly and asked if she had any. To my delight, she was loaded. I threw my gym shoes back on and ran over to her apartment. During the 45 seconds it took me to run there (I’m not that fast, she just lives really close) I thought, I love my life. 

It felt like a TV moment – borrowing sugar or eggs or in my case, a banana, from the neighbor – except this was real life.

Last week a group of us trekked down to Florida for a vacation on Rainbow River. 9 people, 6 hours, 2 cars, 1 baby. Lots of stops along the way. Gas, food, breastfeeding… the usual.

We arrived on Sunday night and left Thursday morning. The week felt like a really good run of Friends episodes. (Except in our version only the married people were having sex.)

We made dinner almost every night – tacos, pizza, steak – and one time we went out for fish (slash gator nuggets.) Linda, our waitress, was a gem. She’s been working at Stumpknockers Restaurant for 17 years, bless her heart.

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eating around the dinner table

The earliest we ate dinner was 9pm. The last night (steak night) we didn’t start until after ten. We felt so French.

We always lingered around the table after eating – no one got up and started dishes right away. I loved it. Our conversations were lively. And odd. The first night we talked about wolf people and tree people (aka people with rare diseases that make them look like wolves and trees) and by the last night we were debating Nicholas Cage vs. Conan O’Brien. Somehow Carrot Top got involved.

In the afternoon we’d kayak. We saw otters, alligators, turtles and weird birds. The first time I went it rained, which made it more exciting. The second time I kayaked ten miles. My back and arms were DYING. But it was totally worth it. Especially since the next day we tubed… aka sat motionless in a tube and floated down the river for 2 hours. Bliss.

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(Greg did the graphics. And yes I’m sleeping.)

Our second day there it rained (translation: poured) most of the day, which was kind of a bummer… but I actually loved it. We stayed in our pjs and read books and made French toast at noon. There was no pressure to go anywhere or do anything. We were together, and that was all that mattered. (Also we had really good snacks.)

Vacation was fabulous on so many levels, but my favorite part was probably each morning. I was usually the first one up. I’d get out of bed and tip toe around the kitchen, making milky Earl Grey tea and buttery raisin toast. Then I’d go out to the back porch, sip on my tea and stare at this view…

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I mean seriously.

Eventually I’d get around to cracking open my diary, then my Bible, then Hemingway. As the morning went on other people would roll out of bed and join me. We didn’t really speak – just drank coffee and tea and read whatever it was we were reading (Picoult, Steinbeck, Steve Job’s biography…)

If only mornings could always be like that.

Thursday morning, the day we left, it rained. I think the heavens were sad we were leaving. After packing and cleaning and loading up the car, we took this picture.

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Then we piled into our cars and drove back to Georgia.

I don’t know where we’ll all be a year from now… some will move away, some will get married. I assume I’ll still be working at Adventures, living at the House with the Yellow Door, but only God really knows.

We’ll always have this vacation to remember.

In the meantime, you can find me borrowing bananas from down the street and loving life with this group of crazy people.

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life lately.

I went from family vacay in Michigan to a weeklong work event here in Gainesville to World Race Launch in Atlanta. Basically, life has not been normal.

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Exhibit A

Last week it all slowed down.

I have the oppportunity to work from home in the mornings, but I never do that. I like waking up and having somewhere to go. Also, I like separating work life from home life as much as possible.

Last week, however, I changed my mind.

Because everything had been so go-go-go I decided to work from home in the AM.

I. loved. it.

I still woke up, put on makeup, started work at 9. But instead of a desk I was on a couch… with tea by my side. And peace. Quiet.

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I would plow through emails & phone calls before taking a break for lunch. In the afternoons I went into the office for meetings. Then: gym class. Sweaty, fun, gym class.

When I came home I would eat dinner on the back deck. Sometimes by myself, sometimes a roommate or two would join me. Eating outside makes me feel like I live in California or something. (They always eat outside there. Or so it seems.)

View from my back deck

View from my back deck

At night I would read (currently making my way through The Book Thief… so, so good) and then watch 1/2 a movie in bed. Watching a whole movie in bed seems like such a splurge… especially on a work night. Also, I like having something to look forward to. So I watched half a movie a night and saved the rest for the next night (or, on weekends, I’ll watch the rest of it in the morning. Because watching movies in the morning feels wrong… I get a little rush from it.)

The Notebook. A Lot Like Love. Elizabethtown. The Brothers Bloom. Adventureland. Dan in Real Life. 

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A LOT LIKE LOVE

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Adventureland

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Sometimes when I go to bed I’m all “I wish I had a husband to fall asleep next to wah wahhh” but this past week – reading, watching movies, eating popcorn in bed – I was thrilled to be alone. As much as I want to get married, I also love me time. (Can I get an amen??)

Because I wasn’t rushing out the door in the morning, I ended up having some personal time at the beginning of the day (I usually take time at night.)

With this time, I made the choice to get back into journaling.

I’m typically an avid journal keeper (or diaries, as I call them), but I stopped writing at the beginning of March. I have 8 entries entries between March / April / May / June… and most of those entries are one sentence long.

I was sick of writing the same thing, of feeling the same thing… so I quit. I needed a break.

Fast forward to July 4 (the end of recent busyness.) I knew I couldn’t / shouldn’t avoid my feelings forever, so I decided to acknowledge them again – however small, insignificant, or petty they may be. (Hello again, old friends.)

Since then, I have written in my diary 8 days in a row. [Insert applause here.]

I write the details of the day before (“lazy morning. cinnamon rolls. 2 mile run. volleyball. lake. cookout. watching fireworks from the dock with my friends.” etc etc), and then I write “I feel”… distanced from this person, grateful for this or that, nervous about such-and-such, glad for this reason, wanderlust creeping up… and so on and so forth. Sometimes I have to coach myself to write down the feelings I’m embarrassed about, or the ones I don’t want to remember later. But I’ve found there is some kind of power in admitting these feelings.

After that I listen to God and write down what he says. Sometimes I don’t want to write anything down because it seems unoriginal – “I love you” – um, duhhhhhhh. But still, I put it on paper. I haven’t found any power in this yet but I’m believing that some will be released in time by me doing this. Listen, write, repeat… repeat… repeat… BAM!! (I’ll let you know how it goes :))

Throw in my brother visiting, boating on a Saturday and cigars+bonfire on Sunday and that’s what I’ve been up to as of late.

Bring on the next week!

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Lakeeee

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on friendship…

Friendship is born at that moment when one man says to another: “What! You too? I thought that no one but myself . . .”
(C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves)

I am a firm believer that some friendships have a spark, a chemistry, just as romantic relationships do. It can’t be explained – it just is. I’ve been around people I should have been great friends with – incredible people with similar interests, etc etc., but the spark wasn’t there. We got along fine enough and enjoyed each other’s company, but that was about it.

When I find that spark in friendship it feels like we’ve been friends for years… when in fact it’s only been weeks. Or even days.

Do you know what I’m talking about?

I hope you do.

Before I moved to Georgia, I was physically separated from these kind of friends, and I was lonely.

The plan was to live with a close friend when I came to GA, but two months before I moved down things fell through and my friend took a job in another state.

I was devastated.

I longed for friends, and on top of that I didn’t want to live with a stranger. I felt like a freshman in college again (…that was soooooooooooo seven years ago.)

But there I was, almost 25 years old, friendless, roommate-less. About to move to Georgia and terrified about it.

After a month of stressing, I decided to trust God.

Nothing happened.

And then, on May 9, 2011 – a few weeks before I moved to Georgia – I got a random Facebook message from this girl named Bethany Holland. I had seen her at a World Race training camp seven months prior, but we never met. Apparently she was moving to Gainesville to work with Adventures at the same time as me and needed a roommate. I quickly stalked her FB page, noticed she liked Michael Jackson, and knew right then we were a match made in heaven. I wrote in my diary,

I have a roommate. I.have.a.roommate. A spectacular roommate! Bethany Holland messaged me, saying she’s been praying for God to open doors for her living situation in Gainesville. She’s been praying for me – I’ve been praying for her – we’ve been praying for each other and we didn’t even know it! God knew this whole time.

And thus began our friendship.

We moved in knowing nothing about each other (besides the Michael Jackson thing), but after a couple kitchen table conversations I could tell we had that spark of friendship.

It’s been a wild ride ever since…

We’ve lived in two apartments and a house, been through breakups and bad hair cuts, gone on more airport runs and prayer walks than we can count. We’ve shared clothes and food and stories and pain.We’ve hurt each other, rooted for each other, fought with each other, forgiven each other.

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Bethany has seen me at my worst. She was there after my Lasik surgery, guiding me hand-in-hand from the car to my bed before taping those ugly goggles on my face. She didn’t even laugh.

She was there when I came back from my counselor and cried on her bed.

She was there when I had a bad dream in the middle of the night… I woke her up because I was scared, and she said I could wake her up if needed. I hardly knew her at that point but I believed she meant what she said. (She did.)

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I have learned so much from Bethany, and I think she’s learned a bit from me too. She’s more feminist because of me; I’m more generous because of her.

Bethany is someone who gives freely – her time, money, and listening ear. She has listenened to me say the same thing over and over again, pine for men who will never be, fumble over my words and has not once made me feel stupid in the process. On the contrary, she makes me feel loved… like what I’m saying is worth listening to.

One night a few months ago we were sitting on my bed as Bethany was processing something with me. She ended up telling me I’m a good listener, that I never judge people or something like that. I remember thinking, “Huh? I learned that from you.

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I have my fair share of favorite memories with Bethany – like the time I was leaving the gym sweaty, hungry and exhausted and she texted me asking if I wanted to go to Olive Garden because she had a gift card. Um, definitely?

There was the Saturday morning we stayed in our pjs, ate pancakes and watched Alive! Is Michael Jackson Really Dead? (followed by Michael Jackson music videos, of course.)

There was New Year’s Eve 2011… and New Year’s Eve 2013.

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There have been concerts (Laura Marling, Brandi Carlile, Joshua Radin, Ellie Goulding), flashmobs, late night Froyo runs, holidays, birthdays, lake days, volleyball Sundays and that time we went to Bermuda together (aka got a spray tan.)

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We have so many memories together – but what I’m going to miss the most are the in between moments.

Making spinach & feta scrambled eggs so many times we can’t even stand the taste two years later. Carpooling, trips to the grocery store. Praying for our husbands. Ordering takeout Chinese and watching a Redbox movie on a Friday night. Drinking tea and talking passionately around the kitchen table. Asking her if I should wear this belt or that one before going to work on Monday.

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After three years of living in Georgia, Bethany is spreading her wings and flying elswhere in life. She’ll be leading a group of World Racers around the globe before starting seminary in Pheonix.

She leaves tomorrow.

It all happened pretty fast, and I’m pretty excited for her. I encouraged her to make the jump.

But I’m grieving, of course. I started writing this post over a week ago and the first few nights I couldn’t write without tears sneaking down my cheeks. That’s why I knew I needed to write it. To help me feel.

I have been absolutely spoiled with rich relationships in life. I have friends in Gainesville and scattered across the country – California, Washington, Wisconsin, Texas, Florida, Ohio.

In the last three years, Bethany is the friend who has remained constant amidst change and travel and weddings and babies.

I know we’ll stay friends, but I also know it will be different. Memories and in between moments will be replaced with texts and emails – where there was skin there will now be screen.

I’m sad, nervous and hopeful.

When I look back on the goodness of God it gives me peace.

God brought Bethany into my life when I was scared and alone, and she stayed longer than I expected. That’s the thing about friends – you never really know how long they’re going to be next door.

I got three years with Bethany. And now we part ways.

In the words of A.A. Milne (Winnie-the-Pooh),

“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”

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I love you, Beth!

(…now go get ‘em!)

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family vacay.

Every summer my family travels to Lake Michigan for vacation. We’ve dabbled in different areas – New Buffalo, South Haven, Grand Haven. Lately we’ve landed on Grand Haven.

Sometimes I’m embarrassed when I tell people I’m going to Michigan for vacation. Because… it’s Michigan. (Cloudy. Not Colorado. 8 Mile. Need I say more??)

But when I’m there I remember how much I actually like it. The sand is soft, the sun isn’t too hot and there aren’t any sharks. My family rents a house within walking distance to town, which is lined with Mom and Pop shops.

Grand Haven feels low maintenance, which fits my family well. There are a lot of us, so high maintenance was never much of an option. Give us Pop-Tarts and board games and we’re good to go.

The day we arrived my 17-year-old brother, Paul, convinced me to watch Star Wars with him. Now I like Star Wars as much as the next person, but it’s been a while and I wanted to start from the beginning (aka A New Hope, because we all know that’s where it really began. Can I get an amen???)

But my brother wouldn’t budge, so we watched Return of the Jedi instead. (Ewoks! I want one!)

The next morning I ate Cap’n Crunch with these cuties:

capncrunch

(That hair!!)

The rest of vacation looked like this: Insanity in the morning with my dad, beach in the afternoon, Froyo every night, walks around town or to the pier, board games (Monopoly, Wits and Wagers, Balderdash, Scattergories, Taboo.) Oh and we went to brunch once or twice. Noms.

sisters

beachbabes

pierwithhaven

bros

lunch

brunch

monopoly

One more thing.

Every year, my dad makes the biggest sand castle on the beach. My family becomes a hit because of this. The little kids love it, the teenagers are speechless (or they cuss about how cool it is), the parents are jealous they didn’t do it themselves.

People take pictures. One guy even used it as a landmark when he was giving directions on the phone.

It’s kind of a big deal.

sandcastle

Oh, but that was just day 1.

This is what he debuted the last day we were there…

thebest

If you’ll notice, it actually has a face.

thebest2

That about sums it up. All in all, another fabulous vacation in Michigan.

Until next year…

walkingwithmarie

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