The Gift of Friendship

“In friendship…we think we have chosen our peers. In reality a few years’ difference in the dates of our births, a few more miles between certain houses, the choice of one university instead of another…the accident of a topic being raised or not raised at a first meeting—any of these chances might have kept us apart. But, for a Christian, there are, strictly speaking no chances. A secret master of ceremonies has been at work.” —C.S. Lewis, “The Four Loves”

I balanced precariously on the edge of my bed and eyed the picture frame I had just hung on my dorm room wall. I thought it was perfect when I was up close, but now I could see that one corner of the frame was slightly higher than the other.

Knowing I had more pressing tasks to accomplish, like unpacking the pile of boxes that cluttered my floor, I gave a defeated shrug and jumped off of my bed.

In the lounge outside my door, I could hear my mom introducing herself to one of the housemates I would be living with for the next year.

I poked my head out of my door to introduce myself, and the girl said her name was Maggie.

After two years at K-State, I had decided to transfer to Tabor, and I was excited to live with one of my best friends from high school and some of her friends. But we would also be living with some girls we didn’t know, like Maggie, and I wasn’t sure what to expect.

Maggie seemed nice, but during the first few weeks of school, we kept to our separate circles.

It wasn’t until my friends and I started a Bible study and invited Maggie that a friendship began to bud. It took a few tries to get Maggie to come, since I’m sure she thought we were weird and annoying, but eventually she joined us as we sprawled across the coaches and talked about life.

I was hesitant too. During my years at K-State, I had built some pretty sturdy walls around my heart that I wasn’t about to let down in front of a girl I barely knew.

But gradually, I found myself opening up to the four other girls in the group, including Maggie. At the same time, Maggie slowly began to open up to us, and we were able to witness her incredible transformation as she began to truly embrace Jesus’ love and purpose for her life.

Over the course of that year, and even as we moved to separate houses during the next year, our friendship led to countless, precious memories, like driving 700 miles in one day just to cheer on the Tabor women’s basketball team at nationals.

In “The Four Loves,” C.S. Lewis explains that friendship “is not a reward for our . . . good taste in finding one another out,” but rather “the instrument by which God reveals to each of us the beauties of others.”

Through my friendship with Maggie, I’ve been able to see the world and others from a new perspective.

I’ve also learned that C.S. Lewis was right when he said there are no coincidences for followers of Christ. Every single person God brings into our lives is there for a reason. Whether it’s the girl who lives across the hall or the boy who sits by you in class, God’s hand has crossed your paths.

I share the story of my friendship with Maggie as a reminder of the delicacy of our interactions and of the power of the Holy Spirit at work in our lives.

Our friendships are orchestrated by God, and we must never take that for granted.

 

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Joy in Restoration: A Tale as Old as Time

There are very few stories that are as precious to me as the story of “Beauty and the Beast.”

As a little girl, I was enamored by a character so similar to me—a girl with brown hair who loves to read and dreams of “adventure in the great wide somewhere.” I watched as she defined bravery, loyalty and compassion, and I cheered as the Beast finally learned to love and be loved.

As a sophomore in high school, I had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of taking part in a production of my favorite fairy tale. Even though I was only a chorus member, I had chills as I relived the story on a stage.

Belle and the Beast’s story of true love and true beauty enchanted me from the beginning. Even now as a young adult, I am moved to tears by the animated classic’s beautiful music, impactful characters and compelling plot.

So to say I was excited for the new live-action remake of “Beauty and the Beast” is an understatement. And to say I wasn’t disappointed is an even bigger one.

The remake beautifully weaves the classic elements of the original story together with emotional backstories, breathtaking scenery, ornate costumes and powerful music.

beautyandthebeast2Once again, I was enchanted from the very beginning.

And, apparently, so was the rest of the world. “Beauty and the Beast” has now topped the box office two weeks in a row, and it doesn’t appear to be slowing down.

The movie’s success hasn’t freed it from controversy, however, and before the film was even released, people made judgments based on the over exaggeration of a “moment.” They released their own cries of “kill the beast” toward a character whose transformation of heart and conscience is just as moving as the Beast’s transformation from arrogance to humility and love.

In a review of “Beauty and the Beast” on her personal blog, Sarah Cinnamon addresses this controversy in a beautiful way. She argues that, instead of looking for the moments of ugliness and sin, we should view the film from a new perspective.

She writes, “When we look for evil, we will find it – every time. . . . When we look for God – He can and will be found. Every time. Put that lens of ‘looking for Him’ on – it is amazing what He will allow you to see.”

During my third time viewing the film (don’t judge), I did just so. And I found that Cinnamon’s words could not be truer.

With this lens, “Beauty and the Beast” moves from an enchanting love story about a beast and a bookworm to a story rich in truth. Its themes connect the audience to the true “tale as old as time”—a tale of hope, freedom, love, redemption and joy.

When we “look for God” in “Beauty and the Beast,” we can find that these five themes shine brighter than the ugliness we can try to pick out.

Even those who aren’t specifically looking for God in the film can find a glimpse of Him.

I love the way A.O. Scott puts it in his review for the New York Times: “It looks good, moves gracefully and leaves a clean and invigorating aftertaste. I almost didn’t recognize the flavor: I think the name for it is joy.”

beautyandthebeast3At its core, “Beauty and the Beast” is a tale of a broken, selfish man who can only be redeemed through love. And isn’t that the tale of humanity?

Maybe our connection to the joy that radiates from “Beauty and the Beast” is a result of our role in a greater narrative.

Like the Beast/Prince, we are in need of a saving love. We’re desperate for the type of joy that only comes from new life.

As Belle and the now human Prince waltz around the ballroom, Mrs. Potts sings the following lyrics: “Winter turns to spring. Famine turns to feast. Nature points the way. Nothing left to say. Beauty and the Beast.”

Beneath the enthralling dances and the swooping camerawork of this scene lies the joy of restoration.

As I watched the scene and felt the tears begin to pool in my eyes, I couldn’t help but imagine how much more beautiful the scene will be when we dance for eternity with the One who makes all things new.

“Beauty and the Beast” gives us a glimpse of the joy and restoration that is waiting for us in eternity when we accept the power of love—the love that came down to Earth and died on a cross to save us from our ugliness and sin.

It’s why I believe audiences are so drawn to the story, and why I truly believe it is a “tale as old as time.”

The Castle on the Plains

I stepped onto the concrete platform and stretched my legs, which had stiffened up during the two-hour train ride through the German Alps. When I looked up, my breath caught in my throat.

There she was, peeking through the summits of the beautiful Alps.

There stood the castle I had dreamed of visiting ever since I was fifteen.

On our last day in Germany during my trip to Europe last January, we were supposed to visit a museum.

However, I couldn’t bear knowing that I was only two hours away from one of the most famous castles in the world and didn’t visit it. So, my friends and I convinced our leader to let us plan a day trip out to Neuschwanstein Castle.

Castles have always caught my eye in ways no other buildings can.

I love the way they command their landscape. I love the history they hold.

I can trace my love for castles back to my freshman year of high school, when I chose Neuschwanstein Castle as my topic for a research paper. I spent the next few weeks researching every possible detail about the castle that I could find, and I became enamored with the castle’s architecture and history.

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There was a dense fog that hung around the castle on the day I visited, which gave the day a magical, otherworldly feel.

Instead of paying to take a horse drawn carriage up the mountain, we opted to walk. With the castle looming above us, we hiked up the paved road, which was surrounded by waterfalls and snow-covered trees that framed incredible views.

As we rounded a corner and the full castle came into view, I had to pause for a few moments just to take the moment in.

We toured the castle’s interior, in which only fifteen rooms are finished, and learned about the castle’s mysterious and unique history.

The entire day felt surreal, a feeling that I still can remember to this day.

I could gush on for a few pages about my day at Neuschwanstein, but I do have a bigger point to this story.

During the beginning of February, I began longing to visit another castle. I wanted so badly to drop everything and fly to Germany or Scotland. I was hungry for another adventure involving a castle.

As I’ve been reflecting on how I see God in the world around me this year, or “looking for lovely,” I’ve realized that there is a reason I love castles so much—a reason I became so enchanted by Neuschwanstein Castle.

Castles are one of my “lovelies.”

Through castles, I am reminded of God’s strength, power and faithfulness. Castles remind me that God is present in my small, simple life. They remind me of Psalms 91:2: “I will say of the LORD, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.'”

While I was longing to visit a castle, I was also longing to be reminded of that truth. My future was still very blurry and life was leaving me desperate for hope.

I was expecting God to lead me to a big, Neuschwanstein-sized castle, but instead, on a beautiful, sunny day in the beginning of February, God led me to a tiny castle on the Kansas plains: Coronado Heights.

The castle there is by no means breathtaking, although the view isn’t too shabby.

But the small castle’s solid, stone architecture whispered the same reminders about God to me. God is strong. God is powerful. God is faithful.

He is my hope.

Sometimes I see him working in big ways, like a large, beautiful castle in the Bavarian Alps.

But other times, his presence works through the smallest of moments, like a simple, stone castle on the Kansas plains.

 

 

Meet Me in Paris

When I was in middle school, I decided that I loved Paris. To my young, innocent brain, Paris was where dreams came true and where life was one glamorous adventure.

I covered my bedroom with posters, wall hangings and mini statues of the Eiffel Tower and other Paris landmarks.

Above all, I promised myself that someday I would visit the City of Lights.

Eight years later, I did just that. And I started to fall out of love with the city I spent years dreaming about.

Paris was nothing I imagined it would be. Within my first hour there, I witnessed a bad pick-pocketing. The streets were dirty and the Eiffel Tower wasn’t nearly as tall as I was expecting it to be.

Paris had lost some of its glamour for me, but I was still willing to go back on my second trip to Europe last January.

Then, on Nov. 13, 2015, horrific images and the headline “Terror in Paris” covered my TV while my social media timelines were full of the hashtag “Pray for Paris.”

On that day, I went from feeling excitement for my second trip to Europe to feeling pure fear.

Then the fatal blow to my love for Paris came on our first evening in the city.

Our leader got separated from the rest of us at a Metro station on the way back to our hostel. As the eight of us started to make our way through the creepy tunnels to our next platform, I heard footsteps run up behind me.

It happened in a blur.

A man attempted to seize my friend’s purse, but tripped and sprawled onto the ground. The smack of his body and the shattering of his smartphone pierced the air.

In the blink of an eye, he was back on his feet and marching right toward me. He grabbed my shoulder and started yelling in French. I didn’t know what was happening. Was this a terrorist attack? Was I about to die?

I heard one of the boys in our group yell from behind me and the man turned his attention away from me.

The other girls and I sprinted to our platform, and, after a short yelling match with the French man, the boys in our group descended the stairs. The eight of us stood in a huddle, bewildered and terribly shaken.

Fear paralyzed me, and I decided once and for all that I would never return to Paris again.

So, fittingly, that’s exactly where God has called me to go this summer.

On our last day in Paris last January, we took the train to a suburb to spend most of the day with some missionaries from Hillsboro.

Several times since then, people have brought up to me the fact that MB Mission is sending an ACTION trip to Paris this summer.

Then, following an MB Mission event in November, it became clear God wanted me and my friend—who’s been on a very similar journey in this respect—to go.

I resisted it as hard as I could. But for each excuse I came up with, the Holy Spirit had a rebuttal: God would be faithful in the timing, in the finances, and in the fear.

So over Christmas break, I filled out the application, sent in the deposit, and finally believed God is bigger than my fears.

In middle school, I thought Paris was the definition of lovely. Nine years later, I was convinced there wasn’t an ounce of lovely in the city.

Over the past year, though, I’ve realized God is doing something lovely in Paris, and he’s doing something lovely in my life.

This summer, God is bringing the two together in a way only God could.

Looking For My Own Lovely

When I was searching for summer jobs in Tennessee this past May, I made a stop at the local LifeWay bookstore.

As much as my heart loves bookstores, they are a very dangerous place for my bank account. I am physically unable to leave a bookstore without a new (to me) book in my hand.

So on that particular day in May, I browsed through LifeWay’s neatly stacked paperbacks. My gaze landed on a navy blue book with red, yellow, and white doodles on the front: Annie F. Downs’ “Looking For Lovely.”

I bought the book before my brain could talk me out of it and began reading the introduction that night.

But for some reason, after reading the introduction, I sat the book on my nightstand and never returned to it all summer. It wasn’t that I didn’t like the book; Annie’s words resonated with me and her casual tone made me feel like she was my best friend.

I didn’t pick up the book to read it again until about two weeks ago, though. It was the first book on my Christmas break “Books to Read Now That I Can Read For Enjoyment Again” list.

And while I really should have read the book back during the summer, I’m glad I read it now, as I’m approaching a new year full of change and uncertainty.

In “Looking for Lovely,” Annie writes about how God transformed her thinking patterns and rebuilt her “broken crazy” into a healthy heart, body, mind and spirit.

As the book’s title suggests, Annie found that looking for the beauty in different moments, or “looking for lovely,” helped her persevere through some tough times. She writes, “I’m filling my mind and eyes and memories with good things, good gifts from God, so that my tank is refueled, so that my parched throat is soothed, before the journey continues.”

Her words reminded me of Philippians 4:8, in which Paul encourages his readers to think on “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable.”

As much as I’d like to think of myself as an optimist, I often slip into negative thoughts when life is overwhelming, confusing or stressful.

Annie’s book got me thinking about the lovely people, places, and things in my life and how God uses them to teach me truth, bring me joy and help me persevere during those hard times.

Annie writes about how she found lovely in sunrises, Ryman Auditorium, athletes, nail polish, sushi, gardens, and friends.

Looking back on this past year, I realize that God gifted me with many lovely memories, people, and things to remind me of his love for me.

I found lovely at a pub in Rome while watching American football.

I found lovely surrounded by books at the Williamson County Library in Franklin, Tennessee.

I found lovely at a small church in Plevna, Kansas, where I encountered the Holy Spirit in a life-changing way.

I found lovely in the process of editing and making words and sentences fit together in the best possible way.

I found lovely in the hugs (and more often tackles) of my sweet and crazy cousins at our annual Christmas gathering.

And I found lovely when I finally sat down to read a book that had been on my dresser since June.

Next year is going to be a year full of things I don’t necessarily find lovely, like choices and change. And that’s not just for me and my fellow graduates, but our nation as well.

We’re all going to need a lot of perseverance.

But as Annie writes, “There is a correlation between beauty and perseverance.”

At Christmastime, we celebrate the most beautiful gift God gave to us through baby Jesus. As I enter this new year, my goal is to look for the other lovely gifts God puts in my life as a reminder of his goodness and his grace.

I will have to make big decisions, move away and start a job, which is both exciting and completely terrifying at the same time. Through it all, I want my heart to collect the moments and memories that are truly beautiful.

What’s Coming Will Come

I bolted upright in my bed as a thought sprinted through my mind. It had suddenly hit me that, unless I go on to get my master’s degree, this is my last year of school. Ever.

This way of life I’ve become so accustomed to over the past 16 years is quickly coming to an end.

I’m a week into my senior year of college and I don’t quite know how that happened. The past three years have sped by at lightning speed, yet they were packed full of growth and adventure.

While thinking about what to write for this column, I looked back at a column I wrote when I was a senior in high school. Here’s an excerpt:

“There are lots of things to worry about between now and next August. I’m worried I won’t get along with my future roommate…. I’m worried about keeping good grades. And I’m worried about using community style bathrooms….

“Yet, I am excited for so many more things. I’m excited to make new friends, even though I will never forget the ones I have now. I’m excited to learn more ….In general, I’m excited for all of the new experiences that come with college.

“My life has changed so much since I was that young freshman walking into HHS for the first time. Now I understand what all of the seniors before me meant when they said high school would fly by. It literally does.”

There are so many things I want to tell that 17-year-old version of myself. I want to tell her that community-style bathrooms are really the least of my worries. That the following two years will be full of tears, loneliness and hard decisions. That my life will change more than I thought possible. That there are so many wonderful memories ahead. That college is going to fly by, too.

I’d be lying to say I’m not scared and anxious as I think about getting a job, moving out on my own and entering the “real world.” What will the 25-year-old version of me have to say when she looks back at the worries consuming my senior year of college?

The unknown future is scary to think about and exciting to dream about. But I’ve decided it’s something I’m not going to dwell on. At least not just yet.

As Hagrid puts it in “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire,” “What’s comin’ will come, an’ we’ll meet it when it does.” The time for me to start applying for jobs and paying back student loans is coming, and I’ll meet it when it does.

Senior year is the most precious year of a student’s life, whether high school or college. It’s our time to cherish the moments and people we thought would last forever and prepare for the new adventure that’s knocking at our door. So why waste this year in fear and worry?

That night as I sat wide awake in my bed, realizing the school chapter of my life is coming to a close, I was reminded of Philippians 4:6-7: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

I used to think it was impossible to feel peace about a future I didn’t have planned out. Now, people ask me if I know what I want to do after I graduate, and I don’t feel fear when I say I’m not sure yet.

All I know right now is that, even though for the past 16 years school has seemed like the whole book, it’s really just the beginning. With God as the author, I’m prepared to turn the page to the next chapter.

But first, I have a senior year to enjoy.

Reflections

Feeling thankful to be sad is such a strange combination of emotions. Right now, I’m so sad. My amazing two months as an intern at Show Hope have come to an end. I have moved back from Tennessee, and I had to say goodbye to so many people who became very dear to me.

Yet, I’m thankful. I’m thankful that I’m sad to leave and that my heart is so full. These past two months flew by too fast, but I can’t help but look back with a huge smile. God was extremely good to me and taught me so much about his provision and his presence, and I’m incredibly thankful for that.

During a staff devotional at Show Hope, the leader talked about “microwave brains” and “crockpot brains.” People with microwave brains process their experiences and feelings very quickly, while people with crockpot brains have to let things sit for a while until they can fully process them. I’m definitely a crockpot brain. It took me months to really process everything God taught me during my trip to Europe in January, and I’m sure it will take just as long to fully understand the bigger picture of my summer.

For now, I’m mainly processing everything I’m going to miss the most about my time in Tennessee. Here are the three things that have been at the forefront of my mind lately.

1) The places. I absolutely fell in love with the Nashville area. There is a lake right outside of Nashville called Radnor Lake, and it provides such a beautiful, calm contrast to the busyness of the city. The city of Franklin—which is where I lived and worked—is so charming. Nashville itself is full of a contagious, creative energy. From movies in the park to free live music, there is always something fun to do.

2) The people. I was so blessed by the people God put in my life this summer. I had people cook for me, pray for me, and open up their homes to me. I experienced true Southern hospitality and saw Jesus in the words and actions of the people I came into contact with. The people I worked with were so kind, talented, and passionate about their jobs.

I made awesome new friends who helped me step out of my box and drove me to the airport at 2 a.m. so I wouldn’t have to take public transportation. I had tears in my eyes during almost all of my goodbyes.

3) The purpose. On my first day at Show Hope, my assignment was to read through the organization’s blog to get a feel for the voice and style I would be writing in.

I quickly realized that I had a lot to learn about adoption and the orphan crisis. There are more than 140 million orphans in the world and every 18 seconds another child becomes an orphan.

The wall next to my desk and the ceilings throughout the office are covered in pictures of children at Show Hope’s Care Centers who have been brought home to families. Every day I would come into work and be reminded of the reason we were all there.

In the last two months, God placed a burden on my heart for the millions of children who are waiting for the hope of a family.

I’m so thankful I had the opportunity to be a part of the movement to care for orphans. I can’t wait until the day when I can grow my own family through adoption and help lower the staggering statistics one precious child at a time.

Until then, I’m so excited to share about the things I learned and to find ways to continue to be a part of the movement.

Precious Time

THREE WEEKS?!?! How has it been three whole weeks since my last post!? Time is flying and I feel like I’m barely holding on.

These last 21 days have been packed full of fun adventures. First, I made a quick trip home for my cousin’s wedding and had a great time catching up with friends and family.

While I was home, I made the decision that I will come home from Tennessee sooner than I planned. I haven’t been able to get a job here for just the summer, and I’m not making any money but spending a lot. That’s obviously not good on my bank account, so I’m coming home three weeks earlier. I am so sad that I’ll have three less weeks to enjoy this beautiful state, but there are some silver linings, like being able to be a counselor at one of my favorite camps!

That being said, my remaining time here in Tennessee has become very precious. I’m trying to live every minute to the fullest. Here are some of the ways I’ve been doing just that:

During the last weekend in June, Kristen and I headed into Nashville. On Saturday morning, we explored the Nashville Flea Market. It was HUGE! We only made it through a fraction of the booths and buildings before we were sweating buckets and decided to head out to find food. There were so many treasures that caught my eye. I wish I would’ve had a house to fill with all these things (and money to buy them). I ended up buying a few pieces of cheap jewelry, a set of old Disneyland postcards, and an awesome vintage travel poster.

After the flea market, we headed further downtown to the Nashville Farmer’s Market. Here, we grabbed some delicious food, like grilled chicken crepes, fresh Georgia peaches, and Jeni’s Ice Cream.

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Sunday, Kristen and I drove back into downtown Nashville for a photo shoot (pictures to come)! We walked down Broadway street, visited the Union Station hotel, and spent some time at Sevier Park. We also grabbed some burgers at Burger Up. BEST BURGER I HAVE EVER HAD IN MY LIFE (and also most expensive burger I’ve had in my life).

 

This past weekend, Kristen and I ventured out of the Nashville area. On Saturday, we drove about an hour and a half east to Burgess Falls State Park.

On the way, we drove past a CASTLE. THERE IS A CASTLE IN TENNESSEE AND YES I FREAKED OUT! We looked it up more and found out this is Castle Gwynn, an authentic castle a man started building in 1980 and now lives in. It hosts the Tennessee Renaissance Festival in May (HOW DID I MISS THIS) and was Taylor Swift’s castle in her music video for Love Story! So cool, right!? I’m still trying to find out if there’s a way I can tour it. I might just have to make a trip back here next May!

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We made it to Burgess Falls State Park and spent some time hiking past the beautiful waterfalls. The sound of water rushing over rocks is one of my favorites. I could’ve sat by the river with a good book all afternoon. It was nice to get out of the busy city and spend some quality time with nature.

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Sunday presented another fun adventure. We headed an hour north to Springfield to attend a Fourth of July celebration, featuring a concert by for KING & COUNTRY, one of my absolute favorite groups! The concert was awesome and Joel came and sang just a few feet in front of us! It was a struggle to stay composed. I’ve now seen them in concert three times and I can’t wait for the fourth! Eventually I will meet them!! There was a beautiful fireworks show following the concert. Sadly, we didn’t watch any fireworks on the actual fourth of July since it rained the whole evening.

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Like I said, these past few weeks have been packed full. It’s crazy to think that I have less than three weeks left.

Thanks for keeping up with my adventures, and stay tuned for a post about how I spend the last of my precious time in Tennessee in addition to some reflections about what God has taught me and how He’s moved during my 9 weeks here.

No Opportunity Wasted

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from my time in Tennessee so far, it’s that opportunities should not be wasted. Nashville is a city full of opportunities, from meeting celebrities to enjoying nature.

This past week, Kristen and I embraced every opportunity that came our way. It was my favorite week of the summer so far!

Here’s some of the exciting things we did (with pictures)!

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On Monday of last week, I saw a tweet from Sadie Robertson about a book signing at the local LifeWay bookstore. I love Duck Dynasty and loved watching Sadie on Dancing with the Stars–it wasn’t even a question of whether we should go! So on Wednesday, I had my first “celebrity encounter” of the summer. Sadie was so sweet and I was so awkward (what else is new)! Overall, it was a fun experience!

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Later Wednesday evening, Kristen and I went on a hike at Radnor Lake before our weekly Bible study. Radnor Lake is absolutely beautiful! It is a state natural area, so we saw lots of wildlife during our trip around the lake, including deer, turtles, and wild turkeys.

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On Thursday, Kristen and I, along with two of our intern friends, ventured into Nashville for the evening to watch a movie in the park. The screen was set up at one end of Elmington Park and food trucks were circled around the other end. There were so many good food options, and I ended up going with the popular grilled cheese truck. BEST. GRILLED CHEESE. EVER. Buttermilk cheddar, carmelized onions, and bacon…my mouth is watering just thinking about it! Right before the movie started, we braved the long line to get sno cones at the Retro Sno truck, and once again I was not disappointed. The only bad thing about the night was that the movie was Finding Nemo. My very serious (and very irrational) fear of sharks did not appreciate that.

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Our next big adventure came on Sunday. I went to the CMA Fest. My anti-country-music self went to a festival all about country music. We went to see Crowder, which I loved, but then Kristen made me listen to some other random country singer, which I didn’t love. Still, it was a fun, hot, and exciting morning. Crowder was awesome and now I can officially say I’ve been to the CMA Fest.

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After we left the CMA Fest, we made a quick stop in the 12 South neighborhood to take a picture with the famous “I Believe in Nashville” mural.

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Finally, after a much-needed bite to eat at Chipotle, we ran across a poster about a Shawn Johnson meet-and-greet nearby. Again, we did not waste the opportunity and joined a crowd of young gymnasts to listen to Shawn speak about her new book. And of course we didn’t pass up the photo op afterward!

 

What a week! I had so much fun embracing every adventure that came my way. What adventures are you embracing this summer? When opportunities come your way, don’t waste them!

In with the New

I have a love/hate relationship with change.

Change rips the blanket off of me right when I get cozy. It turns my world upside down and makes me question everything I know.

And sometimes change brings me to a place better than I could have dreamed of. It surprises me and makes me excited about the future.

Whether it’s good or bad, change usually brings about something new. A new job, a new house, a new situation in life, etc. This requires adjustment, and adjusting can be hard and rewarding all at the same time.

For the past 20 days, I have been adjusting to one new thing after another. Nothing bad, just every thing new.

Here’s a peek at what I’ve been adjusting to during my first few weeks in Tennessee:

Interning

The ultimate reason I’m here this summer is because I have this awesome opportunity to learn and develop my skills while working for a great cause. Show Hope has been incredible. At first, I was pretty nervous about my internship. I didn’t know what to expect and didn’t know if my abilities would be good enough. But the people are so kind and they all truly care about their work. The atmosphere in the office is fun and relaxed, and I love coming into work every day. I work four days a week for about five hours each day. During that time, I write blog posts (check out my first one here) and work on projects for the communications team. I’m learning about communications from a non-profit standpoint and gaining insight on orphan care and the orphan crisis.

Living in the city

Technically I’m living in the suburbs. Franklin, Tennessee, is about 20 miles south of Nashville and is the cutest town ever. It has a population of almost 70,000, so even though it has a small-town charm, there are LOTS of people here. Especially for a girl coming from a town of less than 3,000. Lots of people means lots of restaurants and stores. There are so many coffee shops and cafes I want to try out, and it’s hard to refrain from spending money ALL OF THE TIME (I’m working on getting a job so that’s less of an issue). So far, Kristen and I have checked out a few of the highly-recommended coffee and ice cream shops around the area, including Frothy Monkey, The Well, The Good Cup, Kilwins, and Sweet CeCe’s.

Staying with a host family

Kristen and I are both staying with host families this summer, which has been a new experience for us both. Kristen’s family is so much fun; they have adorable 4-year-old triplets who are incredibly energetic. I love spending time with their family and playing with the triplets. They help me not miss my sweet cousins back home quite as much! My host family situation has been quite the journey. I initially moved into a house with a woman who lived about a 30-minute drive away from Franklin. We agreed that I’d keep looking for a closer place, and I found one for the month of July. I still needed somewhere for June, though, so I sent another message to a woman Kristen and I met during our spring break trip to Nashville. Renee and her husband have welcomed me into their home for the month of June and have been such a blessing to me already. Their house is less than five minutes away from Kristen’s, and less than ten minutes from Show Hope. They have cable and a huge selection of movies, so Kristen and I spent the weekend catching up on some old favorite shows (Girl Meets World and The Dude Perfect Show) and binge-watching some new favorites (Call the Midwife–thanks Renee!) Renee has also been introducing me to some good books. All of my free time these next few weeks will likely be spent reading at the pool, and I’m totally fine with that!

Being social

I’m an introvert to the core. I recharge off of time alone and prefer small groups of people I know. So making friends and being social has definitely been one of the most challenging adjustments for me. Kristen and I have attended a few Bible studies and have gotten to know some of the other summer interns at Show Hope. On Tuesday of last week, we went to the young adult group at CrossPoint church in Franklin and I had to step out of my comfort zone a little. The group was definitely full of extroverts! Then on Wednesday, we went to a young adult women’s Bible study at Forest Hills Baptist Church, which is where we’ve been going most Sunday mornings. In this group, we’ll be working through the new She Reads Truth study on Acts, and I’m really excited to dive deeper in the study! Who knows, by the end of the summer I might turn into an extrovert. Or not. Most likely not.

 

Thanks for reading about the adjustments going on in my life right now! I appreciate your messages and prayers! Kristen and I have some fun things planned for this week, so check back next week to read about how I continue to be social and for more updates about the adventures we go on!