When I first moved to my small town in Alabama from Memphis, Tennessee in the eighth grade, I had no idea what to expect. I was still young and just went wherever my parents went. Mom and I had always known that Dad wanted to move back to the town he spent so much time in as a teenager, but we didn't know when and how that was going to happen. About two months before the summer of my eighth grade year, I got off the school bus and found a U-Haul truck waiting in my driveway. The time had come.
I went to school the next couple of days and said by to my friends, including my best friend since kindergarten. She told me later that she spent the rest of the day crying, because she didn't want me moving away, especially since we were about to start high school (and she still brings this up today...no hard feelings of course)! I still hadn't really wrapped my brain around the fact that I was about to move states, six hours away from the only friends I'd known and all of my family.
The first day of school in my new small town was an interesting one. Most of the eighth grade was on a field trip, leaving behind only a few several, making it somewhat easier walking into a classroom of teenage strangers. Those who were there that day ended up being my friends all throughout high school. The next day when the rest of the kids came back, it was nice having at least a couple of people knowing who I was. I didn't have to keep explaining that I was the "new kid," they kind of took over that job for me. Yet, when it came time for eighth grade graduation (which I still don't really understand) and my name was called, kids and parents alike turned to each other wondering who the heck I was.
I don't remember much about that first summer in Alabama. And starting high school in the fall, I probably had the same feeling I did when I walked into eighth grade that day. Thankfully, I did have friends. And eventually "new girl from Tennessee" finally became "Jess."
I joke all the time that you couldn't pay me enough money to go back to high school. But, I would go back to college in a heartbeat. Not that high school was horrible, but there are just some things you would like to be different or have a chance to re-do. Same goes for college by the way, it's just that high school seems so high school. There seemed to always be drama, fights, and crushes that went nowhere. Then, throw in learning how to drive, extracurricular, and prom. High school can be rough! In college, sure, you might have had to make new friends all over again. But, you are more on your way to an adult and there seems to be less drama...well at least for me and my circle of friends it seemed that way. We had our moments for sure, but nothing like high school.
High school in a small town is also interesting, because you are in a small town. I graduated with maybe 75 people. Seventy-five! Yeah, it's safe to say that I knew pretty much everyone sitting on that football field and I had probably talked to them at least once during my high school career. Seventy-five. That still blows my mind sometimes.
I applied to college kind of on a whim. I mean, I knew college was in the picture, but it wasn't something that had been discussed a lot throughout high school in my family. If anything, I would be like the majority of my high school classmates and go to community college (that is so lovely nicknamed Harvard on the Hill or what feels like your fifth year of high school because everyone is there) for a couple of years before moving off or just staying in town. I don't know if it was because I was born in the city or moved from the city, but I knew that I wanted to get away. I didn't so much hate the small town life, it just didn't seem to fit me. I felt like it didn't offer me anything and nor could I offer it anything.
So, of to The University of Alabama I went. Situated in beautiful Tuscaloosa, 45 minutes away from Birmingham, and two hours from home. Tuscaloosa seemed huge compared to the small town I had just left, but it wasn't long before I felt more at home there. And eventually, the life in the small town started to feel like a stranger.
When I left the small town for college and got more and more involved in life in Tuscaloosa, my mind really left the small town. I mean, really left it and the people in it. I'm not sure when my relationships with my high school best friends stopped. And because it feels that way, most of those cut ties are probably my fault. It was never something I thought about until I moved back to the small town.
When I left, I will be honest and tell you that I forgot the names of most of the people I knew in high school. Besides my close group of friends and the popular ones, I only remembered faces. I would see people all around town and they would call me by name and ask how I was. The entire conversation I was trying to remember what the heck their name was. And this is how it was for the next few years...and how it still is today.
Was I intentional with my friendships in high school? Did I waste the time I spent there with those people? Or was I just too set on getting out that I didn't care? I was a kid in high school, simple as that. And I always felt like I was the new kid, even after three years with the same group of kids. That isn't their fault. Some of them actually took the time to get to know me and include me. They wanted to be my friends.
I'm not saying my time in high school was horrible or that I have no great and fun memories, because I do. Lots of them. I have many pictures to prove it. What I am saying is that even though you couldn't pay me to go back, I wouldn't mind a second chance at it. A do-over to be intentional. To really get to know them. A chance to say thank you for approaching me and including me. A chance to not squander it away. A chance to not wish it would end too quickly. A chance to see what life in a small town really could be like. Another opportunity to know the community as it could be. As it should be.
Because life in a small town really isn't that bad. When I don't want to get the heck out of it...
Be on the lookout for part 2!
Do you live in a small-town? Did you ever move from a city to a small town or vice versa? What do you love or hate about small town life? What would you change if you could? Do you want a do-over?
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Guys, I am so happy that today is Friday. This has been one of the longest and most tiring weeks for me in awhile. In addition to my part-time job at the coffee shop, I picked up another part-time job at the hospital doing the same job I did in high school. There were a couple of days where I went to both on the same day, but that quickly changed and I'm just alternating right now. However, this is ALL going to change in just a few short weeks, because something exciting is happening. I can't wait to tell you all about it, but I want to wait just a little longer when more things become official! Let's just say, a new journey is finally about to begin! :)
I have been slacking when it comes to taking photos lately. I feel like my Instagram account has been forgotten. I feel as though I haven't been making time for much of anything lately. However, a couple of weeks ago, Aimee approached me to be her co-host for her link-up Finding Beauty. This is one of my favorite link-ups. I love looking at all the wonderful photos you guys share every week. You people are so super talented!
This week, the only two photos I posted to my Instagram were these two photos:
I love taking photos of the sky. And trees. And blue skies.
We've had some serious awesome clouds happening in the afternoons lately thanks to some summertime showers. I love how the sun will hit the clouds and they are just bright white against a crisp blue background!
This got me to remembering other photos I've taken of the sky. Whether it's blue skies like above, sunrises, sunsets, or the moon! I've tried to capture a lot of them. But, of course, none of the photos do them justice. I wanted to share with you some of those that I've snapped over the years. Just warning you about the quality of some of these: they were taken with either a super fancy camera, my iPhone, or a simple point and shoot.
Link Up with Finding Beauty
I hope you guys will link up your wonderful photos! Can't wait to look at all the beautiful shots you have captured. I can't think of a better way to start my weekend, so link on up! :)
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The Lord has been showing me many things over the past couple of weeks. And I would love to share with you all. This post might be a bit longer than usual, but my prayer is that you will make it through and that you will be encouraged by Psalm 78, just as I was.
"O my people, hear my teaching; listen to the words of my mouth..."
If there is one thing we, as Christians, should do, it is to listen to the words of the Lord. To be still, be silent, and to listen. He is speaking something over us that He doesn't want us to miss. Yet, there is so much noise in our lives that we barely know what quiet is anymore. I challenge you, set a timer or watch the clock for 5 minutes. Just five minutes. See how still and quiet you can be in those five minutes. I'll do it with you. Ready? Setting my timer and....go!
Done? How was it? Was it easy? Or did you begin to pick out every noise around you. Did you fidget or start thumbing through pages of a book? I'll be honest, I got to minute four before I took a peek at my phone to see how long was left. I sometimes do this exercise with youth when leading a D-Now or Bible Study. I just want to see how long they can go before they start moving and making noise. It's usually about two and a half minutes... Our lives are constantly filled with noise that when we sit in silence, it's almost deafening. I don't want to have so much noise going on in my life that I miss the words God is speaking to me.
"Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands. They would not be like their forefathers -- a stubborn and rebellious generation..."
Not only do I want to hear the words of God, I don't want to forget his deeds and his commands. The God that reigns in the Old Testament is the same God who reigned in the New and still reigns today. The Bible gives us example after example of God providing for his people, even when they were stubborn. He loves them furiously, even in the valleys. Even when they refuse to live by his law. Let me tell you something, I am stubborn. I hate to be wrong and sometimes I have to have the last word, because I know that I am right. It is such a downfall and something that the Lord has helped me to change greatly. There are still times where I want to stomp my feet and yell "nuh-uh!" But, instead, I take a breath and think about my next statement before I speak it. I ask myself, "Am I really right in this situation?" "Is this argument even worth it?" I love leading and hanging out with high-schoolers, but I don't want them to see me as stubborn or rebellious in the ways of the Lord. As someone they look up to, to see how to do life, I want them to see someone putting their trust in God and keeping his commands.
"They forgot what he had done, the wonders he had shown them."
If we are a Christian, there are significant points in our life where we can clearly see that the Lord was working. We can pinpoint experiences where God showed himself to us, whether by an event or through a person. In a book I'm reading by Beth Moore called "Believing God" she gives the readers a little timeline. You take the age you are now, divide by 5, and then divide up your timeline accordingly. (For example, mine has 5, 10, 15, 20, 25; it was convenient that I'm 25...) You mark the age you became a Christian and then start pinpointing different times in your life that God was at work. There have been countless since I accepted Christ, but I could even think of some that were before my salvation and even before I was born. For example, my grandfather's played a huge role in my parent's lives, which in turn played a huge role in my life. My maternal grandfather was a Godly man who encouraged his children daily, took them to church, and answered any and all questions they had about God. My paternal grandfather was in the Army, came home, sold vaccuums, then couldn't sell a single vacuum, because He knew God was calling him into the ministry. He became a preacher, playing a significant role in my father's life. Who would eventually share and explain the Gospel to me in our living room one night. Let us never forget what he has done, let us always see the wonders.
"He did miracles..."
"He divided the sea and led them through..."
"He guided them with cloud by day and with light from fire at night."
"He split the rocks in the desert and gave them water..."
"But they continued to sin against him..."
"They willfully put God to the test..."
"They spoke against God..."
The "yet" is powerful, don't miss it. Despite their harsh words against him, despite their unbelief, despite their wanting of more, despite their sin, despite their ungratefulness, despite anything and everything God had done for the people, he gave a command. A command that opened the skies and gave them manna. A command that provided them with all they could ever eat.
"They ate till they had more than enough, for he had given them what they craved."
And despite being given all they needed, they continued to sin. They continued to ignore the wonders. They didn't believe.
And God's anger rose against them.
They would seek him and turn to him again.
They would forget the wonders.
God's anger would rise against them.
They would seek him and turn to him again.
The people seemed to be caught in a vicious cycle.
"They remembered that God [Elohim] was their Rock, that God Most High [El Elyon] was their Redeemer."
"But...their hearts were not loyal to him, they were not faithful to his covenant."
What?! Despite all that God had shown them and all that He had given them! He lead them through a desert! He parted a sea and they walked on dry land! He rained down bread from Heaven! And they still were not loyal and faithful to him? Wait, aren't we doing the same? He provides for us in giving us everything we need to live. He takes care of us in every way, just like the birds have everything they need. Yet, he says that we are more important than the birds.
He sent his only Son to die on a cross for us. His son.
And yet, we continue to be like the people of the Old Testament. We forget the wonders he has done in our life and even before. We keep demanding more.
"Yet he was merciful; he forgave their iniquities and did not destroy them. Time after time he restrained his anger and did not stir up his full wrath. He remembered that they were but flesh, a passing breeze that does not return."
The "yet" is powerful, don't miss it.
Even though we rebel, even though we try and put him to the test, even though we forget the miracles and wonders he has done.
God is merciful. God is forgiving. God is powerful.
The other day I read Psalm 78 out loud. And I saw myself. I saw how I constantly forget the wonders and majesty of God and how I try to put him to the test. I saw how despite my unbelief at times, instead of destroying me, he forgives. And he keeps on revealing more and more of himself to me. My prayer is that one day I will not be caught up in the cycle of seeking God, forgetting his wonders, seeking God, forgetting his wonders. My prayer is that every day I will remember his deeds and his covenants, I will remember the wonders and the ways he has provided.
I will remember and proudly claim that he is my rock, my redeemer.
"He led them..."
"He guided them..."
"He beat back his enemies..."
Read Psalm 78.
See the wonders he has done. Remember where he has brought you from and through. Proudly claim him as your rock and your redeemer!
Linking up with Chantel for the Jack of All Trades Link-Up and Susannah for the Faith and Fellowship Blog Hop!
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In an attempt to get back on this blogging train, I'm linking up (a little late) with The Circle. One of my favorite link-ups. You most definitely should check it out! Let's get to it!
I was excited when I saw these posts going around! One, it meant it was time for The Circle again! Two, I got to dump out and share all the things I carry around with me. Three, it meant I got to clean out my purse. Four, these are fun posts, I've been wanting to do one for awhile, and it's fun being nosy...especially when people let you be!
I'm not really sure what the contents of my purse says about me. I have mostly all practical things inside it at all times. Although, depending on the situation, event, or which bag I'm carrying at the time, the contents inside definitely change. The bag shown above is the one that I'm carrying around everywhere right now! I got it from JCP.com when I discovered a left over Christmas gift card with money on it. Always a sweet surprise! I wanted a somewhat larger bag (this is definitely the biggest bag I own) and it had to be a crossbody. For me, that is the only way to go. I have three other purses that I will switch out occasionally. I have a coral crossbody from Payless, a fun green/blueish crossbody from Francesca's (which can also be converted into a small clutch), and a Kavu backpack. Which is my greatest companion when hiking or any other time I want a bigger bag.
What's In My Bag
Things Mentioned Above And Where To Find Them
Pink Wallet from Urban Outfitters
Rimmel London Moisture Renew Lipstick in Nude Delight
EOS Lip Balm in Sweet Mint
Maybelline Baby Lips in Just Peachy
iPhone 4S Cover from Shutterfly
Kindle Paperwhite by Amazon
NIV Thinline Bible
Crossbody Bag by Olsenboye
What kind of bag do you like to carry? What's in your bag?
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Apparently since I still don't have a full-time job, my body still thinks it's on a college schedule and is playing summer. Which means that I don't blog regularly in summer and this place is super quiet. Although I do enjoy spending my days how I want and not having to go to a job that I hate, I'm ready for a set schedule. I'm ready for a normal work day. I'm ready to go somewhere and actually see people and do something. I'm ready for the change that I feel is coming. But, I will try and not rush it and enjoy where God has me right now.
I saw this post on Britney's blog and she said that she got it fromthis girl on her blog. Those two girls have some great blogs, you should definitely check them out! I'm a sucker for lists and for posts that seem to circle around. They are the best ones to do when you have a hard time focusing. Which is me, right now. So, on to my summer favorites!
1. Favorite summer outfit or accessory? Chacos. Most definitely. I wear them all the time when I can. Plus, what is summer without an awesome Chaco tanline? I'm also loving my peach colored maxi skirt I have. It's so comfy.
2. Favorite summer treat? Iced coffee. In Vanilla Bean.
3. Summer getaway destination? Anywhere with water, like the beach above. Or a lake. Or a river. Or a pool. I'll even take a creek some days. Beach is preferable, but sometimes I could do without the sand.
4. Favorite summer TV show? Big Brother. I'm a sucker for reality TV shows. Also, Pretty Little Liars. I make no apologies.
5. Ice cream or Popsicles? Ice cream all the way. Especially in cones. Rocky Road and Sea Salt Caramel are my favs.
6. Favorite song from my playlist? My favorite song right now is Counting Stars by OneRepublic.
7. Favorite summer drink? Pink lemonade or the occasional Summer Shandy.
8. Favorite summer recipe? I made a pretty killer Apple Pie for the 4th of July. Throw some vanilla ice cream on top and it's almost like a little slice of heave.
9. What I'm looking forward to? Maybe, hopefully getting to see some more friends. Moving to a new place (fingers crossed).
10. Favorite summer moment? My favorite summer moment this year is my best friend's wedding. My best friend since kindergarten got married on the first official day of summer. It was a blast getting to travel to Memphis and stand beside her and celebrate her new season of life with a great guy. I still can't believe she is married and living with a boy. :)
What are some of your summer favorites?
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Independence Day is one of my most favorite holidays. I love the spirit and patriotism that seems to exude from people. I love the streets being lined with the American flag. Of course we can't forget about the awesome BBQ's with friends and family. And the fire in the sky. Fireworks are my absolute favorite and I would shoot them off every night if acceptable...which to me, I feel it is. I've had some pretty great 4th of July's over the past couple of years. The 4th of July weekend always seems to have everything you love about summer rolled into 72 hours.
Whether you are going to the lake or cooking out in your backyard. Whether you shoot off fireworks or just stay inside. Whether you hang a flag or just see one from afar. Wherever you are and however you spend the 4th of July, remember the men and women who fight for our freedom every day. They deserve to be honored and remembered every day. And with fireworks.
I'm so thankful for the land of the free and the home of the brave.
Happy 4th of July weekend everyone! Stay safe and have fun.
Enjoy the fire in the sky!
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Oh, hey there everyone! So, after mid-June, I just decided to take the rest of the month off. I have to say, I really enjoyed it. I liked taking a break in the middle of the year. I was starting to get burned out on blogging and when that starts to happen, it's best if I just take a step back. And I totally agree with what Aimee said in one of our recent e-mails together, "I'm a firm believer that life is for living and sometimes blogging, not vice versa." Couldn't have said it any better! Now, July is one of my favorite months of the year! It contains my favorite holiday, Independence Day aka The Fourth of July. I love the cookouts, the drinks, and of course, the fire in the sky. Fireworks are one of my most favorite things. What better time of the year to come back? Here's what I'm up to right now, before my favorite holiday commences.
Watching: We all know by now that I'm a movie and TV junkie right? Okay, so here it goes. At this very moment I am watching Pitch Perfect. How it's possible that I still don't own this movie, I'm not sure. But, I DVRed it the other day so I can watch it every day. Mainly for this beautiful reason. You're welcome. Also, Pretty Little Liars is back and I make no apologies for liking that show. Although, I'm about done making new theories, because they just get crushed. I also finally saw The Lone Survivor. And if you haven't seen that movie yet, you need too. Based on the unbelievable true story of Marcus Luttrell, an ex-Navy Seal who was the sole survivor of his group when on a mission.
Eating: Delicious chicken salad from a local deli. I'm also considering trying my hand at making an apple pie for this weekend. Appropriate don't ya think?
Drinking: Water, water, everywhere. For some reason lately, I started having an affair with Diet Coke. But, that has quickly ended. Also, nothing screams summer like lemonade!
Reading: I'm such a slacker when it comes to reading sometimes, you guys. Still reading these three: Believing God, The Hobbit, and What Color is Your Parachute. When it comes to quiet time, I'm completing the She Reads Truth study on Titus and looking to start the Ruth study! I'm really enjoying Titus and I've only heard great things about the Ruth so far!
Working On: Job hunting and job applications. I was this close to a full-time job and all that comes with it. But, it ended up not working out and I'm back at square one.
Excited About: The 4th of July holiday and all things red, white, and blue! Also, I'm going to try my best at completing this challenge for the month of July. Anybody want to join in with me and be my accountability?
Wishing: That I could take a trip to somewhere. I'm having serious travel withdrawals and want a new adventure.
Listening To: Phillip Phillip's newest album, Behind the Light and this acoustic version of one of my favorite Needtobreathe songs, Multiplied. Also, TED talks on psychology. It's a subject that fascinates me.
Happy to be back, friends! Hope you have a wonderful start to July!
What are you up to this month?
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