There is a neighborhood that I pass on the way to my favorite ice cream place. It's probably one of the cutest spots and I think I would like to live there one day. It's probably not true, but I feel like the houses have been passed down through families, like you have to inherit a house on that street. Old, amazing trees fill Mobile and on this street, almost every house has lights strung among their branches. A soft glow of lights, filling the street, down as far as you can see. A few weeks ago, while on the way to the ice cream place (can you tell where we hang?), I passed the street again, but this time it was blocked off. The curbs were free from cars and under the canopy of lights, tables filled the street. There were people everywhere! Block party, birthday party, wedding, whatever it was, it's what I dream about. Community.
I've been listening to Emily P. Freeman's podcast, "The Next Right Thing," since it started. I get excited for Tuesday mornings, because I know my drive to work is going to be filled with a few moments of simple, yet profound truth. And most days it also fills my drive home, because let's be real, I need to listen to things a few times before I actually understand what you are telling me. I also love Emily because she loves lists. Each season, she records different things that she has learned and then shares them with us. I'm joining in for the first time with my list of what I learned this Spring.
I’m an emotional person. It’s not hard for me to write that (except for my fingers fumbling over my phone, at my work desk, where I’m writing this). I can easily wear my heart on my sleeve, but of all the emotions, anger is usually the first one people see. All the others I keep bottled up inside. Which makes me feel heavy and constantly searching for a breath.
I always set out with the intention to do a detailed blog post of places I go and things that I do. Yet, that clearly doesn't always happen. After all, I spent nine months in California and I'm pretty sure I haven't shared half of the things or places I saw when out there. It's never too late...right? I saw Anne do a recent photo share from her phone and Kiki often shares her month in photos, so I thought I would take a cue from both of them. Here's a photo dump of some things I've been doing since the beginning on the year.
Photo by Tim Ard
Dear First Responder,
A couple days ago, your world was turned upside down and stopped for a moment. On what was a beautiful day, the night was just the opposite. You lost a fellow officer. A friend. And while I didn't know him personally, or the bond you held with him, I know there is pain. A pain of something unimaginable and yet now, so real.
There is one thing I do know: he was brave.
And so are you. For every day that you wake up, put on your uniform, and head out the door, you also carry courage. Strength in the face of pain or grief. That is you, every single time. And especially today.
Words do not always express what we want to in these moments and a "thank you" seems so small, needless. But I also don't think it is said enough. And now more than ever, in silence that can seem deafening, I want you to hear it. Thank you.
Thank you for your service to our communities, but thank you, especially for your bravery. I don't think you can have one without the other. Thank you for fighting to keep us safe, for protecting, for always being ready, come what may. Thank you for being dedicated. Thank you for putting others first.
Thank you, brave one.
Continue to find and carry courage each day,
A proud citizen
Tuesday night, the Mobile Police Department lost one of it's officers. Officer Justin Billa was killed in the line of duty, while working an investigation. He leaves behind a wife and one year old son. Click here if you would like to donate to The Officer Justin Billa Memorial Fund.
One of my favorite things is to be a tourist in my own town. It's why I started the series #SnapshotsOfMobile that I hope to revitalize this year! Yesterday, I learned about a walking tour around downtown Mobile that highlighted some Mardi Gras spots. It's been a long debate as to where Mardi Gras actually began -- Mobile or New Orleans. I lived in New Orleans before I ever lived in Mobile, so I have a big place in my heart for both. They share so many similarities in architecture, food, music. I've done Mardi Gras in New Orleans and Mobile and one year, hope to experience it in both cities in the same year. So, where do I stand on the debate of the first beginnings? I say it began in Mobile, but New Orleans made it famous. But, that doesn't mean that Mobile doesn't know how to throw a party, because it does. And the party starts this Friday! Here are some photos from our tour yesterday. Cooper even came with us and he was quite the trooper and made lots of new friends!
Yesterday at work, we all watched the radars and alerts to see if another round of "snow" was coming for us. I use snow loosely here, because it's always almost a dusting this far down South. We got word that work would be canceled on Wednesday and I even braved Walmart after work. Not to get bread and milk, because, well I'm not eating either of those right now (hello again, Whole30), but to get a few things for the next week's meals. I survived and made it home. No sign of ice or snow yet. Just cold wind. Cold, cold, cold wind. Usually it is wet down here, but this felt drier, almost like the Tahoe cold I remember. I thought about staying up and waiting to see flakes, but when nothing was still happening at 10:00pm, I decided to call it a night. Maybe I would wake up to a bright lit room, a sure sign that snow had fallen and covered the ground, like I remembered from when I was little in Memphis. Something woke me up around 3:30ish and I peaked out the window. A 29 year old, desperate to see snow falling, like a little kid. Nothing. I curled back up under my layered blankets and went back to sleep. I woke up again around my normal time, looked out the window sure that something was covering the ground. And I was met with disappointment. No snow covered trees. Just spots of white sprinkled around and ice more than anything. This isn't what I wanted! If I was getting a freebie day off of work, I at least wanted something fun to look at. Nothing. I laid back in my bed and soon started seeing all the other pictures of snow. And from those who had a snow day just weeks before! It seems like a silly thing to be jealous for, but I just want to live somewhere that gets to experience actual seasons. All four of them. Not just one extreme or the other. Alabama weather literally seems to be either extremely hot or terribly cold. I decide to get out of bed and make breakfast. After all, there aren't many mornings that I get to take it slow and not rush. Making breakfast, I realized that today is now an unexpected sabbath. Far from a disappointing day, this is the day I've been asking for. The past several weeks have looked nothing like my normal routine. Over Christmas, we moved into a new house and so it seems that my days have been full of staring at boxes, unpacking, cleaning, piles of trash or donation, work, sleep, and repeat. Things aren't where I expect them to be, my mornings have been off since moving, and I haven't yet felt completely relaxed in our new place. Throw in a couple days of feeling sick and literally sleeping for 13 hours at one point, I just feel out of whack!
So, today, when I woke up to what I first saw as disappointment, really it's the day that I've been wanting. A day where I could wake up slowly and literally just start there. I was able to establish new routines that I've been thinking about. My brain finally felt organized and I rejoiced when I realized that today was the unexpected Sabbath I've been wanting. I had my prayer time, I did some Cover to Cover Bible reading, I wrote, I'll start a book later and hopefully finish one. I listened to a podcast while making breakfast. I still have piles of things in my room, a trunk of things in my car to donate, and dishes to do. But most importantly, I said yes to things today that I needed to say yes to and no to the others. I don't want disappointment to rule, when something unexpected, yet needed, is waiting at the same place. So, while snow didn't blanket my part of the world, the unexpected, yet needed, rest and new routine did.
Today is a major day in the state of Alabama. It seems the whole nation is watching what we do. Today, someone will be elected to a seat on the Senate. During the last election, our local mayoral elections, I reflected about how only recently I've realized what a privilege it is to vote. And that many people, especially women, have fought hard for me to even have the right to vote. As of writing this, I still have not gone to vote in the Senate race. I've constantly been going back and forth, weighing all options in my head, praying about what is "right". I've looked to see what friends have done (peer pressure, y'all and curiosity), read countless articles, and still, I just go back and forth. There are only certain things I know to be true and knowing anything about politics is certainly not one of them. I don't see myself as a traditional Republican, nor a Democrat. Like many other areas of my life it seems, I struggle to figure out my place and where I belong. Despite my stubbornness, I've never been one to argue (sorry discuss) anything political. I hate listening to it on the news, because instead of actual conversations, it becomes person after person yelling over one another. If I have to yell over you to try and get my point heard, it's not worth my time. I'd rather have a legitimate conversation with you and learn from each other, rather than get spit in my face from you trying to convince me you are right and I'm wrong. I live in between cynicism, pessimism, and optimism. I want to believe that everyone has some good in them, that they are looking out for others and not just themselves, but I know it's often not the case. We are a selfish people. One of the fights of this world today is serving the self, finding out ways to only satisfy us and not serve our neighbors. While I want to believe in and find the good, I tend to hold people at arms length. My lack of trust in others makes me need them to prove to me that they are capable. To do what they say they will. To stand behind who they say they are. Even if there is doubt on my end, part of me is cheering for them, wanting them to succeed and prove to themselves, to me, to everyone, that they are who they say they are. That they can do it.
That is what makes elections hard for me. I want to vote for the one who has proven to do right. For the one who stands entirely behind what they say they do. To not back down at every turn, but to remember who they said they were during the campaign. To actually be for the people who voted for them. For the ones who depend on them to be their voice when theirs isn't always heard. I want to build trust, not fall into pessimism over and over again. Voting today is often about choosing between the "lesser of the two evils." That's not what I wish voting was like. I wish I could walk confidently into my polling place, cast my ballot, and be perfectly okay with what I just did. I honestly can't say that I have ever had a voting experience like that. I'm not sure if I ever will.
Living in between cynicism, pessimism, and optimism, trust is hard to find. And though I will carry out my right to vote today, after lots of prayer and back and forth, I'm quick to remember that ultimately all authority belongs to God. Whoever fills the seat, this year, and the elections that come after it, He reigns. All powerful. All authority. Almighty. There is no voting to take place, no questions to ask, no worries to wonder. His seat is one that is already filled and will never be filled with another.
The older I've gotten, the more I've gotten excited about the idea of settling into one area. My college summers and the year after graduation were all spent in different places. I know I was meant to be in each of them. And when memories come flooding in from all of those places, when the faces I remember come back to mind, a smile comes on my face, followed by a sweet sadness.
When the memories flood in, I realize how fast time truly went. I immediately want to go back, to remember.
I want to snap my fingers and be back in the ice cream shop in New Orleans, that one night when camp was over, and we would all be leaving soon. I want to stay in that space, laughing forever. I want to hop a plane and be back on the shores of Lake Tahoe and I want to walk the Rim Trail knee deep in snow for just a mile longer. I want to always be among the snow covered pine trees when the wind blows and snow falls gently to the ground. I want to go back and sit with all the kids I've met for a little while longer. Read one more story as they sound out words, color one more picture. I want to go back to that one hill in Arizona, and sit there every night as the sun sets in the desert. I want to go back to the first time I saw the Grand Canyon and sit on the edge for just a little longer.
I want to go back. I'll trade my days of being settled and in routine, to go back to the days that I want to last just a little bit longer.
Like the college nights spent sleeping over at a friend's house when we watched nothing but The Office and made pallets in her living room. Or the nights spent cheering on our favorite football team. The nights we would fill up our favorite restaurants and stay until they turned out the lights. Those nights we made blanket forts and ordered way too much pizza. When we would push together the tables in the dining hall, so we could eat as one big family, going back for countless bowls of ice cream. The time we crammed more than enough people into a beach house. The night we went looking for a meteor shower and never found it, so we turned on music and just danced beneath the clouds.
I want to go back. I want to make myself stand back for just a minute longer and take it all in a little deeper and longer. To remember the smells of the summer night, how the water felt when I ran through it, the excitement of family all around, the breeze as it gently went by, the smiles and laughs of friends who wouldn't be friends always...
I've become used to the idea of being settled. But one thing I will never be completely settled in doing? Saying goodbye.
Saying goodbye to family, to places, to friends. I never want my best memories to become hazy, or worse, lost.
It's true that each day there are new memories to be made. God has written this incredible story that only He could write. The only thing I can do is walk into the new page each morning and see what He has written. I've walked quickly through some of those chapters in the past, barely stopping to see what He wrote on the pages beneath my feet. And that's why I want to go back, that's why I want to trade my settled routine. I want to go back and see those pages again. I want to go back and read them a little slower, as my feet move from one word to the other, syllable by syllable. With each step I want it to be stamped into my memory bright and full, like I'm living it again.
But, with the turn of each page, it becomes just another memory. Another goodbye. Another part of a chapter, filling a book, with a story where I vaguely remember the beginning and don't know the ending. Memories don't keep the goodbyes from happening. But, I have to look for the greetings of each new day.
I have to look down at the words on the next page. Because new memories are unfolding and, for today, I can be settled. Today I can walk the pages a little slower, take in the words a little slower. Because in another five years, ten years, twenty years, I'll look back and want to come back to this chapter. I'll want to come back to lazy rainy days, to the nights spent on roofs, to the sound of waves rolling in from the Gulf. Back to the moment your best friend finds out she's having a baby boy, when you watch a friend graduate, when families invite you into their homes.
I need to read these words slowly, Lord. Don't let them pass until I've taken all of their meaning in. Keep the memory bright and full. Keep me settled in today, so I'm always looking at the pages that You've put under my feet.
I remember going on my first mission trip ever when I was in high school. It was the first time I had ever really been away from my parents, my first time really out West, and my first time on an airplane. I was so excited, but also nervous. Stepping into Arizona was a new world to me, even though I was still in the United States. It brought me new friends, new realizations about people and life, and challenged me greatly in my walk with Christ.
One of the most memorable moments is when I was standing on a plateaued hill, in the desert of Arizona, watching the sunset. The sky literally seemed to be painted, as it turned so many different colors. God as Creator became real to me then and He's never let me forget that moment. Since then, I've tried to serve Him locally and domestically as best as I've can and go wherever He has led.
He really does work in mysterious and sometimes funny ways. Like when as a freshman in college, I sat with a friend at a cafe in New Orleans and told her that I felt like God was leading me there. And He did in the summer of 2011. Or the summer I served in Mobile, many years before I would eventually call that city home, as I do now. Then, He somehow got me to California, the absolute farthest I had ever been from home or anyone I knew. I went fresh out of college and knowing no one. Simply ready for adventure. And that it was.
Because when following the Lord, it is certainly an adventure. A beautiful, fun, crazy, most times scary, adventure. I've visited places I've only dreamed about and somehow, I'm not sure how, but I love them all so much. I smile when I think of them and I love when they come up in conversation (or let's be honest, when I bring it up because I want to talk about it). I smile because of the places I've been, the people I've met, the pictures I've taken, or simply just my memories. I smile, because I often can't believe that the Lord would give me such great chances. And I smile because His love is just that great, that He did, and still does, give me those chances.
It was way easier to say yes to those chances when I was in high school and college. Now, I feel like there are so many other things I have to think about, or work out, before I can say yes. And because of thinking that way, I wonder what I've passed up, because I didn't say yes...
Missions is in my heart. The people, the places, the food, the smells. They get in my heart and they never let go. I don't want them to. I want to hold on to them forever. I want the memories to grow stronger, but also make room for new ones to form. With new places, new faces, new smells, and new sunsets.
Every place has its sunset moment. Lord, I pray I don't miss it...