Mostly, in the last few weeks, I’ve devoured library books. 

If you like YA, you should absolutely read Let it Snow.Screenshot7 Then I reminisced on what was possibly the best day ever: Junior year of college, snowed in hip-deep and stuck in the dorm with two of my best friends. We rolled around in the freezing, freezing cold, then ate piles of pizza in our pajamas and watched terrible movies rented from the library. College. Screenshot6

I’m finally feeling better, so I’ve been able to start enjoying Atlanta again.

Here’re some unbelievable tacos from Tin Lizzie’s, which I eat way too often. (If you’re interested: fried chicken, honey chipotle sauce & lettuce; barbecue chicken & slaw; barbecue chicken, fried pickles, & goat cheese.) 
Screenshot5I finally found a Coke with my name on it and I am really, really susceptible to advertising, so…

Also, it was delicious.

Screenshot8I spent a Saturday picking through stores in Old Norcross. It’s the cutest little area and I’m really glad I stumbled into living there.
Screenshot10I kept up with my 101 in 1001 goal to visit 10 non-Starbucks coffee shops. Here’s 45 South (I had a caramel latte):  
Screenshot9 And the adorable Sip, in Lindbergh Center (turkey bacon BLT + peach smoothie): Screenshot4I saw the reflection of a heart-shaped cloud and may or may not have stood on a bench to get the best angle. Fortunately, I was obviously not the only person taking pictures.
Screenshot3 I soaked up the view from my office. Somehow, second to mountains, these concrete views are my favorite thing in the world.ScreenshotThen my mom came for the weekend and brought the sweetest dog in the whole world. This is my family’s chihuahua/shi tsu mix, Sadie. My dad/brothers/family friends would tell you she is “mean,” but if you’re me, my mom, or my cousin Denise…she’s the sweetest dog in the whole world.

And, in general terms, is there anything better in the world than a bad dog? 

My personal answer is no. 

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Monday Motivation: The people in the stands



“Nothing has transformed my life more than realizing that it’s a waste of time to evaluate my worthiness by weighing the reaction of the people in the stands.” // Brene Brown

First, I line up the items to be photographed, I make small tweaks, occasionally adding in props — that photo of a page in my agenda (how busy and important I am!) will look better, for instance, with the addition of a colorful, expensive pen, slanted diagonally across the page. Then snap the shot, filter it, crop out the background, hit post.

And that’s just the lead-up to an Instagram. There are Facebook statuses, blog posts, and actual human communication to consider. In every case, I need to seem (and will, if we’re being honest, usually fail to seem) together. Together, and interesting, and smart, and successful, and carefree, and fun, and sweet, and best.

This is not a post about our manicured lives on social media, how it’s causing us to dumb or water things down, how it’s getting in the way of real, one-on-one communication. It’s not a post about people on their phones at dinner — at least, I hope it’s not.

The point — my point — is that, in the case of the manicured Instagram photo and in a million and one other cases I won’t describe, I have given absolutely no thought to whether I am feeling carefree, fun, interesting, smart, or successful. It’s not about whether I’m enjoying my life — and this applies to social media and “real” life as well. It’s about what people think. If I impress others, the train of thinking goes, I have done my job. It’s about how my life looks, versus how it feels.

How empty.

How useless.

I cannot come to the end of my life and know that all I accomplished was constructing some semblance of “together,” of “appealing,” for other people.

All I want are the basic things. I want to live wide and deep and tall. I want to relish. I want to make some kind of impact on the world. I want to learn from my mistakes and from the things I regret. I don’t want anything earth-shattering.

But I want to seek all those things for the sake of the things themselves — not because I’m trying to gin up some hollow Internet applause.

Sunday prayers: The murder had to take place before the resurrection



“Everywhere I have looked, raw, filthy, human need and brokenness have been on display, begging for someone to meet them, fix them. And even though I realize I cannot always mend or meet, I can enter in. I can enter into someone’s pain and sit with them and know. This is Jesus. Not that He apologizes for the hard and the hurt, but that he enters in, He comes with us to the hard places. And so I continue to enter.” 

“Joy costs pain, but the pain is worth it. After all, the murder had to take place before the resurrection.”  


God does not promise to shelter us from pain.

Did you hear that, heart? God made no promises to shelter you from pain. 

This is so hard for me to grasp, but it’s more than just a stray thought. It’s that most ironclad of promises: the Scriptural kind. Here’s John 16:33:

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” 

Not, “you may have trouble.” Not, “it might get a little tough sometimes.”

In this world, you will have trouble. 

That can make Christianity a bit of a hard sell — not just to others, but to myself. Rich Mullins talked about this a bit:

“If you’ve ever known the love of God, you know it’s nothing but reckless and it’s nothing but raging. Sometimes it hurts to be loved, and if it doesn’t it’s probably not love, may be infatuation. I think a lot of American people are infatuated with God, we don’t really love Him, and they don’t really let Him love them. Being loved by God is one of the most painful things in the world. It’s also the only thing that can bring us salvation and it’s, like everything else that is really wonderful, there’s a little bit of pain in it, a little bit of hurt…If you want a religion that makes sense, go somewhere else. But if you want a religion that makes life, choose Christianity.” 

The promise, of course, is in the peace. Joy is found not in the absence of pain, not in prosperity, not in places of perfect calm. It is found in the presence of Christ, and His presence persists in the pain.

He is right beside you. That’s the gift.

Teach me to make the days count


First, there were games of real-life, backyard Oregon Trail, packing “supplies” into a rusted red wagon and making my brother haul it through our suburban grass. Pretending to fall asleep in the car so I could be lifted into the house with my head on my dad’s shoulder, smelling aftershave and laundry detergent and a light sheen of sweat. Fruit roll-ups and sleepovers and plastic VHS cases, and a haze of invulnerability.  

Then there was a deep, thick coffee-bean smell and school-tired limbs stretched over fraying furniture. The thrill of the first movies and shopping trips and nights free of parents. Quizzing for AP History, the shape and sound and color of the country rushing past on textbook pages, scented with ink and tinny graphite. 

I’ve talked about this more than enough, but then the mountains were green, and I lived around other people, constantly, in the smallest places and somehow it opened my soul up wide. The roads circled in loops around the hills and the rain fell and it was good, so very good.

And then there was a new kind of smallness. A little town: one Main Street, coffee, Town Hall, sandwiches and potato salad in a dim storefront crowded with antiques. Politics on the small scale, which is to say, the smallest, fiercest political dance you can imagine. Sweetness I barely noticed until I left it.

Now there’s this city wreathed in trees, wracked with problems, and bursting with potential. I love being young and full of ideas in a place that still needs them. 

Sometimes, I dream of what’s next — of whatever‘s next, whether that’s living close enough to grab dinner at my parents’ house or a new city, new mountains yawning, new bustle and new blight. The next job. The next person. The next unexpected background dropping into place.

It is so hard to change seasons. 

But there is good — there is something so, so good — in all of them.

Some thoughts



I’ve been thinking lately about the fact that what’s going to happen is going to happen – regardless.

Worrying doesn’t change it. You can worry so hard that your hands are cramped from the wringing, and you will not change the outcome. Any outcome.

The choice you have is what you’re going to take from it.

You can over-analyze. You can assume the worst. You can drown in fear and assure yourself that surely, if you lose this one thing, there is nothing else coming. This is the end.

Or you can exert your best, fullest, most rigorous effort. You can throw yourself in and try as hard as you possibly can, give the best of yourself that you have. You can grow.

And if you lose it, you can let it go.

Throwback Thursday – The Carolinas


I’m from accents so thick you could cut them from a knife, from yellow jessamine and palmettos — not palms. I’m from textile factories that eventually, jauntily became apartments and museums.

I’m from the cut-shell slices in your feet if you make the mistake of stepping into a marsh. I’m from secret shrimp burger recipes and Gullah and the smell of the Low Country.

And then I found mountains and rivers and streams and creeks. I found the silence of a nighttime snow.

I found a public university system you wouldn’t believe, bell towers against blue sky and graveyards full of Tar Heels dead. I found the hulls and shells of furniture manufacturing, too sad and too soon to be renovated.

I found the long, slow stretch of Piedmont vowels and pieces of names so beautiful they broke my heart, Ashe and Cajah and Banner and Raleigh.

The rest is here. I’m having a lot of fun in Georgia, but I wouldn’t say I’ve learned to love it this way yet.

Like having a constant stomachache

He missed Hogwarts so much it was like having a constant stomachache. 


He missed the castle, with its secret passageways and ghosts, 


his classes (though perhaps not Snape, the Potions master), 


the mail arriving by owl,


eating banquets in the Great Hall, 


sleeping in his four-poster bed in the tower dormitory,


visiting the gamekeeper, Hagrid, in his cabin next to the Forbidden Forest in the grounds, 


and, especially, Quidditch, the most popular sport in the wizarding world (six tall goal posts, four flying balls, and fourteen players on broomsticks).


// Harry Potter & the Chamber of Secrets


Five weeks ago, everything was normal. I was working, and crying my eyes out over cheesy movies, and eating giant plates of Zoe’s goodness. The usual.Screenshot_42 Screenshot_1


Of course, I’d been having headaches all the time…and on the way home from that cheesy movie, I was on the phone with my best friend and got angry with her — yelling, screaming angry — for no reason at all. When I hung up the phone, I could barely remember anything I’d said.

But those things happen, right? People get headaches, and they get angry.

You might know what happened next, because I’ve already told the story here, but to summarize, the headaches got worse, I started throwing up in embarrassing places, and the haze in my brain eventually crowded out everything else. I went to the ER, clenched my claustrophobic fists in an MRI machine, and found out I had a brain tumor — which was, not long after, cut out of my brain.

I got to spend some precious time with family, including my Aunt Lisa (aka Sasa), one of my favorite people in the world…


…and my funny, kind brother, who charmed a roomful of hairstylists when he got his head shaved in the shape of my scar…

Screenshot_3 …and I emerged with less hair than before, but still enough to make do.Screenshot_40




My parents and I went back to my apartment for a few days. We were tripping all over each other in my one-bedroom…but less than we would have if I hadn’t been taking a nap every three hours or so. While we were there, my best friends came to visit…and graciously opted to stay in a hotel in my neighborhood.Screenshot_5 After that, I headed home with my parents for about a week, where I buried my face in every fresh bouquet that arrived, spent time with family at the lake, and begged my dad to let me go out on the boat (he did, it was just a very, very slow trip). Screenshot_6 Screenshot_7


So then…we loaded up the car with my 6,000 new medicines and the cutest puppy alive (aka my family’s shi tsu/chihuahua mix, Sadie) and headed back to Atlanta through a heartbreaker of a blue-and-gold sunset.Screenshot_8And life gradually got back to normal. There were kind words…

Screenshot_12 …and, be still my heart, even more flowers…Screenshot_13 Screenshot_14 …and laughs.


And now I’m easing back into real life, with my job and my church and my home and everything that entails. (The photo below kills me, by the way. Isn’t Atlanta beautiful?)Screenshot_16

Here’s to whatever comes next.


Monday Motivation: Stretched

“A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.” // Oliver Wendall Holmes Jr.



Of all the things that dog me in life, one of the most persistent is the desire to be comfortable.

There’s nothing wrong with comfort, per se. But it is so easy to become too reliant on it. To decide you want it at the expense of everything else. To be stifled.

Because if I try new things, if I take adventures and risks, I might be forced to compromise my comfort.

If I explore my city the way it’s meant to be explored, I might wander somewhere “wrong,” somewhere that makes me uncomfortable. (I’m not saying you shouldn’t be cautious in big metropolitan areas — but there comes a point when fear is keeping you from living.)

If I square my shoulders and walk into the gym and decide to take control of my health, someone might laugh at me. Someone will probably laugh at me.

If I take that trip, see that city, explore that place, I might not have all the money I need to eat exactly what I want, get exactly as many expensive coffees as I want, shop as often as I want.

If I introduce myself to someone, invite them to lunch, open my heart, I might feel awkward and uncomfortable. They might despise me! How likely that seems in my little heart.

But if I wall myself off from all those experiences, keep myself safe from all those risks, what do I have at the end of my life?

I have nothing, I guess, except the knowledge that I was really, really comfortable.

Not joy. Not wisdom. Not stories. Comfort.

Is that all I want? Is it even vaguely possible that I want to reach the end of my life and have, to show for it, the fact that I kept myself secluded and safe and unscathed?

It’s not. It’s not.

I want to risk, even if I have to start out risking in my own small ways rather than boldly, wildly, with abandon.

I want to stretch.

What I’m loving this week feat. mahogany teakwood + bird votives

I’m loving something everyone else probably already has, because I heard a ton about this before I bought it: the Bath & Body Works mahogany teakwood candle. This smells like Abercrombie, but only when it’s burning. Don’t let the smell throw you off in the store. (Yes, I want my apartment to smell like Abercrombie.)iPhone8 027I’m loving this teeny-tiny “M” ring, which is mine because Charming Charlie’s was having a buy three, get three free sale and I have no self control.Screenshot_17I’m loving this little tray I made (which, full disclosure, only happened because I didn’t check the size when I ordered it on Amazon…this was supposed to be for my coffee table). 
Screenshot_1 Some turquoise paint and black-and-white washi tape later, and it’s gathering all the little hair things that used to clutter my (very small) bathroom counter. Love.iPhone8 029I’m loving the Lorac Pocket Pro palette, although when you look at the pictures below you should ignore the fact that I obviously need to dust my desk. The shadows are so pretty and high-quality and it’s nice to have some neutrals I can just throw in my bag. I’ve used the Espresso shade I think once, as liner, but the other two are worth the super low price.
iPhone8 032 iPhone8 031 I’m loving that I finally found a way to keep my monthly goals in front of me, so they actually have a chance of getting completed. I used to keep my grocery list here, but I got a small dry-erase board for that and stuck it on the side of the fridge. Also, if you haven’t tried writing on your fridge in dry-erase marker, you haven’t lived. It comes off beautifully with Windex, I promise!iPhone8 028And finally, I’m loving this teeny bird votive holder that I got in my favorite guilty pleasure shopping spot…aka the clearance section at Cracker Barrel. iPhone8 030


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