31 People(s): RAs

Oh hey. I haven’t posted in 5 days (last Thursday). Oops. Life really was insanely busy. Friday I rushed home from work, grabbed dinner, made myself presentable, was on my way to Homecoming festivities by 6:30, and didn’t get home until after 10:30. Saturday I was up by 8, celebrating Hazel’s birthday (with an amazing DONUT birthday party) until past noon, my brother and uncle delivered firewood for my firepit at 12:30 and stayed for a while, the new roommates starting moving in at 1:30, and then we had friends over until almost 11. Sunday there was gospel family, grocery shopping, lunch, DIY makeup wipe making, weekly breakfast prep, baking 3 batches of cookies, dinner, Bible study, and BED. I was on such a roll, and now I’m struggling to find my writing mojo again and my house being so full of so many fantastic people that I want to hang out with doesn’t help (yay for new roommates and the preexisting roommate!) But I am DETERMINED to finish this challenge regardless of how many days of it get posted in November! Also, fun spoiler alert with a more in depth update coming at the end of this process – I’m now exploring writing more in different realms on the side, trying to actually get some printed published works out there (in magazines and newspapers), attempting to build my writing portfolio so writing as a job could possibly be part of my future, AND am meeting with a publication TODAY (Wednesday 10/28) I might be potentially writing for semi-regularly! AHHHHH! Okay okay, on to the people(s)!

In the 3 1/2 years I worked at MC I was privileged to supervise a total of 20 beautiful RAs – 6 to 7 a year. These girls! This job! The role I got to play in their lives! The role they played in mine! I could genuinely write a post about each and everyone of them. I’ll try to keep it brief for the sake of not writing a book in one singular post and only say lots of words about the ones that I now get to call friends in real life, not just work life, but I LOVE THESE LADIES! Every year I thought there was no way it could get any better, but some how it did every time. No staff in particular out shined any other staff, but they were all uniquely wonderful!

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My very first staff! Leah Frances, EB, Kristen, Amanda, Mary Katherine, and Katie. I came in half way through the year after they’d already been doing RA life for a semester and knew WAY more about my job than I did. There could have been no better staff for a first year RD who had NO idea what the heck she was doing. They were hilarious, hard working, SO helpful, hungered to know Jesus more and deeply, and genuinely loved their residents. You’ve heard about Leah Frances! She’s Molly’s little sister and the reason I found out about this amazing job in the first place. I’ve known her since she was in 6th grade, and getting to be her boss, and then real friend, not just friends because of Molly, was an incredible journey (she was with me the next year too when we all got to watch her fall in love and then I got to stand with her on her wedding day!). In addition to being the fantastic person I already knew her to be, she was GREAT at her job and such an amazing leader on campus. Katie is a genius, did everything with excellence, and kept us grounded. Amanda is HILARIOUS, always brought the laughter, and so relateable. Kristen is a ninja, literally, she did karate, but also figuratively! She chased down a boy she found in our building once half way across campus until he fell and then she felt sorry for him and just let him go (I would have done the same, except I wouldn’t have actually chased him haha). Mary Katherine is wise beyond her years, had such a depth to her that most students don’t, and was so easy going. And I’m gonna talk about EB in the next paragraph since half of these girls (LF, Kristen, and EB) came back to me so that paragraph doesn’t look wimpy!

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Year 2! The first staff I got to interview and pick for myself. Leah Frances, EB, and Kristen came back and we added Rebecca, Erin, and Kayla. I fought to the death for my returners (just kidding, there was no death, and it wasn’t dramatic, but I was willing to fight to the death to keep them). EB! She’s a beautiful soul and we’re real life friends now and I LOVE that (though I’m sad she moved away from me and to Florida). We connected quickly because of similar family brokenness. She’s hilarious, SO wise, has a genuine love for Jesus that’s contagious, makes awesome jewelry, is an incredible writer (she has a blog too!), is so real and authentic, AND TOMORROW IS HER BIRTHDAY! I’m secretly convinced one day we’re going to write a book together or something. Seriously, RA turned friend to the MAX! She’s also the first person I saw face to face after I found out my dad died. She handled it like a champ and was the perfect person to be there in that moment. Kayla is another genius (a future doctor!) and connected with residents in unexpected ways. Rebecca has such a beautiful and tender heart, has a life and story that perfectly displays the Gospel, redemption, and freedom, and is the most fashionable person I know! Erin is adorably quirky, loves old people more than anyone I’ve ever known, and loves life in a contagious way.

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I got to keep Rebecca and Erin for another year (I love returning RAs!) and gained Abby, Hanna, Mary Jayne, and Emily. Emily has a heart for nations, has awesome tattoos, and such a real love for Jesus. One of my best one-on-ones (meetings RAs and RDs get to have together every other week) ever was with Emily! Mary Jayne was an involved leader on campus, loves people so much, and has contagious joy. Abby is the most talented interior designer I’ve ever known, is HILARIOUS, so quirky, has contagious joy, and has an amazingly talented and beautiful family. Hanna is now one of my new roommates!!! RA turned friend turned roommate! She was one of the most intentional RAs I ever had, has beastly dicing skills (as in veggies), is hilariously snarky, has such a kind and tender heart, and it’s only been a few days but I already love living with her and her longtime roommate and bestie Shelby (who was basically an assistant RA). This staff had to stick with me during my hardest year, the year I lost my dad, and will forever hold a special place in my heart because of that. The day I found out my dad was gone, we had a staff Thanksgiving dinner planned AND staff Christmas card picture photo shoot (yep, I paid for my staff to have a photo shoot so we could send Christmas cards, it was AWESOME!). I needed to be surrounded by people I love that day and needed the happy distractions. I try not to have too many regrets, but one thing I do regret is how I unintentionally emotionally closed myself off from these girls as my grief manifested in different. I got to apologize to them at the end, which was beautiful. But if I could take back anything from my time as a RD, that would be it. But despite that, we had a BEAUTIFUL year and I LOVE THESE GIRLS! We were incredibly close. One night I will never forget for the rest of my life was our testimony night. It started around a fire at Abby’s parents house, and lasted way into the wee hours of the morning as we relocated to my apartment. The presence of God was SO real in our little circle as we all confessed things we’d never confessed before. I’m convinced angels were rejoicing in Heaven as chains were broken and freedom was found in those moments.

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I got a complete new staff for my last go round and my biggest one of the bunch! Lauren (sister of EB), Jordan, Ashley, Chelsey, Jessa, Miriam, and Reagan. I probably had the healthiest boundaries with these girls, and it resulted in something absolutely beautiful. I found my gospel family this year, and really got to focus on mentoring, loving, and pouring into these girls vs expecting them to be my go-to friends. Bonus: we became friends anyway! It’s amazing how healthy boundaries make relationships flourish even more. These girls impressed the heck out of me. The biggest age gap of RD to RA happened with these beauties and the wisdom they possessed blew me away. I felt like I already knew Lauren because of EB so we connected quickly! A beautiful soul, so grounded, SO artistically talented, and so driven. Reagan is one of the funniest people I’ve ever met and she doesn’t even try to be. Her dry sense of humor had me giggling every time I was around her, she is ridiculously strong, and a TALENTED videographer. She’s going places. Miriam has SUCH a heart for people and loves them fiercely, she pours her life into a younger generation, and understands God and His word on a deeper level than most adults! Chelsey is wise beyond her years and mine! Seriously, this girl taught me more than I could have ever have taught her. She has a hunger and thirst for more of God unlike any I’ve ever seen. Jessa is way cooler than I’ve ever been or will ever be, has a sense of adventure that’s inspiring, is SO smart, and is probably going to be a thriving CEO or some fancy world-impacting business woman some day. Jordan’s love for Jesus, desire for knowing Him more, and hunger for life is contagious! I still get to hang out with Jordan and I LOVE that. Her story is incredible, she sees God’s hand in everything, and loves people with all she has. I get to hang out with Ashley still too! She’s a closet genius (she doesn’t like to tell people, but she is REALLY smart!), adorably fashionable, endearingly quirky, and so open to all the things God has for her.

ALL THE HEART EYES FOREVER for the life I got to live with these girls! I will seriously always look on my time in this role with such fondness. We had SO much fun (sleepovers, Netflix binge watching, dinner nights, hall events, game nights, etc etc) that it just seems wrong that I got paid to have so much fun! I thrived in this role like no other. I got to cook for them, organize calendars and teach them how to organize calendars, make organized meeting agendas that were appreciated by most, learn to be supervisor for the first time, realize how much I enjoy building and encourage a team, interview hundreds of people, and so much more. We studied the Bible together, we prayed for each other, we shared our stories over and over again, we experience freedom together, we walked through hard things together. It was beautiful. Being an RD to RAs changed me and I will forever be grateful for them and the time we spent together.

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This is part of my 31 People(s) I Love series. I’ll be writing about 31 people/peoples that I adore! Click here if you would like a list of all the posts in this series.

31 People(s): RDs

Being a Resident Director was THE best job I’ve ever had. It was a job that I did not deserve to get and that was in every way possible ordained by God. I’ve seen the way they/we (when I was a we) interview people, the applications that stand out, the experience required. It made absolutely no sense for me to get a job as an RD other than the favor of God. I’ve already talked about the restoring power this job had for my ability to believe God could use me in ministry again as I got to do the ultimate version of women’s ministry living life with 100+ girls and mentoring 20+ RAs, I’ve told you about my love for pouring into a younger generation of women, you’ve met one of my fellow former RD’s Brittany, you’ll get to hear about the amazing RAs I got to love on soon, but today I get to tell you about my peers – fellow former RDs that I got to work with for 3 1/2 years.

RD life is unlike any other job life. A lot of times it didn’t feel like work at all and just felt like I was getting paid to have fun and live my life. It is definitely a job with a lifespan for most people though. As beautiful as it is, which is what I’m going to talk about most, it’s definitely a “for a season” type job. I think some people can successfully be called to it for long term! But I think the beauty of it is that so many people get to be called to it for a short time, learn incredible things about leadership and professionalism as they serve, and move on to future things as better employees, and humans, than they would have been without that season. People often ask why I left if it was my dream job, and the answer is simple and not simple. Simple answer, God said it was time to go. Not simple answer is that as I started to get older and realize the age gap between me and my students was continually growing, in a lot of ways I realized my healthiest life probably wasn’t trying to keep up anymore. Things happen when you get old! You need sleep, routine, sleep, a home with a little more boundaries, and sleep. I have absolutely no regrets or bad memories from being Resident Director. And I miss it! I’m happy and my life is amazing and I know I couldn’t host and be as involved in the lives of people closer to my age if I hadn’t moved on, so no regrets. But I say all that to say, I look back on my 3 1/2 years of RD life with nothing but fondness and only left because God said it was time, not for any bad reasons or on any bad terms.

Every year I worked there I got to work with some combination of 8-10 amazing people. I’m going to talk about many of them in a minute, but I want to share some of my favorite general memories first. I’m a Myers-Briggs ENFJ unwavering every single time. ENFJ’s thrive the most in work environments that involve working with a team. Working in the context of a team brought out the best in me! We challenged each other, we pushed each other, we had a blast, and we really loved each other and became a family. We met together weekly for staff meeting, which was always a blast, but beyond that we actually liked each other and became a solid community of adults living with college kids on campus. We watched each other grow, we saw each others potential, we beamed with pride when we saw one another be good at our jobs. Don’t get me wrong, there were hard parts! I still can’t explain how any RD (and Directors of Housing) survive training weeks other than some sort of supernatural adrenaline that kicks in. RDs train for a week, prepare for training RAs all summer, and then train RAs for two weeks. Three weeks of no-sleep, really fun, crazy busy exhausting training. The prep work that happens before a building can open is exhausting and physically intense. The work that has to happen to close down a building is even more exhausting and physically intense. And then there are on call nights/weeks! You are on call 24/7 on those days/weeks and any problem that happens in any residence hall on campus is your problem to fix and your fire to put out and then you have to fill out incident reports on all those problems and fires. And even when you aren’t on call, students and RAs can and will knock on your door way past working hours. BUT, it was beautiful. In the exhausting moments, sleep deprived hilarity often broke out. You don’t even want to stop or slack on your job when you have an amazing team working along side you, supporting one another to the core, and carrying each others burdens and weight when slacking moments did happen. We got paid to hang out with students, plan and attend events, and play sardines in empty buildings before students arrived. We got to watch our beautiful RAs grow into well rounded adults. We got to be the person they came to for advice. We got to love them and each other. My favorite moments ever year were at the beginning of the year and the end of the year. Three long, exhausting weeks of training always ended with a worship night for ResLife staff. We prayed over hiring them, we prayed for them all summer, and then we prayed prayers of commissioning over them for their new year with new students. At one of those worship nights, they turned it around on us. Those young, wise beyond their years college students wanted to pray for us! I will never forget that moment. And then at the end of the year we did cheesy, amazing things like having to pass around things with our names on them and our boss made us write encouraging things about one another. I still have every one of mine and CHERISH those words and every moment we got to live as a community of adults on campus together.

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You’ve heard about Brittany already, but I have to mention a few others too. I LOVED them all, seriously I did, but some of these lovely people I got to work with for 2 and 3 years! It’s impossible not to leave a lasting impressive on someone when you operated as family together for that long. There were a few that I worked with for a super short time that made my very first semester to be thrown in as a Resident Director in the middle of a school year a lot less harder than it should have been. Beth worked there when I started. We worked together her very last semester of a long run of being an RD. I learned SO many things from her and wouldn’t have survived that first semester without her guidance and support. Heather started with me in the middle of the year! She was only there half a year, but she made me feel like I wasn’t alone in my newness, and that was invaluable. I only worked with Daniel for half a year too, but he was one of the most supportive and encouraging people I had ever met! That semester was the semester I was the most dedicated ever to weight loss. He was such a cheerleader for me in that journey and I appreciated it and needed that so much. Then the long timers like Britt! The first time I met Seth in his interview I knew we were going to be friends. We were the only two MC alum on our staff. Our love for our school and state ran deep! We basically strategically arranged things so our staffs would be friends so we could form what we called the alliance. We had smore nights, they provided us Sonic drinks and we provided them baked goods, and then we planned the most epic guy/girl collab residence hall event! Swing dancing + wings from Wingstop = Swingstop. It lived on past our time and we’re proud. Seth fiercely loves Jesus, is an amazing husband to Rebecca, and he’s pretty dang funny. Melony and I have a deep bond connected by hard past things no one should have to bond over but when you do it’s unbreakable! She’s ridiculously smart, wise beyond her years, the most amazing higher ed professional I know, and was the best RD I have ever seen. Melony is the type of person who makes you better at your job because you are inspired by the way she does her job! Her and Mike are the most perfect couple ever, and then there’s Kaiden! RD life is tight knit. We were there the day Melony announced she was pregnant, we were there literally almost every day Kaiden grew in her belly, present the day he was born, and there all through the first year of his life. We all got to be Kaiden’s family and it was beautiful and amazing! Trisha is the quirkiest and one of the most  hilarious people I’ve ever met. Once we decided as a staff to plan an event for Pi day and Trisha proudly proclaimed that we should dress like pie (because that’s common and easy to do?). Trisha is also one of my Gospel family people! They no longer live in Clinton, but she’ll always be family to me. I could go on and on about these people and others – Jonathan, Jess, Travis, Jared, Simon, Brooke, Julie, Billy, Carrie, etc. Seriously all such amazing people, all made me laugh, all challenged me and taught me things just by being who they were. And the fearless leader of us all was Sharia. The lady knows how to train and grown and develop people! She knows how to build a team. She knows how to think outside the box. My time at MC as a Resident Director really changed and shaped me into a better professional, leader, and human in SO many ways and so much of the credit for that goes to the amazing people I got to work with and do life with.

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This is part of my 31 People(s) I Love series. I’ll be writing about 31 people/peoples that I adore! Click here if you would like a list of all the posts in this series.

31 People(s): Coworkers

So, sometimes when I’m lacking in the writing mojo I google quotes for whatever it is I want to talk about. Today I’m talking about coworkers, so I googled “coworker quotes.” As it turns out, not a lot of people have positive things to say about coworkers. This is indeed sad, and for sure we’ve all been there, but if you want a little chuckle do a google images or Pinterest search for coworker quotes, particularly SomeEcards ones. I can’t quote most of the things I read there here, but for kicks I have to share my favorite.

“Co-workers are like Christmas lights. They all hang together but half of them don’t work and the other half aren’t so bright.” 

I’d be lying if I said all my coworkers at my current job, or any job ever, all made me feel warm and fuzzy feelings. Facts are facts and you just connect with some people and don’t connect with others. I had a quite unpleasant day at work today, and though I’d take some satisfaction in complaining about that, the purpose of this post is to talk about the bright lights found at work. Another one of the facts of life is that sometimes work is just work. Sometimes it is just a means to an end called a paycheck. I think there are glorious days after working our tails off to do everything we can to chase dreams when the stars align and work doesn’t feel as work-like. But I think even when we have dream jobs, work-like days happen! The truth is, nothing – not a dream job, not a husband, not fancy things – can satisfy like Jesus. And this place isn’t our home. So we’re always going to long for home! And, if your work place is toxic, it’s okay to get out. It is. I promise! AND, work isn’t life. IT’S NOT! It’s one of the things you do so that you can live your life and pay bills and eat yummy food and hang out with friends and take care of your family, but IT IS NOT LIFE. But here’s what I also know, wherever we are, now and in the future, we are there for a season for a specific reason and there are people there who need to be loved! And there are people there who are pretty dang lovable if you take the time to see them that way. My former RD coworkers (super lovable peeps) will be getting there own post soon, but today I want to take the time to tell you about other coworkers past and mostly present, who are easy to love and make my work days more livable.

First a flash back to the past and my first “real” job! I was a social work case manager for a little over a year. It was pretty terrible and exhausting and not everyone I worked with was easy to love, but there was one bright light! We bonded over our love for fictional vampires (you know, as opposed to the real ones) and she looked out for me like no one else did. She invited me into her family and really saw me as a friend, not just a coworker. In that season of life, I needed a friend like that! We’ll call her C and I wouldn’t have survived that job without her.

Now to my current job! Things aren’t always rosy (when are they ever anywhere??), but there are some beautiful souls that I work with that I’ve grown quite fond of who have helped me survive in more ways than one. C was with me for the first year, but got married and left me! She was my first new work friend. We had so many things in common and bonded quickly. I’m sad she’s gone, but I’m so happy for her new adventures! K is a bright shining light! She can handle my tears, she’s funny, she’s always a listener, she genuinely cares about me and so many others, and she keeps things lively. She’s an amazing mom and incredibly smart. I kind of see her as my work big sister. She cares about my success and believes in me! S1 is so sassy and hilarious. She keeps everyone in line, she does WAY more than seems humanly possible, she is a force to be reckoned with, and if I had to fight a battle I’d want her on my team. She sometimes tries to pretend she doesn’t love us as much as we love her, but we all know she’s just hiding it. D is kind and gentle. She’s quite and calm. She manages way more things than I could imagine handling and does so with grace and no complaints! S2 is another workhorse! I have no idea how she balances all the things on her plate, but she does! She puts up with a lot, is always eager to learn new things, and let me teach her how to budget, which is one of my favorite things ever! F is so funny and endearing and has an incredible work ethic! She likes me way more than she should! She lost her mom recently and we’ve gotten to bond over the loss of a parent like only people who have grieved can. And then there are the Js. The Js are my hall mates and have looked out for me since day one! They are two of four men in an office of fifteen females! I like to secretly think of them as my work big brothers. They are calming presences, always even-keeled, protective, really smart, and I love working on their side of the building. J1 is unaffected by any problems that come his way, has such a beautiful family, is so down to earth, and is an impressive problem solver. J2 is talented, ridiculously smart, super witty, so kind to students, and an advocate for marginalized people.

I do my best to love all my coworkers. I challenge myself to pray for them and write notes and give happies. Even when work is just work, people still matter. People ALWAYS matter. I pray everyday that the Holy Spirit would give me supernatural motivation to do my job to the best of my ability, let me be a loving presence, let me make a difference in people’s lives, and do the hard work of reacting and loving and working like Jesus would. I don’t always succeed at all of those thing (or any of those things), but I’d like to think I do some days and that God is glorified by obedience and a heart that longs to do good.

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This is part of my 31 People(s) I Love series. I’ll be writing about 31 people/peoples that I adore! Click here if you would like a list of all the posts in this series.

31 People(s): The Guild

I’ve mentioned a couple of times that I feel most called to love on, encourage, and challenge other women. Through different seasons of my life, the group of girls I’ve gotten to love on has varied. As a young college student I spent almost every weekend teaching jr. high and high school girls at disciple nows. When I worked at summer camp, I spent summers guiding and taking care of a different set of 3rd – 6th grade girls every week. When I was an older college student at MC, I got to serve in several leadership roles (eventually president) for my sorority (MC calls them tribes, but for the sake of not having to explain that yet, we’re going to call it a sorority here), and genuinely felt called to those girls to love them and invest in them with all I had. When I was in seminary, I taught kids and helped with the youth group, but through baby sitting (and being friends with their parents) I built a relationship with some preteen girls from my church. They thought I was WAY cooler than I am (or every was). I hosted a sleepover for them at my apartment on campus in New Orleans. We baked and decorated cookies, we had debates on whether Hannah Montana or The Jonas Brothers were the best, and we had a blast.

As you heard in my TWU post, I went through a major rough patch of falsely believing God couldn’t use me in a ministry role in people’s lives anymore. I didn’t get to do life with or love on a group of girls for a while. I needed healing and to be loved on, so that’s okay. BUT, my life was a little less bright in that season. Not getting to do life with the group of people I felt most called to was a big part of the lack of light. I landed the job at MC where I got to LIVE in a dorm with 177 college girls and mentoring was written into my job description. DREAM JOB! To this day, I can think of no better way to rekindle a call to women’s ministry than getting to be the dorm mom of 177 college girls for 4 years. I absolutely loved every minute of it. (I didn’t love fire alarms in the middle of the night or on-call calls at 3 am, but you know, I loved MOST of it.) When I knew it was time for me to leave, I was terrified. I don’t like change, so some of it came from that. I didn’t know what I was going to do next, so fear there too, but my biggest fear was no longer having girls in my life to invest in and love on.

Right before I had to say goodbye to my last staff of RAs, I clearly felt the Holy Spirit give me some major comfort. I knew in that moment that when I had my own [rental] house, when students were back at MC (1/4th a mile from my house), and when I was working a new job where I wasn’t getting paid to invest in those girls, soon I’d get to shower them with love completely by choice! I’d get to invite them to a place that wasn’t the dorm, a home away from home. I’d get to cook a home cooked meal for them when they couldn’t handle one more day in the cafeteria. I’d get to be an older generation adult listening to them talk about their lives, caring what they had to say, loving them by choice, and gently imparting wisdom when the opportunities arose.

Right before the new school year started last fall, Lindsey and Anna arrived at our church as interns! One of those many previously mentioned mornings in Starbucks, I felt the Holy Spirit moving again! I was reminded of the promise that I’d get to love on college girls, and I clearly felt like I was supposed to invite Lindsey, Anna, and Sara in on this journey. They were all just as excited as I was! We met together all last year and started meeting together again this fall. We invite them to one of our houses every other week, cook homemade food for them, let them talk about anything and everything, occasionally throw in a boy to help lead a worship night, and really do offer a home away from home for them as they go through their college years. We aren’t another Bible study, we don’t require anything of them, they don’t have to go to our church, or any church. We just want to love them! The group is different this year than last year, but it’s perfect every time.

One of the girls’ parents thought we were a cult last year, which we got a kick out of. The same girl thought it would be funny to change our group message name to “The Coven.” Try not to look like a freak when you meet a new girl to invite to your group and try to explain why it’s called the coven? I’ve secretly in my mind been calling it The Guild lately, just so people don’t think we’re crazy. But guild is a fun word. It’s defined as, “an association of people for mutual aid or the pursuit of a common goal.” I’d like to think these girls know we are here to be at their aid at any given moment. And I know we have a common goal to pursue, to live lives that look increasingly more like the life of Jesus. Wintston Churchhill once said, “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” Getting to give meals, space, campfires, a listening ear, gentle wisdom, encouragement, and love to younger generations of women – my guild – makes my life abundantly more lively and life-giving.

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This is part of my 31 People(s) I Love series. I’ll be writing about 31 people/peoples that I adore! Click here if you would like a list of all the posts in this series.

31 People(s): Starbucks Lovers

This was supposed to be one of those funny Saturday posts, but I’m behind so you get it on Sunday Monday instead! As you know, or should, I frequent Starbucks.  In fact, I’m sitting at one of my favorite tables in my favorite Starbucks right now. I’ve been frequenting the same Starbucks for at least 4-ish years. For the first year, I was mostly one of the drive-thru goers trying to earn my gold card spending a little too much money on fancy drinks. Back story: I used to HATE coffee back in early college days. I wanted to be a coffee drinker badly, so I worked my way into liking it first with frappuccinos and next by adding hot cocoa to my hot coffee. I now LOVE coffee in most forms. I still enjoy frappuccinos and fancy drinks, but my daily drink is simple and delicious – iced coffee, light ice, 2% milk. If I want some sweetness I add a pump or two of toffeenut (or pumpkin spice or caramel brûlée if they’re in season).

Because of my aforementioned friend Brittany, I soon discovered the beauty of being a Starbucks “regular.” Time with Jesus drew me to this place I love (serious thankful paragraph with more on that at the end), but the community of being a regular made it feel like a homey place which kept me coming back for more Jesus time, a go-to place to hang out with friends, a fix for my coffee addiction, the occasional Starbucks crush, and my favorite place to write. And so because I love this place, it’s community, it’s beverages, it’s beverage makers, and my fellow Starbucks Lovers, I must tell you about them as part of this 31 People(s) I love journey.

The baristas: As a 4 year vet, I’ve seen a lot of fancy coffee makers come and go, and I’ve loved, and not loved, many of the ones no longer with us! Two of those must be mentioned. Sy and Cliff. Sy is hands down my favorite barista ever. She was the first barista who ever memorized my orders! They do this I’m sure because it makes their job quicker, but having a barista know your order by heart is like when a cute baby you know calls you KK for the first time! It’s warm and fuzzy. Brittany, who literally insisted every barista and regular be her friend, became friends with Sy, and then coolest story, eventually got to baptize her! Sy always made the perfect drinks and became one of my friends and favorite people. She makes coffee in Atlanta now, but we miss her here. Cliff was another Brittany connection. She eventually convinced him to go to her church, and he was THE BEST! He encouraged our tattoo habits, occasionally sneaked me free drinks, and was the friendliest. Now my early morning coffee makers are Maddie (all the heart eyes, love her), Tasha (LOVE, and we share a love for PSLs), Brooke (more heart eyes), Jakel (we had a rocky start, but he was nice to me the other day and is an efficient drink maker), the cool girl with the tattoos (why can’t I remember names?!), Seth 2, and lots of recent new kids who are super sweet and great and whose names I have shamefully not learned yet! I occasionally go at night or in the afternoons and see more familiar faces like Seth 1 and Taylor. I am reminded from writing this that I need to commit their names to memory, geez, but they seriously make my mornings with their coffee making (duh), friendliness, morning pleasantries, the way they appreciate and take care of their regulars, and how they go above and beyond to remember drinks and make a business feel homey.

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The regulars: Oh the regulars! I tend to be in my own world when I’m here and often put my headphones in and shut people out. Britt taught me a lot about being interruptable and taking the time to see these people as my neighbors. I used to be part of the 7:45 – 8:50 morning crowd, which is admittedly more active and awake. I’m now part of the 6:30 – 7:40 morning crowd. And then sometimes I’m part of the mid-morning – late afternoon Saturday crowd. A staple and one of my favs in the later morning crowd is Wheezy! She’s loved by ALL (Jakel LOVES here, and only tolerates most people), she wears horse shirts, brings her own mug, and I mean, her name is Wheezy (it’s on her license plate!). She has a spot. And if you are a regular, you just don’t sit in her spot and you try everything you can to save it for her. Note: most regulars have spots, but most of us are willing to mix it up. It just seems wrong when Wheezy isn’t in her spot. Wheezy hangs out with some other people who seem equally as great, but she gave me farm fresh eggs once for saving her spot, so obvs she’s my fav. There is Cowboy, as Britt called him, who reads a newspaper, has a wicked mustache, and always asks me how Brittany is doing and when she’s moving back (we both wish that would happen!) There’s the theologian who will talk your ear off if you let him, but he is SO full of wisdom, has crazy bed head, is always reading a book, and drinks iced coffee in a for here cup because he says it tastes better that way (I didn’t know that was a thing for cold coffee until I saw him doing it). There’s Monica the nurse who orders a different drink every day, is cute as a button, and always stops to talk. There are the groups of one day a week people who meet together to talk about the Bible. There’s the group of marathon running people who meet on Thursdays. There’s the sweet lady who orders a chocolate banana smoothie every other day. And then there are the crushes. Watch this music video before you proceed, because why not?

As you may have picked up on from previous posts, I’m prone to crushes. These aren’t the heart-shattering, obsessive kinds of crushes. These are the kinds of crushes that make life a little more fun. The kind where if they actually talked to you or asked you out you probably wouldn’t be interested anymore. The platonic, mysterious, you have a beard or a cute smile so I’m gonna like seeing you here types of crushes. I had a RA once who had the best philosophy on crushes. She believed that it was perfectly okay to have a crush at all the places you frequent. Gym crush. Caf crush. English comp crush. Starbucks crush. I think I’ve only had three Starbucks crushes. I won’t tell you about all of them, but I’ll tell you about the current because again, why not?? If my life was a RomCom (or a Taylor Swift song/parody or an early 2000s indie love song) this would be the beginning of an adorable meet-cute.

SBC (Starbucks Crush) is another early morning regular. I noticed him this summer because he had a great beard and glasses. Then I saw that he too drove a station wagon! Bearded and quirky are two of my must qualities, so duh. Linds and Anna sometimes end up at Starbucks in the mornings, so I had to tell them (and Sara) about his endearing qualities. Linds was determined to catch a glimpse, but kept missing him. The one day she got there on time HE HAD SHAVED THE BEARD DOWN TO A HIDEOUS MUSTACHE! I texted her, “ABORT MISSION. The beard is gone and the mustache is GROSS. No more SBC. Must find a new one.” And then he disappeared! He had an out of state licence plate, so I just decided he was here for the summer and had gone back home. Well, he’s back! He sits at the corner lighted table. I sit at the middle lighted table facing him (because I like to watch the sunrise, and he’s cute). He drinks simple, black, hot coffee. I drink simple, splash of milk, cold coffee. The mustache is gone, the beard hasn’t fully returned, but he still has the glasses and the quirky car and the ability to have a fierce beard, so I let him remain in his position as SBC. Our station wagons are sometimes friends, parked side by side, and have gotten way closer to actually talking than we likely ever will, but SBC is fun to look at, and I’m not sad about that. You know I like to add extra (clean) fun and sparkle to life in any way I can, and crushes do that. Who doesn’t love a few fluttering tummy butterflies and/or the occasional blushing moment when your friend is way too obviously trying to read what his name badge says (thanks Linds)? Note: SBC’s name is still unknown.

So now for that serious moment. Before my dad died, I really didn’t have consistent time with Jesus. I wrote two really long posts once about how hanging out at Starbucks with Jesus transformed my spiritual walk and led to captivated, intimate time with Him, which radically changed me in ways I never imagined. You can read those here and here. To borrow my own words,

“I was really good at believing I was capable of doing life in my own strength, with my own knowledge. When my dad died on November 18th, 2012, there was no strength or knowledge that I had to prepare me for that grief. In desperation, I told Jesus I’d actually try spending time with Him for two weeks, fully believing that even He couldn’t bring peace or healing to my grief. I gave a feeble attempt at an inch, and He pursued me back miles and miles.” 

I know “coffee and the word” is a Christian Instagram cliche. But the act of giving God my first fruits – the first part of my day, and learning to set a table for a date with Jesus, regardless of how cliche it is, is the main thing that reminds me of everything I need to remember. That I’m broken and fallen and sinful to my core. That without the Holy Spirit living in me, I’m wretched. Grief stripped away my ability to believe I could do life in my own strength. I can’t. I don’t want to. I need Jesus to sustain me. I need to read God’s word so I remember and cling to His promises. I need to spend time with Jesus so I am reminded of what He’s like so that through the power of the Holy Spirit, I can treat people and love people like He would. I need prayer so I can invite the Holy Spirit in to fight for me, guide me, convict me, and teach me. I will always be a Starbucks Lover because it’s where I meet with Jesus, it’s where I get gold stars, it’s where I do some of my best writings, and it’s where I’m reminded that the word neighbor of the “love your neighbors” command doesn’t fit into a neat little only next door people box.

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This is part of my 31 People(s) I Love series. I’ll be writing about 31 people/peoples that I adore! Click here if you would like a list of all the posts in this series.

31 People(s): WACOHs

The WACOHs! As you know or have picked up on, I attended seminary for a few years shortly after graduating from MC from 2007-2009. I moved to New Orleans knowing absolutely NO ONE. It was terrifying, especially considering I almost didn’t go to Mississippi College in Clinton, Mississippi because I’d have to drive in Jackson, Mississippi – the smallest state capital of any state. So clearly moving to and driving in the thriving metropolitan city of New Orleans made sense. The first few weeks were pretty rough. I didn’t have any friends! One of the good things about going to a theological seminary – people are a little more apt to knock on stranger’s doors and meet them. One day these two girls living a few doors down from me in our dorm knocked on my door and asked if I want to visit churches with them. YES! I finally made some friends, two other first semester girls – Amanda from Virginia and Cheryl from Florida.

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I’m a little rusty on the order in which the rest of us met, but before long we had a solid group of girl friends who decided we wanted to meet together to pray together and read the Bible together – me, Amanda, Cheryl, Courtney, Stephanie, Lucy, and Marlena. Being seminary students, we read the Bible a lot, but we really wanted to read it for personal spiritual growth and meet together for accountability. We decided to call ourselves the WACOHs – Women After Christ’s Own Heart. We hung out with a lot of other great girls and guys too, Sarah, Kat, Jeremey, etc, and we had fun no matter what we did!

These ladies were (and continue to be) AMAZING. They loved Jesus and had a hunger for God’s word unlike anyone I had ever met. The moments we shared together were absolutely beautiful. We kept a prayer journal (that I still have) that we passed around and wrote our needs and praises in. We watched God answer SO many prayers we wrote down and prayed over. We committed to pray for each other and really did. Being friends with these beautiful souls was a catalyst to change for me. I started to realize as they exposed their hearts to me and one another, that they had experienced a kind of freedom I hadn’t and weren’t trapped by shame like I was.

During the time we met together, a lot of things I had compartmentalized from my childhood and previous years of life started to come to the surface and demand to be dealt with. I started going to a counselor, and it was beautiful and so needed and eventually brought so much healing, but in the midst of it as I started to relive things and attempt to let go of shame, it caused a lot of emotional turmoil. I started struggling majorly with depression and anxiety. Instead of choosing a healthy road and confessing my struggles to them to find support and coping there, I closed myself off, isolated myself further, and clung to a lot of unhealthy coping mechanisms. This eventually lead to me leaving school and no longer getting to have these wonderful women in my life.

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I have to talk for an extra moment about Amanda, who ended up being my roommate! We moved to an apartment together on campus with Lucy and eventually another girl named Crystal. At the time I was going through all my hard junk, I thought Amanda didn’t know. But she did. She did and the way she loved me and supported me never changed. And before everything got bad, there was a whole heck of a lot of good! I learned how to cook and shop with roommates for the first time. I learned how much I loved cooking and meal planning. I watched a LOT of Gilmore Girls and Alias with this girl. We got to work at a summer camp together and then travel to 13 stays in 4 days and 3 nights to visit all but one of the Ivy Leagues (something we had become obsessed with). She was an amazing roommate and friend and the love she had for me helped me through A LOT.

I had a long road to walk through before I could look back and realize that despite my running and pushing and isolating, these women meant the world to me! We ate a lot of snowballs. We wrote a lot of papers. We cooked a lot of meals. We laughed a lot. We prayed a lot. We cried a lot. We went through a lot of note cards. But we really were women after the heart of Christ and it changed us all. The freedom I saw in these women was the catalyst I needed to walk down my own road and journey to freedom and I could never in a million years thank them enough for that. We are scattered all over the place now, but we occasionally catch up on one another’s lives through email, stalk each other’s Facebook ongoings (that’s possibily just me, but I love seeing what they are doing and how God is using them), and I’m confident ONE DAY there will be a WACOHs reunion.

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This is part of my 31 People(s) I Love series. I’ll be writing about 31 people/peoples that I adore! Click here if you would like a list of all the posts in this series.

31 People(s): TWU

My Total Woman U ladies! I’ve been part of this ministry since 2009, and if you’ve heard my story in the last few years, you know these women have been an essential part of my life and have literally changed my life. And I’ll get to that in a minute, but first a little about the organization. It’s a non-profit organization that exists to “equip and empower women of all ages to be the TOTAL woman God created each of us to be.” Our message is and has always been, “you are a unique creation with a God-given identity and purpose.” In addition to helping plan and put on events, occasionally teaching at events, and planning for the organization as a whole, I also get to run their social media, blog, and write for the blog (though I’ve been slacking in all of those duties lately!). It’s an amazing organization created by an amazing lady where I get to serve with more amazing ladies (that you’re about to read about!).

Before I tell you about my amazing friends on this team, I want to go back to when TWU entered my life and the changes it brought about in me. The organization is based out of Slidell, which is where I lived for two years and went to church for four years. While I was in seminary in New Orleans, I was HEAVILY involved in my church in Slidell. I taught children’s church every Sunday, I was a volunteer for the youth group on Wednesday nights, I was in a small group on some other night, I volunteered some with the women’s ministry leadership team and went to all of their event, and I helped start a group for post-college singles adults. Some rough things happened in my life (I’m going to vaguely talk about them in one of these posts where I talk about my counselor) which lead to me quitting seminary. As a result of feeling like a failure from quitting and all the other things going on (depression, anxiety, etc), I wholeheartedly believed I could never be used in ministry again and withdrew from everything I was formerly involved in. I still went to church and still had some amazing people loving on me, investing in me, and praying me through (they’ll be getting posts soon too), but I went as a much quieter and more reserved version of myself that wanted to hide.

When I was attending seminary, I was aiming to get a degree in Women’s Ministry. Doing life with women young and old was and has always been my heart. This super out-going, energetic, cute as a button lady started coming to our church and wanted to put on a women’s ministry workshop that was right up my alley. My heart leapt a little. I wanted to be there. I wanted to be invisibly there, but I wanted to be there! I timidly told Jenny (the out-going, energetic, cute lady) that I would be willing to help with background stuff. A week or so later she asked me if I’d be willing to teach a low-key session on home decorating that she would write form me. On a whim I said yes and them panicked a little. I texted Molly and told her about it. “I’m not ready to teach again, I don’t know if I can do that anymore,” I said. Molly – always the voice of reason and wisdom pushing me further than I think I can go – said, “God doesn’t need you to be ready, just willing.” I clutched my notes tight that first time and probably read every word straight from the paper, but something in me started to come alive again. A week or so later Jenny invited me to a meeting to be on faculty and I never looked back.

God completely used TWU and the ladies involved in the ministry to draw me back to Him and to allow me to believe I could serve Him and be used by Him again. If it wasn’t for TWU, I would have never looked for another job to escape my “people are just pieces of paper” social work job that I had while living in Louisiana. (Note: Note all social work jobs are bad!) And I would have never applied to work at Mississippi College and believed I could fill a position that involved daily doing ministry with college girls (obviously you’re going to get a post about those people(s) too). So without further adieu, let me tell you a little about these amazing, beautiful, Gospel-living ladies! 

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Jenny (bottom row right) is our fearless leader, the president and founder of Total Woman U! Obviously she sees the potential in people even when they don’t see it themselves and has a way of pulling the very best out of everyone. She’s a natural born leader, so full of life, an amazing mom and wife, so inflectional, a gifted speaker, a beautiful singer, and SUCH a visionary. She has the biggest heart and is so sacrificially giving.

Amy (bottom row middle, next to Jenny) is the most creative person I’ve ever met! She does all of our set designs, makes jewelry, makes pottery, paints, and is a creative genius. She’s is such a loving wife, caring mom, go-getter to the max, and has a beautiful, tender heart. Amy’s story is incredible and one that changed my life personally. She’s a prayer warrior and an amazing encourager.

Steph (bottom row left, next to Amy) is truly a servant. She quietly works like a beat behind the scenes and we’d never be able to put on any event if it wasn’t for her. She’s HILARIOUS, has the best giggle, is stylish and trendy, is an AMAZING teacher to kids with special needs, a terrific mom, and a thoughtful (and funny) wife. She embodies gentleness to me has a beautifully tender heart.

Bronie (middle row left, above and to the left of Steph) is ridiculously funny and witty and an INCREDIBLE writer. Reading her former blog is one of the reasons I wanted to start a blog, and obviously that worked out pretty well. She was one of the first people I met at our church in Slidell, even before TWU days, and I loved her instantly. She’s an amazing (and candid) mom, homemaker, and wife, she sings beautiful, she’s sees stories, lessons, and wisdom in everything, and is a fiercely loyal.

Stef (middle row, between me and Bronie) is the queen of DIY, another amazing homemaker/mom/wife, so full of wisdom, a strong leader, and ridiculously hospitable. She sent her eldest daughter to come to school in my town at MY school (my college girls are getting a post soon too!)! I get to see her more often these days because of Abbie’s presence here and I LOVE that. She gives the best hugs, has a great laugh, and sees the beauty in everything.

Jenn (middle row right, next to me, above Jenny) aka Doc Holliday is a sassy little fireball. She’s an eye doctor, crazy smart, so funny, not afraid to be on a stage and act silly (which is super beneficial since many of us – me included – are at times), fun, and energetic. She’s a strategic thinker and we NEED that. She’s so genuine, makes her care known for all of us often, and is a beautiful mom and wife.

Suzanne (back row right, above me and Jenn) was another one of the first people I met at church even before TWU and someone I connected with instantly. We used to teach together at events when I lived there and I LOVED it. We both share a heart for broken and wounded people and bond over that a lot. She’s amazingly hope filled no matter what hardships she faced, she has an incredible heart for kids and is a fantastic teachers, she’s a gifted speaker, a beautiful dancer, and another incredible mom and wife.

Claire (back row middle, above me and Stef) is another strategic thinker that we wouldn’t survive without. She too is an amazing mom and wife, she’s a vulnerable and transparent speaker, and so hard working! Claire has experienced so much loss and grief in her life and beautifully lets Jesus shine through it all. Her story is impactful and influential to SO many people.

I could go on and on and on and on! I LOVE every one of these ladies more than words on the page of a blog post can express. They have changed my life. They believe in me fiercely. They support one another in such incredible ways. I am a different and better person because I know them, love them, and because of their love for me. Their love for Jesus is SO real, encouraging, and challenging and I adore them.

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This is part of my 31 People(s) I Love series. I’ll be writing about 31 people/peoples that I adore! Click here if you would like a list of all the posts in this series.

31 People(s): Gospel Family Part 2

I don’t know why I thought I was going to be able to post twice on my favorite day while having to also work and prepare/host a favorite day celebration/out door dinner party for missional community. Didn’t happen! One of these days I’ll catch up, even if some posts get posted in November. But for now, the rest of my Gospel family! You’ve heard about the Manuels, Taylors, and my DNA group girls – Sara, Lindsey, and Anna. Today I will attempt to tell you about the rest of these beautiful people, but first let me tell you a bit about our little extension of the big C Church.

I should say let me tell you a bit MORE about us, because I’ve written about us a couple of times. Here (when I knew I’d love them forever), here (when I first started getting to cook for them), here (when I was reminded of how the Church should love and thankful that my people love like that), and here (one of the many times something we learned together stayed in my mind for weeks). In short, we don’t go to church, we are the church. Our mission is to make disciples (someone whose life looks increasingly more like the life of Christ) who make disciples who make disciples right where we are. To borrow a few things from our website:

“Arise Church isn’t a place, although we do gather regularly. Arise Church is a people. It’s as much a statement as it is a name. Isaiah 60:1 says, “Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you.” We are a group of people who seek to live our lives in light of the fact that the true Light of the world has come in Jesus, and all of life is about bringing glory to Him.

We believe that as Christ followers, we have a new identity and a new purpose. We seek to live our lives as a family of worshippers, united with Christ, sent out on mission with God to make disciples of all the world. We want to see our city saturated with the gospel, with the good news of Jesus, so that the love of God is both declared and demonstrated everyday in every neighborhood within our community.”

We are the Bride of Christ, the Body of Christ, and my favorite – the Family of God. I read an article yesterday that Relevant Magazine posted about community (you can read it here). It talks about some of the misconceptions of community being that it’s easy and convenient and natural. So true! It’s not easy. It’s not convenient. It’s not natural. Going to church, not being the Church, being a seat filler, a church consumer, is easy, it is convenient, it is “natural” because our human nature tendencies are sinful and selfish. Being the Family of God is hard, messy, and takes effort and intentionality. It’s not cookie cutter, it doesn’t just happen on Sunday mornings, but it’s SO worth it. These people really have become my family. We do the messy and hard work of living missionally together, admitting our failings and shortcomings, and loving each other and the world around us when things are good and easy and when they aren’t. I love these people! Brace yourselves for the biggest, longest paragraph ever about my people.

The Strouds live walking distance from my house and have impressed me since day one of knowing them. Bonni and Landon are so in tune with the Holy Spirit! They have picked up strangers on the side of the road because they felt the gentle tug to do so and invite displaced people into their family so welcomingly. Landon is hard working, a servant (has helped me move and fix things more times than I can count in the last 2 years!), and so full of insight. Bonni is sacrificially giving, so thoughtful (she texts me often and asks how she can pray for me!), and seriously has mom super powers. They have three kids under the age of three (Brandon, Callie, and Adelae) and still make time for us and the strangers that cross their paths! The Holmers are two of the funniest people I know. Rachel is so fun and sassy, an amazing quilter/seamstress, cute as a button, a loyal friend, and gives the best hugs! Matt is a a genius and knows as much as Google does, a master home renovator, an excellent griller, and the most amazing husband to Rachel. They are new parents to sweet baby Wolf and such an adorable little family. The Krasons are also hilarious (we have a lot of funny people!) and watching them walk through a hard season of obedience has encouraged me a lot! Ashley and Tim are both college professors, so full of wisdom, and have such a hunger for demonstrating and displaying the Gospel to their neighbors and our community. Another family with three littles! Lydia is so adorable and I want to squeeze her every time I see her, Issac is ridiculously smart for his age and never ceases to amaze me with his smarts, and Tanner won’t let me talk to him yet, but we’re working on it! Tyler and Kaitlyn make me laugh too and are two of my favorite newlyweds. They’re perfect for each other, have a sense of adventure that inspires me, and aren’t frazzled by anything life throws at them (washing dishes in bathtubs, yellow jackets in their apartment, new jobs, etc). The Baxters are brand new parents (less than a month) to sweet baby Amelia. Blaire is beautiful and as friendly as can be. Christopher is quiet in a group but SO observant and full of wisdom when you sit down and talk to him. I’ve loved getting to know them more and more and seeing them fit seamlessly in with our family. They are full of insight and handling new parenthood like champs. Chris and Grace are my other favorite newlyweds. Grace was in our DNA group when her and Chris were dating and then got engaged! They have such a beautiful story and every time I think about it I get chocked up. They’re adorable and marriage looks good on them. Lyndsey Hester is the most hospitable l person I know! She’s funny, clumsy (which adds to her funniness), warm, kind, friendly, great with kids, fashionable, beautiful, and I always know she’s going to give me a hug which makes me love her even more! She’s so full of blind faith, bold hope, and loves her people so well. The Mansells are an encouraging and impacting family. Amanda and Clay are super involved and influential in our town. Clay is a genius business man and makes Clinton a better place to live by the ways he contributes to it. Amanda embodies gentleness and is an incredibly supportive wife and mom. Annabelle is adorable, sassy, and smart. She teased me for having a Starbucks frappe phone case Sunday. She’s 7! Drew is another one of our hard working guys! He has helped me move and fix things A LOT. The way he’s grown since he’s been at Arise has been so beautiful to watch. Jenny and Cole are another set of cute as can be newlyweds and my neighbors! Jenny is a first year teach and handling it with such grace. Cole is in law school, and I’ve seen Legally Blonde so clearly I know how hard that is so I’m impressed. Jayme is another one of our interns along with Lindsey and Anna, and she’s great! She has a heart for the nations and loves kids. She keeps us organized and on track with teaching the kiddos. Mindy has SUCH a heart for broken people and uses it in a big way. She started a group for wounded women and loves them beautiful. She made the brave decision to go back to school recently for counseling and that impresses me a lot! David is here in Mississippi for a semi-temporary time to live and work with college kids at MC. I don’t know how long we’ll have him, but I’m glad he’s with us! He fits in so well with our other guys and LOVES the heck out of the college guys he works with. Josh and Britney are also my neighbors (we have an awesome street!), have an adorable dog, and helpfully jump right in to run powerpoint, lift things, and selflessly help in any way they can every time they are around. Candace doesn’t get to hang out with us as much because she’s a world traveler and taking care of and visiting grandkids, but I want to be her when I grow up! She’s so fun and vivacious and fashionable. When she’s in town and with us, she always has encouraging words of truth to speak. And she gave me one of my favorite dresses! Zach and Jessica recently moved to Clinton, but jumped in head first with doing life with us! They’ve only been here a few months and are already radically loving and reaching out to their neighbors in such beautiful ways! Zach is a great teacher, full of wisdom, and has such a heart for the Gospel. Jessica is an amazing teacher, also chocked full of wisdom, and let me talk her into giving Harry Potter another chance! And there are the families who have been with us and moved to different cities and states – JD, Trisha, and Marion, Rebecca and Caleb, and Sarah, Brandon and Hadleigh – who are still in our hearts and missed dearly!

I could go on and on so much more about all of these people and all of the things I’ve learned from them. I could tell you story after story about how we’ve grown. I could make a list a mile long of the prayers we’ve prayed, tears we’ve cried, and all the ways we’ve seen God move. We laugh a lot, we interrupt Michael when he’s teaching us A LOT, we learn together, we grow together, we eat together (A LOT), we celebrate, we mourn, we love. It’s incredibly beautiful, incredibly messy, not always easy, but the most life giving season of life I’ve ever lived. The same article on community I mentioned earlier stated another misconception of community being that it’s optional. It’s not. I grow because I read my Bible. I grow because I pray. And you could grow some solely doing those things. But we just aren’t meant to live life alone! God created the big C Church. He meant for us to need each other. He meant for us to be messily in each other’s lives. I have grown dynamically more than I ever have in any other season of life because I’ve experienced what’s it’s like to be the Family of God, not a seat filler, not a Sunday consumer, but a family member. I love these people and the way they love each other, me, and our God.
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This is part of my 31 People(s) I Love series. I’ll be writing about 31 people/peoples that I adore! Click here if you would like a list of all the posts in this series.

31 People(s): Gospel Family Part 1

I’m aiming to post twice today to make up for the one post I missed and get out part 1 and 2 by the end of the day, but we’ll see! In the next post, I’ll go a little more in depth about the family aspect of my church, but in this post I want to talk about two families. In the little over two years that I’ve known these two families, who feel like my family now too, along with the rest of our Gospel family, I’ve seen them both walk through some hard things with such supernatural grace, patience, and hope.


First, I want to tell you about the Manuels. Michael, Megan, Myles, and Marlee.

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Michael felt the call and vision to start Arise Church. Since we’re going through the process of studying the New Testament church to learn what it looks like for us to be an elder lead church vs. a pastor lead church, I won’t call him our pastor (it’s going to be a hard habit to break!). BUT, he is a shepherd for us to the utmost! He loves Jesus in such a real and contagious way. His personal desire, and desire for us, his family, and all believers to live for the Gospel and in the freedom of the Gospel is incredible. The way he’s helped change my view on living missionaly right where I’m planted has forever changed my life. He’s funny, transparent and vulnerable, full of wisdom, challenging and encouraging, an amazing leader, an excellent teacher, the best realtor around, and just great. He’s broken over sin and overwhelmed by God’s grace and the gift of freedom that is ours. He also occasionally misuses or mispronounces words and it’s hilarious. We call them “Michaelisms.”

Megan is beautiful, has the most tender heart, is such a great mom, and lives her life to share it with others. She’s also a ballerina! She has a heart for the nations and for the least of these and is always seeking to do something to serve those populations. She lives for the Gospel, hurts with those who hurt, mourns with those who mourn, and rejoices with those who rejoice! She’s graceful, quirky, and funny. She is one of the most encouraging people I know. One of my favorite most endearing things about Megan is how she often leaves a gathering, like missional community or a girls’ night, and doesn’t say goodbye. It makes me laugh every time and I love that about her. But seriously, Megan is such a giving and caring soul! She somehow has the ability to sense when I might not be having a great day and always speaks words of truth, wisdom and hope to me. I love her! And Myles is a silly goof ball, understands way more about the Gospel than he can even begin to realize at his age, and teaching the kids on Sundays isn’t quite as fun when he isn’t there.

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This beautiful family has been on a LONG journey for 3+ years of feeling called to adopt their sweet future baby girl, Marlee. It’s been hard, really hard, and there have been many times where I know it’s felt hopeless. I love that they can be honest about that and confess the times when it just simply sucks to still be waiting. But I also love that they NEVER stay in hopelessness. Megan has a blog where she’s written beautiful about the journey many times – http://themanuelfamily-mandm.blogspot.com/. I also love how beautifully supportive Megan is of other local families who are going through the adoption journey, many of which she’s watched get to hold their babies already. Can you imagine how hard that is?!

Those are hard days for her (and Michael and Myles), and she admits it. Being able to admit that is beautiful to me for sure, but in the midst of her hurt she keeps on loving and supporting everyone in her life. They’ve willingly invited us along on this journey with them to pray for them, help carry their burdens when it’s hard, and rejoice over every small step towards bringing Marlee home. I don’t know why they don’t have that baby girl yet, but I do know that the present suffering can’t compare, even for a millisecond, to the joy that will come when she’s here. And we are going to have the biggest, most celebratory party you can ever imagine when we all get to meet sweet Marlee one day! She’s going to be the most loved little girl on the planet and have the fiercest village anyone could ever imagine! This family means the world to me and I am a better version of myself because I know them.


The Taylors! If you follow me on Instragram, you should know who Hazel and Henry Taylor are. Allow me to jog your memory (purely for the sake of reposting cute pics of Henry and Hazel).

Henry and Hazel are adorable and have all of my heart, and I’ll talk a little more about them and their cute personalities in a minute, but first I have to talk about their parents. Obviously two of my favorite kids in the world wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for them, so I’m thankful for that! But Scott and Amanda Taylor are two amazing humans apart from their two amazing little humans. They could be a move star couple for real, an insanely stylish and beautiful family. But don’t let their movie star looks trick you, they are two of the most down to earth people I’ve ever met! They are so even-keeled. Being the highly dramatic and panicky person that I am, their ability to remain calm no matter what life throws at them impresses, challenges, and encourages me.

Amanda, as mentioned, is a beauty! She’s one of my fashion inspirations and one of the two people who finally talked me into wearing booties. If I ever get to be a mom, I’m going to DAILY channel Amanda Taylor. When her toddlers freak out or throw a fit, as all toddlers do, she just looks at them and calmly tells them to relax or be strong. I’ve never seen her frazzled by anything! She’s full of wisdom and has a heart for knowing and reading scripture. She loves reading blogs as much as I do (and I always know she’s going to read my posts!). She’s a loyal friend and the way she stays connected and makes time for her college friends impresses me! She’s sassy and fun and I’m always slightly disappointed when she’s not a gathering because of a sick kid or being out of town.

Scott is hilarious and witty. He too is full of wisdom and daily living for the Gospel. He’s an amazing dad. He’s a great handy man and builds their own furniture. He cooks. He cleans. He takes care of those cute kids A LOT. I mean, he’s the model husband! He’s been with Michael all through the journey of planting a new church. He is intentional to build relationships with every new person that walks through our doors (and by our doors, I mean the YMCA doors, because we don’t have doors, haha). He’s a great leader not only for our Gospel family, but in the Clinton community too. And a little more about their little people. They both speak so articulately for toddlers! They’re smart. They are ADORABLE. Hazel is the most independent child I’ve ever encountered. Henry is the politest child I’ve ever encountered. They are just my favs! Life goals for real.
Above everything else, the thing I love most about them is the hope they have in Jesus. This year hasn’t been an easy one for them. Scott lost his mother unexpectedly. Amanda lost her mom a few years ago. Grief is always hard no matter who it is, but I know too well that the loss of a parent is really tough. They also said goodbye to the last home either of their moms will know and have been displaced while finding a new home for a bit.  Despite any hardships they’ve gone through, they’ve continued to be incredibly loving and serving to our Gospel family! They’re amazing friends to everyone who is privileged to call them friend. They camp in garages and go to zoos and fairs and everything in between with their kiddos. They love Jesus and really strive to live for the Gospel in all they do. I’m so glad I know them, the Manuels, and the rest of my Gospel family that you’ll get to hear about soon. Living life with these people is one of the main reasons I love this season of life more than any other I’ve lived yet.

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This is part of my 31 People(s) I Love series. I’ll be writing about 31 people/peoples that I adore! Click here if you would like a list of all the posts in this series.

31 People(s): Brittany

Next up of my 31 people(s) is Brittany Jo Perrotta. Brittany and I have been friends for 4-ish years and she is one of the quirkiest and endearingly weirdest people I know. We worked together at MC (fast forward 5 years after graduating from MC, I got to go back and work there!). We were Resident Directors (you’ll get to hear more about RDs and RD life soon). We worked together for a almost a whole year before we decided to be real friends. We are both pretty outspoken and everyone thought we hated each other because we argued a lot. We decided it was kind of silly that we weren’t “real” friends since our life stages were exactly the same (30, single, adults living with college kids, etc.) In the beginning of our “real” friendship, a convo like this went down and people could no longer doubt our friendship.

Me: “Let’s hang out.”

Brit: “Okay, wanna get tattoos?”

Me: “Sure.”

Friends who get tatted together stay together! (We also got another tattoo together right before she moved away from me last May.)

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Hers is the tiny care bear heart (that has nothing to do with care bears, I just like calling it that) and mine is the dove. Brittany is a gem though. She’s hilarious. Really, go read her blog, you will laugh your butt off – http://coffeeandpuppies.blogspot.com/. And let’s pause for a moment to talk about the formation of Brittany’s blog. Brit decided she wanted to take up writing. Instead of asking her friend who is a long time blogger (me) how to go about doing this, she just picks up her computer and types blog.com. It was a terrible site, and then she wanted me to fix it. I made her switch to a site I could work with, got her set up, and every other day or so she’d send me a template and say, “make my blog look like this.” I’m proud to say she can now install her own templates and keeps the hilarious posts coming.

She’s about as real as a person can get. Being friends with her has taught me many things, but one of my favorite things she’s taught me is how to fight and that fighting with friends is okay. As you know, I grew up in crazyland. Fighting was prevalent, but usually resulted in people leaving, quitting, or giving up. Brit and I fought a lot, but it was good fighting. She taught me what it meant to fight well, that confrontation is good and doesn’t always result in giving up, and that friendships can become stronger because of it. Her friendship taught me that it’s okay to say that hard things. Brittany was the first person I was able to talk to face to face about a sin struggle I’d always allowed to trap me with shame. She wasn’t shocked or disappointed like I thought she’d be. She loved me exactly the same and wanted me to experience freedom as much as I wanted to experience freedom. And THAT was freeing!

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Brittany’s family is as hilarious and awesome as she is. She’s a twin. Her dad’s name is Joe. She and her sister carry the middle name Jo. And she has a cousin named Joey. Half of her family are South Carolinian southerners and the other half are Pennsylvanian Italians. Her parents are the most generous people I know. Brittany and Abby (twin sister) always bring random assortments of people home with them for holidays. Her mom makes us all Christmas stockings and Easter baskets AND buys any girls who are there for Christmas matching pajamas. Her dad makes everyone feel welcome and cooks us breakfast every morning. The southern side insists you eat the yummy food they cook. The Italian side kisses you on the cheek and tells you to come to Pennsylvania soon. They’re loud and hilarious and amazing.

Brit is also crazy smart. She’s a seminary graduate and working on another masters degree. She has a heart for the nations, the marginalized, and the forgotten. Brittany is a pro and making displaced people feel placed. She’s an includer to the max. If you don’t have friends, she wants to help you find them. If you don’t have a church, she’ll take you to hers until you find your place. If you don’t have a family, you’re now part of hers. If you don’t know Jesus, she’s going to tell you about Him. If you’re stuck in sin, she’s going to love you through it. If you have no desire to love Jesus, she’s still going to love you and offer you everything she has. If you don’t have a car or wreck yours in New Orleans (hey, I did that), she’s going to make sure you have rides places and let you use hers anytime you need it. She’s also an excellent cook and randomly has a cooking school certificate. Make her cook for you! She forgets to use this skill.

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She was my everyday life friend through one of the hardest, if not the hardest, seasons I’ve ever lived through. She was there when I found out me dad was sick. She let me use her car to drive to Arkansas to visit him multiple times when he was in and out of the hospital (mine didn’t have AC at the time). She was there when I made terrible choices because I was mad that my dad was going to die and she loved me through every moment. She even forced me (aka showed up at my apartment) to make me let her meet a guy I knew I shouldn’t have been dating and tried to keep it a secret. She wasn’t even on campus when I found out my dad died, but was there lightning speed fast when all I could do was text her and say that he was gone. She stayed with me the rest of the day. I spent many night in her apartment even though mine was just across the parking lot because I didn’t want to be alone.

She was there when I FREAKED out because I didn’t have anywhere to go for Christmas since my dad was gone. She helped me buy a plane ticket to come stay with her family for Christmas and took me home with her for every holiday after that. When I didn’t think even Jesus could heal my grief, she pushed me to try. I finally felt relief in the midst of grief because of the routine of spending time with Jesus, and then I wrecked my car! I panicked again because I wasn’t going to have the healing routine to cling to, but she got up with MY schedule every morning and took us both to Starbucks. She made me write and process and think of all the things I learned because of my dad’s life. She made me proactively plan for every holiday so I wouldn’t panic and snowball. She helped me and Allison (pictured above with us) plan a Father’s Day meal with all of our dad’s favorite things (Brit was also there with Allison every moment of her journey when she lost her dad shortly before I lost mine).

We freak out about life and next steps a lot together. We complain about boys and the lack of their presence in our lives often. We went on many 10 hour road trips to South Carolina. We watched A LOT of Netflix. We fought a lot. We laughed a lot. I cried a lot and she listened a lot (she doesn’t cry much). Like I said, she’s a gem. She’s a servant. She’s vulnerable and transparent. She loves Jesus with all of her heart. She loves her people fiercely. She fights well. She never gives up on people. She pushes everyone to Jesus. She’s my family. She tells people that if I got to chose who my sisters were they would be her and Taylor Swift (hence the picture she gave me above that I’ll never get rid of). I’m sad we don’t live in the same place anymore, but I’m thankful that we get to google chat almost every day and solve all of our, and the world’s, problems.

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This is part of my 31 People(s) I Love series. I’ll be writing about 31 people/peoples that I adore! Click here if you would like a list of all the posts in this series.