Friday Links {Thanksgiving Edition}

Friday Links are a round-up of my favorite posts/videos/projects/photos from around the web.

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving yesterday! We had a great time celebrating with Bryan’s family yesterday, and we have super fun things in store for the rest of the weekend.

It’s the best time of the year!

Have a great weekend–and for those of you Black Friday shopping, godspeed.  XO

For your weekend reading pleasure:

  • I love this adorable banner from Honey We’re Home–especially the idea of using washi tape for the lettering. I’m all about crafting for the holidays this year, and this would work great for a Christmas or New Year’s banner, too!
  • Tis the season for gift guides to start popping up on blogs, and I love this one from Hollywood Housewife (especially the custom ideal bookshelf—how cool is that?!).
  • This lovely little post from Hands Free Mama on a Thanksgiving recipe. Here’s to disconnecting in order to connect, letting go of perfection, and tasting the sweetest part of life.

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A Thanksgiving Thought

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We and life are spectacularly flawed and complex. Often we do not get our way, which I hate, hate, hate. But in my saner moments I remember that if we did, usually we would shortchange ourselves. Sometimes circumstances conspire to remind us or even let us glimpse how thin the membrane is between here and there, between birth and the grave, between human and the divine. In wonder at the occasional direct experience of this, we say, Thank you.

– Anne Lamott’s Help, Thanks, Wow

Happy Thanksgiving from our family to yours! XO

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On Gratitude

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Thanksgiving is less than a day away, but I’m not going to create a list or write a post about what I’m thankful for this year. If I did it would likely include the obvious things, the things that fit nicely onto a list, like my husband, my job, my home, and the food on my table. Of course, the truth is that I’m not always thankful for those things. When my husband is inconsiderate or my job is too demanding or my dishwasher is broken or I burn the dinner I spent so much time making (again), I don’t feel thankful. I also know that those things have very little to do with genuine gratitude. We should be thankful for those things, certainly. But gratitude, I’m learning, is more than making a list of the good things in our lives. Gratitude is a choice, a way of living, that acknowledges imperfection and chooses a spirit of thankfulness anyway.

Most of us have a lot to be thankful for this year.  But I’m certain that just as many have found life to be a little more bitter than sweet this year, bringing unexpected disappointment and hurt. It may be a broken relationship or a particularly painful loss or a heavy financial burden. Those things are just as real and just as heavy on our hearts this year.  Slowly I’m finding gratitude for those things, too—for the way God has redeemed and restored and brought beauty from brokenness. I’m finding that new life can come from despair and that even when we can’t see the silver lining, God is still God.

Giving thanks for the darkness, for healing, and for hope is what is means to practice true Thanksgiving. I’m not there, of course. I don’t know if I will ever truly get there, or if it will always be after the fact—after I’ve experienced the way life came from death—that I can be thankful. But this year I’m practicing a new kind of gratitude—a gratitude that goes beyond a list, a gratitude that can join with God and all of creation in echoing with confidence and conviction the belief that it is good. All of it—the pain and the mess and the laughter and the joy. It is good, and true gratitude is about celebrating that truth.

Tomorrow as we gather around tables to carve the turkey and pour the wine and slice the pies, we will give thanks.  We will give thanks for what has been and what is to come. And we will celebrate—we will celebrate because of love and grace and joy and in spite of the pain, expressing gratitude for what God has done and what God can do. And maybe we will experience a glimpse of what it means to be truly grateful.

*photo credit

Friday Links

Friday Links are a round-up of my favorite posts/videos/projects/photos from around the web.

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After a crazy busy week, I am looking forward to a fairly empty and carefree weekend. Time with good friends, football, and a date night with the hubby are all on the agenda.

Hope you all have a wonderful weekend! XO

For your weekend reading pleasure:

  • I love this post from Leigh Kramer on truth-telling. Opening up and connecting with other people on a deeper level can be so, so hard, but it is always worth it.
  • This song is my jam. And this video is pure awesomeness. I love Taylor Swift, and the craziness of this video mixed with the best wardrobe ever just makes me love her even more.
  • Shauna Niequist is my favorite writer, and I love her outlook on community, busyness, and giving your best to your home team.  This post speaks so much truth to our struggle with perfectionism and the need for a little less hustle.
  • I’m getting really excited about Christmas—especially Christmas decorating.  The holiday collection from Lindsay Letters is gorgeous and would make an excellent addition to your holiday decor!

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On Soul Mates

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Yesterday Bryan and I celebrated a year and a half of marriage (which I know seems like nothing, but we like celebrating the small milestones). And here’s the thing—now, more than ever, I’m convinced that we were not meant to be.  I’m more certain than ever before that there are no such things as soul mates—not the destined to be together kind, anyway.

I don’t believe that Bryan and I were made for each other. I don’t think ending up together was the only option.  I believe that if we had never met, we both would have found someone else that made us just as happy, just as complete.

To me, soul mates are just too easy.

The idea of soul mates rests on the belief that there is one person in the universe created just for you. You search for that person your entire life so that you can finally be complete.  Before you were walking around just a half of whole, but not anymore—now you’ve found the missing piece.  There’s not another option.  That person is the only one for you. And you’ll find your soul mate—you have to—because it’s fate.

It’s a nice enough theory.  It makes for sappy songs and tear-jerker chick flicks. But love, I think, is something different.

The kind of love that the best love stories are made of—the kind of love that always trusts, always hopes, all always protects, always endures—is a choice. It’s the kind of choice that requires hard work and commitment.  It tests your selflessness, your patience, and your faith. It’s a choice that requires you to bring your best self to the table and to forgive when the other person fails to do so, too. It’s a choice that requires you to ask for forgiveness yourself, over and over agin, and to stay put when all you want to do is leave.

I wake up every single morning and choose to love Bryan.  When he doesn’t put his dirty plates in the sink or take out the trash, I choose to love him.  When he brings me mocha frappuccinos and makes me laugh so hard I cry, I choose to love him. When I can’t stand being in the same room as him, I choose to love him. When I can’t imagine my life without him, I choose to love him.

“Meant to be” is a nice idea, but I prefer the alternative.  There is something pretty wonderful about knowing that of all the people in the world, someone chose me. He could have picked someone else. The world would have kept on spinning, and we both would have moved on…but he didn’t.

I choose him and he chooses me. And I think there is something really special about that.

November Reading List

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1. What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty. I LOVED this book. She story follows a woman who, at thirty-nine years old, is the mother of three children and going through a nasty, bitter divorce. She has an accident and wakes up believing that she is twenty-nine, newly (and happily) married, and pregnant with her first child. As she goes through the process of reconstructing her life and her memories, she is forced to figure out where everything unraveled and how she ended up where she did. Liane Moriarity is quickly becoming one of my favorite fiction writers. I’ve read a lot of her stuff recently, including Big Little Lies (which I also loved) and The Husband’s Secret.  Her stories are great, but Moriarty’s real gift as a writer is character development. Within a few chapters, I genuinely feel like I know her characters–they seem like old friends. I’ll pretty much read anything this woman writes.

2. One Plus One by Jojo Moyes. Eh–this book was okay. Like a lot of people, I picked up this book because I read and adored her recent novel, Me Before You. After reading that, this one was a little disappointing to me. It was slow, and I never felt a real connection with the characters. I also found the ending to be a little bland and predictable. I’ll definitely read more from Moyes, but I just didn’t love this one.

3. She Matters: A Life in Friendships by Susanna Sonnenberg. Disclaimer: I’m still reading this one.  She Matters is a memoir about the significant female relationships in Sonnenberg’s life–the ones that sustained her, the ones that caused her pain, and the ones that ultimately defined her. I am passionate about the deep ache in our souls for community and investing in relationships that heal and shape us.  Sonnenberg’s memoir speaks to the uniqueness of female friendships and the beauty of what women share.  This memoir is hilarious, honest, and heartfelt–the best kind of writing.

A Love Letter to Chapel Hill

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Lately my alma mater’s name has been dragged through the mud. A lot. The academic scandal rocking the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has been a hot topic in sports news, and I’m pretty sick of hearing about it. Because it’s not the whole story. It’s not even the biggest part of the story. Carolina is so much more than sports, and I think that story needs to be told, too.

I still remember the day I got my acceptance letter to UNC. I had no idea how much that letter would change my life—how much it would shape the person I am today. Carolina is the place I found my community and my niche. It’s the place I discovered that I love writing and that biology is not my friend. It’s the place I figured out how to stand on my on two feet and the place I heard God’s voice more clearly than I ever had in my life.

My classes at UNC were not easy. In fact, my first few classes at Carolina were a rude awakening to the fact that I had never really had to study before, and I didn’t actually know how to do it. The classes I took at UNC introduced me to new concepts, ideas, and perspectives.  I learned that the world is much bigger than I realized and that there are thousands of ways to think, believe, and live in it. My professors pushed me outside of my comfort zone and challenged me to find my own voice and form my own opinions. I left there feeling confident of my gifts and abilities and prepared to succeed in graduate school or a career or wherever life would take me next.

Not only did Carolina educate me in the classroom, but it also taught me how to be a part of a community—how to live and work and grow with other people. The people I met at Carolina are some of the most important people in my life. During my freshman year at Carolina, I lived in a suite on the sixth floor of Craige with six other girls.  The seven of us quickly became a pack, and over the years those girls became my family–the people I call when life feels too hard or when I have something to celebrate. They are the people I danced with at my wedding and the first people I tell when something wonderful or awful or big or scary happens in my life. If all I walked away with at the end of four years was them, it would have been worth it.

And, yes, I love Carolina athletics—for so many reasons. I love it for the chill that goes down your spine on a crisp October night when the game is close and the first chords of “Hells Bells” sound over Kenan Stadium. It’s the giddy excitement that I feel when I watch highlight reels of Michael Jordan’s 1982 game-winning jump shot, Danny Green’s dunk over Greg Paulus, and anything Tyler Hansbrough ever did. It’s jumping over fires and climbing street signs with complete strangers because, “WHEN WILL I EVER GET TO DO THIS AGAIN?,” and you’re all in love with the same place, the same feeling, the same moment. It’s the fact that everyone gets it—that it will always be more than just a game. It’s when the final buzzer sounds and the band begins to play the alma mater—you wrap your arms around people you don’t know and pay tribute to the “priceless gem” in victory or in defeat.

Did we mess up? Yes, we did—irrevocably and inexcusably. But anyone who has been a part of the Carolina family knows that it is about so much more than sports. What is happening in Chapel Hill right now is disappointing and sad, but it doesn’t change how I feel about my school.

So today, like every other day, I am proud and grateful beyond words that I graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  And just in case anyone ever decides to put me in the Ram’s Club video, I am (and always will be) a Tar Heel.

Write It Down.

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So I’m blogging again. Why? Because I need to write–and I tend to do it better when I have a purpose and a schedule and something to say. Writing has always been the way I tell my story best. It’s the way I talk to God and practice honesty and communicate the big and important things to the people I love. This blog is an exercise in both story-telling and living into the best version of myself.

I believe that we all have a story worth telling, and I believe that we all have a life full of big, grand moments that are worth capturing on film and on paper and in our memories and in the stories we tell around the dinner table or over a bottle of wine. And that’s why I’m writing. I want to tell my story, and I want to capture the life that is happening just a little too fast. I want to remember these stories so I can carry them with me and pass them along. I want to hold up these moments and days and years as worthy of celebration and writing down—because they are.

If I could be anything in the world, I would be a writer. So why not start now? Pen to paper, fingers to key, spilling the words and stories in the world with vulnerability and courage. Whether or not anyone reads this blog, the words are written down. And that’s the most important thing.