This One’s for the Girls

Yesterday was International Women’s Day, and I loved reading all the posts and comments from other women about the bold, beautiful ladies who have changed their lives. I love the idea of taking a day to celebrate women, because I am so deeply thankful for the friendships in my own life.

I am unapologetically a girl’s girl. I love my husband, but the truth is that I would be lost without my mom, my sisters, and my girlfriends. They are my TRIBE. The women in my life inspire me with their courage, compassion, and creativity. They are my confidantes and my cheerleaders. I can count on them to make me laugh, sit with me when I cry, celebrate with me when life is good, and help me finish a bottle of wine. To me, girlfriends are not optional. I need them, and they make my life sweeter and richer every single day.

We celebrate women because of the light and goodness and strength they bring to this world. And let’s be honest…they just get stuff done. Cheers to the wise, fierce, fabulous women we’re celebrating—may we know them, may we be them, may we raise them.

What I’ve Learned From 10 Years

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Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, and I recently realized that Bryan and I have officially spent ten Valentine’s Days together. TEN! We’ve only been married three years, but we started dating my senior year of high school. (We also met for the first time at thirteen, so suffice it to say that he’s been through a lot with me.)

A lot of people are talking about love this week…and with good reason. Love is an important, hard, confusing, incredible, life-changing topic—and there’s a lot to say. In ten years of loving Bryan, I’d like to think I’ve learned a few things about love. At the very least I can say that what I thought I knew about love and marriage has totally shifted.

When you’re with someone for ten years, change is inevitable.  The world will change. Your lives will change. Your relationship will change. And you will both change, sometimes for the better and sometimes not. Bryan and I are both very different people from the two teenagers who went on their first day to see a Reese Witherspoon movie over a decade ago.  As we’ve grown and changed, we’ve had to choose love again and again. We’ve had to decide to grow together instead of apart. We’ve had to choose to accept the way the other person has changed, even when it wasn’t what we wanted. And during that time, I have learned two very important things about love…

First, I’ve learned that love is hard. This seems obvious, but I think that love—and marriage in particular—is hard in ways that you can’t understand until you’re in the thick of it. There are so many big things to fight about, like sex and money and family and planning for a future. But there are also the little things, from laundry to dirty dishes to stealing the covers, that can pile up and become the things that break you if you let them. There is disappointment and frustration and worry. And the choosing is hard, too. Choosing to put the other person first. Choosing to let things go. Choosing to love someone who you don’t particularly like all the time. Love is about selflessness and sacrifice, and those two things are never easy.

But I’ve also learned that love is so, so worth it. Over the past ten years, we’ve graduated from college and grad school and found careers that bring us fulfillment. We’ve lived in two apartments and bought out first house. We’ve cooked meals together and made plans and travelled all over the world. We’ve grieved together and learned how to share. We brought home the world’s sweetest puppy and said “I love you” more times than I can count. Together, we’ve built a whole life.

When I look at Bryan, I still see my very best friend in the whole world. I see a partner and someone I fully trust and respect. I see someone who makes me laugh and brings out a freer, more content version of myself. There is never a day when I don’t feel safe in his love.

In ten years, I can think of so many things I’ve done wrong. I can think of fights I regret and words I wish I could take back. I can think of mistakes and failings, both as a wife and just as a person. But here we are, ten years later, and the love is still here—strong and steady and in it for the long haul. Ten years can be a long time to love someone. Thank goodness we’re just getting started.

 

 

2016: A Year of Adventures

It’s hard to believe that 2016 is almost over. This year has truly flown by, and so I’m taking a few moments to look back at some of our favorite moments. 2016 brought our world it’s fair share of heartache and pain, but it also brought our family some incredible adventures.  2016 is definitely a year we will never, ever forget. Here are some of our favorite memories from this crazy, wonderful year:

January: Skiing with friends, movie nights, snow days, leaving a church we loved, and the most wonderful few days in Jamaica.

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February: Bachelor nights with the girls, a new job, more snow, and a baby shower celebrating sweet Baby Kennedy!

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March: Lock-in with 4th and 5th graders, CBFNC, Holy Week activities at church, March Madness, and a few days at the beach with family.

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April: Baseball games, nights spent listening to music and grilling on our back deck, welcoming (and falling in love with) baby Kennedy, OIAM at church, and a trip to Atlanta for work.

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May: Graduation festivities celebrating my sister, Pentatonix at Red Hat, steak frites in Paris, boat rides in Capri, touring vineyards in Tuscany, sightseeing in Rome, and celebrating three years of marriage. (Basically the best month EVER.)

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June: Bryan’s birthday festivities, moving my sister into her new house, BLTs from Merritt’s, rooftop bars, and standing beside my best friend while she married the love of her life.

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July: A week of birthday celebrations, NYC, a wedding at the beach, pool days, buying a new car, and lots of ice cream.

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August: A weekend at the lake, countless hours spent watching the Olympics, Fellows orientation, and Saturday mornings at the Farmer’s Market.

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September: A crazy busy month of work, Ben Rector, camp with my kiddos, a weekend in Asheville, and house hunting.

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October: Girls’ weekend in Charlottesville, visiting my bestie in Chicago, family retreat with church, Rent at DPAC, and meeting Finley.

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November: Belong Tour, ALL THE GILMORE GIRLS, Thanksgiving celebrations, tailgating in Chapel Hill, Christmas card pictures, and buying and moving into our first house!

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December: Unpacking, Christmas parties, picking out a tree, decorating our home, Living Nativity at church, Christmas services, all the holiday movies, a trip home, and jet setting to warmer places!

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Here’s to 2017—I can’t wait to see what you have in store for us. Cheers!

Cheers to 10 Years!

My college roommates and I spent the weekend in Charlottesville celebrating our friendiversary. We had SO much fun exploring, eating, catching up, and generally just being ridiculous. I love these ladies so much, and every time we’re together I’m reminded how important it is that we invest in these relationships. I tried to pick just a few pictures, but I couldn’t do it—there was simply too much goodness!

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On Friendship

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This weekend I’m headed out of town for a girls’ weekend. My college roommates and I are celebrating our friendsiversary—10 years of friendship. 10 years of knowing each other.  10 years of dinners and trips and football games and dance parties. 10 years of arguments about who left her dirty dishes in the sink. 10 years of carrying one another’s burdens and celebrating one another’s successes.  10 years of birthday parties and weddings and babies. 10 years of friendship is a big deal. (Of course that also means it’s been 10 years since we started college, which definitely calls for a glass of wine or two….)

When we first met, most of us didn’t know one another. We didn’t know ourselves, really. We were nervous and anxious about beginning a new chapter, equal parts homesick and ready for an adventure. We had boyfriends, majors, and ambitions that wouldn’t last. We were craving community, friendship, and someone to go out with on Thursday nights. And we were BABIES (see picture for reference).

Our freshman RA referred to us—both affectionately and ironically—as the “suite of angels.”  Over the time the term stuck and became an accurate description of what we were to each other. We lived together for four years, and we grew up together. We laughed and cried and kept secrets and learned a little bit more about ourselves along the way.

Now, ten years later, so much has changed. We party a lot less and sleep a lot more. Five of us are married and one of us welcomed her first baby girl this year. We have mortgages and responsibilities and real jobs. We see each other much less often, and we don’t always know every single detail of each other’s lives (an inevitable situation when you have seven females living in one house).

But in a lot of ways, things have stayed the same.  We’re still there for each other through bad days and bad boyfriends and painful transitions.  We still tell the same stories every time we’re together and pick up right where we left off.  We still tell each other the big news first, still celebrate together, still show up for the moments that matter. We still refer to one another as angels (even though we still drink too much wine and Debbie always has an inappropriate story to share).  They’re still my people.

Today I’m feeling excited and thankful—thankful for friendships that endure time and distance and growing up.  It is a gift, and I’m ready to celebrate!

 

On Showing Up

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When you think about your day-to-day life, what are the words than come to mind? If you’re anything like me (and from what I can tell, anything like most people), these words strike a chord: busy, hectic, chaotic, exhausting, FULL. And that’s why I’m finding over and over again that one of the greatest marks of friendship is simply showing up.

Last week three of my friends and I met for dinner on a Thursday night.  It wasn’t a special occasion or a celebration of any sort. We had all had long workdays and even longer weeks. I’m certain that all of us thought about cancelling at some point during the day.  We were tired and overextended.  I’m sure that each one of us could have used a night off and a night in. But I’m just as sure that we needed each other more.

And so we showed up.  We drove 30 minutes in traffic to downtown Raleigh and caught up on life over glasses of wine and plates of risotto.  We talked about work and relationships and the most recent episode of Bachelor in Paradise. We listened and laughed and left feeling lighter than we did when we arrived. We showed up when it was easier not to, and it made all the difference.

It’s easy, of course, to show up for the big things.  We commit to being there for weddings and parties and births. But I think it means so much more when we show up for the small things—midweek dinners and coffee dates and “just because” visits. Those are the moments that remind us how rich relationships really are and how valuable it can be to know that there is someone who we can count on no matter what.

I want to make it a priority to show up for my people. I want to be intentional about investing in those relationships, because I know they are what will help sustain me in the long run. And I want to make sure I say thank you when people show up for me—what an incredible, life-giving gift.

 

 

P.S. Love

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When I was applying to colleges, I had to go through the arduous task of writing college admissions essays. The topics were mostly boring and predictable—what are your hopes and ambitions? What is your greatest fear? What is your favorite word and why? (That one still baffles me.)  There was one, however, that continues to stand out to me: What is the greatest challenge facing your generation?

I chose to write about racism. Of course my white, middle class self understood very little about racism. I had never been on the receiving end of it, and yet I had seen enough to know it was a problem. I had watched people I knew, loved, and respected choose racism—whether overtly or in subtle comments and decisions—over love and acceptance time and time again. It seemed glaringly obvious that something needed to change, that our generation should be the people to change it.

That was over ten years ago.

Now as an adult with a little more perspective and a lot more awareness, I fear that things have gotten worse instead of better. Hate and injustice are rampant, and the effects are tragic. Fear is everywhere, and it is suffocating us.

This week my heart breaks for the mamas that are afraid to send their black sons out into the world because they know that it’s not a safe place for them to be. My heart breaks for the wives and husbands and children afraid to send their police officers into the world because they fear they may not see them again. Friends, it is ENOUGH…something has to change.

Here’s the thing we’ve got to get: All lives don’t matter until black lives matter, until homosexual lives matter, until refugee lives matter, until police lives matter. We can’t fix the whole without putting each piece back together, and so we start there.

I don’t have all any of the answers, but I know that today I choose love. I choose to stand with and beside by black brothers and sisters. I ask for grace as we attempt to converse about matters of race and injustice because I don’t really understand and never will. I choose to insist that their lives matter and refuse to indulge slogans or justifications that suggest otherwise. I choose to feel nothing but pride and gratitude for the police officers that serve and protect our country. I choose to pray for their families and their safety daily and wholeheartedly.

I want to be a part of the generation that for the first time in our nation’s history chooses love over fear. It’s time, friends, and it’s too late yet. Let’s choose love today.

23 Wedding Moments I Hope I Remember Forever

This week Bryan and I celebrate our third wedding anniversary, so today I’m sharing a few precious memories from the day we said our vows. These are just a few of the moments I hope I remember forever….

1. Playing catchphrase with my bridesmaid while we waited for the ceremony to begin.

2. Almost running into Bryan in the hallway before the wedding—he covered his eyes with his hands so he wouldn’t see me in my dress and asked if I wanted to get married later

3. Reading the letter he wrote me—his vows to me on paper.

4. My Memaw coming in to see me while I was getting ready.

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5. The nervous flutter in my stomach right before the doors opened.

6. Bryan’s face—scared and happy and familiar.

7. When I got to the end of the aisle and he leaned over and whispered, “You look really pretty.”

8. My dad’s word to us about what it means to be a family.

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9. Our adorable ring bearer rolling around on the floor throughout the entire ceremony.

10. Two readings—Shakepeare and Ruth—and how perfectly they fit.

11. Our friend TJ killing All Creatures of Our God and King on his guitar.

12. The moment of pure bliss when we walked out of the church and it hit us—we were married.

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13. Walking into our reception and seeing the most important people in our lives all in one place.

14. Dancing to Mumford and Sons and laughing when Bryan stepped on my feet.

15. My Dad starting to cry during our Father/Daughter dance.

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16. Champagne and a Carolina blue wedding cake.

17. Bryan’s college roommates dancing to the theme song from Free Willy.

18. My sister catching the bouquet.

19. Screaming Taylor Swift lyrics at the top of my lungs with my best friends.

20. The fact that our reception turned into the best dance party EVER.

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21. Groans from all our guests when the DJ announced that it was the last song.

22. Putting my head on Bryan’s chest during our last dance—so happy and so thankful for the celebration of the life we were about to start.

23. Running through a tunnel of sparklers, hand in hand with my new husband.

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Growing Up and Growing Together

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Bryan and I were young when we got married—23 and 24 to be exact.  Absurdly enough, I didn’t feel like we were young at all. I felt like I had been waiting forever.  I was so ready and so sure. Almost three years later, I’m still sure.  But I can also see that we both had have a lot of growing up to do.

That’s the thing about finding your person at such a young age. You still have to do the hard work of growing up yourself. But you also have to grow together. As you figure out separately who you are and what you want to be, you also have to figure out how those two people fit together. How do you continue to dream each other’s dreams as those dreams are changing? How do you continue to build a life with this person who is different now than when you started?

How do you grow up and grow together at the same time?

That’s what we’re learning to do a little more each day. Little by little, our marriage is shaping us and teaching us and challenging us.  We are learning how to ask forgiveness and give a little and extend grace. We are (still) learning how to live with and beside each other, when to bend and when to hold our ground, when to fight for what we want, and when to let the other person win this round.

Growing up in itself is hard enough, but learning how to grow together comes with another set of challenges.  But here’s the other side—we get so much time. We have been there for so many of the big moments that most couples miss and only get to relive through stories and photographs.  I was there for Bryan’s 16th birthday and his high school graduation.  He was there when I moved into my college dorm room and graduated in Kenan Stadium. We were there for first jobs and grad school and family milestones and almost a decade of Christmases and Thanksgivings and birthdays. We known each other’s best friends from the time they were new friends. That’s a big deal.

We were young and we’re still young and we’re still learning, but I wouldn’t change anything.  Growing up together is part of our love story. And if I have to suffer growing pains, I can’t imagine doing it with anyone else.

Beach Weekend

We spent the most wonderful weekend away with friends. A group of us headed to the beach on Friday—several of my best friends from college and their husbands/boyfriends.  We spent three lovely days playing games, soaking up a little sun, and just catching up on life. It was SO nice just to get away, but it was even better to be with people we love so much.

The older I get the more I realize that friendship is an investment—you get out of it what you’re willing to put in. When I met these ladies, friendship came pretty easily. If we wanted to spend time together, we walked just across campus (or more likely just across the hall).  We ate meals together, watched tv together at night, and spent every weekend together. We knew when one of us had a bad day or had a big test coming up or was dating a new guy. There were very few secrets and even fewer moments alone.

These days friendship takes a little more work.  We’re all busy with jobs and husbands and homes and other commitments, and it takes more time and energy to be a part of each other’s lives. And so when we get three whole days together it feels like the most precious thing. I love catching up with these people who are such a big part of who I am—who cried with me and laughed with me and figured out life with me. I’m leaving the weekend behind a little more sunburnt and a lot more thankful for the kind of friendship that spans years and states, for the kind that makes life just a little bit sweeter.

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