America, Celebration, Family, Food, Travel

Better Together

Today is the birthday of someone really special to me. That’s not exactly what this post is about, but it is Chris’ birthday and he is very special to me and he loves to make goofy faces when I take pictures of him. 

My birthday dinner date

I’m traveling to Lubbock to see him for his birthday, so I’m at the airport. In true fashion, I was running late after making a few t-shirt deliveries in the area, so I was a little all over the place to say the least. I had about thirty minutes to get through security and to my gate before boarding. I was in the security line, stringing all of my carefully packed belongings amongst 4 different bins (liquids, electronics, shoes/jacket, carry on tote) and also trying to put my actual carry on bag on the belt when I quickly apologized to the guy in line behind me for having my stuff all over the place. He replied without skipping a beat: “it’s okay, we’re all in this together”. 

I don’t know why, but that reply struck a chord with me today. After a few busy weeks in my work/personal life, after all the things that are happening in the world that are hard to understand, after all of the inhumanity that seems to be running rampant, after living in a world where everyone seems to only be interested in their needs, in their wants, in what is going on with them, it was a stark, shocking reminder that we are, in fact, all in this together. We need to support each other, to look beyond ourselves, to switch our mindset, to take a new look, and to see how we can do something, anything, the smallest thing, to help someone else out. Encourage someone today. Be the voice that goes against the grain and says, it’s alright, everything is gonna be just fine, we’ll face this together. 

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America, Celebration, Culture, Family, Travel

Hello from the Other Side 

I’m not old. I’m getting older, but I’m not old. My friend, Jesse, told the kids at church that I was 30. Fortunately, none of them believed him. Unfortunately, they countered with the fact that I couldn’t be 30, I was definitely only 17. I don’t know which I’d prefer.

I like the age I am. My birthday falls after all of my friends so they’ve all experienced turning my age by the time I actually get there. Some of them were mildly distraught about being on “the other side of 25”, but I had no problem making that leap. It’s kinda nice to be out of your teenage, early twenty years. You’re a little more stable.

Emotionally (aka you’ve found out who your people are and you’re keeping them.) 

Physically (aka you’re done with the freshman fifteen and you’re maybe eating healthy every once in awhile). 

Mentally (you’re set in a career and you know what you’re doing with your life on most days) 

Financially (aka you’re a little less “downtown homeless” and a little more “chic hobo”) 

Maybe it’s just me. Or maybe it’s just silver linings. But, I like it here. 

Or maybe it’s because birthday celebrations with this guy make me extra happy

I’ve been reflecting on the lessons I’ve learned in my 25 trips around the sun and I’m not claiming that they’re profound. Mostly they’re anything but. I find myself learning new lessons all the time, things I hadn’t thought about before, discoveries I hadn’t made about myself before. That’s one of the beautiful things about aging. You continue to grow. So here’s my condensed list of learnings.

1. It is okay to not be okay. Embrace it, live in it, dig into it, figure out why you’re not okay and how to fix it. Life isn’t perfect, people aren’t perfect. And that’s okay. 

2. Travel. Travel when you can, where you can, near or far. Sometimes going to a birthday party down the road can be as much of a cultural experience as traveling across the world. (Those of you who know what birthday party I’m talking about, that one was for you) You will discover more than you could ever know about yourself any other way when you travel. I promise. It will change who you are and how you view the world. 

3. Mind what you eat. Balance it, not too much or too little of any one thing. And include ice cream every once in awhile. Never completely eliminate the ice cream. 

4. Find people who are different than you and spend time with them. People from different cultures, people from different socioeconomic backgrounds, people from different religions and races, people with different views. You can learn a lot by not being around everyone who is exactly like you. 

5. Butterfingers are the best candy bar. Hands down. There is no comparison. (This was more of a personal understanding, but it’s the truth, so I thought maybe someone could glean from it)

6. Pray. Every day. Thank God for everything He’s given you. Turn your cares over to Him. Quit worrying about it. Just spend time talking to your Creator. 

7. Protect your skin. One word: SPF. Well, it’s not really a word. More like an acronym. But you get the point. Sun screen. Use it. Bathe in it. I hate to sound like a public health announcement, but your skin is the largest organ you have. Take care of it. 

8. Water. Drink lots of it. It’s good for you. Don’t question it. 

9. If you see something good in someone, say it. Recognize people for how great they are, how happy you are to have them in your life, or maybe just how cute their shoes are that day. People you know, people you don’t know. Add some sunshine to the dark world. Be appreciative. Be happy. Love others. We need more of that. 

10. It is okay to ask for the things you need. This is the most important lesson I’ve learned this year. There is nothing shameful about admitting that you are lacking in some way. Maybe you need time, maybe you need a hug, maybe you need space, maybe you need someone by your side, maybe you need support. I have always been the type to want people either to anticipate my needs and magically meet them. Or the type to fight to do things on my own, without the help of anyone else. But, people can’t know what we need, they can’t know our struggles, unless we verbalize that. We need to ask and seek out the things we need. We’re humans. We weren’t made to do it all on our own. Lean on someone. Share your burdens. You’ll feel better when you do. 

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Auto, Celebration, Culture, Family, Farm, Outdoors, Summer

Give & Take

Teaching children is one of the great joys in life. Or so I’m told. 

I have friends who teach children daily and I don’t know how they do it. But, I teach a class at church once a week and for the most part, it’s joyous. Sometimes the teaching isn’t as joyous, but the learning definitely is. 

That moment when one of the kids is actually able to remember and apply what you’ve taught them, that’s the moment I think any teacher has to live for. 

Recently I’ve been teaching the class I fondly refer to as “the littles”. They range from 4 to 6 years old. They’re at the age that they soak up everything, the good and the bad. We’ve been learning about Job for awhile and they’d never heard the story before. 

For those of you who haven’t been teaching about Job lately, I’ll update you on his story. He was a good man. One of our first memory verses was “Job was an upright and righteous man who feared the Lord…” (part of Job 1:1) This is a memory verse that some of the kids can still quote, even weeks after they learned it. Proud moment. But the Lord allowed Job to be tested. Job lost everything. His riches, his family, his home, his livelihood, all his worldly possessions. Finally, he lost his health. 

As many of you know, my grandpa passed away recently. And I miss him. He, much like Job, was an upright and righteous man who feared the Lord. 

He was born on the farm we currently live on and grew up well below a poverty line that was not even defined yet. He got an 8th grade education before he had to start working. But, he could read the King James Version of the Bible out loud more eloquently than anyone else I’ve ever heard. 

He raised a son who loves the outdoors and that son raised me in the same way. I have more memories than I can even begin to number from hunting, fishing and farming with him. 

He was raised in a small country church that he went on to pastor, a position he held for most all of my life. He taught me for years, which is probably how I find myself now teaching the next generation in the same church. 

The memory verse the kids learned about Job being an upright and righteous man who feared the Lord is a good verse for them to know. But, it isn’t the verse that comes to mind when I think of Job. 

Job suffered. I’m not sure exactly how long he suffered for, but the Bible devotes 42 chapters to his life, so my guess is that the suffering was anything other than temporary. But during that time, he never denied God. He never blamed the Lord for what happened to him. He continued to be upright and righteous. In all of it, Job is recorded for having said this:

“The Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21b)

This. Said by a man who suffered failing health, the death of his children, the loss of everything. He’s blessing the name of the Lord in his times of receiving and in his times of losing.

It’s really easy to bless the name of the Lord in our times of receiving. To say thank you for good things, to feel like God is blessing us. But what about in the times of losing? 

What happens if what you lost and what you gained joined hands and became the same thing?

We focus on our loss in death, but what if we look at what the Lord gave us? 

I was given a grandpa who I saw 2-3 times a week for my whole life, who loved me and told me so, who taught me the right way to live, who made such an impression in my life that I wouldn’t be the same person I am today without his influence. 

My dad and his sister got a father who was involved, who was present, who prayed before meals, who worked hard to provide for them. 

My grandma got a husband for 55 years, a man who was faithful and loved her in a way that is rare to see in today’s world. 

There were countless other people who gained from my grandpa’s existence. A church family who got a humble leader, a host of family that he loved in so many different ways, and hundreds of others. His funeral was the largest I’d ever been to, filled with people I had no idea he’d affected so profoundly. 

There’s a popular worship song that uses this verse in Job as some of its main lyrics.  

“You give and take away, but my heart will choose to say, Lord, blessed be Your name.”

Today, we have a choice. In our trials and in our rejoicing. In our times of blessings and in our time of loss. The choice is left to us. But, I know what my heart’s answer will be.

Lord, blessed be Your name. 

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America, Celebration, Culture, Family, Farm, Funny, Summer, Travel, Uncategorized

Thoughts from an MOH

My best friend is on her honeymoon right now. I didn’t text her to check in to see if they’d made it safely to their destination but she sent me a message once she arrived. Not a message to necessarily tell me that they’d made it. She sent me her thoughts from a plane. 

I’m not sure who started doing thoughts from a plane. I want to credit her with it because I feel like she was the first one who came up with it. But, it may have been me. I’ll have to confer and get back with you on that one. 

Anyway, thoughts from a plane are literally just that: your thoughts about what is going on around you while on a plane. Maybe we started doing it because it can get terribly boring being cooped up in an airplane for a long time. Or, it could’ve been because you’re in such tight quarters that you can hear and see everything that everyone is doing. Either way, it’s funny to us to share our thoughts from a plane with each other. I wrote about it one time, if you want to read about it here

As I was saying, Jordan got married last weekend and part of my Maid of Honor duties were to write a speech, which I then relayed at her rehearsal dinner. 

I’m not a great public speaker, but I’m generally not terrible. I don’t think I did very well with this speech for two reasons

1. I wasn’t quite sure what emotions were going to be going on, so I was a little apprehensive about being overly emotional. I made it through just fine though.

2. I wasn’t sure what crowd size I’d be speaking to, so I’d made my speech more for a little bit more intimate of a gathering and there were quite a few people there. 

I feel like I’m generally better when I’m conveying thoughts through writing rather than speaking. It just comes more naturally. Even though I tend to write exactly as I would think/speak a thought. 

So, since I’d written the speech anyway, I thought I’d memorialize it in blog form. Because this seems like an official place to memorialize something of magnitude, right? 

Here they are: my thoughts for my best friend on the evening before her wedding: 

When Jordan told me that I would need to make a speech tonight, I wasn’t really sure what a Maid of Honor speech should be like, so I just wrote what came to mind. 

Jordan and I have been friends for a long time. Our families have been friends for over 100 years, so we technically have a long history together. But, I didn’t grow up with her, so I never really officially met her until we were around 14 or 15 years old. 

I remember the first time I heard about Jordan. I had just switched schools and some of my friends were hanging out by my locker, talking about this girl and her shoes. I have never cared too much for fashion and as an 8th grader, I cared even less. But, there was apparently a girl walking around in pink stilettos. And it was Jordan. 

It’s ironic that my first memory of hearing about Jordan has to do with shoes, because I swear, the girl currently owns about 500 pairs. 

I really got to know Jordan in high school. We had a class together and the first day I walked into class, there she was, seated in front of my desk, crocheting. She had her yarn spread out and could care less what anyone thought about it. I thought maybe during the lecture, she would take notes, but she continued to crochet. 

We did our classwork together, probably mostly because I was the one with the notes, and also because we were two of the only girls in that class. I’ll not bore everyone with stories of our youth, that most likely only the two of us would find funny. But, we began a friendship that has personally enriched my life a lot over the years. 

We are pretty much opposites when it comes to most things, so I think we both stretched each other in different directions in a way that causes so much growth as people.

Jordan wouldn’t let me have a slide show, but immediately, when I first started thinking about this speech, there was one picture of us that immediately came to mind. It was a picture of the two of us, on our last day of high school, right before we graduated. 

I had tried like everything to convince her to go to the University of Arkansas with me and she had likewise tried to convince me to go to OSU with her. But, both of us knew that the other place wasn’t where we were meant to be. So, we were going to be parting ways and on the last day of high school, that reality was sinking in a little bit more. 

You can tell in the picture that we had been teary eyed saying bye to all our friends. And, I know it seems a little bit childish now, but it was a big deal to us then. We were, in a tiny way, embarking into the unknown. We weren’t going to be full fledged adults by any means, because what 18 year old can really be considered an adult? But, we were striking it out on our own. 

We had no idea the people we’d meet or the new friends we’d gain, most of whom for Jordan are seated here tonight. We had no idea if we’d still be friends after it was all said and done. And, we had no idea the lives we’d eventually lead. So, the tears were understandable. 

But had we known then what we know now, how even though this step from high school into adulthood was a bit daunting at first, how it lead to so many great things, we may have still been teary eyed, but not because we were sad for moving on, but because we were overwhelmed and happy for the new things to come. 

And, as I’m writing this, I’m expecting that there will be some tears as Jordan and Jade now prepare to enter into a new, exciting phase of their lives together. But now we know that if we get a little teary eyed, it’s not for sadness of what Jade and Jordan are leaving behind, but for joy for the life that they’re about to walk into. Congratulations Jordan and Jade! I am so happy for both of you and can’t wait to see what blessings marriage brings to your lives!

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Asia, Celebration, Dessert, Family, Food, Funny, Travel

Settle Down, Seoul

There’s some political unrest in Korea, in case you haven’t heard. One of my friends sent me a message the other day about how they were glad we weren’t in South Korea right now, but I had just been wishing I were there. 

His message reminded me of this post I’d written when I was there last. Same country, slightly different political outburst, but here it is: 

I accidentally got caught up in a political rally today. 

This happened in Thailand a few years ago, when I dared Jake to go wave the huge Thai flag. 

Jake at the Shutdown Bangkok rally

I don’t know if political rallies can be your thing, but I really kinda like them. Such a sense of national pride, even if it isn’t my own nation. 

A couple of my friends are a news anchor and a journalist for a newspaper here in Seoul, so both of them have been catching me up on the political climate. 

Hyoseung, the news anchor

This rally has nothing to do with North Korea, so no need for immediate concern. In case you don’t keep up on South Korean politics like I do, their president Park Geun-hye has recently been impeached. It’s a long story, but some people have accused her of being involved with a cult and all sorts of other things. She had a 5% approval rating and was finally impeached a few weeks ago. 

As I am told by my friends, even though she’s been impeached, they are still calling for her to resign her position. (Which if you’re reading this now, and not when I originally wrote it, you’ll know that she did resign). I’m not exactly sure why, some of the more technical political terms get lost in translation. But, you get the basic idea. People aren’t happy with her. 

We were taking a taxi back to our hotel today when we were stopped by a lot of commotion. I knew that there was going to be a candlelight vigil tonight in the city (as there has been every Saturday night since the impeachment) to peacefully protest the president. I also knew that they were expecting a million people to show up to said candlelight vigil. I, however, did not know that the million people would be marching down the sidewalk that leads to our hotel to get to the point at which the protest would take place. Which is what the taxi driver hurriedly spouted off to us in Korean as he dumped us out in the middle of the madness. 


I love the Korean people because they openly embrace Americans. So, upon seeing that we were walking with them, we were quickly given flags to carry and Korean flag pins to wear. We were asked by about 100 different people where we were from. We had our pictures taken with more random people than I could keep track of. I eventually just stood off to the side, holding my Korean flag and waiting for people to come stand by me for their picture. Someone came up to us with a video camera to ask us questions and film us as we were walking along. 


Then, someone asked us what broadcasting network we were with. Which got me to thinking: maybe I should become a journalist. I do have an affinity for crazy crowds and political unrest. 

If anyone needs some quick, unofficial coverage of a B list event, let me know. Until then, I’ll be down in Hongdae, eating these little beauties. 

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America, Animals, Celebration, Culture, Family, Farm, Funny, Outdoors, Summer, Travel

Pura Vida 

We found a boy with a machete to cut a way through the jungle to take us to see a waterfall. I wish it were less sketchy than it sounds, but it’s not. 


We were supposed to be fishing on Lake Arenal in Costa Rica. But, the wind had other ideas. So, Plan B? A “horseback ride to a waterfall”. My mind is conjuring up images of a peaceful, smooth horseback ride down to a quaint waterfall, a splash in the water, then back on the horse and to the barn. This picture encapsulates my mental image. (Also, there’s the lake I should’ve been fishing in the background.)


What I didn’t have in mind was climbing up and down very steep hills (more commonly called mountains) on horseback and nearly sliding down the mountain on the back of said horse. 


I also didn’t realize that our guide would be a 15 year old boy with a machete and his uncle. Who didn’t speak much English.

Or that they would need the aforementioned machete to slice through the jungle to create a “path” that would could “walk” (read: slide) down.


Or that it would be such a slippery, steep, and narrow “path” that I would need to hold someone’s hand the whole time to navigate. 


These poor guys had to switch spots to constantly be in front of me to help me every step of the way. I know this because they kept talking to each other and saying “ella”, which I knew was me because I was the only girl in our group of 4. 

I only fell down twice, and laughed through most of it, as the ridiculousness of what we were doing kept setting in more and more. 


I also didn’t realize that this hike would take nearly two hours to complete and that it would be the most intense hike I’ve ever done. 

So, here’s me, not thinking about what I’m actually getting myself into. What’s new? 

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America, Art, Beauty, Celebration, Culture

St. Valentine

I’ve always heard that “when you meet the right one, you’ll just know.” Or “when you know, you know.” And I’ve never understood that before. That certainty that the person you’re with is the person you’re supposed to be with for life. That sureness that this relationship is right. 

Everyone talks about these committed dating relationships and how they end in a pretty ring and a picture perfect wedding. But no one really talks about how they start. Oh sure, anyone will tell you their love story. You can trace it all back to the day everyone met. But, I’m talking about more than that. The part that they don’t tell you. The part that is unseen by the rest of the world. The inner workings. 

I am a person with what I hope is a good amount of resolve. When I set it in my mind to do something, I’ll work to get it done. That’s not to say everything that I set out to do works out. It’s also not to say that I’m invincible. But, the first step to getting anything done is determining in your mind what your goal is and going after it. 

This is what no one told me about committed relationships.

You have to be ready for one. 

Not ready in the: I wish I had a boyfriend to go out and do fun things with. Or the, I’m single and everyone else has someone, so I need someone too. Or the, I’m reaching my mid-twenties and society is telling me that this is the time for me to find my person.

I’ve never been in a serious relationship before. And I can blame that on not meeting the right person yet, not “clicking” with the guys I’ve dated, I could even blame them and say they weren’t ready. But in all actuality, I’m realizing I was never ready. 

And there is nothing wrong with that.

There is nothing wrong with not being ready to settle down. There is nothing wrong with having goals and ambitions that have nothing to do with a relationship. There is nothing irresponsible about living a happy, healthy single life. No one can tell you what your timing will be, when you’ll be ready or if you’ll ever be ready. There is no time stamp on when love has to come about. 

Because even if we’re ready, we can never really plan for love anyway. Sometimes, it just happens. 

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