Sunday, December 30, 2012

Singing Praises Day 11

Before you start reading this blog, if you haven't already done so, take a moment to read the opening blog of this series here.  

So, this may seem cliche to do and that was reason enough not to do it....but I changed my mind. Cliche or not, my boss deserves to receive some praise. I'm obviously not kissing up since I just told you I wasn't going to do it...out loud. :)

Gresham Hill

I met Gresham 2 years ago. What I thought was a quick meeting to hear more about a job position at Gresham Hill Management somehow turned into an hour long interview. I really wasn't looking for a full time position at this time and so that made the opportunity sound great. It was part time and my hours would be flexible. I took the job and it took only a few months to turn into a full time which point I was ready for it. It wasn't an easy transition into full time for unforeseen circumstances and poor Gresham had to deal with seeing me tear up at any given moment for a at least a month. There were many times I wondered if he thought he made the wrong decision. Ha
Gresham is a great guy...which is probably because he has an awesome wife. He truly cares about people. He is compassionate and fair. Gresham puts others first (employees, clients and friends alike). He will go out of his way to make things right. There have been countless times I've seen people take advantage of his goodness without ever apologizing and he always just leaves it at the feet of God. There's many times he could have taken things personal, but he chooses not to hold offense. He simply does what is right to the best of his ability even when it's hard to do or even has a negative impact on him. He and Josie have a beautiful daughter and his face just lights up when he sees her. He would do anything for her. I think he's even become a better person after becoming a dad.

Because of who Gresham is as a person, it makes him a good makes him a good businessman. I love what I do and am thankful that I get to be part of something that makes a difference. I'm even more thankful that I get to do it with people like Gresham. I'm thankful for Gresham, not only as a boss, but as a man that's making a difference in the world by being a godly businessman and always putting people first. 

Gresham is the president of Reach Your City and Gresham Hill Management.
Twitter: @reachyourcity 
Facebook: /reachyourcity
Gresham's Twitter: @gresham   

Friday, December 28, 2012

Singing Praises Day 10

Before you start reading this blog, if you haven't already done so, take a moment to read the opening blog of this series here 

You may have noticed this through previous blogs or if you know me by conversations, but I love missions. Local and International. And there's a simple answer to why I love missions so much...I love PEOPLE! Each person is unique and has something to offer and it's my goal to find out what makes each person I connect with so special. Everyone has gold within them....everyone is made in HIS image. So by the simple act of getting to know others, a little more of Jesus is revealed to us. Glorious! Well, I met this person while I was leaving Haiti. I most definitely wrote about that trip and you can read about it starting here.

Kyle Adams

So, I most definitely was not ready leave Haiti, but it was time. We got all packed up and ready to go. We jumped onto the school bus with a couple of our new friends and headed to Port Au Prince. After a stop for breakfast we made our way to the airport. We started through one of what seemed like the 132 security checks and toward the ticket counter. As we are walking through the maze of rope that guided us to the counter we chatted about our trip and a man asked me what we were doing in Haiti. I explained that we were just a group of friends that got together and decided to go support a cause of our dear friends myLIFEspeaks (I wrote about co-founder Missy in a previous blog, if you missed it please take a moment to check it out here). 

Once we got through the ticket counter and were in the waiting area...where we would be for a long time...I started asking Kyle a million and one questions (for those of you who know me, that's not a surprise to you...but by asking questions that's how I find all the gold in people). Kyle is somewhat of a large man, so it wasn't a complete shock when he told me he was a NFL player. He currently plays for the Chicago Bears. That right there is an achievement. Not many people can say that. However, besides him making fun of me for being a NY Jets fan, football was not really a topic of conversation. There's no doubt he loves what he does and feels honored to play for the NFL, but there was so much more. Kyle told me about how he got started doing missions in Haiti in 2008 and about the Ephraim Orphan Project. You need to hear this story yourself. Take 4 minutes to watch this video that the Chicago Bears made: Bears Confidential. Kyle goes down to Haiti about twice a year and as a board member with Ephraim Orphan Project is actively making a difference in Haiti. He openly shares his faith and encourages others to take action. Kyle is living a life that points to Christ. He is living each day as a positive role model and making the daily decisions that will allow him to leave a legacy. He uses his platform for the benefit of those less fortunate and not for fame's sake. I'm thankful for Kyle and the difference he is making. He is a world changer. 

Take time to connect and read more about the Ephraim Orphan Project:
Facebook: /EphraimOrphanProject 
Twitter: @ephraimproject 

I'm not a Chicago Bears fan...but if you absolutely must check them out:
Twitter: @chicagobears    

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Singing Praises Day 9

Before you start reading this blog, if you haven't already done so, take a moment to read the opening blog of this series here 

I trust that each of you had an incredible Christmas! I must say I have been enjoying this Christmas - even though it is much different than usual. I have been staying at my brother's house since Sunday while he and his family is celebrating this amazing holiday in Arkansas (the holiday is amazing...not so much the state). It has been extremely quiet in this house with the exception from the occasional meows that loom around the corner. Cash, their cat, has been mostly hidden during my stay and the fish, well, he's a Beta fish, so he likes being alone. For me, this could potentially have been a disaster. I get bored. Quickly. But, it has been quite the opposite. I've been recovering from an awful sinus infection, so rest was a definite requirement and I have been recovering quite nicely I might add. I didn't realize how much I needed the quite time with the space and time to do, well, whatever I wanted at that moment. And mostly all I have wanted to do is be wrapped in a blanket on the couch listening to music, reading books and watching movies (and some days showers have been optional...but not more than one in a row rest assured). This is not the usual break for me. But it's proving to be beneficial to me in so many ways. It's almost even a more ways than one. 

Katie Davis

One of the books that I finished this week is Kisses From Katie by Katie Davis (with Beth Clark). I started this book months ago. Yes, the plural version...months ago. I may be a slow reader, but this had nothing to do with the speed at which I read. You see, I met Katie a few years back and though I haven't seen her since I follow her. I follow her story. I follow what God is doing in her life and ministry. She was in town (or should I say in the country) and I heard so much about her from Steve Cherrico (another great connect made through this awesome more about him here). So, I invited her to join me to Brooke Fraser concert at 12th and Porter of course. I had just been to Uganda and had fallen so madly in love with that country that just being near her would make me feel closer to where I left my heart. I immediately knew that she was going to change Uganda forever. Her heart and passion for loving and wanting to help the people of Uganda was undeniable. But it was so much more than want to help then, she wanted them to encounter Jesus...the ultimate Helper. 

Each time I read a page in her book I was in tears. The stories. The people. The country. The desperate need. My heart couldn't handle it. But I was determined to finish it this week. I needed to finish it...for me. I finished it on Christmas day...the last chapter ended with a beautiful excerpt from her journal from December 25th, 2010. It was poetic to me.

Katie is a hero in my book. She would never say she is a hero, but for anyone who has met her, I bet they'd agree with me. She is living out what the Bible talks about when we are told to look out for the widows and orphans in James 1:27 and she's just in her early 20's. She is inspirational. She is a world changer...not is "going to be" a world changer...she IS a world changer. I'm thankful that she listened to the Lord as He guided her to where she is now. I'm thankful that her parents chose the hardest decision, but the best decision in letting God be in control of her life. I'm thankful for the hope that is in Uganda because of her obedience. I'm thankful for Katie Davis!

You really need to check out more about her. Seriously. And get her book!

Katie Davis
Facebook: /amazima 
Twitter: @katieinuganda 

For more info on where you can buy the book visit here. Buy one for yourself and one for a friend.

"Now that I have seen, I am responsible, Faith without deeds is dead,  
Now that I have held you in my own arms, I cannot let go till you are."  
Albertine, Brooke Fraser

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Singing Praises Day 8

Before you start reading this blog, if you haven't already done so, take a moment to read the opening blog of this series here

Bryan and Erika White

Up to this point, I haven't done any couple and these two could each have their own day, but I want to honor them as both individuals and as a couple. I met Bryan and Erika in 2005 through mutual friends (the wonderful Penrose family!). They were desperately looking for a sitter for their two boys, Justin and Jackson. At that time Justin had just turn 2 years old and Jackson was 3 months old. I can't believe it's been 7 years since the first time I walked through their door. 

Bryan is a talented singer, musician, songwriter. He has hit singles, platinum records, gold records...and the list goes can read his full bio here. He's got the talent. When I met him, I couldn't tell you if I had ever heard his music. I didn't listen to country music growing up (okay, I still don't, but I do respect the talent), so to me Bryan was just another guy. And he acted just like that...any normal guy.

Erika is a wonderfully theatrical woman! She is an actress and the founder of The Brentwood Mom. When I think of Erika words like fabulous, stunning, creative come to mind. When I met her, she was a mom...a little neurotic, but in the best of ways! She was always prepared with the rundown of schedule, contact numbers, etc. I could expect at least one phone call while babysitting to check in. She is a great mom! But she is also super creative. Every event was special because she cared about the details. Her home was always clean...and i don't know how she did that with two active boys...not perfect, but lived in clean. There was only one time that it was not all that clean...and that was when Erika was out of town, Bryan was sick and a couple guy musician friends were helping them watch the boys. I was so glad that Erika never saw how that house looked! Ha!

Somewhere in the past 7 years it became a lot less of just being the babysitter and more like friends. So much has happened in those years for both them and me...and I'm so glad that I've been able to be part of their lives. I am so blessed by this family for so many reasons. I love how Bryan and Erika cherish each other. They treat each other with such love and respect that is admirable and worth honoring. They are amazing examples to their boys (and those around them). They raise their boys to be kind to all, gentleman that open doors for women (yes, even at 7 and 9 years old they are doing this on a regular basis!), and most important of all to love God and live a life that honors Him. 

Bryan and Erika are nothing short of stellar. They know how to have fun. They love life. They love others. They don't let their status become their identity. They are incredible at what they do, but more importantly they are incredible at who they are. Simply an amazing family and I'm thankful for them!

Connect with Bryan and Erika here:
Bryan White
Twitter: @bryan_white
Facebook: /BryanWhiteFans
iTunes: Bryan White

Erika Page White
Twitter: @ErikaPageWhite 
Twitter: @thebrentwoodmom 
Facebook: /erikapagewhite

Friday, December 21, 2012

Singing Praises Day 7

Before you start reading this blog, if you haven't already done so, take a moment to read the opening blog of this series here

Missy Wilson

Thanks to Steve Cherrico of Singing Praises Day 6 I had the incredible opportunity to meet Missy Wilson a few months ago. Missy, her husband Mike and her family live in Franklin, TN. Yet I met Missy in an airport as we were headed to Haiti. Missy and Mike are the founders of myLIFEspeaks, a non profit organization that speaks up for those who can't speak up for themselves. Take a look at their website and their 2012 brochure and see what they are doing. Yep, I mean now.

Missy is feisty, energetic, outspoken, and determined. And I say those with the utmost respect and admiration. It is those traits that have made her the perfect person to change the world! And changing the world is what she is doing! Haiti will never be the same again because of her love and dedication to speaking up for those who can't. At first, I was slightly intimidated by Missy. I wasn't sure what to expect. It took all of 30 seconds of seeing her face light up when she stepped onto the myLIFEspeaks campus in Neply, Haiti to know how much she loves her Neply family. I had the opportunity to talk with her as we walked one day and her heartbeat was loud and clear...Family is for everyone. 

Missy and Mike have 6 children; 3 sons, 3 adopted daughters (2 from Haiti). One of their sons, Lane, has severe cerebral palsy. No one would have ever thought differently of the Wilson's if all they did was just raise their children here in Franklin. After all, they had enough on their plate. But, they never saw it that way. They were so in love with Haiti and they saw with their own eyes the need. They knew that they had to do something about it. Their lives were wrecked (in a good way). 

Missy has become a Mama to hundreds of and adults. It takes her twice as long to walk through the village because she is stopped by each person. They miss her when she's in the States. They welcome her into their humble homes. They smile and run to hug her. She doesn't offer them hand outs. She doesn't come in and try to tell them all how to do things the American way. She goes and loves on people, people she calls family. She lives out loud. And her life is LOUD! 

Missy is a world changer. She loves and loves well. She is a hero. And I am so thankful for her! Here's info on how you can connect with her and myLIFEspeaks:

Missy Wilson
Facebook: /missywilson 
Twitter: @missywilson

Facebook: /myLIFEspeakspage
Twitter: @myLIFEspeaks

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Singing Praises Day 6

Before you start reading this blog, if you haven't already done so, take a moment to read the opening blog of this series here.  

Steve Cherrico

I don't even know where to start on this one! Steve Cherrico may be one of the most incredible people on the planet. If you know him, you completely understand without further explanation needed. Steve may be one of the most genuine people I know. Let's be honest, many of his amazing attributes are because he is married to one amazing woman, the Jessi Cherrico. That probably was his wisest decision ever outside of accepting Christ as Savior, of course. 

I met Steve 13 years ago when I moved to Tennessee.  I have had the privilege of doing ministry with Steve in several capacities. I've had to opportunity to see firsthand how he leads with a love and passion for people, his insatiable desire to learn, and courage to stand for what is right and just. 

Steve currently works for First Priority of America.  If you've not heard of First Priority (FP), I would strongly encourage you to watch their video here. It's less than a minute long and worth watching. Go ahead. FP's Vision Statement is simply: The Hope of Christ in Every Student. I'm pretty sure if I was to ask Steve what his personal Vision Statement was it would be similar to FP's.

I have been on a couple missions trips with Steve and the most recent was to Haiti this past summer. There were reasons that it would be best for him not to go, but not going didn't make the list of options. His unwavering faith and trust in Christ has been an encouragement to me. This was definitely proven again recently when his son experienced healing in his body. Read the story on his blog here.  Yes, I mean read it's super encouraging and worth the read. I have never experienced a time where I was discouraged when I've talked to Steve or read his twitter/facebook updates. His words are always timely and laced with God's love and wisdom. You should definitely follow his twitter just to be able to receive a dose of spiritual vitamin C. He is a father and friend to many, but not one ever feels slighted. He walks in humility, confident in His God, with integrity and without judgement. He lives out a lifestyle that honors God. And I am so thankful that I get to call him co-laborer and friend (even when he tries to stir up some mischief...which has been known to happen)!

Learn more about Steve Cherrico and First Priority by connecting with them here:

Steve Cherrico
Twitter: @SteveCherrico
Facebook: /steve.cherrico

First Priority of America
Twitter: @FPofAmerica

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Singing Praises Day 5

Before you start reading this blog, if you haven't already done so, take a moment to read the opening blog of this series here.  

Anne Kiernan

Okay, so moving on from writing and songwriting right into another form of art. Design Art. Anne Kiernan embodies the meaning of an Artisan. Her graphic design is stunning art. Her ability to portray visually what 1,000 words could not express is priceless. She is gifted at many types of art and she continues to grow and mature in her talent. You can check out her portfolio here. Go ahead, check it out now. She also has countless of pieces of commercial design artwork that makes any marketing department happy to hire her. And...she loves to cook and bake...which mean if you're her friend you reap the benefits of her trying new recipes out! She never has to worry about not being invited to a potluck...she has secured her spot at each party. To her, it's an art form. Speaking of art forms, she even make gift giving an art! She loves to give gifts (which is yet another benefit to call her friend). You can rest assured that she put thought into the gift. I am enjoying a Christmas Gift this year that is taking me 25 days to unwrap and I couldn't be happier! You see, I was pretty vocal about wanting a Christmas Countdown/Advent calendar this year. You know...where each day you get a gift. I, obviously, didn't want to do it for myself. That would just take the fun out of the surprise (one of the few surprises that I actually enjoy!). 
Well, on December 1st, I walked into my office and there is Advent Calendar! I had received some pretty rough news the day before, so this couldn't have been more of a blessing and gift! Now until Christmas I get to open a new treasure. I look forward to it each morning as I walk into my office even more than I usually do (just in case you're reading this boss). And if all that wasn't enough, she is a true friend. She cares. She loves. She challenges. She mourns or celebrates with you depending on what you need. She lives a life that is full of integrity and honor. She honors others...not just the cool people. Her only flaw might be that she was born in Kentucky, but I guess she couldn't help that one. Anne make my world a better place. She laughs at and with me...a lot...and for that I'm thankful! If you know Anne, you should tell her how awesome she is. If you don't know her, you are missing out on some of the best Bourbon Bars ever. :) 

Twitter: @annefkiernan
Instagram: /annefkiernan

Interested in Anne for freelance design? Check out her contact page

Monday, December 17, 2012

Singing Praises Day 4

This blog is part of a series, so if you have not yet read the introduction do so here.

Jason Wain

And today I continue with the theme of songwriters in this post. I met this stellar person through Writer Will (I wrote about him on Singing Praises Day, here's another reason to sing his praises). His name is Jason Wain. Jason writes, plays and sings his own music (and has been known to do a Journey cover before). And you can watch all his videos on's one of his newest ones: When You're Gone
As you can tell (since you just watched at least one of his videos) Jason is talented musically, but I'm sure you know by now that there's more than just having talent. Jason is probably one of the top 5 most positive people I have ever exaggeration here. Top 5. EVER. He's kind...and not the southern type of kind...he's genuinely kind - to your face and when you leave (if I've offended you, think about it, you know it's true). I'm not sure he's met someone that he wouldn't be friends with or that he would consider a stranger. His twitter feed is littered with encouragement and inspiration such as:
"Stay connected to your purpose and destiny it's worth it."
"Choose to have a good day no matter what happens."
"Today is another day to be the best you. Don't waste it."
 He celebrates love, life and people everyday in all that he does. He drinks some strange green mountain smoothie (that I'm sure tastes better than it looks) because he's always in pursuit of bettering himself...and not just physically, but in all areas of his life.
If you're in Nashville, you should get to know him in person. If you're not, connect with him via any social media outlet you wish...but connect. I'm thankful for people like Jason Wain that are refreshing and always encouraging! Thankful for Jason!

Twitter: @jasonwain 
Instagram: /jasonwain
iTunes: Jason Wain 

Friday, December 14, 2012

Singing Praises Day 3

When I wrote today's blog, it was before the horrific news of a shooting at an elementary school. I was conflicted about taking down today's current blog. My heart hurts so much for the kids, the families, the friends, and for the state of this nation. We have been reminded that such evil exists and our desperate need for God. I don't want to be insensitive or to dismiss this tragedy. I can't and I won't. But it's in these moments that I'm reminded that I get to choose to love more. I get to love and celebrate people. And what better time to share the precious jewels of this earth with you. So, I'm keeping my blog series up today...not out of ignorance, but because love wins and I will choose love.  

Before you start reading this blog, if you haven't already done so, take a moment to read the opening blog of this series here

Brady Toops

Today I move from blog and book authors, to a different kind of writer...a songwriter.  But they are not just a songwriter, they are much more...they are a musician, singer, worshiper, songwriter, baseball player, and even more but you get the point. I'm singing the praises of Brady Toops. You have got to listen to his fact, for a little while longer you can download free music at Noisetrade (see on the right side of your screen where it says Download Good Music's that simple, fill that out and it's yours)...Do it...time is running, It's free, but it's worth leaving a, do...and be generous so that he can make more music to share with the world. He was listed on the "New & Notable" and "Top Downloads" with his A Hymn Collection if you needed further encouragement.

Did you download it? Good. I'm glad that's settled. Now I'll tell you more about why I think he should be recognized. Even though Brady has known the spotlight through his athletics and musical talents, his passion remains encountering God and leading people into encounters with God. That right there is enough, but there's more. In addition to all that I mentioned that he can do, it's who he is that really just makes him a treasure to anyone he meets. The church that I attend, Iris Nashville, has been super blessed to have Brady help lead the worship department. He has fearlessly forged a path for Iris Nashville to move forward in the area of worship including making sure we had equipment that suited our needs. And through it all he does it with a humble spirit that does not put himself above anyone else. He makes everyone around him comfortable and feel right at home during worship no matter the venue. He's the real deal and I'm thankful for him. Make sure you sign up for his newsletter and add him to your social media accounts (see below) so that you can stay connected with what's going on in his'll thank me later.

And now that you have his music, share the joy with others and get your Christmas gifts at his  webstore. Great prices on music and shirts!

Twitter:  @bradytoops
Facebook: /bradytoopsmusic
Instagram: /bradytoops

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Singing Praises Day 2

Before you start reading this blog, if you haven't already done so, take a moment to read the opening blog of this series here

Ruth Rutherford

Today I want to sing the praises of another writer. Her name is Ruth Rutherford. I've known Rufa, well, since I was 3 months old and she came into this world. Rufa is my cousin and for about 15 years we lived half a mile from each other. We went to the same schools, same church, same gymnastics class, and we were on the same softball team even (which was so that we could go to the local ice cream shop after games). Some of this was because we grew up in a borough of 1,600 people, but mostly because that's how we do family. Close. And I am so thankful for that. She keeps our families organized/connected and you'll always feel loved when you get that Birthday and Christmas card from her. Rufa has a blog on dating and single life called I Kissed My Date Goodnight. If you are single or married, young or old, an accountant or rock and roll star you should subscribe to this blog right this minute...(go ahead, I'll wait). She writes from her heart and it's always beautiful. She's eloquent and just funny! I know, I're sitting there reading this (which I'm thankful for) thinking that I'm saying this because I'm biased. Well, I may be a little, but after reading a couple of her posts you'll agree with me...I'm confident in that. Ruth is an amazingly talented, beautiful inside and out, kind and loving person and her writing reflects that. Seriously...I've got an incredibly talented family in so many areas and Rufa is no exception. She has so many more gifts and talents outside of writing including singing to name one. I'm thankful for Rufa.

Twitter: @ruth_rutherford
Instagram: ruth_rutherford
Facebook: /rutherford.ruth

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Singing Praises Day 1

Before you start reading this blog, if you haven't already done so, take a moment to read the opening blog of this series here.

 Writer Will aka William Carl Montgomery

Will, Claire, and their pups
I met Will at a meeting and after a short while (and a phone call every day to our offices) Will joined the Reach Your City staff. He has definitely brought his amazing sales skills to the offices and the opportunity for me to roll my eyes several times a day. Aside from his incredible ability to sell, he is also a writer (and a good one at that). He has a blog that causes you to "think about that" and is laced with humor and, well, at times harsh truths (according to him). He has written two books and the second that recently released is a fiction book is entitled "Lukewarm" which is the first in a series. It's a great read and one I would definitely recommend (and I'm NOT just saying that, I assure you). You can get it on his website or on (there is a Kindle version on Amazon, too). I reviewed his first book, The Polar Bear, in a previous Gold Star here...and then return to his website to get it for yourself. Since I've know Will he's been challenged in many areas of his life. He's made a lot of tough decisions and commitments. From a new job, to publishing a book, owning a pup or two, and his latest (and greatest) achievement...engagement to Claire...he's had a lot of growth opportunities. Not everyday was pure sunshine, but it's been incredible to see him take on each new step and face it head on. It's been fun to watch him really grow and step into his own. We don't always agree, but that just makes it all the more interesting. I'm proud of him, so I am singing his least until he makes me want to cuss...which will be in 5, 4, 3, 2.....!

Twitter: @Writer_Will
Facebook: /writerwill
Instagram: /writerwill

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

"If you can sing alone, you sing in front of other people."

I hear that the best way to spread Christmas Cheer is to sing loud for all to hear...but since you don't want me to sing out loud (trust me on this one!) I thought I would do a little series of singing the praises of some really amazing people instead. Over the next few days (maybe weeks if I get a little crazy) I'll highlight some people that I think deserve to be recognized. Now, don't get me wrong...if you're not on one of the upcoming blogs, it does NOT mean you don't deserve it...because I believe that you do (really I do)! It most definitely means that I'm a slacker and as you can see by the time lapse between this post and my last post I have commitment issues with my blog. These will be in no particular order either.

Ready? Good. I'll start tomorrow... :)

Monday, October 8, 2012

Love and Haiti - Guest Blog Post

So, it's been a while since I last wrote and for that I apologize. Today's post was slightly forced after I opened my big mouth. I told my co-worker, Will, that I wanted to post a blog on his website...mostly because I wanted to post about what it's to like to share an office with a man who says things like when asked for his signature he replies with "I'm used to this. I am a writer" and who calls me a Hippie Christian. I wasn't really expecting him to shout yes and give me the date of when he wanted it. But, I guess that's good motivation to sit down and write as any. You check out my post on his website WriterWill.


Saturday, July 21, 2012

Brothers don't shake hands, brothers hug!

Four weeks ago at this time I was in Miami awaiting a flight to Port-Au-Prince, Haiti. I was boarding a plane with a group of friends not really sure what I was about to get myself into. Having been on several international missions trips I have learned that no matter how much research I do, I'm never fully prepared. I was going as ready as I could be without having ever been to Haiti.

I blogged about what I could each day, but there is still so much that's not been told. There are memories that are seared into my heart. There are moments that I will cherish dearly. I've been back three weeks and I'm still not sure if I can ever go back to the way I was before. I'm really don't even know how to do life "normally" anymore. I think about leaving every day. Haiti, Uganda, Argentina, doesn't even matter where. I could just go.

I've written this next paragraph and then deleted it three times. Maybe that's a sign that it's better left unsaid for now. So, I'll move on.

I've always tried to be an open book (ironic after the paragraph above?). And I don't do surface well...not with anyone, but especially not with friends. In fact, yesterday after being introduced to a newer friend of mine's former roommate I asked her for her life story. In the middle of Franklin Mercantile while listening to my friend Garrett Miller play live with Lexi Adams in the background I just started with the deep questions. I'm not trying to pry...I'm curious. I love people and want to hear their story. Everyone has something to offer. This person happens to be a gem and I'm super grateful to hear her was a beautiful display of God's redemption!

The past year has been an incredible journey....some of the greatest moments in my life and some of the most heart wrenching moments of my life. In the process of this journey I have learned a lot about friendship, what I think it is and what many others think it is. I definitely realized that not everyone sees it as I do...not saying I'm right or know how to be an amazing friend...just saying that we all see it differently. We all place a different value on certain relationships.

I've seen the spectrum of friendship over the past year. I'm thankful that I have though...even when it was the opposite of healthy...because it has really helped me to know the type of friend I want to be. It also makes me appreciate the healthy friendships in my life.

So in honor of Friends Day...which in Argentina is celebrated on the 19th of July and elsewhere in South America on July 30th...I say thank you to all of my friends. I honor each of you for who you are in my life. Thank you for supporting me and loving me regardless of agreeing with me at times. Thank you for just being there when I needed it. Thank you for stopping what you're doing to listen. Thank you for being you. Thank you for protecting my heart. Thank you for praying for me. Thank you for holding me accountable. Thank you for laughing with and at me. Thank you for never giving up. Thanks for doing life with me. Thank you for loving me well. I'm sorry for not telling you I love you enough...sometimes there's not enough words to express it.

I also take a moment to remember those friends that have gone before me. I miss you and have not forgotten. I still feel loved by you. Thanks for teaching me what it looks like to be a friend. 


Monday, July 16, 2012

Gold Star

So...who out there participated in the Book It! program in school (for those who answered out loud or raised your hand you know I can't hear or see you right?)? I didn't realize that the program is still around! Wow! Yeah, I wasn't the best at reading when I was eligible for the program either....even with the prized Pizza Hut voucher (we didn't even have a Pizza Hut in the small town I grew up in but there was one next to the Sizzler's that we frequented on Sundays that was half way between the 30 miles that separated home and church). It's not that I don't enjoy reading and learning from what I's that I'm trying to overcome the issue of feeling the need to multi-task at all times. I'm working on it...I promise. Some books make it really hard to keep me intrigued and others make it hard to put the book down. 

I just finished reading a book. Wait, it gets better. I finished it in less than a week. And, yes, it had more than 10 pages in it...240+ actually and no it did not have pictures in it. I hear the gasps right now. It's true. It happened. Mark this down as an achievement...and feel free to reward me with gifts for my good behavior. I purchased the book because 1.) I recently became acquainted with the author (this is not name dropping, but when he makes it big, and he will, then it's totally going to be a reminder to you I knew him when) and 2.) I was curious.

The book is called The Polar Bear and is written by Will Montgomery.  

Reason one for purchasing the book is self-explanatory, right? Good. Moving along. Reason two...curiosity. Why so curious? His description of the book for starters. 

     "Look, I'm not going to waste my time and yours (more importantly) writing a 
     summary of a book that you probably won't read anyway. I could fill up this space with
     attention-grabbing catchphrases and Christian cliches, but the entire point of this book 
     is the opposite of that. So if that's what you're looking for, then keep looking. But if 
     you're searching for a book that makes you laugh, makes you think, makes you angry, 
     and makes you re-examine your walk with Christ, then plunk down the money already 
     and let's get it started. 'The Polar Bear' awaits and I promise you won't regret it."

Yep. You know you want to read it now too, don't you? And's called The Polar Bear, but is not a fiction, it piques ones interest (well, it did mine at least). 

Thankfully (and probably obvious by now) it was one of those books that was hard to put down...BUT...after each chapter I felt the need to put it down on purpose. Why, you ask? Well, first thanks for asking. Let me tell you why. Each chapter is brimming with perspective on a specific topic like Culture, Speech, Truth, Sin, Prayer to name a few. I'm not going to delve into any of the topics. I'll let you read it for yourself (because you all are so impressed that I read it in 5 days I know that it's causing you to purchase it now), but I will encourage you to take your time really mulling over each chapter. They are the very core values in which we make every decision based on and should be processed with diligence and with an open heart and mind. I'm not saying you will agree with it all, but it does offer a perspective that makes you think.

The style of writing also makes it a super easy read. And by easy, I don't mean that the content is lacking depth or weight in any way, shape or form. What I do mean is that rather than it feeling as if it's a dissertation that proves research matter-of-factly (yep, that's most definitely a real word...I'm not an I looked it up to make sure...ha!), instead it reads as a heart that has searched for answers sharing with you it's findings in what feels like a dialogue. It's like a conversation with a good friend. If you're at all skeptical take some time to read through the author's blog on his If not, buy the book, make yourself a cup of tea and enjoy. After you read the book, I'd love to hear your opinion (and since only 3 people read this blog...I might even offer to discuss it over some Starbucks or Maté...sorry, Ruth, you'll have to come here for that). 

Now would probably be the appropriate time to ask for your book recommendations, but who am I kidding. I've got a stack I haven't started yet. Baby steps, folks, baby steps.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Fish, a Polar Bear and Spider Webs

From an early age I always had trouble with using the term "best friend". And though I've had some really close friends that knew me all too well, it was hard labeling any one of them as a best friend. There is something inside of me that can't accept calling one person my best friend. I'm not really sure where that came from other than it didn't settle well for me.

Today I was at my trusty processing spot Panera. I went with the intention on being out of the house and not distracted with all the things I could be doing to just read. I wanted to finish up a book written by someone I had recently had the pleasure of meeting. I got about a chapter and a half in when I heard "pst, psssttt, pst". I lowered the book and peeked at the older gentleman sitting in a chair not too far away. He was beckoning my attention and I was most definitely intrigued as to the reason for this invitation to conversation as only a grandfather figure could do and get away with.

Glover, as he's affectionately called by his last name, is a regular at this particular Panera. He visits daily and loves to make new friends. I'm seen him there several times and he's always engaging someone in conversation. He and several of his friends of all different types of walks of life get together and talk about whatever comes up. And I can say with certainty that there is no subject they have not put their two cents (although I don't understand this phrase...I truly believe that their thoughts and opinions are much more valuable than that...its what I'll go with right now) worth in. They call themselves "the Liar's Club" because each time they meet the same stories get bigger and better than they told previously, the fish gets larger, the financial deal gets sweeter, the girl gets prettier and so on. Glover is a witty man. I tell ya' he's got jokes!

Glover and I talked for an hour...and this means that I did 90% of the listening. I learned a lot about this man today. I learned about how much he adores his 4 grandchildren and how his wife is an amazing cook (at least that's what the grandkids say to them). He told me about working for 3M for 29 years before retiring. We also talked about a fishing trip to Canada he and his son, Randy, took just 14 years ago. Randy passed away of Lou Gehrig's Disease 13 years ago. Glover talked with such pride about his son and that trip! He recalled moments on that trip so clearly and with such joy.

I sat mesmerized and was seeing Jesus all over this Crieve Hall Baptist Church member. My heart was full hearing bits and pieces of his life story. He eventually got a call from his wife, who has only been to that particular Panera twice in the several years that it's been open, that dinner was ready. Being the smart man he was he started gathering up his belongings and I stood to shake his hand and say our goodbyes. He apologized for talking my ear off and I looked him in the eyes and told him that I thoroughly enjoyed our time.

I sat down for a few minutes to take that moment in and then I gathered my personal affects and headed home. I truly enjoyed listening. It brought me joy to hear him talk about whatever he wanted to talk about. I was even slightly sad that it ended. I quickly ate dinner upon arriving at home and got comfortable to see if I could finish that book I was reading. And, yes, I chose to stay home on a Saturday night to read...say what you want, but I'm not an avid reader so this is a miracle for more than one reason. I read the rest of the book slide it on to the ottoman in front of me. I sat for a few minutes and organized my thoughts on the book. Again, I was a little sad that it ended. And though I may not completely agree with everything in the book I think it is a well thought-out, well written non-fiction literary work (not that anyone should EVER take my opinion on a book alone unless we're talking about THE Book).

I now feel like I know the author. I have read piece after piece of their life that they offered with such vulnerability (because that is what most writing is, right? putting your heart out there for the world to read?). As I sat there a little longer I realized I again was sad because the dialogue came to an end...and yes, in the case it was 100% the author speaking and me listening. Why? Why was I sad about saying goodbye to Glover or reading the final words of the author?

I felt the Holy Spirit remind me of something I've said a couple times this week when I try to explain to people why it was so hard for me to leave Haiti. "I love to hear people's life stories. When they tell me their story I fall in love with the Jesus in them and I don't want to leave them. It's like they become family." echoed in my heart. Anyone can be family because we're all connected when we see through the lens of our Heavenly Father. Maybe because I feel so connected to those around me I can't select just one person to be my best friend. And for those of you who know my friendship philosophy you probably can quote me saying: 3-12-other. I still firmly believe in that even though what it looked like last year is completely different than it looks this year in my life.

There's nothing wrong with having a best friend...a lot of it really is in the translation anyway. I guess when I am entrusted with the details of one's life story I feel that I've been given a treasure...a piece of their heart...a piece of Jesus in them...and it overwhelms me. My heart is full because I keep the pieces of those I've encountered with me and I am forever grateful for each one of them.

And just to pat myself on the back...I finished a book this week and am half way through another one. Baby steps. I'll learn to just sit more often.