24:30: New York City

I’m not a city girl, but I am amazed by them and love to occasionally visit them! I am always glad to go home afterwards, but I am also able to really enjoy taking them in while I am in them. So, a few years ago I had the opportunity to go take in New York City with my friend’s family who came over for their holiday and spent a weekend in NYC, so I got to go with them!

My friend and I rode the bus from Pittsburgh to NYC and we met her family pretty much right down time if I remember correctly! We arrived around lunch time so we had a drink and some food and then off we went to explore the city! We stayed at a hotel in NJ just right across from the subway station pretty much. It did the trick! 🙂

My feet were so sore from walking everywhere. We took the subway to Greenwich village, on a day that just so happened to be a Gay Parade. That was very interesting to walk into, people were handing out freebie bags that I will refrain from telling you all about! 🙂

We walked through Times Square, got hot dogs from a stand (which was one of my have to’s!), we hung out in central park which for some reason just felt so surreal! We went to Radio City Hall and the Rockefeller Center. We walked the high line, which was really cool! Went to the top of the Empire State Building.

We took the staten island fairy to see Lady Liberty (we didn’t get off of the boat, it was at night-time) and that was really cool! That was one the last things we did while I was there with them, I left a day early. We also walked to see the WTC site which was very surreal and so eerily quiet out of respect. If you’re ever in NYC, this is a must just because it is such a big part of our History now and to remember all of the people who lost their lives and the hero’s who lost their lives and saved so many people is an amazing thing to have been alive for. Seeing the site and reading all the names just made it so much more real for me. I clearly remember when I found out, I was in Jr. High at my last class of the day and my History teacher at the beginning just turned the TV on because History was happening right before our eyes and she wanted us to know what was going on in our country. So we all just sat there and watched the news, and when I got home, that’s all my family did. We just sat there in disbelief. I will never forget, and for those who didn’t have any family involved like me, if you go and see it for yourself, it will cement it in your brain and give you just a taste of what people went through and to pay respects to the people, was an honor.

NYC was like a dream, and although I would never ever want to live there or spend an extended period of time there, a weekend is a blast for this little suburb/country girl like me! I also, am excited to go back someday. This time, I want to go in the wintertime, and see a broadway show and go ice skating at Rockefeller center and see the big Christmas tree! That’s all I want!

I don’t have any photos from NYC, my apologies. But what I have, is below and is great for me! thanks for reading! Thanks for the Monaghan’s for letting me come on this trip with them and being so generous to me! It was an incredible blessing and a very great trip!

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23:30 Tennessee

Good ‘ol Tennessee. So much music! Such a fun state to drive through and take in Memphis and Nashville. I am not a country music fan, but somehow you can appreciate it when your in TN!

I remember walking down the streets of Nashville and there being busker’s on the streets everywhere and they were all so good too! Very entertaining and always had a crowd of people!

Memphis we were only in for a couple hours. We walked around town, saw the sites and the Rock n Roll Museum, sidewalk of stars, Lorraine Motel, Elvis’ statue… and ate at a restaurant that has Jonny Cash’s name carved into it because he had eaten there before!

We stayed the night in Nashville with a friend, she was very accommodating and took us downtown to a music festival thing, and we walked around to see the sites! I loved it! Nashville is definitely a good weekend trip with the ladies, and would love to do it for longer and take it in more than an evening! 🙂

I hope these posts encourage you to travel more! Remembering them makes me want to see even more of this country, and world, but also to revisit different places that I really enjoyed or wished that I had more time in!

22:30 Arizona/New Mexico

I joined Arizona and New Mexico only because I have so little photos and spent such a little amount of time there. With that being said…
In 2013 I had the awesome opportunity to road trip from Phoenix to Ohio with one of my Alaskan friends who was moving back to Ohio for the 2nd time. Her sister traveled down with her from Anchorage to somewhere in Cali, and she was staying with a friend in Phoenix, so in August I flew to Phoenix and traveled back with her so she wouldn’t have to do the trip alone!

I have been having road trip cravings recently, so it’s only appropriate that now is the perfect time to share pieces of this road trip.

So obviously we started off in Phoenix, AZ. Now, keep in mind, this is the furthest west I have ever been (yet to go to Colorado and Cali which are on my top places to go) and I loved every second of it. Although the temp’s were quite high in AZ, because there was no humidity it felt wonderful, and I don’t even think I broke a sweat. (No humidity for this Ohio girl was like a breath of fresh air…really!) So we left not super early in the morning, but we went to Dunkin Donuts, got some drinks and donuts and said farewell to her friend who she stayed with for a week or so and whom I stayed with 1 night and the road trip began.

We listened to lots of great music, mostly Christa’s selection, because she has a great one and better than my own! I was just amazed driving through the dessert of AZ and NM of all the rock formations, and I was blown away by the beauty of it all. We were surrounded by dessert and I loved it! I think it was by that evening we had made it close to Albuquerque NM, and it was pouring. Pretty much it rained most of the time we were in NM, but we were still able to see some old abandoned shops along route 66 and saw even more rock formations and more of the dessert. So, that night we pretty much parked in a grocery store parking lot, and slept a few hours in the car while it poured rain, praying we would be safe. And we were! (My parents were told after this happened, that it happened…there was a slight freak out from my mother).

After that we pretty much drove through a tiny part of Texas and Oklahoma was super boring and lasted forever until we got to TN. Which the next post, will be all about Tennessee because we stayed there for 2 nights.

I remember ever since this road trip, wanting to go back to New Mexico and seeing what all it has to offer because I loved the beauty of it and it intrigued me so much! So, hopefully someday I will get to go back!
Until next time, enjoy the few photos I have! We spent most of the time driving, so photos were pretty scarce! 🙂

Also, road trips are a great way to see our country. Each state has so much to offer, so I highly recommend road tripping. This trip took us about 3-4 days if I remember correctly. We pretty much drove 12-18 hrs a day, stopping the most in TN to take in Memphis and Nashville. So keep a look out for the next post! 🙂

 

21:30 Texas

When I lived in Northern Ireland, I became friends with another American from Texas named Katie who was a part of the same program that I was doing just placed in a different location. She was hilarious, friendly, and I felt comfortable with her from the moment I met her. When I walked into a pole walking downtown one night in Belfast, she was the one who nicknamed me Polebrow and helped me walk the rest of the way! She was like the big sister I had always hoped for!

So, when we both were back in the states, I had the opportunity to visit her in Dallas, Texas! So in January, 2009 I went and I loved it!

She took me to her church and her small groups at the time. We ate some good ‘ol tex-mex, she took me to a cupcakery that was deeeelicious! (I love my baked goods). We took a trolly ride through Dallas, saw the spot where JFK was assassinated and just saw the sites and city of Dallas. At this point in my life, I had not visited many cities, and frankly was pretty scared of citifies. I found Dallas to be very non-threatening though and very welcoming and I loved everything about it!
We also got to take a mini road trip and visit my friend who was going to school in Texas! That was really fun to see her and meet a couple of her friends!

I cannot wait to go back to Texas someday. I’ve yet to experience it’s heat, I was lucky enough to go in the winter time when for my mid-western blood, it was absolutely delightful! It felt like fall to me! I am currently trying to talk my family into a family vacation next November-December to Texas. My mom loves Fixer Upper and wants to see Magnolia, so we figure why not make a road trip from Dallas, to Waco to San Antonio right?! SO, next time you see my Mom, you should highly encourage a Texas vacation!
I know I do!

20:30 Alaska

Well I have been slacking!
I have 9 more posts after this week to get in by October 22 (my 30th birthday!) SO I will be whipping these puppies out for ya’ll!

Alaska. One of the top 3 most beautiful places I have been to. I have been lucky enough to have gone 3 times. (if my calculations are correct..my mind is slipping the closer i get to 30 unfortunately) Part of the reason I love Alaska is because of the people who are there, the Richardson family! I love them as people and how welcoming they are, and I love how they do ministry and how they serve the people of Anchorage through their church.

While in Alaska, I’ve traveled quite a bit to see the sites. To glaciers and walked on one and bottled up some water (coldest, best tasting water i’ve ever had), hiked half way up Flat Top in Anchorage to see the sun set (after midnight of course), fell down a mountain up near Victory Bible Camp, almost drove a van into a family of Moose, stayed up way to late just because it’s still light out at midnight and because my friends are fun, fell down a set of stairs in the dark and messed up my ankle, experience my first tiny little earthquake, met some amazing and adorable children, worshiped with fellow believer’s, drank some great coffee, drove around the city…etc.

Many many memories from my trips to Alaska and hopefully the photos below will help give you some images of my memories!

I’ve never been to Alaska in the wintertime, nor do I really desire to go in the winter time, although I am sure it is absolutely stunning. I just am not a fan of snow and cold, so summer time in Alaska is perfect for me. I love the endless daylight, I am much more productive and energetic, I love the weather where its a bit cooler at night but lots of sun shine during the day. Perfect fire pit weather! 🙂
I will forever remember the adventuring, the coffee, the people, the church, the community…something I will have with me forever and I am forever grateful for those opportunities and people! 🙂

 

19:30 Oahu, Hawaii

About 2 years ago I had an incredible opportunity to go on vacation to Oahu with some people I adore. It was definitely a once in a life-time trip for me and I fell in love with Hawaii then and have not stopped dreaming of going back since. I actually just got my very first speeding ticket the other day because I was day dreaming of Hawaii. (oops!)

I would love some day to have been to each Hawaiian island. I’ve done research (because I’m a nerd) and they each have something different to offer. Oahu is the one with the most tourism. The North Shore is famous for surfing and there are lots of little surf shops and places to rent paddle boards, take surfing lessons, go kayaking…etc.

There are literally beaches everywhere. You drive 10 minutes down the road and you have about 3-5 choices of what beach you want to go to! It rains often but for only 5-10 minutes at a time then the sun is back out! It was perfect weather, wasn’t to hot because you have a nice breeze from the ocean.

One of my favorite parts was driving and seeing the ocean on one side and a massive wild jungle of trees on the other. We stayed in a house that was close to the Polynesian Culture Center which is where we went for a Luau and watched a show on Hawaiian culture and the origination. Watched a lot of the dancing, ate the food. It was a cool experience for a girl who loves culture that is different from her own.

The people that we met who lived and worked there were super nice and told us the places to go hiking and what times to go! The first day we were there, we stayed in Honolulu and so first thing in the morning a few of us went hiking up Diamond Head. That was sweet. At the top you get an amazing view of all of Honolulu! We walked along Waikiki beach, we did some shopping, saw the statue where the Hawaii 5-0 tv show headquarters are! Made the parents jealous with that one! 😉 We also went to Pearl Harbor and got to tour the memorial. That was a really solemn and humbling experience.

After a couple days we went up to the North Shore where we stayed the rest of the time. We had our favorite beach that we went to more often than the others, but we pretty much tried a new one every day! It was off season for surfing so we didn’t see much surf. But we went hiking in Waimea Valley and to the beach there across the road from the Valley. I loved that area, the boys did cliff jumping and rolling down the sand, as you do!

Overall, this trip was one of my most memorable and favorite’s. I cannot wait to some day, hopefully go back! I would love to do more hiking and experiencing the island!

 

Unfortunately I cannot find my photos…I have the whole summer of 2015 missing from my iCloud photos…which is a big bummer. Pretty each month I dislike technology more and more even though it can be very helpful (most of the time!) At least I printed them out right away so I still have photos on my wall! So I apologize that you only have these 2 photos to enjoy…
Google has a lot more professional photos, but they are still accurate of what it looks like, and yes, it is that majestic and wild and amazing!

 

If you ever get the opportunity to go to one of the Hawaiian islands, take it without hesitation! You won’t regret it!

 

Thanks for reading! 🙂

Freedom in Forgiveness

We have all been hurt by different organizations (christian and non-christian), church’s, and people. We live in a world that sin runs rampant, so it is pretty inevitable that we will get hurt, and that we will do some of the hurting too.

Every person we meet is broken. Some haven’t worked through that brokenness yet, some have, and some are still working through brokenness or finding new areas of brokenness. Like I said, sin runs rampant.

Hallelujah for the coming of our LORD when sin no longer will run rampant and all will be perfect and glorious in the presence of God!

If any of you know me personally, or have followed my blogs before, you know that the past couple of years have been difficult for me, with some hurt. It has been quite a journey of walking through that and finding healing/freedom from it. I feel like I am finally at a place where I truly have been healed and set free from all of that.

So here are some things that I have learned over the past couple of years:
Part of the issue with getting hurt, is that we hold onto it. We hold onto what has been done to us because, ‘how dare that person treat me that way’, they love Jesus, and so do I. ‘I don’t deserve that.’ Well in fact, we do deserve it (Romans 3:10, 12). But that’s not the point I want to get across.

I had this realization today while driving to church; forgiveness is championing the one’s who have hurt you. Recently, I’ve been able to see how God has in fact healed my heart from hurt, and a lot of that is by how I have defended and championed those who have hurt me in the past, even the church as a whole.

Yes, even when working for a church, the church can still hurt you. I’ve worked for/in the church/ministry for just over 10 years. When working in a church and with leadership, I often tend to be the person to hear a lot of complaining and concerns about leadership and the way the church does things. Do I like hearing these things, no. Do I sometimes think it is necessary, yes. I would rather people share their concerns with me than anyone else apart from leadership in the church because I know I can handle it and can challenge how they view things, and have also been in their shoes.

We all want things to do be done a certain way, or people to think like we do and care about the same things that we do, but what good would it be if God’s people all thought the same way, and did things all the same way? I’ve walked through hard church times where the church was split because of differing opinions of how our Church should function. We need that tension of differing views. It can be a good tension to figure out what we value most, where we need be challenged, and if we are willing to let go of our own pride for the sake of a brother or sister or ultimately and most importantly for the sake of the Gospel and Jesus.
One thing I have found in hearing these concerns…is that I have become a defender of my Church and my leadership. I have had to lay aside my own hurt, for the sake of the Gospel and what God is doing through us. I have had to lay my hurt aside for the other hurt people too, so that I don’t make their hurt worse or let them stay there. It is gossip when we start talking about all the things that we don’t like within an organization or with people- especially if we don’t plan on confronting them in love or giving suggestions or even hearing out why things are done a certain way. We often don’t give the benefit of the doubt, or trust that people love Jesus as much as we do, but we have to. If you aren’t able to trust specific people right away, then trust God, who orchestrates everything and is much more jealous for His people and Church than you are, and is much more able to change people and turn them His way.

For a while I championed or defended because I needed to, but recently I have found that I desire to defend. I feel called to be one of the many defender’s of the church and of leadership, and to help those who have been or are hurt, to walk through their hurt. I have found the freedom that is found in forgiving others, and the redemption and restoration that happens in that, and also the JOY in that, is incomparable. And I look forward for those of you who are working through hurt, to find that freedom. It won’t be easy, it won’t be quick, it will hurt, but God is good.

All you have to do is seek God. Pray for the ones who hurt you. And in praying for them, remember that they really are just like you, trying to be like Christ but wrestling against sin, and have been hurt also. Practice defending those who hurt you or offended you. Find the good, the Jesus in them, the things that they do really well and encourage those attributes in them. Pray also for your healing. Allow the Holy Spirit to do His mighty work in you, and be submissive to Him. He will lead and guide you. He never fails.

Matthew 6:14-15
For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you,  but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Mark 11:25
And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.

Colossians 3:12-14
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,  bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.

 

18:30 Ocean Isle, NC

I love the beach. Particularly when it is warm. I have been going since I was a little kid. One of my favorite beach memories is getting up with the sun and looking for shells at sunrise on the beach. Usually my dad had to accompany me because I was a little too young, but now Im able to do it all by myself and have some real good God-time!

In 2009, we went on a big family vacation. I mean my mom’s whole side of the family. All of her sister’s, her Dad and step-mom. Travis and I were the only kids though (mind you, I was 20, Travis was 24). Our house was 2 rows back from the ocean, and we had a pool for convenience in the evening when we got tired of the beach (who gets tired of the beach?!)

This family vacation was a great one. I of course being the youngest, slept on the couch in the living room because there weren’t enough beds/rooms for all of us. I also am always up early on vacations..I’m not sure what it is, but I go to bed super early and wake up with the sun basically. But I love the ocean and the beach early so maybe that is why!

This vacation is where I am pretty sure I bought my first Sanuk shoe…and they have been my favorite shoe ever since.

The house we were staying in had a wrap around desk that literally went almost the whole way around the house! It was the best! We rented bicycles and rode our bikes around town, that was a blast! One of my funniest memories was my Dad, brother and I went to breakfast together to the local restaurant close to the house and we came back and Mom was upset with us that we went to breakfast without her. (My dad asked her if she wanted to go to breakfast and she said no, but she didn’t know travis and I were going…otherwise she would have said yes). We still tease her about that to this day.

My dad and I also went parasailing! That was a blast!

Family vacations can sometimes be stressful, as we all know, with many different personalities. But this one I just remember being fun. There is always lots of laughter with the family. So if you have never been on a family vacation, I highly encourage you to do so. Get a house, so that you can cook your own food and don’t have to eat out every night, but definitely splurge and eat out at least once! Go min-golfing, rent bicycles or scooters, go for long walks on the beach ;), play games with the family, take turns cooking, get up early, stay up late, explore the local area.

Enjoy the photos!

17:30 Washington D.C.

At the end of March I had the opportunity to head to D.C. with a friend. I had never been before, and we had talked at the beginning of this year of going to D.C. in April over a weekend to spend some time praying for the Country and seeing the sites. Killing 2 birds with one stone. Plus Mary has had an amazing testimony of meeting God in D.C. and so we were hopeful that this trip would be one of those weekends that God was just so evident. We were looking and expectant, and so of course it happened.
This trip, is probably one of my all-time favorites.

We had so many different encounters with people on this trip which is something I had been praying for. No matter how small the encounter, I purposed in my heart to remember the people and to pray for them. So after I got home for the trip I wrote down the people and encounters with them all that I remembered so that I wouldn’t forget and so that I will continue to pray for these people. Because my heart was blessed by each of them, whether they loved Jesus or not and i hope and pray that some day I will see all of them in Heaven!

What I love and appreciate so much about this trip though was that our praying was done silently, as we were walking the streets, while we were in our hotel room, while we were on the subway, while we were taking a coffee break. It wasn’t loud, and it wasn’t even seen over 90% of the time. But it was there. The Bible tells us to pray continually, and this trip, I feel was that – which I found to be very refreshing.

This trip was also just a blast. Mary is just very extroverted and always looking for an adventure, i am opposite of that – so it was not a dull trip! It can’t be when Mary is around. I also just fell in love with the city of D.C. It’s so easy to navigate around, and the cherry blossoms were beautiful, the sites and memorials were very humbling and it was a good reminder to never stop praying for our leaders and the people in American and in the World because we all influence each other. I don’t want to get into politics, so I am just going to leave it here and encourage all of you if you have not been to D.C, go! It is worth the trip, but be prepared to walk! I think my phone told me we walked over 10 miles alone on Saturday!

To give you some of the sites that we got to:
Arlington Cemetery, Pentagon, Lincoln Memorial, The Spy Museum, World War II Memorial, The reflecting pool, Across the pond of the Jefferson Memorial, The White House, Smithsonian of American History, Capitol Hill, Library of Congress, Supreme Court, …goodness I’m sure I am forgetting some. See it all folks! I look forward to going back again.
I would suggest staying longer than a weekend, if you really want to do museums, you could spend a whole day just in 1 of the smithsonian’s, so really choose what you want to do and plan it out in advance to make sure you can get tickets. even though the majority of the museums are free, you still need tickets. So try in advance to get them, they are really difficult get ‘last min.’ We kinda did everything on a whim, and mostly just saw everything apart from the American History Museum and the Spy Museum!
Favorite photos are below, enjoy!

Confess your sins

 
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9

I am currently going through a lent study on Isaiah. And what I am getting the most out of it thus far, is that I am sinful, and God hates sin, but is full of mercy and is able to and desires to redeem His people, BUT there are consequences because of (our) sin.

Sin…it is what is deteriorating our world, physically and spiritually. We have a love/hate relationship with it, because as Paul says in Romans 7:14-20; ”

For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. 15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.”

Man that can be confusing. As believer’s, we know what the right thing to do is, but often times what we want to do (as the good thing)….is not what we end up doing because of our flesh (sin). This is where confession comes in.

Many people associate “confession” with Catholicism. No matter your stance on whether Catholic’s are believer’s or not, I have come to believe that confession is a lost art within-in Christianity. Now, let me explain what I mean…

According to 1 John 1:9, if (which is a conjunction word, that makes this statement conditional, meaning that it requires an action) we want to be cleansed and forgiven we must be confessing our sin to God. Jesus is our High Priest in Heaven, sitting on the throne and He alone is able to forgive and to cleanse us from our sins, so if we don’t want our sin to consume us, if we want victory over specific sins, why wouldn’t we confess them? The Bible says that God is FAITHFUL to forgive us, so it’s not like we should be scared to go to Him. The word faithful means trustworthy…and our God is a Good Father, who enjoys to give good gifts to His children (for that is who we are).

In James 5:16, he talks about confessing our sins to one another. So, when we do wrong by another person, we should be going to them and making it right so that our relationship can be restored. (We’ve all had disagreements in relationships, if you want the relationship to be mended, you need to go to them and confront the sin and experience the beauty of restoration)
So it is with God. The Spirit does His work by convicting us, and making known to us our sin, and in the midst of that, sanctifying us so that we can look more like Christ, but it is our privilege to go to God, before His throne, and confess our sin to Him, and it is because of Christ that we are even able to go before the throne of God because Christ is our mediator, our High Priest.

So are are you confessing your sin?
I have to say that I grew up not confessing my sin. I don’t know if I was taught this way or what, but all I really knew or seemed to do was confess at the time of my salvation and just thought that I was good. God forgave my sin, past, present and future. But the longer I have been in relationship with God and have seen the effects and hold of sin in my life, I have seen and experienced how sin can tear apart relationships, especially our relationship with God – which is our most important relationship as Christians. If we want there to be depth, to be intimacy in any relationship, we have to get vulnerable and confess our sins (deepest darkest secrets). That is where we experience unconditional love – which happens to come from God. We will always be righteous in the sight of God because of Jesus’ act of love on the cross for us, but if we want to become more like Jesus each day, we have to die to our flesh (sin). Confessing our sins is a way to die to our flesh and it brings peace, and redemption to our relationship with Christ and with others, while also allowing God to cleanse us and make us whiter than snow. (Doesn’t that sound nice?)

When we are right with Christ, we can be right with others, and even able to be right with ourselves. I know many (including me) have struggled to forgive themselves. If that is you – I encourage you to start confessing your sin to God, and receiving His forgiveness each moment of each day, allowing Him to cleanse you and to see and experience His redemption. His Spirit is the best comforter, and the best teacher, learn to walk with Him.

*If you need prayer in any of this, don’t hesitate to ask.

What I have found through being able to confess my sin to God, but also to my friends – is that I am not alone. I also find relief. When I confess my sin, which feels so dark to me, to God and then to a friend, what I end up finding – is peace, and forgiveness, and kindness, and no judgment. I find the ability to walk through it, and wrestle with the sin not by myself. This feels like freedom to me. And I hope that you are able to experience the same.

‘Redemption depends not on our human will or exertion, but on our kind and merciful God.’ (shereadstruth)