Thursday, March 26, 2015

Baby, Etc. (11 Weeks)

So, one reason for the radio silence around here (you know, besides my constant fatigue and nausea- yay!) is that it seemed hard/impossible to describe anything going on in my life without putting it in the context of, "And, oh yeah, I'm pregnant!" The whole traveling/packing/moving across the country process was slightly altered by that little fact.

BUT finding out about it was a great time so let's start with that.

So, I've really wanted to have a baby for a while now but it's been a kind of stressful year(ish) so I figured it wasn't going to happen under the circumstances (the circumstances being figuring out where to move, moving to Goldsboro, new jobs, deputation: aka "life changes difficult for Ashley") and I figured once we moved, got settled, and life slowed down a little bit maybe it would be the right time.

And naturally, since my life responds to my plans with a raucous laugh (that's for you, Amanda!) it didn't happen that way at all.

We had been on the road for about ten days and ended our little Tour de Southeast in Georgia at my parents' church, then Jonathan headed home on Monday but I stayed for a few extra days. By Thursday, I was getting a liiiittle suspicious that I might be pregnant but I really didn't want to get my hopes up or see another negative test or be sad. In fact, I told my mom NOT to let me buy a pregnancy test because I was probably NOT pregnant and I didn't want it to be depressing. But I bought a test (actually two) and took them home.

After the first one was positive I said, "What??", grabbed the box to be sure (yep, two lines) and then because Gigi was lurking waiting in the next room I went to show her. (She says she wishes she had a picture of my face because shocked doesn't even begin to describe it!) I was saying, "It's probably wrong; it's probably wrong!" and she was like, "Um, probably not," and told me to take the other one. (What can I say? I'm thorough.) And I did and of course it was positive. (Gigi cried. I, in my shock and hard-heartedness, did not.)

And of COURSE Jonathan was 400+ miles away! Ah! Of all the big moments to be apart, this one was not ideal. And he didn't get off work for another 45 minutes which felt like an eteeeeerrrrnity. (I was saying eternity like this. You're welcome.) In the meantime, Amy came home from school and I had to pretend that all was well (and that my whole body wasn't shaking) while waiting for Jonathan to call so I could tell him first.

Amy wanted to go get free coffee (bless you, Chick-fil-A and your generosity) but I had to hold her off with a pack of lies until Jonathan fiiiinally called and I told him the happy news. I think he was a little excited:

Ignore my stupid face. 

Then we stopped at the church so my mom could be there when I told Amy (who thought the pregnancy tests in my hand were candy... baha) and a little while later went to April's house and told her (she screamed) and then FaceTimed Amanda (who also screamed and then cried.) I laughed at them both because I was still in shock/semi-denial (not that I wanted it to not be true, I just couldn't believe it was.) 

My dad's super-sappy reaction was that he couldn't believe I was having a baby in Texas. Good one, Dad. 

Jonathan told his parents and when I got home that weekend we told Ryan and Rebecca and then Mamaw and then Aunt Peggy and Uncle Walter and slowly but surely, the rest of the family. We also told a few friends but I wanted to wait for the "big announcement" until after our first appointment. (Holding off on that was a lot harder after I found that Disney announcement! Wasn't it the cutest??) 

The next few weeks were spent either being completely paranoid that something would go wrong or being completely exhausted and thus unable to pack or do anything productive, which was inconvenient given all that there was to be done. I wasn't sick at the time (glory, hallelujah) but I was just so.very.tired. All the time. When I did get teeny little bursts of energy I would pack as much as I could before the fatigue slapped me down again. (It goes without saying that Jonathan was a huge help during this time. And also my mother-in-law packed way more than I did, and so did Mamaw for that matter. I'm a lucky girl.)

By the time Moving Week rolled around, I was tired and sick (yay!) but with lots of help I made it. THEN when we got here, Jamie and Mrs. Karen were a HUGE help since I couldn't lift anything (more limiting than it sounded at first, trust me). They arranged the furniture, hung the pictures, put things away, and did everything possible to make us "at home" as quickly as possible. I would probably still be wandering around in boxes if it weren't for them. 

SO other than lots of nausea, the past few weeks have not been terrible in the pregnancy department. And finally last week it was time for our first appointment. I was more than a little nervous (stupid worst-case-scenario mind of mine!) but everything went, according to the doctor, "just right." Sounds great to me! (I was also nervous about my doctor but I loved her and sensed that she would never make me feel stupid for asking something, well, stupid.) 

On the way to the appointment! (My fear was actually more about driving than the exam.)

Little alien baby!

McNeese family of three!

Other than keeping up with the size of the baby and his basic development every week, I have read pretty much nothing so far. Most of my friends/family have said that there's no reason to read about all the things that COULD go wrong. (Again, I do just fine at conjuring up worst-case-scenarios on my own.) I'm aware of what I shouldn't be eating, etc. but other than that why torture myself with horror stories? No thanks. 

Overall, I'm still a little in shock (even 11 weeks in) that this is finally happening. For what felt like forever I was really sad every time I saw yet another pregnancy announcement and felt like it would never happen for me (even though I knew why it wasn't, if that makes sense.) But, as many friends who knew of my desire for all those months have reminded me, God's timing is perfect! I was able to tell my family and most of my friends about the pregnancy in person before we moved, I didn't have to switch doctors, I wasn't terribly sick during our move, etc. One of my favorite comments was from my friend Ellen, who simply said, "God knew!" He definitely did! 

So, these days I'm just trying to maintain some semblance of productivity (and by productivity I mean going to the pool "for exercise" and reading a lot.) There have been a few emotional days (pregnancy hormones  + a cross-country move. To quote a favorite movie, "Draw your own conclusions." =) But overall I'm just very, very thankful to be growing this little person (boy, fingers crossed! Jonathan wants a girl, so who knows?) and even more thankful that, once again, God has proven that He is infinitely better at His job than I am. 

Expect updates along the way (you're lucky I haven't chronicled a play-by-play of my sickness but no one deserves that. Maybe I'll write about the way pregnancy has you eating theee most random foods because they're all you can handle. Meanwhile, I haven't wanted coffee pretty much since the day I found all this out, so that's a shame.) 

Thanks again for all the congratulations, sweet comments, etc. Yall are the bomb! I like to think that you're genuinely rooting for me, as opposed to my older sisters who are gleefully waiting with evil grins to watch me experience pain and discomfort along with a crippling lack of sleep. That's my support system, folks. Be jealous! =)


P.S. I would post a "bump" picture but there's really nothing but "oh look she's eaten a lot lately" type stuff to see so maybe soon? Working on it. =) 

Monday, March 9, 2015

Missions Monday: We're Alive (and in Texas!)

My friends! I am still here... albeit writing to you from a VERY different location than ever before. We've lived in Texas now for ten days. It actually feels like longer than that, but maybe that's because my hair, apparently angry with me for leaving North Carolina, went on strike and just now is starting to feel normal again. A week and a half of bad hair days feels like an eternity, am I right? (I am.) But other than my rebellious hair, the moving/settling in process has been a good one. 

I'm SO woefully behind on sharing updates with you guys (bad missionary!) but as of the last time I posted we were still traveling and raising support. About a month ago, we took a trip out to Houston to look for a place to live and for Jonathan to have a job interview. The next weekend we finished up our deputation and began really getting down to business with plans to move in March.

WELL, things had seemed to move fairly slowly and then the pace really picked up when Jonathan got the job (yay!) and found out he'd be starting less than two weeks later. We were thrilled he would be working but that meant everything had to come together really quickly, which it did thanks to lots of help and Jonathan's organizational skills (my worrying and "how will we get it all done?" skills were not much help.) 

That last weekend in Goldsboro was a flurry of packing, goodbye dinners and lunches with friends, digging through old pictures at Mamaw's (because I'm easily distracted) and packing for our road trip (oh, and determing literally three days before we left where we would actually be living. Not nerve-wracking at all!) On our last Sunday at Faith, we had a special commissioning prayer at the end of the service (thanks for making me cry, CP!) and said goodbye to all the wonderful people who have made our transition so great the past few months.

That following Monday (February 23) was loading day, and with the help of family and friends we got the truck loaded. (I say we... a bunch of guys loaded it and I provided them with Chick-fil-A. Sounds like a deal, right?) That day was a what some would call  "a series of unfortunate events." First, the truck place didn't have our truck ready and we had to wait two and a half hours for it to be driven from another location. Then the truck (AFTER being packed with all our stuff) decided to scare us half to death with a warning light that turned out (after hours of waiting on the mechanic and getting home at 2 AM) to be related to the extremely cold temperatures. (In short, the truck was fine... but the very idea of unloading everything was enough to make me sick all night.) 

Finicky little truck.

After that lemon of a day, we pulled out (after a tearful goodbye to Mamaw, and by tearful I really do mean ugly crying!) with a light snow beginning to fall. That "light" snow turned into a blizzard within just a few miles and pounded us all the way out of the state. (North Carolina was apparently angry with us for leaving too.) What is usually a seven-hour trip to my parents' house ended up, with the weather and the truck, being an eleven-hour trip (!!!) but we made it in one piece, which seemed a little like a miracle.

We spent about a day and a half with my family (mostly terrified that the totally premature "state of emergency" in Atlanta meant that we'd be snowed/iced in again) but everything turned out fine... it snowed (very pretty!) but melted before Thursday, when we left around lunchtime. (More tears... I can't see my dad cry. I just can't. My mom is probably offended that I won't say the same about her but she's wasted so many tears on commercials and animated movies over the years that they don't have the same emotional draw. Sorry, Gigi.)

The next two days of travel were the hardest, mostly because we had to move so slowly in our big lumbering moving truck (pulling our car!) but also because the roads were so freakishly bumpy that we were both about to go crazy. It was like constant mini-speed bumps. (So, as fun as you can imagine.) And while Jonathan did a great job with the truck, you can imagine how difficult it was to get that thing in and out of any kind of tight space. (If you want to test the strength of your marriage, drive for nine hours and then spend thirty minutes maneuvering a moving truck and trailer in a hotel parking lot. It will reveal a lot!) 

Last driving day... these smiles really mean, "Get me out of this truck NOW!"

Friday was the last leg (and it may have needed crutches by the end) but we finally (finally!) pulled into Magnolia (our actual town) around 6 PM that night. The Fergusons and some awesome people from church helped unload the truck (up three flights of stairs! THREE!) and then after eating, Jonathan and I collapsed into OUR bed for the first time since last July. (Our bed was in storage... we haven't slept on the floor. Mamaw's got extra beds. =) 

I have to thank my in-laws for helping us with all the moving stuff in Goldsboro- they could be professional movers, I'm convinced- and the Fergusons, who have been a huge help since we've been here. Also, people at church have given us groceries and gift cards and just been super nice. Thanks to everyone who helped us get here, whether through financial support or prayers or encouraging words over the past several months. We definitely didn't do it alone. God has gone before us and we're overwhelmed by His provision. As I watched Jonathan lead children's church yesterday, I was once again reminded of Psalm 37:4, "Delight thyself also in the Lord, and he will give thee the desires of thine heart." Jonathan's dream of helping in a church plant began over a decade ago and has come full circle... I think that's pretty awesome. 

It's the real deal!

SO... so far I really like Texas (especially now that it's made friends with my hair.) It's been crazy, and the past ten days have been filled with getting unpacked, meeting new people, starting a job (for Jonathan), settling in, and learning the area. By learning the area, I mean finding Target and since it's literally across the street, that didn't take long. Yes, I, Ashley McNeese, live across the street- walking distance- from Target. It makes me want to sing, with Maria von Trapp, "Somewhere in my youth or childhood, I must have done something good."


Wednesday, February 4, 2015

My Fangirl Friend

There are a lot of different types of friends. Some people are your "let's chat during Bible study" friends or your "check out this sale!" friends (hi, Jen!) or your deep-talk friends or your philosophizing friends. And even though it's possible to bond over a short period of time, I really cherish those friendships that have had years to deepen. 

When the Foleys came to our church years ago, we quickly realized we were kindred old-movie spirits and hit it off immediately. And every time I come to Georgia, I love spending time with them-a part of my extended "church family" that reminds that this is "home." 

The best kind of friends kind of span the "categories" and that is Claire for me. We can talk about anything (and do) but most importantly she is my fangirl friend. She and I (and Rory) faithfully watched Psych "together" for years, texting quotes and reactions throughout. She and I FaceTimed after the finale (both weeping) and spent an hour analyzing it all. And whenever I need to gush about a book, show, movie, or character, she is my go-to for an always-satisfying level of enthusiasm. Plus she is adorably tender-hearted and tends to cry easily (which is endearing as well as funny.) 

Is it weird that one of my favorite people- and sweetest friends- is sixteen? Oh well. (I'm a little young for my age and she's very mature for hers, soooo.... it all evens out.) Tonight I'm just thankful for friends... old friends, sweet friends, friends who will cry with you while you watch your favorite show, friends you can text at any time with an emoji-filled message about a fictional character and receive an equally hysterical reply... friends like Claire, who is far too grown-up and responsible these days. (Can I say I'm proud? I had nothing to do with her turning out so well, but hey.)

Love to all my friends... and to Claire. On the alpine highway of life, you are my all-weather tires. =)


Monday, February 2, 2015

Missions Monday

When we first started this whole moving-to-Texas process, I contemplated starting a separate blog or Facebook page or whatever for those wanted to keep up with our progress. I decided not to since I already have a blog and I didn't want people to be like, "For crying out loud... Ashley is taking over the internet!" So I've stuck to using my own Facebook or the occasional post here for the same purpose, but now I kind of regret that because there's been so much to share and I don't want every post to be all about our missions stuff (even though it's kind of the biggest thing going on in our lives right now!). ANYWAY, long, pointless story short, I've decided to do missions-themed posts on Mondays (maybe not every Monday, but most, I hope.) Ironically, our deputation is nearly over so it's a little late, but I'm hoping to continue sharing even after we get to Houston... which I think is fine since that is the whole point of the past few months!

So, our service schedule has really picked up since Christmas, mostly recently in the past couple weeks. On Friday, January 23, we left for Nashville (ah, I love that city!) and spent the night with Jonathan's cousins Brandon, Kristen, and Kristen's husband Daniel. We ate at Cheddar's and watched some truly horrifying reality show about a swamp family (?!) and just had a great night. Every time we're there I wish we had more time together... and Daniel is John Krasinski's doppelganger and the closest I'll get to meeting Jim Halpert in real life so obviously we get along splendidly. =) 

The next morning we woke up to snow on the ground (!)... just a little bit, but still... ate breakfast, and then drove over to Green Hills to see my cousin Jonathan and his wife Janie (they work at Nordstrom and I may have had a minor stroke looking at all the designer stuff.) We got to eat lunch with Jonathan and hang out for a little while before he had to go back to work but it was a fun, if too short, visit. THEN we hit the road again to head to Memphis.

I said this Instagram last weekend, but I was a little nervous about our visit to Jonathan's other side of the family. I haven't met his cousins or his aunt since our wedding (which obviously doesn't count since I was in a bride-fog all day) and it's a little weird to meet strangers who happen to be family, you know? But we had such a good time with them. Rachel and Megan are so sweet,,, if I may gush just a little =), they're the kind of girls that make me want to be a better person, honestly. They're awesome! We stayed at Jonathan's grandmother's house for about four days and her husband spoiled us... if nothing else, his cooking was the bomb! 

On Sunday morning, we had a service at Jonathan's grandparent's church in Olive Branch, Mississippi, and Sunday night were in Millington, Tennessee, where we met the man who had been Jonathan's pastor when he was really little (he was there the day Jonathan was born!). We went to dinner with him and his wife and they were a hoot... it was so fun. And the next few days were relaxing... lots of walks, shopping, reading, Netflix... my favorite things. =) 

We left Tennessee on Wednesday morning... on our way to our next service, we were able to meet up for lunch with our friend Eric. We had such a good time catching up and it's always fun to hang out as "adults" (used loosely =) with someone you knew in high school. Then we headed to Dothan, Alabama, for our service at Corinth FWB Church. When we were visiting Houston last May, there was a group from this church at Woodforest and they got the new children's space all ready for use... it was fun to see some of those people again and enjoy seeing some old friends (one all the way back from Guin who said she knew she recognized me because I look just like my dad. Ha!). 

Thursday we headed to Georgia (yay!) and were able to spend the weekend with my family (minus Amanda and Steve... stupid Connecticut!) and had our service at Berean Baptist, my home church for nearly ten years! I was so excited about it and we had a great time sharing our work on Sunday morning. (I say "we" as if I have any part of the presentation which I certainly do not... I did sing with my sisters which should count for something, right?) And then this morning Jonathan headed back to work and I stayed for a few extra days since I won't be able to get down here again for probably a long time. 

I said this on Facebook already today but I really am so proud of Jonathan... this whole journey (love the melodrama of that word!) has not been in his comfort zone. Asking for money and meeting strangers isn't really fun for anyone but if you're an introvert it can be even more stressful, but Jonathan has worked so hard and been so enthusiastic about everything. At least one person at every service has said, "Well, you're really excited about this, aren't you?" and he really is. (I am too, for the record, but I tend to get excited easily so it's not as impressive. Ha!) I can't imagine going through this process with a husband who wasn't so dedicated and at the same time understanding of me and all my limitations (which are many.) He's the best!

So, back to the "missions" part of it all... we have raised some more support in the past couple weeks but we're still about $700 short of what we need in monthly support. (That means if you've been contemplating supporting us, feel free to sign up right HERE... every little bit helps!) I'm not worried because God has provided everything we need up to this point, but obviously he does that through people so... don't be shy if you'd like to be one of those people. =) 

Here are a couple of BIG prayer requests right now: 

-Jonathan has a job interview at Woodforest National Bank next week. Ah! Pray he gets the job!
-Due to the job interview and the fact that we still need to find a place to live, we are flying out to Houston on Saturday. We're super excited about seeing the Fergusons and meeting more people at church on Sunday but we'll have a LOT to do in a couple of days and some big decisions to make so pray for clarity (and sanity, for me.) 
-We're coming down the home stretch of deputation with just a few services left. Pray for a great response and for that last bit of support to come in! 

That's all, folks! As always, thank you, thank you for your support! I'ts hard to be believe we'll be Houston bound in a matter of weeks. (I'm not freaking out, I'm not freaking out, I'm not freaking out.) I promise. Okay, maybe a little. But it's mostly in a good way. You know how calm I am!


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

When High School Boys Read Your Blog

I subbed this week for high school English and one of the boys walked into class and immediately made reference to my "fashion blog." Ha! Not only is this NOT a fashion blog (for reasons documented here) but it's always disconcerting to hear that someone unexpected reads the blog. Finding out a high school boy reads mine was a little weird... I don't care but it does make me rethink the outfit posts, you know? 

BUT a little discomfort never kept me from posting an outfit (too bad, probably) but this week I had a real reason. Even though mine is not a fashion blog, I do read several and over the years Audrey has consistently been a favorite. Her remixing is the very best and honestly I don't think she's ever posted an outfit I wouldn't wear. So when she issued a weekly style challenge for a new series I was totally in! This week the prompt was wearing a bright color, and though sadly you can't see how very bright this skirt is, it's definitely hot pink. 

Oh, and speaking of high school boys (weird sentence... AND girls), I am not much of a blazer wearer but I have been known to toss one on when I sub for high school (or, you know, teach high school, since that used to my job- tears!) since I have been told I have a baby face and teenagers are hard enough to intimidate. Although, my lack of intimidation skills may have less to do with my face and more to do with my endless Disney references. "She loves High School Musical... she's not scary!"

Blazer: Eileen Tracy 
Top: Old Navy (Merry Christmas from Amy!)
Skirt: Belk
Shoes: TJ Maxx (They're my Elphaba shoes!)
Necklace: J.Crew Factory

Since I'm not a real fashion blogger, I get to share incredibly dorky poses like this.
Smooth, right? I wonder why people aren't asking me for posing tutorials.

I bought this necklace in the fall and let my mom borrow it and after weeks of her begging me for it, I finally bought it for her for Christmas. Nothing says cool like twinning with your mom. (Can you blame her for begging, though? It's so pretty!) 

If this post is a little all over the place it's because I haven't had caffeine all day and feel a little like my head's going to explode. I've tried being strong and it's just not working so I'm off to drink some coffee. Nothing rewards failure like peppermint mocha creamer, am I right? 


P.S. Linked up with Audrey

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Can't Stop Won't Stop

I've always been a creature of habit- really though, aren't we all?- but lately there are a few things that I have been reaching for over and over again, whether to wear, eat, drink...etc. You get it. Hence the title (^) of this post. This week, I've played favorites and "can't stop, won't stop" with the following:

Wearing: these sneakers from Target. I'm a little obsessed with all things quilted right now. Also, they're still full price online but I got them 50% in store so check your local Future Home of All Your Money.

Eating: okay, I can't help myself. I have a favorite candy for every holiday. At Christmas, it's candy cane Hershey kisses, Easter is Cadbury mini-eggs, Halloween is Reese's pumpkins, and Valentine's Day is these. And they totally don't taste like the other conversation arts (aka like CHALK. Bleh.)

Wearing II: April got me this bracelet for Christmas and a box of letters 

Drinking: Chick-fil-A coffee. Sooo good. The creamer is killing me but that's a sacrifice I'm willing to make.

Listening to: This soundtrack. Stephen Sondheim is a genius, I'm obsessed with Anna Kendrick's voice, and well, it's just great. I love it. Jonathan is less than thrilled to have the songs stuck in HIS head but hey... "the family that obsessively plays music over and over together stays together" is a well-known proverb.

Loving: this awesome, awesome mug from my friend Emma's shop. (She made it for me because she knows me SO well and she's the best.) Check out her cute stuff or let her know if you need anything customized. 

I'm not saying I want credit if you get hooked on any of this stuff, but... I better get it. Enjoy, friends!


Sunday, January 18, 2015

Ten Years

Ten years ago today, my sister Amy and I got up early in the morning. My parents drove us to the San Jose International Airport, my dad walked us to the gate, and then I stood and watched him (through my own tears) weep while his two youngest girls got on a plane to fly across the country alone to live with their grandparents for nearly a month and to start at a brand new school (in the middle of the year) only two days later. Our family was together when suddenly we were being flung thousands of miles apart. 

The events that led up to that day were less than ideal... to be honest, they were awful. I really don't even want to dignify them with an explanation of the details. They're a decade old and why rehash sad memories? I have to mention them briefly only because they were the cause of the rest of the story, but this post is about what happened next.

Amy and I traveled all day. I wore a green and yellow track jacket from American Eagle. I held tightly to the cards and scrapbook made for me by the friends I had just tearfully said goodbye to the night before, after a basketball game and a trip to Taco Bell. Neither Amy nor I had a cellphone so I had to attempt to use a payphone during our layover (unsuccessfully) and then very reluctantly ask to borrow a stranger's cellphone so we could let our parents know we were okay. Looking back, I think I was a terrible sister because I don't remember checking on Amy or comforting her... maybe I did, but more than likely I was too wrapped up in my own teenage heartbreak to notice if she was upset. We finally arrived at Raleigh Durham Airport late that night, where Justin, our good family friend, was waiting. I had never been so relieved to see a familiar face in my life. The next day we went out to dinner with Uncle Mike and Aunt Lisa, and Sunday is a total blur. Even though being with Mamaw and Papaw was comforting, I just remember a mixture of fear, anger, sadness, and anxiety. 

At fifteen, I thought that my entire world was falling apart. I guess technically it was... leaving all my friends and everything I was involved in- sports, youth group, music- and leaving the Silicon Valley to move 3,000 miles away to a reeeeally small town and a school full of what I snobbishly considered rednecks who wore the ugliest shoes I'd ever seen (Sperry Topsiders, actually... and of course now I own several pairs.) 

I vividly remember waking up the following Monday and feeling like I would suffocate from the feeling of dread at the thought of facing all those people I didn't know at school (thank goodness for my cousins Stephen and Kailyn, but they weren't even in my class. A whole day full of strangers!) I know I'm not exactly shy, but really... a fast-talking girl from the West Coast stood out just a little bit. I lay in bed and just prayed that the Lord would get me through the day. 

And you know what? I got through the day. I got through all the following days... and over the next few weeks and months, I made some of the best memories of my life. All the stress, fear, and uncertainty that characterized our last few months in California vanished as I thrived in a brand-new environment where people loved on my family. I made the best memories, played softball (badly), sang my first solo (thanks, KD), became friends with my future best friend (hi, Brookie!), and developed an important, lasting crush on my future husband (that ended very well.) Even though I attended and worked at Faith for several years later on, that season cemented it as "home" in my mind. Our family was taken in, loved, and allowed to heal while spending precious time with family. It was an oasis after a desert, and we are still thankful for it.

I can't believe it's been ten years since we left, since our family went through such a painful time, or since I truly experienced God's goodness and faithfulness for the first time. I missed my friends and life in California so badly- and I still miss those friends- but I've thought many times about what our lives would look like if we'd stayed. I wouldn't have made the dozens and dozens of friends I have now. Our family wouldn't have gone to Georgia, where more best friends (Sara!!) were made and countless relationships formed through the years at Berean. I wouldn't have attended Southeastern. I wouldn't have been able to sing in Faith's choir or have a regular order at Rudy's or wear Sperrys. I wouldn't have been able to spend precious time with Papaw in the last few years he was with us. Most of all, I would never have become friends with or had a crush on or eventually married Jonathan. And for that matter, I wouldn't be moving to Texas!

I'm still learning this lesson, but I'm thankful that God showed me early on that His love is real. He gave me parents who didn't allow our view of the ministry to be destroyed by a hard experience. He gave us friends who loved us through those six months of change and culture shock. He allowed me to have teachers who remain mentors to this day. He put me on the same side of the country- in the same school!- as the boy I'd marry. My plan and His weren't even remotely similar, and a decade ago I would have given anything to stick to my plan. But, as usual, His turned out so much better. 

Ten years ago today, my life changed in a big way. I miss California... I miss San Francisco, I miss the weather, I miss Santa Cruz bonfires, I miss the A's and the Giants and the Warriors. I miss Jamba and Premier Pizza and Baja Fresh. I miss Rivermark and Montague Park. I miss Bears games and doing the stats for the Bulldogs. I miss garlic fries and lumpia and nachos and 7-11. I miss Camp Lucerne and the Youth Extravaganza. I miss all the older boys who stood up for me when the boys my age picked on me (and I miss those boys too.) I miss Syndee, Jenn, Gabe, Greg, Jordan, Stephen, Sammy, Allen, Paul, Jessica, Kim, Josh, James, Evelyn, Georgette, Kenny, Jake, Amber, Justine, Alisha, Matt, and Monica. I miss Mr. Carey and Miss Schweitzer, the Freds, walking to school, the neighborhood shuttle, and Youth Hour. I miss a time in my life where I made so many friends and had so many wonderful experiences. I'm so thankful for that brief time. Even though some memories aren't so happy, there are plenty of good ones.

One of my favorite songs by Mark Hall really sums it up best: 

"If your eyes are on the storm, you'll wonder if I love you still, 
But if your eyes are on the cross, you'll know I always have and I always will. 
And not a tear is wasted; in time you'll understand.
 I'm painting beauty with the ashes; your life is in my hands."

 I'm so, so grateful that the Lord took something terrible and turned it into something amazing... truly "beauty from ashes." I would never have dreamed that a decade later, I'd be thanking God for turning my life upside down as a teenager, but I am. See, Squints? Everything turned out just fine. =)