Don’t Ya Wanna Be Happy?

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As I realize we are already almost in August, I sit back and think about the days of the past few months. Sometimes we have really amazing days, most days seem to be just okay and of course, we have those days where nothing seems to be in our favor.

I’ve had a TON of those days lately. Even when I try to proclaim the day and change my mindset, it seems I just can’t change the pattern of my days lately.

I got tired of being the same. Of things not changing. So instead of staying stuck in how I feel, I have decided to get out of the WAY for the next 6 months. To allow Jesus to move in my life and take me down the roads I need to be on.  But I know this will only truly work if deep down I WANT to be happy and joyful.

Some people are satisfied with constantly having mediocre days and be consistently pessimistic. You KNOW those people. Someone is coming to your mind right now. Once I caught on to the fact that nothing could change until I understood I had to step out of the way and allow Him to do the work.

A few things I need to remember as I embark on my next 6 months that I thought you might find helpful as well:

  1. You are NEVER too far away. Stop listening to the voice that says you’re too far gone because that is a lie. The Lord wants nothing more than for you to come running to him!
  2. Invite others in. Having a group of girls who know you and can consistently push you towards Christ is the biggest blessing and a crucial part of one’s walk.
  3. This sounds elementary and maybe old school and boring, but I’ve seen it in my own life and countless others. The main way to grow in your faith is to study the word of God daily. Not just a devotional. The actual bible. It is life-giving, transformative, and so much more than a collection of old stories you’ve grown up knowing by heart. I’m working on Without Rival by Lisa Bevere and the Unshakeable devotional currently.

 

A BIG part of this journey is remembering that every single day won’t be PEACHY. That there are days that will still get the best of me. But that’s okay. Because I will be fine in the end.

 

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The Thief of Joy

 

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More than 80% of women…

believe they’re not good enough.
feel they don’t measure up in some way.
are sure they fall short when it comes to their looks, success in business and relationships.

80% of us!

Yep. I am one of them. As a young woman, the comparison game is real. From real life to scrolling through my Instagram feed there’s always someone who appears happier than me, skinnier than me or more successful in their career than me.

Even the most confident of us still play the comparison game in our minds.

You have to let go of both “more than” and “less than” in order to be free. Easier said than done right?

We’re all here for a reason, we’re each moving along on our journeys with perfect timing, and you are meant to make a difference in this world like only you can.

When your ex starts a dating a girl that is just “so much prettier than you” (not possible), your boss mentions how the person before you did a better job, or you try on your new swimsuit and it doesn’t fit on you quite like the size 0 model online, remember you value simply because you exist.

Comparison is the thief of joy.

There are days that this could not feel further from the truth for me. Days I wake up and feel incomplete, crushed by the world and my own insecurities. I’ve found myself in those moments, where I believe I’m simply falling behind everyone else who appears to have it all figured out.

Why is it so easy for me to silence the inner knowing that I’m actually capable and great?

Because I’m human. And I’m pretty sure you are, too!

These ideas, that’s all they are CRAZY ideas, are ruining our lives.

Everyday we have a choice:

Will I make choices in my life from “not good enough” and “she’s better than me”?

When you’re struggling the most with shame and self-doubt, try to remember that you’re not alone, and that no matter what television ads, and your old high school bullies, and the mean voices in your head may say, you are enough as you are. Right now.

I am so much more than what they allowed themselves to see. I am more than they could see. And I’m probably more than they could handle. I am so much more than what I have been conditioned to believe. I am enough.

You are enough. You are a thousand times enough.

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The B Word

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As many of you know, I recently entered the world of non-profit work. I have been with this organization for two whole months now. Time goes by quickly when you’ve got work to do and lives to change.

In the communications industry, people tend to shy away from nonprofit work. They tend to only focus on the amount of work, but never the impact of our work. As a staff of four amazing women currently, the workload can be intense as we set out to improve the quality of life for all children in the state of Alabama. But at the end of every day, I know the work I put in is for the greater good — and for that very reason it is all worth it.

In the organization I work in, we try not to say the word busy. We instead are diligently working, actively engaged in our work, engrossed in the issues our children are facing or just plain HUSTLIN’.

So, for the past two months, I have been trying to shy away from the word busy. We are so caught up in this lifestyle of being busy, heck, we even make it seem glamorous. We get so busy we don’t have time for the things that matter most — loved ones, our relationship with God, self care and a good night’s sleep.

Maybe you’re a type-A overachiever. Or maybe you inevitably end up with a to-do list that won’t end. These days, just about all of us accept our busyness with combination of pride and exhaustion.

Busyness brings worry. The more I worry, the less I look at Jesus and more and more at my situation. Instead of saying “God, I have a lot on my plate right now and I could use your strength to help me get through today,” I rely on my strength. Worldly strength that tends to get me nowhere but burnt out, tired and falling asleep on my laptop in bed (who am I kidding, I do this always).

Busy can beat upon us like a drum. When those closest to us have stopped asking for our time, it’s because they know we are too busy for them. That’s crushing to the heart. We all need “waiting” time, whether we think we do or not. Waiting time is when we say adamantly, “It can wait!” and we step back and do what is really important.

I’m here to remind you (and myself) not to get caught up in the kind of busy that edges out intentional living. Sometimes your busiest, hardest-working, least-restful periods of your life are not your most purposeful, or even most productive.

I know deep within my heart that being overloaded is a way for the enemy to distract me from those most precious to me. The storm that rages inside me is shouting, “Slow Down!” and demands my attention. But if I heed that call, the Creator of peace will shower me with a peace that surpasses all understanding if I just trust him. The fragrance of grace and mercy will overflow in me when I come to peace with being less busy.

One thing I have to remember on a daily basis is that wait is not an ugly word and “busy” is not a spiritual gift. After all, God says in Psalm 46:10, “Be still, and know that I am God.” Isn’t being still waiting? When you have a personality like mine, it’s hard to be still, but it is only during those moments alone with God that I can truly feel a peace that surpasses all understanding. Busy is the enemy of joy. Busy steals precious time. Busy robs my blessings.

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To Tuscaloosa, With Love

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As you’re reading this, I’m packing all my belongings (yes I have far too many for a woman who lives alone) into a UHAUL and embarking on my latest adventure of moving back to my hometown. Many years ago, I said I couldn’t see myself moving back to Greenville. How would I ever use my degree and make an impact? But here we are now. God works in mysterious ways.

Tuscaloosa, you’ve been home for FIVE whole years now. You will always hold a special place in my heart. I came here to step out of my comfort zone and boy did I. Tuscaloosa, I found myself within my time here. Between the long hours in school, your never ending traffic and many cups of coffee- I found who God called me to be.

It’s here that I learned to live on my own and assume grown up responsibilities. Here is where I learned to be comfortable in my own skin and being alone-quite literally as I lived alone for the first time. I gained knowledge and not just that from a degree. It’s where I took my first “adult” job. I experienced heartbreak and the joys that come from making new friends. I discovered my love for red wine and a good latte-drinking too much of both over the last few years. I found comfort in a church that allowed me to raise my hands and worship freely as I always longed to. I turned away from God and then felt his embrace as I ran back into His arms.

It’s here where I discovered I wanted to make an impact with my skills and talents. God placed that longing on my heart to lead my to my next career move. Tuscaloosa, your sunsets will always be the prettiest, your traffic cones that never seem to go away will always be annoying, and your sense of community will go with me wherever I am.

I will absolutely be back to visit, but for now it’s a see you soon. I’m taking my love with me, but a little piece of my heart will always belong to you Ttown.

With love,

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Date Night

Words are my love language. But quality time comes in at a close second. Although my boyfriend and are technically long distance, I am grateful we get to spend a good amount of time together weekly. I cherish our time together always, even if we’re just watching an old movie I’ve never seen and he’s filling me in on what’s going on.

Sometimes I enjoy something a little different than the normal however. I like date nights. They don’t always have to be to nice restaurants-but it is fun to get dressed up more than normal for the night!

He surprised me by taking me to a steakhouse we’ve been talking about going to forever. I had seen pictures of the steak and potatoes and they were drool-worthy. So we made the drive and it was absolutely worth it. Plus it gave me the chance to dress up in a few new things from my favorite local boutique, True South.

I picked up an open back sweater and a brown corduroy skirt I had been eyeing on their Instagram for a while. I paired it with these Target over the knee boots and it worked perfectly for dinner and meeting up with friends later. (Photo creds to my sweet boyfriend)

What’s your favorite date night activity?

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Cold Weather Comfort Food

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It’s been unusually cold here in Alabama lately. So cold, I don’t even get that warm and fuzzy feeling from my coffee in the mornings. For a while, it didn’t even feel cold enough to wear sweaters. Now I can’t layer enough clothing to stay warm.

I don’t know about you, but this kind of weather makes me want to just stay in and cuddle up in my favorite chair with a fuzzy blanket and watch Hulu. Typically I will muster up the energy to brave the cold and go to the gym after work. There’s no better motivation to get through a good workout than knowing you have dinner waiting and ready for you at home. Y’all know what I’m talking about-using your CrockPot. 

Slow cookers are the easiest way to have dinner done when you come home after a long day. Or for mamas who are so busy chasing babies they don’t have time to cook a full meal. Or for basically anyone. If you don’t have a slow cooker, go get one now.

My go-to recipe for this time of year is a Chicken Taco Chili. I love it and it’s been a hit with many others I have made it for. Pair it with crescent rolls or garlic knots and you’ve got yourself the perfect comfort meal.

Ingredients

  • 1 16-oz can black beans
  • 1 16-oz can kidney beans
  • 1 16-oz can tomato sauce
  • 2 14.5-oz cans diced tomatoes w/chilies
  • 2 small cans of corn kernels
  • 1 packet taco seasoning
  • 3-4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • Half of one onion chopped (option)

Combine all the ingredients and seasoning (I throw in salt, pepper, garlic powder, etc… Basically whatever I’m feeling or know I like.) Place the chicken breasts on top and cover. Cook on low for 8 hours or high for 6. A little before serving, remove chicken and shred. Return chicken to slow cooker and stir in. Top with fresh cilantro, shredded cheese, and/or sour cream.

It might be one of the easiest/cheapest/tastiest recipes I keep in my favorites. Plus it lasts me for days which is great for a girl on a budget!

Give it a try and let me know what you think!

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New Year, New Me?

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As 2017 comes quickly to a close, (no really, where did this year even go?), and I begin to think about 2018 and my goals and dreams for the year, the things I want to happen, the relationships I want to flourish, the tasks I want to cross of my list, God is telling me to slow down. He’s telling me to slow down because a year from now I’ll be sitting here writing the same thing. Wondering where the year has gone while I look back on photos of the memories this year holds.

You see, it is so easy to get caught up in the list making, the telling God what you want or need to happen, the thoughts that sound something like, “If only this could happen in 2018, I will be truly happy.”

Trust me, I did it about five minutes ago. I know where you’re coming from. This year has been a year of change and learning. Learning a lot about myself. Learning that the joys in this life come from the people you share the simple, small things with. Joy doesn’t come from getting a new home or a big raise. It comes within the day to day moments spent drinking your favorite coffee or seeing your sweet baby take their first steps.

God is telling me “I bless you far more than you dare to ask.” See God has a good sense of humor. As I write my monthly goals, budgets, and to-do lists for the upcoming year, He’s laughing because he knows He already has every single item already checked off the list. God is telling me He’s going to bless me with things I couldn’t even fathom to scribble in my 2018 planner. Things and people and moments I will never know I needed until God places them in my life. All my worries and concerns are already taken care of for the next year, God has already worked them out before they even settled into my heart.

Now I’m not saying anyone is in the wrong for planning what you want to achieve in the next year or setting resolutions-nope, not at all. But I am telling you God has spoken peace over every single thing already.

This year has brought some amazing things my way-most importantly some amazing people that bring my life so much joy and laughter. I get caught up in stress and boy do I forget to cherish them and all they do for my life. I don’t give them, or God, enough credit for the impact they’ve made on my life.

Friends, instead of spending your last few days of this year huddled over the budget sheets and color coded lists, worrying about how to become the “new you,” relax and relish in all that God has done for you this year-both big and small. All the times you felt like you were never going to see the other side of that dark hole, but here you are, on the other side. See God doesn’t need or want there to be a new you, He loves us just as we are.

Sit back, because God has your back and He’s going to bless you far more than you could ever imagine in 2018. Don’t dread the start of a new year, be thrilled to tackle it with God by your side.  I am so excited to see what He has in store for myself and each of you.

 

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College Exams

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It’s that time of year. Yes the holiday season. But also time for college exams. Whether you’re a freshman or senior, every semester when final exams roll around, the stress is still there. You would think as you get older, you would feel more prepared. But as the classes get harder, so do the exams. If you’re anything like me, you might let the stress get to you. When I’m stressed, I am STRESSED. Here are a few things I used over the years to make it through the dreaded finals week.

  • Write out every exam. Whether it be a test or presentation or final paper, write it in your calendar just as you would any social event.
  • Write out each chapter covered on the exam as well any articles and PowerPoints, or book chapters going to be covered on the exam. Then, see how many days before the exam and divvy up the chapters and PowerPoints and articles evenly to look over and study.
  • Index cards. You’ve probably been using these since high school, but they’re also good for managing your days. Make each index card into one day. Use them to keep track of meetings, class times, phone meetings, due dates, and daily to-dos.  It’s easy to pull out the stack of cards and see if you have time to schedule a study session at Starbucks or not. And for some reason, having separate cards (as opposed to one spread per week in an agenda) makes you realize how much time I actually have to work on things.  Basically, it keeps things in perspective.
  • Make sure your desk (or study space) is organized. Keep your laptop, glasses, iPad, index cards, and Sour Patch kids (anything but chocolate) within reach.
  • Take a break (that doesn’t involve eating food). Many times while studying, I would get bored and just start snacking for no reason. I’d walk to the kitchen, grab the snack, walk back to my desk, and inevitably continue working while eating whatever snack I chose. That really doesn’t even count technically as a break! Give yourself a manicure, go for a walk, read a (non-school related) book. Definitely avoid napping and online shopping during breaks.
  • Use an app to lock you out of apps on your phone or sites on your computer that you don’t need to be on while studying or writing a paper.

I could give you all the tips and tricks in the world, but the most important to remember is your identity isn’t in making an A+ on every project, presentation, and final exam. If you don’t make that A+, it is not the end of the world (although it will feel like it for a little while). Your identity is in your purpose here on Earth and the greater things you’ll do to further the Kingdom of God. So color code your planner, get a good Spotify playlist going, and grab a good cup of coffee (or two) and get to studying!

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#blessed

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Why is it we center all of our feelings of thankfulness and count our blessings only around this time of year? What happened to the rest of the year? All the other weeks, days, and seconds spent living here on Earth? Why is it only the holidays bring out those feelings and thoughts?

I’m sitting here guilty as charged. I spend life go, go going and rarely stopping to thank God for the blessings in my everyday life. The people, my job, a warm place to sleep at night, food in my fridge, my health, etc… When I think back on where my life was a year ago compared to now, I’m thankful for the progress and change that has happened. I’ve graduated college, almost spent an entire year with my current company, started dating an amazing man, and made some really wonderful friends along the way. Even through the bumps and the bruises, He has blessed me abundantly.

So why are we not counting our blessings daily? In between what we consider “big” miracles, a lot of good things are happening around us and to us daily. If we started counting our everyday, messy lives as blessings, what a different perspective we may have. A joyful perspective. If we started thanking God for the food in front of us, the car that gets us to our 9-5, and the moments just spent sitting around watching football with the ones we love while our favorite soup cooks away in the Crockpot in the kitchen, we’d see that every day, every moment is a miracle. Everyday should feel #blessed.

If our perspective changes and aligns this way, it makes the tough days much, much easier. When we start to see everything as a blessing, the days that the we can’t catch up on the emails or we get hit with an unexpected bill, you see the bigger picture versus getting caught up in that small “tragedy” all day.

I try not to get on any social media for the first hour or so after I wake up. This can be tricky, since social media is my job. If the first thing you do every morning is scroll through Facebook or check Snapchat and Instagram, it will have you feeling defeated about your day before you even roll out of bed. Someone or something will have you feeling like you’re job, house, family, significant other, or just yourself is not enough. This turns into feeling like you need something different or something more. By staying off my personal social media for a little while, I can focus on what’s really important. I recommend the first 5 app first thing in the morning- yes, that’s only FIVE minutes of your time to get your mind right for the day.

I challenge you to thank God for one thing every morning before you crank your car. Keep a sticky note on your steering wheel or dash to remind you. It will set the mood for your whole day and align your perspective with His.

Let’s be a generation of people who thank God every day for this life, not just the ones who do it once a year. Let’s be a generation of people who are thankful for the mess that life can be and never compare our blessings to the those around us.

 

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Anonymous

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Do you ever feel hidden? Maybe you’ve moved to a new place, started a new school, accepted a new job. No one sees the extra hours you’re putting in at work or all the effort you put in around your house. Have you ever entered into a new season of life? Where you shifted from being recognized to feeling unknown. When we enter hidden seasons, we can be concealed for months or years and our potential seems to go into hibernation. We don’t know if spring will ever come and awaken us again. You may feel like you have so much more to give and be, but no one can see it but you.

There is one who can see it however. God himself. The beauty He sees in you doesn’t diminish by the season you’re in. Whether we enter hiddenness by our own deliberation (relocating for a new job) or unwillingly (grief following the loss of a loved one), we can spend years feeling that the greatest part of us is submerged in the unseen. Everyone can see only see the tip of the iceberg we really are.

We must remember the most influential person in all of history spent ninety percent of his life hidden. Only ten percent of His life was spent in the public eye. Yet all of his life He was and still is absolutely indestructible.  We know practically nothing about Jesus’ first 29 chapters of His life. Eighteen years after Jesus gets in trouble for staying in the temple, Jesus emerges from his hiddenness by the Jordan River for chapter 30.

When we say we want to “live like Jesus” most of us don’t mean the hidden years. We don’t want to spend 90% of our lives living anonymously. But Jesus embraced a life of hiddenness. These years empowered Him to live an eternally fruitful life.

Let’s consider human conception. Our lives commence in the darkness of the womb. We are knitted together but concealed. Unseen? Yes. Unimportant? Absolutely not. If this hidden phase of development is prematurely interrupted, the results can be tragic. From God’s perspective, anonymous seasons are sacred spaces. They are to be rested in, not rushed through and most definitely never regretted. Not applauded but not unproductive: hidden years are the surprising birthplace of true spiritual greatness.

In moments where I am tempted to wait on the “main” course of this life. You know, the “when we get married” or “when we start a family” or “when I get my master’s degree,” I remember that my time is not some filler. God waste’s no man’s time. To Him, every “course” in our life is the main course.

Let’s imagine something for a second. Jesus had God’s divine power and calling within him every day. He woke up each morning and lived in his town unnoticed for a long time. He was not free to proclaim his mission or destiny. Everyone else was only seeing the tip of the iceberg of who He was. Most of us struggle if our callings or dreams are delayed a year, much less twenty! But in anonymous seasons, we must hold tightly to the truth that Jesus was strengthened through his hidden years. Father God is neither care-less or cause-less with how He spends our lives. When He calls us to greatness and obscurity at the same time-if we wait for it- we can change the world.

In hidden years, we may press the question of whom we will let hold the clock for the rest of our lives. When God’s timing is not our timing, whose timing will we choose? Ultimately the answer to that question depends on whom we really trust. You have to decide Father always knows best, God’s ways are perfect, and that He is never, ever late.

If you feel hidden, you are in excellent company. Savor the season and its potential. When graced with hidden years, wait because He is worth it. Keep the waters of your spirit joyful and be still while you grow.

Recently, I started doubting why I had started blogging in the first place. I felt I wasn’t reaching anyone with my words. I felt anonymous. Just a few days later, I received a letter in the mail from someone who had read my blog and appreciated the words I wrote. It reminded me when God places a calling and talent on you, He will be faithful to grow you right where you are.

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Sweater Weather

I am already thinking about Fall weather and all that comes with it. The pumpkin patches, crockpot soup recipes, and wearing cozy sweaters! Even though the weather isn’t quite cool enough yet, I had to grab this sweater when I saw it! It’s simple, but can be paired with a lot of different things. The best part about it? It’s monogrammed! Southern ladies, rejoice!!

For the first look, I paired it with my favorite ripped jeans, a plaid flannel, and booties. This look is perfect for grabbing dinner with some friends or even casual Fridays at work. Lipstick: Maybelline Color Blur in “Plum Please.” One of my favorite fall colors and it’s super inexpensive! View More: http://kristenelizabethphotographie.pass.us/angela-thomas-blog-picturesView More: http://kristenelizabethphotographie.pass.us/angela-thomas-blog-picturesView More: http://kristenelizabethphotographie.pass.us/angela-thomas-blog-pictures

The next look screams a fun date night like a country concert or a walk through the pumpkin patch. I think I’m going to wear this one when JD takes me to the state fair in a few weeks. Hopefully the weather will cooperate by then. Plus its an oversized sweater, meaning I can eat a funnel cake (or two). Winning! I paired the same sweater with a pair of denim shorts and my trusty (and worn out) cowboy boots. View More: http://kristenelizabethphotographie.pass.us/angela-thomas-blog-picturesView More: http://kristenelizabethphotographie.pass.us/angela-thomas-blog-picturesView More: http://kristenelizabethphotographie.pass.us/angela-thomas-blog-picturesView More: http://kristenelizabethphotographie.pass.us/angela-thomas-blog-pictures

The last look is for those days when you’re running errands, doing laundry, and grabbing coffee in between. I threw the same sweater on with a pair of leggings and a comfy pair of duck boots. These boots are especially good for those chilly, rainy days that Fall brings. View More: http://kristenelizabethphotographie.pass.us/angela-thomas-blog-picturesView More: http://kristenelizabethphotographie.pass.us/angela-thomas-blog-picturesView More: http://kristenelizabethphotographie.pass.us/angela-thomas-blog-pictures

MarleyLilly also has wonderful customer service. I messed up my monogram (am I even a Southern woman?!) and thankfully realized it before it was shipped. They helped me get everything fixed with no problems. Let me know your favorite part about Fall in the comments!

Since this post is a little different than my normal, I still want to remind you to choose joy today! We’ve almost made it to Friday!! Do something that makes you happy today. Whether it be grabbing a donut or your favorite iced coffee (or BOTH) and maybe pick one up for a friend too!

Thanks for reading!

*If you’re in the market for a talented and amazingly sweet photographer, send Kristen a message! She makes me look SO good!

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Hugs

Do y’all like hugs? My sister doesn’t. She’s one of those people. She cringes up when you grab her in a big ole’ hug (I’m sure she’ll love me telling y’all that). As long as I can remember, she’s been that way. The rest of my family however, we’re the hugging kind.

Hugs transfer energy and gives someone an emotional lift. It can say things you just don’t  have the words for.

Sometimes you just need to give a hug. Or to receive one. Someone gets married? Give em’ a hug? Haven’t seen your best friend in forever? Give em’ a hug. When someone dies? You offer their family and friends hugs.

Next week marks the anniversary of a season of grief my family and I entered into. A season where we got used to a lot of hugs. Between the funerals and visiting with family and friends, it was one after another.

One year ago, my feisty grandmother, Dorothy passed away. One of my fondest memories of her is when I would get to her house and she would be sitting in her old, worn down chair that’s probably been there since before I was born, with an afghan across her lap and she’d say “Come here and give me a hug, AJ.” Before I’d leave, she would say the same thing. Her hugs felt like home. They were warm and comforting.

One month after her death, my precious niece passed away. My sister, you know- the one who hates hugs, had to get used to them quickly. We had spent days together before the funeral and hadn’t exchanged a single hug. But after the services, I walked up to her crying and she just embraced me. That’s something I will remember forever.

The very next month, my Grannie- Miss Virginia, went to Heaven as well. Her hugs felt like Sunday mornings and Christmas dinner all wrapped into one.

Just a few days ago, a high school classmate passed away in a tragic car accident. Our small class of forty people gathered together. Most of us hadn’t seen each other in years. We came together to celebrate his life. We came together to comfort each other. At the graveside service, his brother spoke words I will remember for the rest of my life. He said recently, they had exchanged one of four hugs in their entire lifetime-something he would cherish forever.

I’d give a lot to hug those people one last time. I challenge you today, to hug someone you love. To give them one of those hugs that you’d remember forever if you never saw them again here on this earth. You know the kind I’m talking about.

Sometimes in the middle of darkness, it’s hard to see the other side. But as a child of God, we have to remember, the battle is the Lord’s. There is joy in the middle of sorrow. There is peace in the storm. There is hope for tomorrow. Even as the storm of tragedy and grief are raging around you, stand and know you have not and never will be forsaken.

Who brings light to the morning? It’s no other than God, and as surely as the sun rises, God will come and bring joy and peace.

 

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