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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Thanksgiving All Year: 261-280

I'm considering changing the name of my blog to "Forever Behind" hahaha. Maybe it's actually a GOOD thing that I'm always running behind lately, because that indicates I'm out living my life. Right? Sure. We'll go with that.

So now, in making up two week's worth of thanks-giving, today I am thankful...

261. For seeing God answering specific prayers I have been praying over the past couple months.

262. For relaxing movie nights at Judy's.

263. For my recent rediscovery of Genghis Grill. Veggies galore! YUM!

264. That God is sovereign, that my failures won't thwart His plan, that He IS in fact transforming my mind despite my mistakes, and that every mistake I make has the potential of preventing me from making a worse one in the future!

265. For an AWESOME time seeing Mat Kearney in concert last week with Jessie! For some reason I had relatively low expectations but he FAR exceeded them all!! I loved how much energy he and his band had as well as how much he interacted with the crowd! It was a great time!

266. That our young adults fellowship group is seeing momentum through faithful attendance, thought-provoking group discussions about how to Biblically BE the Body of Christ, and time to just enjoy each other.

267. That almost all of my favorites made it into the Top 24 on American Idol and that so many of this year's contestants are believers!!! It's shaping up to be an exciting season!

268. For more humorous (and humble) moments from my favorite, Hee Jun Han.

269. For days when I can go straight home from work.

270. That most of the days I DON'T go straight home from work, I'm going somewhere I WANT to be!

271. For our new printer at work which is SO MUCH faster, higher quality, and more user-friendly than our previous one!

272. For a fun Friday afternoon/evening with Ashley ~ walking the marina, having dinner at In-N-Out, watching Olan Rogers videos while enjoying some ice cream from Baskin Robbins, and seeing a movie for the price of $4 each (when it normally would have cost $11 each)! It's been a while since we had a whole night of fun like that!

273. For Olan Rogers... His humor is a little off-the-wall, but I think he's hilarious, and he's also a believer! Win-win!

274. That after God put Exodus 14:14 on my heart during my time with Him one morning last week, I came across this image on Facebook Saturday... I love when He confirms what He's been speaking to me!

275. For ample time with Erin and Caleb on Saturday!

left: "milk coma" ~ center: smiling at his daddy
~ right: "cheering" lol

276. For great encouragement through a discussion about Paul and Barnabas in our young adults group on Sunday morning.

277. For my Sunday night Bible study with Teri, Cass, and Rachel.

278. For Arrested Development. This show is completely absurd. It has its crass moments but the use of wordplay is brilliant! Makes me laugh out loud. I bought season three on sale a few years ago without ever having seen an episode, but after watching it again recently I finally decided to complete the series by ordering seasons one and two from Amazon last week. Yay!


279. For increasing PEACE as I'm learning to take God at His Word and trust Him, whether I can see evidence of His work in my current circumstances or not!

280. For an AMAZINGLY productive Monday. Even after sleeping in for a bit and spending time with God, I managed to do 30 minutes of pilates, do a home hair treatment, clean my bathroom, trim my nails, shower, dry and straighten my hair, trim my hair, empty the dishwasher, watch this week's Amazing Race with my mom while we ate lunch, make homemade soup and energy balls for my lunches this week, bake homemade cookies for our fellowship group, wash my sheets and towels, remake my bed, and wash my shower curtain. WHEW! I was exhausted by the end of the day, but in a really good way!

It has REALLY been a good couple of weeks. That's not to say I haven't had some low moments, because trust me, I have. But GOD IS GOOD, and He is not only sustaining me but also BLESSING me with peace and joy as I learn to trust Him more!! Really, there is no better place to be! I pray you're finding peace and joy as you trust Him, too!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Thanksgiving All Year: 241-260

Guess who's a week behind AGAIN?! I started working on LAST week's post in the middle of last week, but I never finished it; and now here I am at the weekend again which means it's time for a whole new list when I haven't even completed the last one! Ahhh, story of my life! Anyway, I'm getting caught up in one fell swoop today! Yea!

My aunt's church in Florida has been participating in a "No Complaining Challenge," and she has been forwarding me the e-mails her pastor is sending to the congregation to encourage them during the challenge. In one of his recent e-mails, he said the following:
We don't realize that when the Bible says "Do everything without complaining and grumbling" it really does mean EVERYTHING. The reason we shouldn't complain is because it is not good for us. We might think it makes us feel better but it really drives a wedge between us and God because we no longer can see and appreciate His blessings and what He is doing in our lives 
This is one of the great things about practicing gratitude by finding 10 things to be thankful for each week... It helps me to focus on God's blessings and what He is doing in my life instead of getting caught up in discontentment!

With that said, this week I am thankful...

241. That I have gotten to spend LOTS of quality time with my nephew over the past couple weeks, sometimes holding him for hours at a time!! Joy of joys! (This has meant a lot more quality time with my brother and sister-in-law than I've had in a while as well! Win-win!)

I could hold him FOREVER!!!

Caught him smiling in his sleep!! LOVE IT!
242. For refunds on income tax!

243. That the church office is more clean and organized right now than it has been in ages, thanks to having the carpet replaced last week (due to a burst-pipe-induced flood a couple months back). My desk feels so much less cluttered! I love it!

244. That God keeps refining my perspectives on so many different things in life; that He is continuing to dig what's rotten out of my heart so He can transform it into what He wants it to look like; and that the changes He is making in me are making my relationships healthier, more edifying, and more joyful!

245. For another dinner and movie night with Jess, Ben, and TJ last Friday, this time with Ben and TJ's mom and sister joining us as well!

246. For a fun Superbowl party with good friends, during which I MIGHT have watched five minutes of the game, haha!

Cassidy, Erin, and the Thompsons

Jess's first time holding Caleb!

the Jepsons

247. For our new young adults fellowship group that kicked off this past Tuesday night. Excited to share life and grow with these people as we seek to be the Body of Christ to each other and to the world around us!

248. For the chance to have lunch and catch up with my friend Abbey this week for the first time in about a year.

249. For this recipe for spinach and lemon soup with orzo (although I substituted quinoa for the orzo). YUM!

a bowl of my homemade soup!

250. For homemade wheat french bread, fresh out of the oven with a perfectly crunchy crust!

251. For these delicious little treats that I made for the first time the other night and can't get enough of!

252. For cooking, period. I started realizing last year how much I enjoy it, especially trying new recipes. Then I kind of lost my enthusiasm about it for a while but I'm rediscovering it now and falling in love all over again!

253. For a good conversation with my brother about how the Gospel should affect every facet of our lives and how it should make all our relationships right -- our relationship with God, first and foremost, but also our relationships with parents, friends, significant others, enemies, possessions, creation, etc. It's so exciting and FREEING to think of how the Gospel can and SHOULD truly transform our entire lives!

254. For people who live their lives in a way that exhibits what I just described, and for the way their lives challenge and inspire me!

255. For Heejun Han, one of my current favorites on American Idol. He is HILARIOUS!!! I actually thought he was going to be terrible when he auditioned because his interview clips were so goofy, but he's actually got a good voice, too!

256. For an especially fun coffee date with Jessie last night, and...

257. ...that God is teaching us BOTH that a lot of our struggles in life stem mostly from our thinking, and that He is helping us learn to retrain our minds and stop living inside our heads!

258. For opportunities to live out different things God has been teaching me!

259. For exclamation marks! Apparently I like them, seeing as to how I have ended almost every item on this week's list with one! (!!!!!) (Ha!)

I've really been feeling overwhelmed with gratitude lately. There is SO MUCH to be thankful for! Life is definitely hard at times, but with a good God who carries us through the trials and even uses them for our good -- and our GROWTH -- and His glory, we can always take heart in the midst of whatever we're facing, whether good or bad! Hope you all have a great weekend!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Seven Years in Reno

It's been seven years today since my little Toyota Corolla rolled into Reno, carrying me and a chunk of my belongings to a new home, far from the green hills of east Tennessee where I spent the vast majority of my life. I cannot even begin to describe how abundantly God has blessed me in this chapter of my life. He has brought new people into my family (I can't imagine life without Erin or, now, Caleb!); He has given me a WEALTH of treasured friends, sweet memories, and crazy adventures; and He has brought tremendous growth and transformation to my life as I've continued walking with Him! I cannot imagine what my life would look like today if God hadn't led me to Reno.

Forgive me, this will be a lengthy post, but I want to try and capture some of the highlights of the past seven years by sharing some photos. Join me now for a walk down memory lane!!


In June 2005, just a few days after Cassidy joined the rest of us in Reno, we took a family trip to Yosemite National Park.

In July Cassidy and I moved into our own apartment at Canyon Vista.

Our family took our first trip to Las Vegas in November, and Cassidy and I went to our first U2 concert at the MGM Grand. Experiencing such an incredible performance by such an epic band, in a "City of Blinding Lights" (which was the opening song for the concert) still ranks in my top 5 favorite experiences of my entire life.


In March 2006, Bev was the first of my friends from Tennessee to come visit me in Reno. We visited Lake Tahoe, San Francisco, and Virginia City, and we had a movie night with some of our Reno friends. Bev did an excellent job navigating for my first time driving in San Fran!

Throughout the spring, Cassidy, Erin, Bruce, and I were practically inseparable. When Rathkeltair, a Celtic rock band I used to go see in Tennessee, was invited to play at the Sacramento Scottish Games in April, we made a weekend of it and spent an afternoon walking across the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco before backtracking to Sacramento and spending our weekend having a blast at the Scottish Games (where I also met my sweet friend Danielle).

In May I helped chaperone a youth group trip to Great America, and shortly thereafter I became a shepherd for the youth group, sparking the beginning of many friendships, sleepovers, and movie nights.

Early in June, my grandparents and our friends Lisa and Jason all came for visits that overlapped each other. We all visited Donner Pass; Cassidy, Jason, Lisa, and I took an overnight trip to San Francisco; and we were treated to "Gramps' Gala Dinner" at Mimi's Cafe on the last night of my grandparents' visit.

Just a week or two later, Tira came to visit! We visited Lake Tahoe and downtown Reno; took an overnight trip to Yosemite National Park, during which Tira kept us laughing with "Dear Diary" moments, with Jason, Bruce, Cassidy, and Erin (who officially began dating the night before the trip); saw Carrie Underwood in concert; and made a fast day trip to San Francisco.

After all the June visits were over, Cassidy, Erin, Jason, Bruce, Sarah, and I took a jam-packed road trip to Las Vegas, Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon, and the Grand Canyon over July 4th weekend. 1900 miles in 5 days. Yes, we are insane.

And, as if we hadn't already traveled enough for one summer, Cassidy, Erin, Mandy, and I took a weekend trip to Salem, Oregon, where Mandy had gone to college. We went hiking at Silverton Falls and had a weenie roast on the beach in Neskowin.

In October I took a week of vacation and went back east to visit friends and family. I spent a few days in Tennessee, during which I stayed with Bev at her apartment; went hiking with Jessica; shopped in Gatlinburg with my BFFs-since-1st grade, Christen and Anna; saw a movie with Jason; had breakfast with Andy and Pam and their boys; and stopped to see several of my old Chick-fil-A coworkers at work. Then I spent the rest of the week with my grandparents in North Carolina, driving the Blue Ridge Parkway and visiting Grandfather Mountain, and even stopping for dinner where Tira worked at Knights on Main in Boone!


In January 2007, my family met up with my Uncle Steve and cousins Dusty and Chris for a weekend in Las Vegas. It was so fun to see them for the first time in years!

In June, Anna and her mom Maria came for a 10-day visit, which we dubbed our "Wild West Tour." We spent the first few days introducing them to Reno, Lake Tahoe, and Virginia City, then my mom and I set out with them (calling ourselves "The Fantastic Four") for a grand tour through San Francisco, Yosemite National Park, and Las Vegas. This, too, definitely ranks in my top 5 favorite experiences ever.

Cassidy and Erin got married on July 28, 2007. It was the most wonderful blessing adding Erin to our family and being surrounded by family and friends, from near and far, as Cassidy and Erin joined their lives together.

While family was in town for Cassidy and Erin's wedding, we showed them Lake Tahoe and San Francisco!

Throughout the year I continued building my relationships with the girls in the youth group, especially my "outkizzles," Amber, Nicole, and Mackie. They continued to be a gigantic blessing in my life!


In February 2008 I got to pretend to be a "jet setter," flying into Las Vegas just to spend one day with Rebecca, whose husband Cacy was there on business.

It was the spring of earthquakes in Reno, and Cassidy, Erin, and I got out of town just in time to miss the biggest one that occurred -- a 4.7. We had gone to San Francisco for the night, and Mom and Dad met up with us the next day, AFTER the quake had occurred! I was so thankful I had missed it.

In May, Bev came for her second visit! We revisited Lake Tahoe and San Francisco, where we were blessed with a room that overlooked Alcatraz; but this time we also explored a portion of the PCH, where we froze as we insisted on eating our Subway sandwiches along the ocean, and we also spent a day at Yosemite National Park!

In August we revived an old tradition of taking the youth group camping in Santa Cruz, California. We five shepherds took a "scouting trip" a few weeks before the big trip, and once we went with the youth group I learned that I DO enjoy camping... As long as there are showers on the premises!

One of our other summer youth events involved taking care packages called "manna bags" to Tent City, an area in downtown Reno designated for the homeless. It made a HUGE impact on all of us.

In late August I flew to Dallas to visit Tira for a few days! It was my first time in Dallas and I LOVED it! We went to the Dallas Aquarium and the Ft. Worth Zoo both in one day; Tira graciously took me on a crazy hunt to find where Owen and Luke Wilson grew up and then we went to see "Henry Poole Is Here," a movie starring Luke Wilson; and we went to see American Idols Live in concert. We were eating dippin' dots at the zoo when Tira commented on their slogan -- "The Ice Cream of the Future" ... "for the past 25 years!" she added! Haha!

Just a few days after I got back from visiting Tira, Christen came to visit with her mom Yvonne and her sister Katie. We got to go to the Best of the West Rib Cook-off in Sparks, spend a couple of nights in San Francisco, see Lake Tahoe, visit Virginia City and downtown Reno, and see the Great Reno Balloon Race. Katie kept us entertained the entire time -- counting every Starbucks we saw, singing about Weinerschnitzel, FREAKING OUT about seeing "the Painted Ladies" (aka the "Full House" houses) in San Francisco, and acting ridiculous while taking pictures, among other things.

Now let me just say that I DON'T DO POLITICS. But I went through a brief phase during the 2008 election season where I became a Sarah Palin fanatic. And since Nevada was a swing state, she made three visits to our area... And I went to every one of them. At the final rally, Ashley and Jessie and I met Sarah's parents and brother! This was probably the furthest I will ever delve into anything political.


In April 2009 my whole family took a week-long vacation to Florida for the first time in YEARS! We spent most of the time with my grandparents in Stuart, Florida, enjoying boat rides, eating good food, going to the beach, and relaxing in their waterfront condo. My Aunt Kim and cousins Tyler and Travis also came and spent one night with us in Stuart. After leaving my grandparents', we spent two days at Disney World! It was so much fun having Erin with us to see so many memorable places from our past!

Summer of 2009 saw the peak of my American Idol craze. I actually got to meet almost all of the contestants who went on tour that year, including my favorite, Matt Giraud, and then I even drove to LA by myself and met up with my prayer warrior friend, Kim, to see the contestants in concert again and deliver goody bags filled with Scripture to each one!

I feel like an entirely new "season within a season" ("Inception," anyone?) of my life began after we took our second youth trip to Santa Cruz this August. One of my first blogs referred to the core group of friends that formed that month and stuck with me for the next two years (and even until NOW, for most of them). I think the significance of this is that, whereas a lot of my highlights from previous years involved visits to or from Tennessee friends, my focus at this point truly shifted to my local friends. It's almost like this was the point at which I COMPLETELY embraced that my life is now in Reno. (Hey, it only took me five years, right?? Sheesh, haha!) I love these friends so much and am so thankful God has blessed my life by making them an integral part of it.

Cassidy, Erin, and I took a fast trip to Las Vegas in October for U2's 360 Tour, which was the most amazing spectacle I have ever witnessed in my life. It was supposed to be a family trip, but my dad had been in the hospital with some health issues so my parents weren't able to join us! We're thankful those problems were eventually resolved!

In November, Jessie, Amber, and I took a road trip to Salem, Oregon, to see Krystal! We had a great time hanging out in Krystal's dorm room, browsing around some antique stores downtown, and watching Krystal do an AMAZING job performing in her school's musical!

In December Cassidy, Erin, Jon, Dana, Kelly, Ben, TJ, and I went to Traction For God, a missions-oriented conference in Sacramento. We had a great time together and God was also really working in our hearts in various ways.


In May 2010 I went to visit my mom, who was on an extended visit with my grandparents in Florida. I had completed Jillian Michaels' "30 Day Shred" the previous month and the trip was something of a celebration for me!

I also previously blogged about how great a role Ashley has played in my life... She was one of the very first girls I met in Reno, while she was still in high school, even before I started working with the youth group. Our friendship has endured through all these years, and during the summer of 2010 her friendship both comforted and entertained me in a special way through a really tough time. I am exceedingly thankful for the memories we made -- whether hiking up "the hill of death" to the "N," having "arts and craps" nights, taking trips to Lake Tahoe and San Francisco, working with the youth group, going to concerts, or a number of other things -- during that season of my life!

Ashley and Ben were also my choir buddies throughout the fall. We had a great time singing in the choir together and also hanging out during our free time. Whether we were going to the Great Reno Balloon Race, taking a day trip to Apple Hill, or having lunch at Olive Garden after a Saturday choir practice, we were constantly laughing at each other and having a great time.

Throughout the fall I got to share some fun experiences with my parents as well. My mom and I attended our church's women's retreat at Lake Tahoe in October, which was very relaxing and refreshing. In November both my parents and I met up with my cousin Dusty and his wife Katrina in Las Vegas, then we went to San Francisco over Thanksgiving weekend!

In early December I stepped down from being a youth shepherd after almost five years, bringing an extremely significant chapter of my life to a close (at least for now). It was bittersweet, as I had LOVED investing in our youth as well as serving alongside our awesome shepherds (Cassidy, Erin, Jon, Dana, Kelly, Ashley, Judy, Luke, and Brett), but it also brought a lot of peace as I followed where God was leading me at that time.

Anna and Maria came to visit us for Christmas and for the first time in over three years, the Fantastic Four were reunited! We spent Christmas Day walking around the village at Squaw Valley in the snow. It was a joy to share the holidays with them!


In April 2011 I traveled outside the United States for the first time as I went to Mexico on a mission trip with my church. It was a very challenging experience but it was also a very eye-opening time as God showed me His heart for reaching the nations with the Gospel. I'm grateful for how He worked in my heart as I faced some of my own fears and weaknesses.

In June my whole family FINALLY got to see U2 in concert together! We had quite a time getting to the Oakland Coliseum due to an enormous traffic jam, but we had a great time at the show and then enjoyed spending the following day in San Francisco. I was so glad to share that time with my favorite people in the world!

In September my parents and I took a last-minute vacation to Las Vegas, Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon, and the Grand Canyon -- basically a repeat of the vacation I'd taken with friends in July of 2006, only better! It was SUCH a refreshing time for all of us to be in the midst of God's incredible creation day after day.

On December 26, as you probably know, my precious nephew, Caleb Timothy, was born. I fall more in love with him every time I see his sweet face!! Being an aunt is the BEST!


And finally, rounding out these seven years of life in Reno is my trip to Disneyland just a few weeks ago, which I was so blessed to share with Jess, Ben, TJ, and Alex -- a great group of friends who all love to laugh together!

I can't even begin to tell you how time-consuming it has been to put this blog together, and I'm guessing few people, if any, will actually make it here to the end, haha. But it was good -- and CRAZY -- for me to really go back through so many of the highlights of my life here so far, from those early days through the present. I'm always aware that God has blessed me so exceedingly, abundantly above and beyond what I could have imagined or asked for, but when I look back over all of these people and memories and experiences, I'm truly in awe. I cannot believe this is my life. I am humbled, and I am grateful. I can't wait to see what the next seven years might hold! To God be the glory!