Let’s Talk 26.2: Mission Accomplished

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If you remember when I made my goal board over a year ago, in the top right hand corner, I had the Marine Corps Marathon logo with 2017 printed under it. After a year of staring at that logo every day, on March 22 of this year, very anxiously and nervously, I entered the lottery.

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The day I entered the lottery

On March 30, I got a text from my credit card company that I had spent over my alert mount. I checked it. It was the exact cost I had agreed to for the MCM lottery. I checked my email and there it was – my confirmation email I got in through the lottery. The MCM was one step closer to being mine.

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The email I got finding out I made the lottery

I began training and it was hard. There is no denying it. Training for a fall marathon in summer, in Texas, was killer. I had to force myself to run. I ate nothing but salads, chicken, and pasta, and drank more Gatorade than I ever have in my life. But I still struggled in training. I couldn’t finish long runs to save my life. I doubted myself and my abilities. I came very close to giving up.

In September, I ran a 15k and wowowow. Even though I finished 11 minutes slower than my 15k PR, I felt horribly unprepared. I got tired fast. I had no energy. I couldn’t maintain a stride. I couldn’t get oxygen to my lungs. I finished the 15k, but I finished discouraged. From there, anxiety set in. For the next month, I didn’t know how I was going to Beat the Bridge at the MCM, much less complete 26.2 miles. I was scared. More than ever, I wanted to quit.

The week before the marathon, I began mental preparation. I started telling myself I was strong enough (even if I didn’t believe it). I told myself to expect the wall, but fend it off for as long as possible. I quoted scripture and empowerment songs to myself, doing anything I could to help wipe away the flooded feelings of doubt in 7 days.

Going into marathon weekend, I was more nervous than I had ever been before. I was determined to beat the gauntlets, but still so, so, SO scared, and still struggling to know how to overcome the doubt.

I was a mixture of emotions on race day. Anxiety. Excitement. Nervousness. I could feel it flowing all through my body. I knew that at mile 5, my knee always starts to hurt, but I needed to fight through it. I knew that at mile 7 I always hit a wall where I feel I need to walk, but I needed to fight through it. I knew there was no turning back. I had to finish.

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Daddy and I before the race

The first 5k was nothing but hills. As much as I tried to put off all doubt and fear, I felt it creeping up. I didn’t think I was going to be able to finish the race if the hills continued. Eventually it leveled out. We ran over a bridge at mile 4 into Georgetown. There was music, crowds, news stations, food, and most importantly, Marines. (Call me shallow, but Marines giving you water, food, and cheering you on throughout the race was great motivation) As I ran through Georgetown, I booked it down a hill to high five 2 Marines on the right side of the road. One of them didn’t see me coming, the other one gave me probably the best high five of my life. To the Marine who didn’t get to high five me – you were cute and I forgive you. Maybe see you next year??

Miles 5-10 took you along nature trails outside the city. At mile 5, my knee started hurting. Right on cue. But I kept going. At mile 7, stopping wasn’t an option. I was going to push myself more than anything to Beat the Bridge. Here, I clapped for the DC police running in their uniforms. I fed off the crowd hanging out on bridges and the trail runners cheering us on. I clapped for the last place runner to find the strength to keep going. And most importantly, I ate TWO oranges at the first food station. (I hate oranges)

Miles 10-15 took us along the Potomac. For someone with as much Potomac Fever as I have, running along the river was a dream come true. It was beautiful. It also left me with a sense of accomplishment being able to look across the river and tell my dad “we were over there this morning.” But this was also were we had to run the Blue Mile. At mile 12, there is a row of blue signs honoring fallen soldiers. Out of the many times I started to tear up in this race, this was one of them. Daddy and I paid our respects as we ran. We passed the signs of fallen soldiers into a sidewalk lined with dozens of American flags. The pride itself was overwhelming.

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A glimpse of mile 12 – The Blue Mile

This is also where my dad initially told me I was running strong and if I wanted to leave him I could. He said he’d meet me at the finish line, but that wasn’t an option. We started this journey together, and we were finishing it together no matter what.

As we turned back for miles 16-20, this was the real dream come true. Not only did we beat the mile 17 gauntlet with plenty of time, this was where we saw my mom for the first time, and I got to do something I’ve wanted to say for my entire life – I ran the National Mall. I ran on the road parallel to Lincoln, the Reflecting Pool, and the WWII memorial. I ran in front of the Washington Monument, past all of the Smithsonian museums straight to the Capitol where my dad and I aptly took our mile 18 selfie. I almost ran over 15 tour groups in the process (don’t mess up my stride), threw a gig ‘em for the Aggies, met my mom again by the Smithsonian Castle and made the turn for the mile 20 bridge.

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Daddy and I’s mile 18 selfie

The dreaded bridge. The bridge that if you did not beat by 1:15 p.m. you were placed on a bus and sent back to the Finisher Festival. This was not an option. But as we approached the bridge, there was a Marine there counting the time left, a drum line giving you a solid beat to run to, and before I knew it, daddy and I were past the gauntlet and in the home stretch.

The last 10k was long. Very, very long. So was the bridge. I won’t lie, we did not run the entire thing. Every time we thought we were close to the end of the bridge, it seemed like another half mile popped up in front of us. But we made it and by mile 22 we were in Crystal City past the third and final gauntlet with only the home stretch in front of us.

This is where the marathon got hard. I had been so strong up until this point. I had pushed myself and realized I was a more capable runner than I had ever thought. I was proud of all I had achieved. After all, this was the farthest I’d ever ran in my life, and I still wasn’t to the finish line. But there’s the kicker, at mile 23 with all the gauntlets behind me, the sun beating down on me, the finish line in front of me, and a right arm that was beginning to chafe, I realized I still had a 5k left.

In that final 5k, that was why I never took off and left my dad. Before mile 23, I found the strength in myself to endure everything thrown my way, to persevere through legs aching, both knees buckling, my back hurting, and everything else. But in that final 5k, life got hard. My feet became cinderblocks, I was trying to not get dehydrated, I could feel the muscles in my arms tightening, I was trying to stop my fingers from swelling, and still wasn’t finished. It was at this point, my dad reminded me of the strength in a power walk. If we couldn’t run it, we would walk it, but we would walk it with all we had. I had officially hit “the wall” and it was having my dad there that helped me power through.

Eventually, we were back at the Pentagon where the race had started hours before. Then we looked up and saw Arlington National Cemetery. The finish was as far away as it was close. As my dad and I continued our slow power walk, we looked up and there it was – the sign that said mile 26 (and the uphill ascent…) We had walked for 6 miles and together we made the turn uphill toward Iwo Jima and the last .2 miles. At the top of the hill my dad looked at me and said go. I asked if he was sure and he told me I could do this, and it was my time to finish. My eyes already starting to swell with tears, I made the turn and at a dead sprint headed to the finish line with everything I had. I crossed at exactly 6:16:00 and immediately started crying. Is it the best time? No. Do I care? Also, no. I had finished my first marathon.

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2nd Lt. Kaberides who saluted me and gave me my medal

As much as I have tried to describe the experience, it’s difficult to place it into words. I fought for this. I needed to do this, if nothing more than for my own edification, and I did. This is hands down the single greatest achievement of my life. I am officially 26.2 miles stronger, and as crazy as it sounds, I’m ready to do it again.

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Happy Fall Y’all

Hello everyone and happy September! I know, it has been a terribly, terribly long time since I’ve posted. What can I say – I’m human and let it slip through the cracks. But I did want to stop by, say hi, and mark a quick two cents about fall.

I’m sure you realize it, and I’m sure you’ve seen different articles about how people feel differently about fall. I just want to say I love it. I love the steadiness and feeling like there is a routine to a year (if that’s even possible). I love the changing seasons and colder weather (which I seriously live in the wrong state for). Fresh school supplies, crisp leaves, vests, scarves, riding boots. This is my time of the year, minus PSL’s. (Just not a fan there…)

I remember when June started, I posted on Twitter how crazy it was that it was already June. Let me say, I do not feel that way about September. August felt like it lasted 483 days. But I digress. So one of my dad’s friends commented on my post and said it was a new season for new opportunities. BOY did that end up being true. Even though we’re “technically” still in summer, it is coming to a close this month and we’ll be entering fall. This time of change got me thinking and reflecting on the past few months of my life. Now, I want to share those catch-ups, changes, and lessons with you (except I’m going back to February)

FEBRUARY

First things first, I finally had a dream come true and bought a Grand Cherokee. More than anything this has not only taught me responsibility (ahem car payments) but also pride in the things I worked to accomplish. I worked hard for this one.

 

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Meet Gaston, sold to me by the one and only Kaelan

Secondly, I ran the Cowtown again this year. But beyond simply running, I did the Cowtown Challenge. A 10k on Saturday and a half-marathon on Sunday. It. Was. Hard. But I also realized how much stronger I am than I thought I was, and therefore had a very emotional moment with my dad at the finish line.

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Daddy and I after the 10k
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Daddy and I after the half

MARCH

Holy moly, my niece turned 4! It’s hard to believe. She’s such a little ray of sunshine even in life’s hardest times. Her pure heart is always there to warm me up. And yes, she had a batman themed birthday party. And yes, it was awesome.

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Aria at her party
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Daddy and I were not to be left out

GUYS, another dream come true…I got into the Marine Corps Marathon. In all seriousness, this will be one of the (if not the) toughest thing I ever do. The training has already kicked my butt enough. But I can’t wait to share all the lessons I’ve learned from this process.

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My confirmation email

APRIL (get ready for a long one)

First things first, one of my closest friends from Orange got married. All I can say is I bawled like a baby at the wedding (especially when she read a letter from her late father). Still, I’ll say take the time to catch up with old friends now and again. It’s definitely worth it.

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Madi and I at the reception

Secondly, I met PETER FURLER of the Newsboys and sang I Am Free with him at Klyde Warren Park in Dallas. I can die happily now. (Nothing insightful here, it’s just cool)

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Peter Furler and I on Good Friday

Here’s the biggie – I went to Virginia!! Let me tell you the trip was everything I had hoped it would be and more. It was so exhilarating to get to visit this place I’d been dreaming about for the past 3 years. And one of the most important parts of my trip was when I stood on the shore of the river in Yorktown and made a comment about how much I wanted to be there and my mom told me she believed I’d make it somehow. Anyway, here’s a quick (and I mean quick) overview of the trip in pictures.

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The cannons I was sticking my head in on Yorktown Battlefield
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The gazebo on Riverwalk Landing in Yorktown. I’d still love to get married there
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The Crim Dell Bridge at the College of William & Mary
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Me, back in my favorite spot in Yorktown
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Momma, enjoying all the Colonial architecture and gardens
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The Governor’s Palace in Williamsburg
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Momma in the palace gardens
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Our selfie at the Governor’s Palace
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Momma at the Naval and Maritime Museum in Norfolk
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Me making a wish on the Battleship Wisconsin

And lastly, we finished the trip off with a dinner at Virginia Beach (we’re identical, I know)

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Sorry to report nothing exciting happened in May or June

JULY

I spent a weekend getaway at the lake. Here’s a couple things I learned: don’t bash unicorn floaties because they’re great to lay on, former Army Rangers are great at piggy back rides, the sillier you do the Wobble the more fun it is, love your stick figure drawing of yourself, and be thankful for the time you get to spend with friends old and new.

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The lake group. We were all born ready that weekend

AUGUST

So guys, I had an existential crisis that I turned 23 this year. Don’t ask me why, I just did. Maybe it’s because I’m 23 and my life isn’t the way I thought it would be. Maybe it’s because after Taylor Swift’s 22 song, there’s nothing cool for your 23rd birthday. Maybe (probably) I overthought all of it. But I did ring in 23 with a rescue horse named Geronimo. He was pretty great.

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Feeding Geronimo his carrots

And lastly (and probably the most important), I quit my job and embarked on a new adventure. I now work for Fellowship Church in Grapevine and I do everything from administrative work, receptionist, spiritual development, and even the communications department is after me. Everything. It has been an interesting change of pace, but I’ve loved it. I’ve wrestled with the idea of ministry for a while. I guess I always thought it had to be a mutually exclusive thing, that if I worked in ministry, I couldn’t do anything else. I realize now that’s not true. Instead, I’m working toward combining all of the things I have a passion for.

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Remember when I said I was told a new season is a chance for new opportunities? Well this was the peak of the peak. This is going to be a tremendous growth opportunity and I am so excited to see how I grow in this position at the church.

And that’s all for now. I am so excited to be reconnected with everyone and to see where this new season takes us!

P.S. Everyone please remember to keep Southeast Texas in your prayers. Currently 54 counties are in a rescue, relief, and rebuild process because of Harvey, and Hurricane Irma is already barreling through the Atlantic. The rescue is going well but there’s still SO much that needs to be done. Please remember any donation you make will help these victims tremendously. I donated to the North American Mission Board, but I encourage you to donate where you feel your money/time/items are best served. Every little bit helps!

The Continuous Tale of a Mighty Warrior

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“The angel of the LORD appeared to him and said to him, ‘the LORD is with you, mighty warrior.’”
Judges 6:12

My phone hits 17:00. I close my eyes and take a deep breath. Though shaking, my hands begin to dial the phone number I had scribbled down a sticky note. One ring… Two rings… My heart is pounding.

“Hi Abigail! How are you?”

I couldn’t believe it. It was her and this was actually happening…

Poised and refined, though emotional and solemn, the continuous words of this Gold Star mom as we proceeded to speak left me aghast.

Marc Alan Lee was the first Navy SEAL to be killed in action during Operation Iraqi Freedom. He died during a fierce firefight with insurgents in the central Iraqi city of Ramadi. Debbie Lee is his mom.

In July of 2006, Marc wrote his last letter home. The letter reads these words – “So to all my family and friends, do me a favor and pass on the kindness, the love, the precious gift of human life to each other so that when your children come into contact with a great conflict that we are now faced with here in Iraq, that they may be people of humanity, of pure motives, of compassion.”

In efforts to both fulfill her spiritual gift granted from God as an encourager and carry out Marc’s last request to pass on the kindness, Debbie founded America’s Mighty Warriors, a military non-profit focused on helping Gold Star families find healing, helping heroes recover from PTSD and TBI’s, and granting Marc’s wish to carry out random acts of kindness.

As I spoke with Debbie, I was amazed at her wisdom and compassion.

“There is nothing greater than sacrifice,” Debbie said. “Christ displayed it first on the cross, and our troops display it next by being so ready and so willing. It’s become a clear example of the sacrifice Christ made for us.”

I couldn’t agree more.

Debbie and I spoke for no more than 30 minutes. I asked her questions upon questions about running a non-profit and any advice she had for someone seeking a future in military and/or non-profit work. She was more than willing to help.

Beyond her kind words of advice, however, it was the words about her son, about her situation, and about the work God was doing through her to bring His name glory that me feeling both refreshed and fulfilled by the end of the conversation.

She walked me through the journey she has been on since that fateful day so many years ago. Overall, it was clear she strives to keep the presence of Marc and his personality through all of her daily activities, even joking when she hit her necklace and cut her finger. A sarcastic “well thanks, Marc” came out as she chuckled at the small knick his SEAL trident had caused.

As the first Gold Star mom to visit a combat zone, I asked about her time in Iraq and if the trip ever scared her. Her response to me?

“Not even close. I had prayed about it. I knew it was right.”

 While going into a combat zone would scare most of us I’m sure, Debbie said she appreciated it. It gave her a chance to get a glimpse of what our troops endure, how they live, and how they fight. She saw it as the opportunity to relate to our troops, to relate to her own son, and how they live.

“As a believer, if something happened, I knew where I was going,” Debbie said. “Like Daniel in the lions den, I was on a mission to do what God had asked me to do no matter the outcome.”

 Debbie ended up spending Christmas with a group of soldiers that trip. She said there was no greater joy than sharing the story and sacrifice of Christ with those who sacrifice so much for our freedom on one of the most beautiful days of the year.

At the end of our conversation, I asked the all encompassing question – “How are you seeking to bring good from a past hurt?”

Though I could tell the question was tender, Debbie responded by stating that when Marc died, her confidence was not in herself or her son, but in who God was.

“I did not have a choice on the news that was given to me on August 2nd,” Debbie said. “But I had choice on how I responded. Losing Marc was the toughest thing I ever faced, but I knew God would see me through. He was still the same God on August 2nd that He was on August 1st. His character had not changed.”

She realized God does not waste pain and if anything He was teaching the lesson to always trust Him, to always go to Him, and not another person. As a widow and now-grieving mother, Debbie said she began to understand the conversation between Hezekiah and God a little more. She began to talk to God like he was physically there and realized as scripture states, God had seen her tears, He’d heard her prayers, and He would answer. She knew even when she didn’t have a specific answer, she could always feel God’s presence and He would always provide.

Through her pain, it rings clear that she has remained humble and graceful in the presence of God. Debbie has undoubtedly used Marc and America’s Mighty Warriors to touch the lives of so many Gold Star families and hurting soldiers for the Gospel.

For more information on Marc and Debbie, visit americasmightywarriors.org.

100 Things: A Follow Up

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Forever pondering 100 things…and being super basic in the process courtesy of snapchat

A year ago I read a Thought Catalog post on journaling/blogging ideas and I decided to give one a try – make yourself vulnerable and share 100 facts about yourself. So I did. If you never read that post, believe me, they. were. random.

Today my mom and I were talking about journaling (because she got me this adorable blue and red anchor journal) and she’s decided to take it up. She told me it’s one of those things she’s thought about before, but never really knew how to move forward with it. My response went something like “well mom, you just do it.” But on the flip side of that, I understand her argument. How do you journal? What do you write about? Where do you begin?

I understand. It’s scary. Even when you are branded “a writer,” I have a whole folder full of writings that will never see the light of day.

I guess that’s when I was reminded of my 100 Things post. Thought Catalog inspired a post for me, there’s so many writing prompts on Pinterest, and amongst other things, I do what I can to draw inspiration from the world around me. The thing about the 100 Things post is how much it required me to dig into myself, to analyze myself, to become vulnerable and share my likes and dislikes with the world.

Being vulnerable is really the biggest part. It’s the hardest part. It’s the scariest part. But it’s also the most important part. And today, I decided to become even more vulnerable and do a follow up post to my 100 Things.

I decided to this because I’ve talked to my mom about writing a lot the past couple days. I realized my writings help display a lot of that growth, but also being able to go back to my 100 Things posts and show how things in general have changed also seemed like a lot of fun. And who knows, maybe by going back and revisiting some my older writings – including the ones never published – I’ll be able to find more inspirations for my writings. Just keep growing, right? (Which I almost spelled “write” because puns…okay I’m done)

I won’t cover ALL of the 100 items listed in the original post. That’s just way too much. But here is an overview of how things can change over a year (P.S. I will be using the original number from the list):

1.  “I have the most fun relaxing and watching Netflix.”
Still true. I have binged on House of Cards a lot lately. But I’ve also spent a lot of time reading. Trust me, a large book post is coming.

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9. “I’ve never broken a bone.”
While this is still true, I did twist my ankle pretty badly trail running the other day in Trinity Park. Let’s talk about how fun it was limping back to my car…

11. “I want to learn how to speak French.”
Well…Savoir, penser, rêver. Tout est la. A lovely phrase.

25. “I want a German Shepherd and his/her name will be Kona.”
While this is still true, I am a renter and German Shepherds are restricted breeds in most rental places. Because of this, if I do get a dog it’ll either be a Lab or a Catahoula named Huckleberry. Then everywhere we go I can say “he’s my Huckleberry.”

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30. “My favorite bible verses include Psalm 118:8, John 3:30, and Habakkuk 2:3.”
I also want to add Ephesians 3:20 to this list. A beautiful doxology by Paul that has been on my mind a lot lately. Even if it’s a temporary favorite verse, I’m glad it’s there.

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32. “I have my entire wedding planned on Pinterest.”
Scratch that. I do have a wedding planned on Pinterest, but it probably won’t be mine. Why? Because I don’t want a wedding ceremony with the bridesmaids, and the 300 guests, and the stress. Haley once told me I’ll have shotgun wedding and she’s right. I want a small ceremony (seriously like 10 people max) on a beach (preferably Riverwalk Landing in Yorktown, VA) probably on some random day of the week and that’s it. Think like Chuck and Blair Gossip Girl getting married in Central Park, minus the whole Bart’s dead plot twist.

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Part of Riverwalk Landing in Yorktown

35. “When it comes to European travel, my dream destinations are Paris, Venice, and Prague.”
I’m happy to report that my wanderlust has ventured beyond just Europe. (You thought I was going to say I got to go to Paris, didn’t you?) At the time I wrote this, I REALLY wanted to go to Europe, a couple of other places, and that’s it. Now, I also want to go to both Tokyo and Okinawa, Japan as while as go hike Patagonia in Argentina/Chile.

48. “As much as I love Texas, I have a longing to travel and live in different places.”
Look up and look back down. I guess travel was really on my mind a year ago (and still is). Though stateside I am currently planning a trip to Williamsburg/Yorktown. What up Hampton Roads! Trust me guys, the day my dream (and I mean legit I had a dream about this) of moving to Yorktown comes true, y’all will be some of the first to know.

50. “The marathon I hope to run one day is the Marine Corps Marathon in D.C.”
So I signed up for the MCM newsletter and I do plan on enrolling in the lottery for the 2017 marathon. If I don’t make it through the lottery, I’ll probably run it through a charity. I was thinking TAPS, but I’ll definitely keep y’all posted. Oh and we can also add the 2018 London Marathon to this list.

59. “I would like to work somewhere like Wounded Warrior Project or USO.”
Still very true, though my dad wants me to be commissioned as an officer for the Navy. I won’t deny I consider it…all the time. I’m just trying to get through grad school first. Plus, the thought really scares me. I love the military, I just never thought I’d actually be apart of the military.

73. “Loreena McKinnett and Phillip Wesley are some of my favorite classical artists.”
Throw Tim Janis in there and we’re golden.

80. “My dream grad school is William & Mary.”
Obviously, W&M is not where I am getting my MA from, however, this does not mean I do not love the school. Grad school right after I graduated college ended up being a whim decision for me and my options were limited. (I had initially planned on deferring for a year) However, this doesn’t mean I regret my decision to not go to W&M either. Liberty has been good for me. If anything this is more of a “terminal” MA to just get my feet wet in the realm of International Affairs. W&M is still my dream school, I just want them to be the ones who hood me as a doctor.

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The Christopher Wren building on William & Mary’s campus

95. “I am a huge introvert.”
I used to think this was a bad thing, but lately I’ve learned to embrace it. I enjoy my own company. I guess some people think it’s depressing when you go do things on your own, but I’ve learned to love it. Whether it’s going to eat or going exploring (I still haven’t gone to the movies by myself), it’s still incredibly enjoyable and relaxing (plus people-watching). It’s not that I don’t enjoy the company of others because I do. I guess it’s just overtime I’ve learned it’s okay to spend time alone and it’s okay to enjoy it. Being an introvert is nothing to be ashamed of.

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Taken the day I explored Grapevine, TX on my own

So there you have it friends…13 updates on my life. I did this because I wanted to see growth. Because from these 13 updates, I can use any one of them to fuel a fire in my writing or build future blog posts off of (which will definitely happen if I run the MCM).

As stated before on my conversation with my mom, I know it’s hard. There are many times I publish a post scared to death because of how vulnerable it will make me seem, and there are plenty of writings that will never be published because I’m not ready to be that vulnerable. But the simplest things in life can provide inspiration to the world around us. That’s why I love these lists of facts about ourselves and the world around us so much. I ultimately believe they can help all of us become better writers and thinkers altogether.

Whether you’re just starting out writing or you’ve been writing for a while, keep going guys! There is inspiration everywhere, I know you’ll find it!

 

 

A Moment of Impact

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My grandmother and I at her 79th birthday dinner

A little over a month ago I lost my grandmother. She was one of my closest friends, my rock, and my hero. I find myself tearing up as I sit to write this post. When she first passed, I knew I wanted to honor her memory, but no amount of words ever seemed as if they’d be enough.

Through the past month I have moved forward with life, still fighting the sting of the pain and the loss of a grandmother I so dearly loved. I knew her time would come eventually, but she was one of those people who was always there. Knowing the time would come and experiencing that time are two completely different aspects of life. I never wanted to think about the day I would have to lose her because I didn’t know how I would find the strength to face it. And as I sit here a month and a few days later, I’m still not sure if I do. It still seems surreal.

Even so, the words came.

From the inside looking out, I struggle finding the words to explain it. It was one of those rare moments – a moment of impact – one that not even the most eloquent of words could describe the allure of. The kind of moment that becomes immortalized in song and word, yet far more beautiful.

I sat at her bedside, my hand ever-so gently relaxed on her arm, as I sang my favorite verse from Messiah/You’re Beautiful to her – When we arrive at eternity’s shore, where death is just a memory and tears are no more. We’ll enter in as the wedding bells ring, Your bride will come together and we’ll sing, You’re beautiful. 

The tears fell from my face onto the rocking chair. I saw the faint flutter in her eyes. While it felt unnatural praying for the very thing we spend our entire lives avoiding, it was the moment she and I both knew her time was arriving to come home.

She died of stage four breast cancer. It was a hard-fought battle, yet one that made her stronger as a person. Back in October when we learned the cancer had metastasized to the brain, we knew what it meant. There are days the most difficult decision we will make is when we decide what we want to eat. This was not one of those days. After a journey that felt both so short and so long, I sat by her bed that Friday night, and I knew the day I dreamed would never come had emerged.

She is one of a rare breed. One that once she has that moment of impact in your life, you will never be the same. She’s one of those people you can never forget, even if you wanted to try. Though in a sense of honesty amongst yourself, you know you never really want to forget.

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It was the last night I would spend with the woman who had such a profound impact on my dad’s life and later my entire family. I couldn’t quite find the words to say. Not even I love you felt like it could be enough. Still through my tearful eyes I could see the exhaustion of her body could not stop her from smiling. I know she told me she loved me too.

Words didn’t feel like enough, but music did. I became too emotional to sing, so I started playing music instead.

My grandmother had a funny thing about taking me to southern gospel singings growing up. I hated them. I thought they were boring and would never end. Yet in those moments I sat by her bedside holding her hand, the Precious Memories album by Alan Jackson felt right. I turned on “In The Garden” and just let it shuffle.

Indistinctly, I saw her facial expressions change with each song. In The Garden changed to Softly and Tenderly, which changed to I’ll Fly Away and then to The Old Rugged Cross. It was during this song I saw her eyes glance to me and felt the light flick in her hand. We shared that moment together. We knew her crown was coming. We knew she would soon stand in the presence of our Father.

What proceeded was the most memorable of the entire night. My parents joined me at her bedside and we started to sing to her. As How Great Thou Art came on, an atmosphere filled the room I’m not sure can ever be replicated in this lifetime.

With heavy hearts and tear-filled eyes, we looked at my beautiful grandmother with both joy and sorrow as we sang one of her favorite hymns. I choked back what I could as we finished singing. Goodbye really is the hardest part.

A moment of impact.

The quote from C.S. Lewis states “When I die, I pray all of hell rejoices that I am out of the fight.” At 2:30 am on the 10th of December 2016, I have no doubt that’s how the fallen world felt. She fought the good fight, she finished the race, she kept the faith.

Amidst the chaos and the pain I’ve felt for the last month, I’m forever comforted by the words of Paul – to live is Christ, and to die is gain. My grandmother, the most God-fearing, caring, tenacious woman I have ever met, has gained far more than this world could ever offer her. She no longer lives in an earthly body broken by age and cancer, but now walks those beautiful streets of gold in a lovely, heavenly body given to her by the Lord.

That night I thanked my grandmother for being a guiding light in my life. I thanked her sitting on my couch, holding me while I cried, and loving me at the moment in my life I felt most unloved. I thanked her for teaching me that no matter what you absolutely never give up on the ones you love, even if everyone else is begging you to. I thanked her for showing what an authentic love for Christ looks like. Most importantly, I thanked her for choosing to be my grandmother.

Even still, she inspires me to become a better person, as she often did to so many around her. She fought like a girl until the very end. I’ve never been more proud to call her my grandmother.

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My grandmother bought me this shirt shortly shortly after she finished chemo in 2013. From beginning to end, she fought like a girl

A Year of Hope

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2016. It was interesting year to say the least. I think you could all agree with me on that. No matter how well or not-so-well your year went, 2016 was definitely a year of oddities.

I don’t plan on rehashing all of the lessons I learned over the year – especially since I did an anniversary post for gilliamgirl.

While I think we can all agree we’re glad this year is ending, more importantly I’m glad about the start of the new year. We know the sayings. It’s a new beginning, “new year, new me,” new years resolutions, all that jazz. For myself? Yeah, I’m glad a new year is beginning. I felt like I got sucker punched by life this year just over and over again. So the notion a clean slate for me can begin at midnight CT tonight is definitely a refreshing rhetoric to accept.

As I’m writing this blog, I’m on call for work and I look at the clock on my computer and it says 22:08. Just a couple more hours until midnight, and a few more hours until that new beginning.

And for 2017, I am embracing that “new beginning” with hope. Hope that grad school will continue to go well (gotta hold on to that 4.0), hope that I make more awesome network connections (probably through Twitter), hope that I’ll get to go to Virginia, hope that I’ll get to run the Marine Corps Marathon, hope that I’ll be able to continue chasing the dreams I have for my life, and most importantly hope in Christ.

Last year, I wrote a post that the thing I needed most for the new year was prayer. In this post, I said prayer was our greatest battle weapon. After all, it is direct communication with our Father and we should be engaging in it daily. I guess you could say a stronger prayer life was my new years resolution for 2016. As a fun fact, I definitely saw some of the prayers that weighed more heavily on my heart answered this year.

This is not to say I feel I am lacking hope and need it rejuvenated for 2017. Quite the opposite actually. I’ve had so many prayers I’ve prayed about for so long answered in 2016, it gives me immense hope going in 2017. Hope in the power of God and the acts He is capable of performing. I move forward into 2017 with hope that God is able.

I’m not sure I can say I’ve ever really done “yearly” verses before, but lately Romans 12:12 has been on my heart and I feel it’s a good verse to kick the new year off with –

“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”

Joyful in hope. It’s the possibilities I see in 2017 that make me joyful. The capabilities of God (which are a lot) give me hope.

After a year of craziness, I am joyful to be moving forward in hope. I aspire to stay faithful in my prayer. I know God will help me get through whatever affliction I face. I do not go into 2017 with fear and feeling broken down because God has given me hope.

Here’s to 2017 friends! Make it a good one filled with nothing but hope!

Where You Lead…

Well…it has been over a week since Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life premiered. WOW I have so many thoughts. I laughed, I cried (from laughing so hard) and it felt so good to step back into the quirky town of Stars Hallow again. Watching the revival just reminded me how badly I want to go to the east coast. I mean, if Colonial Williamsburg is even as remotely eccentric as Stars Hollow, I will be one happy camper.

Anyway, I was a whirlwind of emotions Black Friday and now that I’ve finally given myself time to gather my thoughts (and let the dust of “the last four words” settle), it’s time to take about alllll the craziness that happened.

As a whole, the show was great. I loved the concept on looking at how things have changed in Stars Hollow over the past 9 years. The witty banter plus recent pop culture  events, combined with a town that acts like it’s on crack sometimes, was perfection (as I’d hoped it would be).

Overall, so much happened and I couldn’t decide how to break this down. Do I go by season? Do I go by events? Do I just talk about what happened overall? In organizing my thoughts on the show, I decided to simply go by characters (with the occasional event) instead. I figured it was the best way for me to try and put pen to paper (keyboard to screen?) on the genius that is Amy Sherman-Palladino and Daniel Palladino.

Warning: if you are a die-hard Gilmore Girls fan like myself and do not yet know what happened, I’d stop reading now. The last four words will be discussed. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

  1. Kirk
    Why not start off with arguably the quirkiest character on the show? While it is arguable Liz and TJ could give Kirk a run for his money (all $250,000 of it), they weren’t in the revival. Kirk wins the craziness of the show by a landslide. His driving service “OOOber” was second-to-none. The fact he could not see the similarities between “OOOber” and Uber until he had a lawsuit fell exactly into the Kirk we all know and love. Then there was “A Second Film by Kirk” which was pure perfection. Plus, him spending dinner with the classy Emily Gilmore, was gold. Kirk helped liven the show up like always.
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  2. Stars Hollow: The Musical
    It was only a matter of time before a town that memorialized the American Revolution battle that never happened created a musical to honor it all. While I found the idea of musical the perfect concept for Stars Hollow, I found the actual scene of the musical to be a bit much. Don’t get me wrong, the musical numbers were HILARIOUS but did we really have to endure every. single. song? Also, can someone please explain to me why the actors, who were supposed to be from Connecticut, had accents sounding like they came straight out of Gone With the Wind?
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  3. Emily Gilmore
    Now a widow (RIP Edward Hermann), Emily Gilmore seemed to have been faring well for herself. The most shocking part – she actually found a maid she can keep (there are drinking games about her maids in the original series so…). I think what I loved most about the evolution of Emily’s character was the raw display of her grief. From wanting to get rid of all of her possessions, to struggling with the GIANT painting of Richard, and abandoning the facade of her D.A.R. friends. It was nice to see the old Emily with a new spark. Also, love her new house on Nantucket.
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  4. Paris Geller
    Paris. Paris. Paris. Where do we begin? Obviously she got her medical degree from Harvard, and based on her five-story townhouse in Manhattan, she’s done well at her fertility clinic. I must admit, I was disappointed in the strife between she and Doyle. I always enjoyed their relationship. However, her speech to the students in which she quoted Stalin had me rolling. Plus, there was her kicking the door closed with her heel. Easily one of the greatest scenes in the show. Obviously Paris is still Paris. She has a love/hate relationship with everyone around her and has no qualms about holding back her true feelings. But alas, these things are what make Paris, Paris, and that’s why we love her.
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  5. Jess
    From the beginning, Milo said Jess’ main role on the revival was to move the story line along and that’s exactly what he did. He convinced Rory to write the story about her and her mom, he helped Luke when he was missing Lorelai, and also helped his mom and TJ get out of their cult (regular season Jess would’ve let them rot so we’ve made progress). However, Jess’ whole “I don’t have feelings for Rory anymore while staring wishfully at Rory through a window” felt a bit overplayed. And considering his uncle married Rory’s mom, a relationship between them would feel odd (not as odd as Dan-Serena Gossip Girl dating/getting married even though their parents dated/were married at one point and they share a half-brother), but still odd. I don’t deny Jess is intellectually perfect for Rory, and he’s definitely always pushed her to do better, he’s just never been my favorite.
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  6. Logan
    Switching sides now, Logan was who I was rooting for from the beginning. I felt his presence in all four episodes of the show HAD to mean something. I was mildly disappointed at the way things ended with Logan. The adventure he took Rory on with the Life and Death Brigade was one for the books (who doesn’t love Colin buying clubs and hotels while he’s drunk) and Finn being well…Finn. But there was the whole situation of Logan clearly still loved Rory, yet chose to remain engaged to someone else. While Rory understood the situation, I still feel the sentiment of “my words will always say your perfect for me but my actions say I still won’t choose you” is a hard pill to swallow for anyone. Now I know going back to the original series, Rory is the one who rejected Logan’s proposal, but she’s obviously grown from that, as it’s clear she still loves Logan too. Their relationship felt more tragic than anything else. Considering I wanted things to end in wedding bells between them, I wasn’t amused.
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  7. Luke and Lorelai
    I don’t think there’s any denying all fans love the Luke and Lorelai saga (unless your my sister…then you think Lorelai should’ve been with Max). BUT for the rest of us, we love Luke and Lorelai together. And that’s exactly why I think their relationship was overplayed in the revival. If anyone ever had any doubt that Luke and Lorelai belonged together, I think they got that answer in the series finale when the show ending with them kissing. I loved watching their relationship grow, but personally I feel they should’ve already been married. Then the audience could have seen a flashback to the wedding, similar to the flashback we saw of Richard’s funeral. I felt like the revival focused more on the relationship between Luke and Lorelai than it did on Rory, which I felt was unnecessary. I never had any doubt surrounding their relationship (apparently neither did my dad). However, I do have a wedding date now, so in case anyone was curious November 5th will be my day. (Yes I know it’ll fall on a random day. That’s fine considering I’ll probably elope as opposed to having a wedding ceremony anyway). Though, I guess technically they ended up getting married on the 4th. Either way, either date will do for me, but I digress.
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  8. Rory
    Okay – time to talk business. While the show is called Gilmore Girls, emphasis on the girls, I wanted the revival to focus on Rory more and I felt it a bit lacking. Though I did enjoy the humanizing side of Rory. As someone who worked for everything she got, there was no denying she also had privilege and that privilege helped her land a media spot on the Obama campaign trail at the end of the original series. So, seeing Rory nine years later as a struggling freelance writer, trying to keep her hometown newspaper alive, and faced with disappointment from Conde Nast was refreshing. (Though I don’t have room to talk about the Conde Nast part. If they ever contacted me, I’d probably die right there). Writing is a huge part of who Rory is and I think it’s what helps me relate to her so much. Plus, I loved her book idea. When there’s a story that has to be told, the words will undoubtedly come and that’s exactly what happened for her. On another note, I felt it’s clear she’ll never be able to reciprocate the feelings Jess has for her, then there’s Logan, the guy she’ll clearly always love, but then there was also her run-in with Dean in Doose’s Market. The way she described Dean as an amazing person she would always love because of his kindness and protection over her was a moment where I couldn’t stop smiling. I’m glad they had that moment. Yet, as before, I’m still disappointed we don’t know who she chooses, but let’s all be thankful it wasn’t Paul/Peter.
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  9. The Last Four Words
    The big cliffhanger Gilmore Girls kept floating around. Time has passed so I feel okay actively discussing the last four words. According to reports, this was how Amy Sherman-Palladino originally wanted the show to end, so I guess now the real question remains if they will bring the revival back or not. So you know what I’m talking about, the last for words went like this:
    Rory: Mom
    Lorelai: Yeah?
    Rory: I’m pregnant 
    The circle of life right? Except Rory was 32, not 16. So here’s what I think – the baby is obviously Logan’s, and would most-likely be a girl (it is the Gilmore GIRLS after all). So does that make Logan the next Christopher and Jess the next Luke? I would certainly hope not. Logan would definitely want to be with Rory if he knew about the child, but I guess that also raises the question of if Rory would ever tell him. And based off the conversation she had with her dad, I feel she’d debated not telling Logan at all. Jess would love the child has his own, the same way Luke did for Rory, but still, they are awkwardly related now. Who knows how things would end, but I can honestly say I never saw that part coming so props to Amy and Daniel. The revival finale certainly didn’t suck as much as How I Met Your Mother, but I love the sense of mystery it left, kind of like the writers did with Chuck.
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So there you have it – one very long post on my thoughts on the Gilmore Girls revival. Sorry, there were a lot (and I could’ve gone on for me). Overall, I’d consider the revival a success. While there were some things I wasn’t exactly a fan of, you can’t win them all. At the end of the day, it was just nice to step back into Stars Hollow, even if it was just for a few hours. Life’s short, talk fast.

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