Never Goodbye

The faded red double-decker bus caught my eye as soon as we rounded the corner, its effervescent charm radiating from the top level’s vintage chandeliers I stole glances of while waiting at the adjacent stoplight.

What a nifty little monument to this city’s cultural scene, I thought. In its prime, it could’ve rolled up and down the streets of this town nestled in the foothills of North Carolina, royally awarding its second-level passengers a view of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Now, in 2016, it sat stationary, guarded by a wrought iron fence. And I suddenly wished to be a part of its past. One of its passengers.

Then the WALK sign flashed and as we drew nearer, I saw the sign.

Coffee & Desserts.

Be still my heart, why, this charming old bus was a coffeeshop!

I looped my hand around Jesse’s arm as we approached, silently trying to send a signal that we must give this brilliant shop owner our money before leaving town. Unsure he noticed, I cinched the deal with a longing, over-the-shoulder stare at the little old bus as we walked past and towards our lunch spot. I was rewarded with a: “Well, we’ll just have to stop there and get some coffee later, won’t we?”

I was already imagining the joy of sitting up at the top, sipping my beverage, taking in the quaint old-school aura and perhaps even delighting in a card game with my signal-reading husband.

After stalling the afternoon away with street tacos and people-watching, I decided it was time to indulge my heart and return to the bus. Shaded by matching, faded red umbrellas, crowds milled about the outside seating area while a short line was beginning to form on the first level. I shot a quick glance up at the top windows, suddenly realizing the crowds could be a result of a seat-less top level.

Met with an obscuring glare, I gave Jesse my order and made for the refinished, metallic steps to the second level, hoping to find empty bench seats.

Alas, there were two empty tables for the taking! That is, two tables that neighbored two other tables occupied by a large group of young adults who all turned to look at this vintage-bus-loving stranger who just climbed the stairs, apparently killing their conversational vibe.

Determined to enjoy my “ride” on the bus, I ducked under the low-hanging chandelier, averted my anxious gaze under the I-can’t-see-them-they-can’t-see-me pretense and sat down, praying for Jesse’s quick ascent up the stairs.

Now allow me to confess: I’m a bit of a curious person. (Some call it nosy… I call it “byproduct of a journalism degree.”) So, with both eyes nonchalantly looking out the window and one ear turned toward the group, I gathered little factoids about this ragtag bunch of young people sitting together drinking coffee on an old double-decker bus. For example, the whole right table was living, or had once lived, in Alaska. Inferred tidbit: the whole left table was jealous.

It had only been a few minutes after I sat down that the group’s conversation lulled. I stole a quick glance over and saw The Alaskas toying with empty to-go cups stuffed with trash, and assumed the scene meant the top cabin of this bus would soon be all mine.

I heard footsteps coming up the stairwell and began to shuffle things around on the table to make room for Jesse and I’s beverages. Instead, a couple emerged, scanning the close quarters with a disappointed look and turning to go back down.

Before the woman descended, a voice shot out from the Alaska table: “Hey I know that face!”

Her cropped dark hair grazed the chandelier as she swung her head back toward the voice. Her bearded companion (perfect for the Alaskan bush, might I add), hovered above the steps, waiting to see if the recognition was mutual and/or legit.

One “Oh my gosh, hiiiii!” and a hug later, the bearded man was retreating from the steps and I was losing hope the top cabin of the bus would soon be all mine.

One hug turned into three and four as the entire group greeted this new couple with surprised glee. Turns out each of the Alaskas and Alaska-Wannabes knew this couple, who obviously had made no plans with the aforementioned to meet here. At the top of a random, old, monster truck version of an everyday coffee cart.

And me, my journalistic self and I had to find out the connection.

Still staring out the window, I tune in and resist the urge to start taking notes on my phone. It’s shockingly apparent that the group has not seen this couple for quite some time, as they all start answering her “So where are you living now?” questions.

Not shockingly, one of the right-tablers introduces his girlfriend and says they’re just visiting from Alaska. Another explains that he’s right here in Asheville. One of the Alaska Wannabes pipes up and explains that he’s a Marine, so he’s living ‘everywhere.’ (I understand, bro. Oorah!)

I’m already fascinated with the journeys of each of these strangers and still curious as to why they’re all in one place at the same time, but my jaw nearly hits the table when I hear the dark-haired girl’s response to her own question. She reveals that they are in town for their last day of a three-year-anniversary celebration before they return back to Amsterdam.

Yes that’s right. Amsterdam.

Cue It’s A Small World After All.

Their chatter continues as Jesse climbs up the stairs and I have to keep myself from shushing him as he sits down. I mean, it’s one thing to have your husband realize you’re eavesdropping on strangers. But it’s a whole different ballgame when your subjects–an arm’s length away–realize you’re eavesdropping.

Suddenly it dawns on my new friends (since I know so much about the group to call them as such) that the dramatics of the spontaneous reunion deserve a photo.

Before letting them draw straws to choose who gets left out of the picture, I catch the Marine’s eye and offer to take the photo.

As I sit back down, I quietly admit to Jesse my one, burning question: How do they ALL know each other?

Using my journalist background against me, he tells me to just ask them. So, I put my fear of being publicly pegged a busybody behind me, stand up to follow Jesse down the stairs and politely address the group: “I’m sorry, but I’ve seen how unplanned all of this was and I just have to ask: How do you all know each other?”

Alaska Living In Asheville replied: “Apple. We all worked at Apple.”

_______

This whole story is to encourage not only myself, but any others of you who are wondering how you’ll be able to leave that home, that church, those friends, your family… for a new place. A new state. Or possibly even a new country.

Whether it’s work, love or just life that takes you from what you know, this story shows that it’s never goodbye when you leave. It’s see ya later…

Perhaps on the top level of an old double-decker bus in Asheville, North Carolina.

doubledecker

 

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Staring Down Foxes.

LukebannerConfession.

I struggle with indecision in way too many areas of my life. But, there is one place in my life that has never encountered this problem. Every morning since the dawn of time, at that first beep of the alarm, I courageously make a bold decision: No.

No, no and um yeah, no.

That’s right, I set about 4 alarms every day. Not because I fear I won’t hear them, but because I am humbly aware of how talented I am at saying no to each one.

Unsurprisingly, this has caused my morning quiet time with God to ebb and flow throughout the years. I don’t mind change or even switching up daily patterns, but when it comes to time spent with God, I cherish consistency. And He desires it.

For the past few months, I’ve been challenged through the quiet example my husband has set. No matter how early his work day has to start, he will work in at least a half hour or more to his morning to read his Bible. And at times, that meant he had to be up at 3:30am.

My series of no’s at 8:30am seem just a tad foolish now, don’t they?

So this past week, I followed his lead, prioritizing the first part of my day for my quiet time. While I can’t say that I felt the chills and power of God each morning, I will attest that God rewards consistency.

Come Friday, I felt strengthened by the last several mornings and even woke up two hours earlier than usual, just to be productive. Before even opening the Word this time, I settled into my spot on the couch, clutched the Book and silently prayed for God to inscribe His words onto my heart and show me something only He could.

And boy was He eager to answer that prayer.

Opening my Bible to the passage in Luke that I left off from the day before, I read:

“Just then, some Pharisees came up and said [to Jesus], ‘Run for your life! Herod’s on the hunt. He’s out to kill you!’

Jesus said, ‘Tell that fox that I’ve no time for him right now. Today and tomorrow I’m busing cleaning out the demons and healing the sick; the third day I’m wrapping things up. Besides, it’s not proper for a prophet to come to a bad end outside Jerusalem.'”

Lemme just tell you what just went down, in case you didn’t catch it the first time.

The Son of God just shaded one of the most powerful men in His time–a man out to kill Him, no less–by saying, “Eh, I don’t really have time for you to try and kill me. I have a busy schedule doing miracles and proving that, you know, I’m the Son of God.”

That peace! That confidence!

I’ve never seen such total disregard of imminent danger, and while it shouldn’t have surprised me the way it did jumping off the pages, I couldn’t help but let a smile play at my lips as I reread the passage. To spit off that kind of response to a death threat as smoothly and boldly as Jesus did shows His great faith in His identity and His purpose.

To be any clearer, He would’ve had to say: “Herod, you fox. My work here on this Earth is not yet done. I still have miracles to do, demons to crush and lives to change. My Father is not yet ready to take Me, so I will remain busy until that appointed time. You do not control my life’s timeline. Because I know this, you can’t hurt me.”

How my life would be so different if I could stare my foxes down with the same kind of boldness. A confidence rooted in my identity as a daughter of the King. Think of how much time we would have in our lives if we didn’t waste it on fear. Fear of what others were thinking about us. Fear of our finances. Fear of our future.

Ladies and gentleman, start thinking of some new hobbies. Because if you take hold of this Godly confidence, you’re about to have a whole lot of free time.

Maybe even time for a nap. No alarms needed.

 

 

 

 

A Bird’s Eye View

Perspectives.

It’s slightly alarming at how quickly, and easily, these can change. One minute, you can be looking down at the dew-covered grass starting to paint your shoes, and the next, you’re in a basket being pulled up into the sun-kissed sky by a few flames and a massive balloon.

When standing on the Earth, I often watch in jealous awe of a bird catching a ride on a wind wave, wings out straight, not even working for it. As the pull of gravity continues to prove the limitations between me and the feathered surfer, I take on an envious perspective. I wonder what it would be like to just coast through the air effortlessly.

But then, I’m off the ground. My shoes are still stained from the grassy field that continues to get smaller and smaller, but for the next hour, I’m no longer held down by Earth’s forces. I’m no longer curious about what the birds get to see each morning in Virginia’s finest valley. My perspective is now set on this view that I realize will never be seen by many. Treetops are no longer untouchable. The sun isn’t just on the horizon, but at eye level. And locals toddle out of their homes in bathrobes, waving their ant-like arms at you as you pass by.

This weekend was a reminder for me to not just prepare for perspective changes, but embrace them. I’m barely blooming into this life as a Marine spouse, but already, I’ve had to let go of old perspectives that I was comfortable in… that brought me clarity. No longer do I simply represent myself. I am a wife to my Marine and thus, a representation of not only him as a Lieutenant, but the United States Marine Corps. Even behind close doors, my behavior, my attitude and the way I treat others are all reflections. On myself. On my husband. On the USMC. And on my relationship with my God.

See, perspectives not only have the ability to change you, but those around you. If you let it. It’s a chance for growth–to see new things and to delight in the changes it brings. Because perspectives change. And often, they yield beautiful sights.

The Chase

Proverbs 31My laptop teetered on my crossed legs as I sat on the couch, staring at the screen with my new WordPress account on the brink of being finished.

Except for that taunting, blinking cursor that was demanding the site’s newest, naive blogger to name her blog. This is your first one! The title has to be just the right balance of profound, witty and yet readable.

Basically, I like words. Annnnnd that’s probably an understatement. If you know me, you’re rolling your eyes because I am THAT grammar Nazi, THAT kid who loved English class, and THAT friend who constantly shows you all those pins on Pinterest with the hilarious grammar guy and you’re*. (Remember, I was also THAT girl who provided free labor and edited all of your papers… so you guys can stop rolling!)

The cursor continued to blink. I thought. And thought. And stared blankly across my living room. My screen ended the cursor’s taunts as it went dark out of inactivity.

And then… it came. A verb (or present participle to be annoyingly, grammatically correct) just popped into my mind. Simple as that.

But what am I chasing?

____

There’s something about a pursuit that is so intoxicating. A high speed car chase: it steals all of your regularly-scheduled primetime shows, and your attention. Our curiosity burns just like the engine of the fool veering in and out of lanes. We egg on the careless and lawless driver to keep holding down the accelerator because it’s exhilarating to wonder what it’ll take to end it. We all know it’s not going to end well for the driver. In what episode of COPS ever did the driver evade all cameras, helicopters and police vehicles to find total freedom? We know it has to end, but we just want to see how.

A love story. Time and time again, crowds flock to the movie theaters to watch a story where a man pursues a woman in the most romantic, tear-jerking of ways. We know how it’s going to end–even you, Nicholas Sparks, we’re on to you and your twisted ways–yet we still eat it up because we just want to see how the chase plays out.

And then there’s the best of pursuits. The one that is set apart from all other pursuits because it’s one that we, humans, will never fully understand. God’s chase after His own children. His creation. His bride.

We were made in His image. After creating the universe, the planets, the stars, the beasts of the field… He wasn’t content to stop until He made us. Guys. I think that means we’re kind of His favorite!

But sadly, it became human nature to disappoint him. Growing up in an amazing family, rooted in the church, I knew that I was God’s cherished daughter at an early age. But all too often, I sinned, fueled fires, and pushed Him away. Instead, I went on my own pursuit of something that I thought I could find all by myself: perfection.

It was just easier to do it my way and ask Him for help later… when I had exhausted myself out of my other options. When my wheels finally stopped turning, and my engine exhausted, I finally let God handcuff me and takeover.

Ironically, it was so freeing. The dreams I had been praying for began to take shape under His direction. Questions that I’d been mulling over and searching for my own answer to for months… were suddenly cleared one afternoon in the middle of a desperate prayer. It wasn’t until I let my mind submit to His will, did I find what I was really looking for.

I realized the perfection I was seeking was never going to be found because there’s only one, perfect thing in all of creation. And He was behind me… chasing me.

Now, I’ve chosen to pursue a new venture. With each new morning, I pursue my Pursuer. I want to think like Him, love like Him and worship His name. He has blessed me with abundance… one of the biggest gifts being the husband I will return to in three short days.

It is because of God’s grace and fulfilled promises that He gave my Jesse to me. And being his has allowed me the opportunity to chase after the symbol of the Bible’s definition of a good wife. (Notice, I did not use the word “perfect”) She is trusted, hardworking, a wise steward, confident, provider for her family, respected and encouraging. As an imperfect woman, I’m going to fail, disappoint, and falter in these ventures. But that’s why it’s a pursuit. I choose to fight with resolve to chase Proverbs 31. The symbol of a good wife who lives in reverent fear of her forever Pursuer.

In titling this blog, I am actively reminding myself to constantly seek how to be a better version of who I am. A redeemed daughter of the King. And a supportive, strong, adoring wife to my hunk of a Marine.

Beginnings:

They carry this nervous energy and pent up excitement. The anxious, twisted fingers underneath the table during a first date; the quickening of a runner’s heartbeat before the starting gun fires; the curious wanderlust of a traveler leaving home as she hands her one-way ticket to the attendant.

Even the multiple perfectionistic edits of a writer before hitting “publish”on her inaugural blog post.

If you couldn’t tell, I currently fall into the latter category. I’ve been telling myself to start one of these ever since finishing college and looking for ways to keep the creative ink of my right side brain from drying up. I have a loose idea of where I want to take this blog, but for tonight, I figured I would just let my thoughts take these keys wherever they wanted to go. And since this is just the beginning… well, I have time to shape this blog into what I want it to be. (Little teaser for next post: I share my reasoning for this blog title.)

Honestly, beginnings are one of my very favorite things. The unknown is exhilarating to me–it’s why I love surprises. Beginnings are the root of daydreams, nostalgia and memories. I never have answers in the beginning, and it’s so relieving to not have that burden. Instead, I simply allow my ever-processing brain to go limp noodle, if you will, and just be in the moment.

Those anxious, twisted fingers? Yeah, that comes from experience. My hands were in knots underneath a McAlister’s table one August night because my brain was much too occupied with the handsome brown-eyed boy laughing at my corny, lame jokes to tell my fingers to chill out. Had I been actually using all of my brain’s potential… I probably would’ve sounded a whole lot more logical in trying to impress this logistics major, thus, my off-the-cuff jokes wouldn’t have ever landed on his ears, and his whole-hearted laugh might never have become the one I hold so dear to my heart now, nearly two years later.

The thing is… the beauty of a beginning cannot be seen until you let your brain stop trying to figure out the ending.

It’s with this mentality that I’m striving towards the newest of my beginnings.

You see, I married that brown-eyed, laughing boy on March 27, 2015.

In the wee hours of April 30, 2015, I would watch red tail lights reflect off our apartment hallway as my Marine drove away from our little Texan home, headed towards Quantico, Virginia, to report for TBS (The Basic School) five months earlier than we were both prepared for.

Due to the sudden announcement, necessary quick turnaround and just starting my new blessing of a job, I hugged and kissed him goodbye that morning knowing that I wouldn’t get to join him in that beautifully green state until the beginning of July.

Two months.

Being a newlywed… well, that might as well be two years. Dramatic as that sounds, I really miss my husband… this is my blog… and I can write whatever I want.

But I digress. Let’s back up… the beginning of July. Catch that key word? Another beginning is on my horizon! I’m going to be honest, the first couple weeks of him being gone were rough and riddled with grumpiness. But with each new morning, I began to embrace that pent up excitement and anticipation for that July day when I would jump out of that U-Haul into my man’s arms, wordlessly defining why Virginia Is For Lovers.

July 2nd is ever creeping closer, and I wait in anticipation to join my husband in this new beginning of our lives–the adventure of learning how to pack efficiently, living in new cities and creating lasting relationships with fellow Marines and their spouses who chose to seek the same adventure.

At 23, I’ve experienced a lot of beginnings. But this next one is about to take me for a ride of surprises.

And you already know by now… I can’t wait.