When Bad Things Happen

I find it hard to know exactly where to begin with this post. I’ve been mulling over this age-long question and human frustration of why bad things happen for so long it seems.

This very question is what I have found that keeps people from faith, from hope, and from Christ who gave His life up for even the least of our sins. As I think on it, of course, there are memories and times in my life that flash back. Times where I questioned God; times where I wrestled with Him, and times where I yelled and kicked and screamed and ran from Him. Obviously, everyone has their own personal battles, heart aches, and experiences with sadness, calamity, and hard times. I don’t pretend to know the depth of what others have gone through, and I don’t claim to know the answers for why bad things DO occur. I can only talk about what I’ve walked through and what my experience has been.

To show vulnerability and share with you guys my experience through bad times, I think of the time my father went through open heart surgery 6 months before my wedding.

This was a trying time for my family. We knew my dad was having problems, unable to even keep his breath walking through a department store…We were thinking a standard bypass surgery was what was needed; but after his visit to the doctor, we found out the issues were much more severe than what we could have anticipated. In a blink of an eye the decision was made for open heart surgery, PLUS double bypass AND he’s aortic heart valve to be replaced. Obviously this hit us hard.

I remember going through frustration with the Lord. I’ve always had an irrational fear of my dad not being with me on my wedding day to walk me down the aisle…I know my heart was selfish to be so concerned over that. But I was also at such a beautiful place in my relationship with my dad.

During the bulk of my preteen and teen years, my dad and I struggled in our relationship and in showing each other love. I remember days thinking my dad couldn’t care less, and I’m sure he went through days of frustration with me. The thing was, I just didn’t understand how my dad expressed his love. As a young, naive girl I just wanted to be loved practically. The way my dad loves, is through the way he cares for me. The way whenever I aome home from college he checks every aspect of my car for safety, makes sure I know how to change and fill my cars oil, and the way he always seemed to take care of the details.

For years it was impossible for me to see this as love until I matured in my own understanding of love. I know and have full confidence that my dad loves me deeply, and he knows that I am his biggest fan! Having this understanding, it ripped me to pieces knowing my dad was going to undergo such an intense surgery on his heart.

I wrestled. I fought. I showed my frustration.

Although the preparations for surgery were tedious and painful, and there were so many hours spent in the waiting room patiently waiting for each little update… The outcome not only displayed the provisions, deliverance, grace, AND mercy of Christ…but also showed me more about fellowship and community than I have learned in all of the years of my life.

First, the weeks leading up to his surgery were filled with my prayers of surrender. Knowing I was away at college, I had to accept that not only could I not do anything to fix the problem, but couldn’t even be with my family during the preparations. Fortunately, I go to an incredible school full of students and faculty that are willing and desire to pray over their peers and students…I shared my dad’s situation in my classes and to my utmost surprise, a couple of students launched a Facebook group called “Pray for Ron” where a hundreds of people posted words of encouragement and joined with my family in coming beside us to carry our burden and commit to pray for my sweet father. My classmates who created the Facebook page, I hardly knew. I was blown away by their kindness, support, and love.

Second, was the amount of love and support by our church family and the girls on my dorm at school. The amount of prayers, texts, phone calls was overwhelming. I knew me and my family were not experiencing the hard time and difficulty by ourselves.

The last then as far as the support and encouragement from the community that I’d like to share would be straight from my incredible friend, Bethany Pico. While I was in the waiting room during my dad’s 10 hour surgery, Bethany, from another state, was able to have my favorite drink from Starbucks delivered to me. In the waiting room. Such love, thoughtfulness and dedication in support and friendship will forever have an effect on me. So thankful for you, Beth.

There is so much more to share, but all I can really say, is through a terrible circumstance, that I have no claim to understand WHY it had to happen, I was able to experience pure and beautiful fellowship in the community Christ has surrounded me with.

“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”

-Galatians 6:2

“What good fellowship we once enjoyed as we walked together to the house of God.
-Psalm 55:14

“For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”
-Matthew 18:20

I am so proud and forever thankful to say that not only did my father walk me down the aisle and DANCE with me on my wedding day, but now walks ahead of me on those rare occasions I get him to go shopping with me. To see the Lord’s sweet deliverance and grace through the outcome of my dad’s surgery was also invaluable of an experience to go through. I trust in the Lord and in His sweet provisions. I have learned to trust Him throughout all circumstances and throughout every outcome.

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Photos by: Cali

To reiterate, I have no beautifully articulated answer for why bad things happen to good people. I wish that I did, and I wish that it solved your problems and gave you hope and restoration in your faith. All that I can stake claim in, is knowing what I’ve learned through those times in my own life.

As author Shauna Niequist says,

“When life is sweet, say thank you and celebrate. And when life is bitter, say thank you and grow.”
-Bittersweet

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The Littlest Things.

This will be a quick short & sweet view into another type of project we have been working on. We’ve been working to make our apartment feel like home, so last week we decided to work specifically on the little space that we have right outside of our apartment…I like to call it our stoop.

Here’s the simple things we’ve done to make it feel like home:
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One of my mothers passions has always been outside working in her garden. She got me started on this kick to have some plants in our apartment, as well as outside on our stoop. I ended up with three different pots & wanted to have them be a bit staggered. Here’s how I did that.

-I purchased three cement blocks (the type you’d possibly build a wall with) and I spray painted them & used them to give the different pots a staggered look.

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Here’s just a zoomed in look to some of my favorite plants: succulents. I love these little guys…and even more so that they are not high maintenance.

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Here are sweet treats from my sweet mom. These beautiful flowers are impatients & add a lot of color and fun to our stoop.

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Finally, I had to of course try to grow some sort of produce. This will be a good experience to see if I’m able to maintain the plant…and possibly grow some more!

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Here is my handsome guy on the cute chairs my parents bought for us. He is, of course wood working for his etsy shop Sprecher Handmade.

We are pretty happy about our sweet little outside area! Day by day we are feeling more and more at home.

Humorous occurrence: The other day I had taken a day trip to shop with my friends and coworkers… While we were gone I got a text from Clay that said “Will you be too tired to play mario party & watch mean girls when you get home” I couldn’t help but share the text with the ladies I was with while we laughed at how absolutely hilarious and adorable that man is.

Grateful happenings: In the midst of one of the rainiest summers I’ve ever experienced, I’ve found that I have been so thankful for the rain. I have loved reading during the storms, and I love the way the air feels after them. Although I can’t find my umbrella & have experienced many wet days because of it… I am grateful for the green earth &  rainy days.

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Home is Whenever I’m With You.

A month and a half ago I married the sweetest man I know. Now, this isn’t a post on marriage, but I wanted to take time to express my gratitude to Clay. He is an absolutely incredible husband. People found it necessary to warn us about the “reality” of marriage once you get home from the honeymoon. All I really have to say pertaining that, is Clay and I LOVE reality. Marriage has truly been the best adventure to date and each day is full of joy, laughter, growing, and yes, some confusion and wondering, but we have loved the process. Finding out new things about each other each and every day has been such a blessing, and so much fun. I consider it such a privilege to be his wife! More about marriage in the future- for now, I’d like to introduce a new project I will be working on.

For the next few weeks, I will be featuring different rooms/projects in our new apartment to show you guys what we’ve done & a little bit on how we did certain things. With my new job as a Resident Director, Clay and I are blessed with an apartment right on campus. We have been spending time putting rooms together, building, painting, and so much more. We have loved it.

Without further ado, the first room I would joyfully like to feature, is our sweet little living room.

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Pictured above is one of our end tables, then zoomed in for details, and our couch with throw pillows. In the first picture, I went ‘antiquing’ and bought the white end table, and on top are center piece elements taken from our wedding (table runner, parchment covered books) and then our throw pillows which were bought at target.

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I love this little corner of our living room! This night stand is sporting a sweet vase, really cool bubble lamp with a bird candle, two un-pictured frames and really elegant coasters. (please forgive the frames not having photos..yet!) To hone in on a couple details, first would be this lamp… which was also purchased at target:

- What I love about this is the ability to dress it for any occasion or season! You can literally put anything on the inside of it, making it also completely adaptable to any room.
-Next would be the white fabric & grey ribbon. The night stand is actually a wood brown. It didn’t quite fit the look I was going for, so I took an old short-curtain and draped it on top and tied it with this piece of ribbon that a sweet friend of mine wrapped one of our wedding gifts in. (thanks Sarah Beth!)
-Last would be the lace coasters. I LOVE these coasters! They were hand made by a woman at our church named Betty. She made us a couple of other really neat pieces that may make an appearance later in this post. They add sweet elegance to our living surfaces.

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I feel as though this deserved it’s own feature…only because Clay and I are so excited about it. Him and I have never been huge TV watchers…but we do love movies and what we love more than that is having friends over, popping that popcorn, and having movie nights! Both of our first time purchasing a TV and we are pretty excited! We originally were going to mount it on the wall… But love the way this turned out so much we couldn’t change it. Here are the details:

-The bottom trunk features pennants from different ivy league colleges. I got this trunk for $10 thrift shopping in Lynchburg and fell in love with it. I love the look of the old pennants. This trunk gives a huge overall vintage appeal to our living room
– Clay and I both collect old vintage camera, and took the opportunity to add more to the vintage look by putting a couple of them on top of the bottom trunk.
-Lastly, is the top trunk. This one has sentimental value because it not only belonged to my mom in college, but I used it as decoration in my dorm all throughout college as well. With these trunks stacked, it created a surprisingly perfect height for our new TV.

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This is probably my absolute favorite part of our entire living room. To me, this one area holds so much character.

- First, the adorable pastel blue coffee table. I have been looking for the perfect coffee table, wanting it to have an elegant vintage look but ALSO be a pastel blue. Low and behold, I found this special, perfectly sized, pastel blue (already painted!) sweet little coffee table this past Sunday at an obscure small on the outside, HUGE on the inside antique store. So happy with this little treasure.
-Next would be the story of the flowers & vase. First, blue mason jars have recently become a hot commodity, simply because more people desire to decorate with them. I joyfully bought this sweet big jar for $2 from a gentleman in Lynchburg. But that’s not the best part of this story. Clay and I have been going to church an hour and fifteen minutes away from our home this summer, it’s been an adjustment but we have been showered with love, encouragement and just pure kindness from the congregation. These beautiful roses were given to me this past Sunday by a woman whose name I do not even know. I am so thankful, so stunned, so blessed. It’s my goal to find out this sweet woman’s name this week.
– Next two photos you can see zoomed in that the mason jar lays on a doily that was hand made by the same woman (Ms. Betty) who made the beautiful coasters. Can’t express what a blessing these sweet treasures our and how much it means to display them in our home!

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This last feature is something Clay and I are both really, truly excited to share. Moving into our new apartment, we had a couple of awkward spaces to fill. Some, we are still working on. But this specific space we are confident that we’ve filled it properly and made it our own.

-First, we hand made those lovely white shelves. And by we I mean Clay bought the wood, cut it, sanded it, nailed it all together…and I spray painted it. I’d still like to say we make a pretty great team. We then filled the shelves with various types of books and sweet/special/unique/vintage findings that Clay and I both had displayed in our previous homes. Bringing it all together was truly exciting for us.
– The second picture is a more clear picture of something I’ve always called my “love fern” this plant was given to me by my mother and I have nurtured it all four years of college… it has had some really rough days, but has made it through like a champ. I couldn’t think of a better place to display it and it’s long, luscious growth!
-The next few photos are zoomed in on some of the sweet details. This next one is more parchment covered books from the center pieces of our wedding, and on top of that is the elephant Clay carved into a ring box that he proposed to me with.
– The next is a hand made carving of the country of Africa that I got while in Uganda, and beside that is a little jar that was given to me by one of my best friends who lived in Costa Rica.
-Finally, we have a vintage/retro flashlight next to another elephant (I have to spread my infatuation around somehow).

Overall this shelf holds a lot of beautiful memories and we are simply thrilled with how it all turned out! Clay will soon be featuring how to segments on some of the projects we have been working on… you can find his blog here:

A Man With Goals

And he has an etsy shop which you can pretty much ask him to make anything:

Sprecher Handmade

Humorous occurrence: The other day for lunch, Clay and I were making world-class sandwiches…When I was opening the fridge and asking him what he would like on his, I thought he was in the other room, but beside me he responded, “BAAACOOOONNNN” I don’t know what it was… his excitement, the loudness of his response… but I literally fell to the ground, terrified. Then we laughed for a good 10 minutes about me being “afraid” of bacon. Life with him is always an adventure, full of laughter.

Grateful happenings: Today, I find myself grateful for new friendships in unexpected places. I am in a brand new community, and feel so deeply thankful and overwhelmed with gratitude for the women I GET to be surrounded by.

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The Significance of a Grateful Heart

The reason this post has taken me so long to write is because I have a story to tell that I wasn’t ready to share until now.

Around a year and a half ago I was in Uganda. There was one girl I met whose name I do not know, but face I will never forget. While I was in Uganda, my team predominately worked at a baby orphanage…but outside of the orphanage gates were tons of children from the surrounding area wishing to know and gain attention from us “Mzungus” (foreigners).

This particular girl has changed my life forever. Everyday I would see her, and everyday she was attached to my hip. I loved each day being able to laugh with her, trying to communicate though we couldn’t understand one another. One particular day she slipped a coin into my hand as me and my team were leaving for the day. I looked down at this coin, which would be the equivalent of about a nickel. This sweet child who is in dirty rags and no shoes gave me money.

It may seem like a small gesture, but to me her action was extremely convicting. During that summer I had been going through an incredibly hard season of my life that left me struggling how to be grateful in all circumstances. And to be vulnerable and raw with you, it took me until more recently to finally learn how, and believe me- I am still learning. Which is why this post comes so late, but with much emotion. I couldn’t fully share the depth of this story and what this little girl meant to me, until I fully learned the lesson I knew she was meant to teach me.

I was so convicted over this coin she gave me. She, who had nothing- and me, who had plenty. I wanted to give this child the world- but she was the one who was giving. She was the one who was grateful. On our last day, I went to say goodbye to my sweet friend, but wasn’t able to find her. As the bus took off I saw her running after us and as soon as the bus stopped, she handed me a shoebox through the bus window. Inside this box was a shirt that was just my size. This sweet, precious child gave me a shirt. ME. This child who had no nice clothes to her name, no shoes to wear… I don’t know where she could have gotten a shirt or how she determined my size, but she did.

I can’t express to you what I felt. I wanted curled up and weep. This sweet girl was thankful that I gave her my time, that I held her hand, and that I smiled and laughed with her. She was so grateful that she wanted to give me presents. She will never know that she gave me so much more that day. I know it’s a funny concept; we go on these trips hoping to save the world and help end poverty; and then end up being changed ourselves in ways that are hardest to explain.

I tell this story now, because although it will always be a difficult challenge, I’ve learned the significance of a grateful heart.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

I have been given abundantly more than I deserve, I can assure you that much. Life has struggles; and believe me, I am not immune to the beastly curve balls it so often throws. But I truly believe that the way to getting through each and every circumstance is through having a consistent and grateful heart.

I think the ultimate way to do so is by the following:

 Find beauty in small things:

I know this may come at you as a cliché. But this has changed my perspective in so many ways. When I find myself simply having difficulty cultivating a grateful perspective- I know that if I can call myself out like a good friend would, and then make a conscious decision to find small things that DO bring on a grateful heart, it makes all the difference. For instance, having one of those 5 minute conversations that unknowingly bring on big encouragement, making coffee in the morning, waking up and listening to jojo Pandora station with your roommate, receiving letters from someone you love, or calling your grandma and grandpa when they put you on speaker phone so they can share you. When I am conscious to notice these things, it is easier for me to have a grateful heart, which then in turn makes my time and conversation with the Lord all the richer and more meaningful.

Hold tight to what you know, and look to your Heavenly Father:

I tell this to myself on a daily bases. What do I know? That I have security in my faith, I have an incredible family, loving friends, and the sweetest fiancé. That I am graduating and getting married. I could honestly go on and on about the incredible inventory of things that I have to be grateful for, but when it comes down to it- I think of these things and my pride and apathy are quenched and replaced with gratitude and zeal. When I think of these things I can’t HELP but look to Christ and praise Him for the works He has done in my life!

Trust that God loves you, cares for you, and will never allow something to happen that he hasn’t equipped you for:

Obviously, it’s during turmoil, chaos and trials where it’s the most difficult to cultivate a grateful spirit, especially when it’s in accord to our relationship with Christ. Although this is true, it’s also during those times that it is absolutely imperative to have a grateful spirit. I’m currently reading a book called Bittersweet that was written by Shauna Niequist and my first time sitting down reading this book, I read this quote “When life is sweet, say thank you and celebrate. And when life is bitter, say thank you and grow.” I think this in itself sums up so much about what it means to have a grateful heart. During times of happiness and bliss- celebrate! But then how much more does it say about our character if we also can take the trials and turmoil to be able to grow and be thankful for that growth? I can tell you countless of trials I have been through that I look back and have evidence of the Lord’s hands in them- my regret? That during the trials, I wasn’t able to see it that way, I lived in resentment towards the Lord instead of in reverence and gratitude. To be able to go through trials with a grateful heart is one of the best, most challenging, and character building practices I feel that we can learn.

I never knew one child, whose name I don’t know- could effect me so deeply, challenge me greatly, and heighten my awareness to such a big lesson that I needed to learn. I am forever grateful.

With a happy heart,

Aly

Sweet Summer Restoration

The Lord has been teaching me SO much about diligence and discipline this summer. At the end of this past school year, I was so burnt out; in every single facet of the meaning. I was burnt out spiritually, physically, mentally…functionally? I was burnt out more than I even knew was humanly possible. Looking ahead to the summer, which normally would be the light of the tunnel, instead left me worried my path down the road of self destruction, stress and worry would just magnify. Because this summer is anything but a slow easy one for me. I am interning, living away from the comfort of home, working two jobs, and taking summer classes. I couldn’t possibly fathom how a summer filled with so many tasks could help my burn out; instead, it just stressed and worried me all the more.

That’s where surprise and astonishment kick in. I’ve been reading a book about discipline and diligence and it has been rocking my world. I found out some major problems in my genuine intentioned lifestyle. You see, the first problem is that I am an extreme perfectionist who never settles for mediocre. In some instances, this can be a good thing- in mine, it has been a destructive thing. This past school year I was involved in SO many things… My problem wasn’t necessarily over commitment, but the raw fact that I was giving 100% of myself to all activities at the same time. This is a horrible habit to form, and an even worse way to live; but of course, that was my reality. This summer I have learned the significance of surrender,  the significance of compartmentalizing, and the significance of rest.

First would be the significance of surrender. I am such a stubborn independent human being and I want to be able to do everything by myself without help just to prove I’m strong enough. Fact: I am not strong enough. Not on my own, at least. The cold hard truth is that Christ is the source of strength offered to His children, all we have to do, all I had to do…was ask for it. 1 Chronicles 16:11 says, “Seek the LORD and His strength; Seek His presence continually!” I had lost sight of Christ and His strength, and I was doing anything but seeking Him to fix the weakness that I was pretending not to have. This summer has been so refreshing, because I have been able to humble myself and seek the strength of the Lord to be my source of energy throughout each and every busy day.

Second, compartmentalizing. If you’re like me, then you LOVE to be involved. With everything. This is not a bad thing, but it can be if you don’t have the ability to manage your time and compartmentalize. You see, when I didn’t compartmentalize I could be working on homework, but I would be thinking about this activity or that activity or this appointment or that coffee conversation or this assignment or that commitment… you get the point. It was impossible for me to give anything my all, because I was trying to give everything my all at the same time. So as my intentions were pure, I really was performing everything mediocre, which is what I absolutely can’t stand. I literally crippled my own performance by not being able to compartmentalize. This summer, I have learned the significance of compartmentalizing- when I am working on homework, I am ONLY working on homework. When I am at work, I am ALL there… not concerned about anything else. When I am spending time the the Lord HE is ALL that matters.

Finally, the significance of rest. During school, rest is a silly word that we college students see as more of a guide line. That is not okay. I pushed myself so hard that I knew spiritually, mentally and emotionally I was ready to break at any moment. By the time I was home with my parents for the one week I got to spend with them this summer, my body shut down and I was sick the entire time. This summer, I have been learning the significance of rest. Not just the sleeping, sitting around kind, but the kind of rest that I knew I personally needed. Each of us are different and are refreshed in our individual ways outside of sleep…mine includes running, reading, painting, designing… and basically Pinterest projects. These are the things that refresh me, and in turn, make me feel rested! I have been taking the time to do these things this summer, regardless of how busy I am. It has been incredibly refreshing for me.

All in all, I am proud to say I am now ecstatic to return to school for my senior year. I by no means have mastered any of these disciplines, but I am working toward them in order to take care of myself in a way that honors the Lord and equips me to be a better vessel to further His Kingdom.

With a happy heart,

Aly