When The Road Seems Long

Idaho. It might as well have been on the opposite end of the Earth. My mother and I had been driving for days and it didn’t seem like we were making much progress. We decided to stop for a while and explore more of Fulton, Missouri. After a quick Google search, we discovered the National Churchill Museum at Westminster College. My mother and I have very similar interests, one of which includes a love of history. The pull of the WWII era is always enticing given that my Grandfather served in the Navy. He loves to tell us stories of his war days, and we love to listen.

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The architecture of the church was beautiful and the history lessons abounded. We were thoroughly enchanted by the woodwork, captivated by the immense size of the organ,  and charmed by the intricate details of the space. This stop on our road trip was a delight for the eyes, and proved to be rather instructional and refreshing.

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And yet, surprises lie around every corner. While strolling through the gift shop, we came across some hand blown glass pieces which were made by Blenko in West Virginia. What. Are. The. Odds???????? The very church we had just toured… the beautiful stained glass windows we had seen…made in West Virginia, not 30 minutes from our home. This small card brought me to tears. It felt like home was a million miles away. I had been trying so diligently to distract my heart and my mind…but sometimes you just can’t forget so easily. Sometimes the pain comes in waves and the road seems very long.

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Winston Churchill often spoke of endurance, continuing to fight through difficult circumstances, and embracing our failures as learning opportunities. He was a man who refused to give up. One of Churchill’s most famous quotes is: “If you’re going through hell – keep going.” I had to keep moving. I had come too far to break down now. I had made so   many mistakes and done so many things that I can’t take back. I had lived through pain which I never thought possible. This was my chance. One very long road to a new life. One path to find forgiveness.

Romans 5:3 says: “…we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance.”

James 1:2-4 says: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” 

Rejoicing in our sufferings. Finding joy in our pain. That is not easy to do  when you are going through the fire is it? Often all we can feel is the pain, all we see is the hurt, all  we know are the broken hopes and dreams which once made up our lives. It takes time.

Looking back on my past, I see how God used my circumstances. He used my pain to spring me forward into a different life, a new life in Him. He healed my broken heart and brought me out of the shame of my previous life. His purpose was in my pain. Had I never gone through what I did, I would never have learned to fully trust God. I would have never found strength through Him and within myself. I would never have left West Virginia, and the Good Lord only knows where I would be now. Sometimes we need the fire. We need to burn away everything that we were. We need to let God refine us and rebuild us into something better than we could have imagined.

It won’t be easy. It will be a long road friends. But, it will be worth it in the end. Just keep moving forward, one step at a time. Just keep Gracefully Seeking.

 

 

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The Day Which Started It All

It’s never easy to leave home, to embrace change, to step out into the great unknown…literally…but I did.

July 22, 2014…the day which changed my life forever. It’s never easy to leave home, to embrace change, to step out into the great unknown…literally…but I did.

I grew up on a small farm in the hills of West Virginia. It was always beautiful. I was surrounded by a loving family and the best friends I could ever ask for. I told them all that I was leaving for a job. When you come from West Virginia, that is not an unbelievable statement. The poverty rate has always been high and good jobs are scarce. But, truth be told, that was a lie conveyed in a selfish attempt to make the separation easier. I wasn’t fooling anyone – especially myself. Leaving my family, and West Virginia, was one of the hardest things I have ever done. But, at that time in my life, it was just harder to stay.

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Small towns are beautiful. You feel the connection to everyone around you. There is always someone around willing to go out and have fun, or to grab a cup of coffee if you want to chat. You can’t go out in public without running into someone you know. Which can be great since you never feel alone. But there is nothing worse than being in a small town when you want to be alone because you don’t want, or can’t, talk about what is going on in your life. The events which led up to my breaking point could fill up a book, much less a blog post, so I will save that story for another day. What matters is that I found myself in a state of…restructuring…for lack of a better term. My life, plans, and emotional stability took a major hit. Actually my life plan was completely obliterated. I was left clinging to nothing but my faith and hope that God could make it all work out someday. Looking back now, the transformation that those heartaches allowed me to go through dramatically, completely, and utterly restructured me into the best version of myself. But believe me when I say that it has been a LONG road…a road that has led me to the opposite side of the country and back again.

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Escape. A fresh slate. That is what I wanted – to go to a place where no one knew my story. That was the only way I could get past it all. I had to move on. I needed to forget, and that meant leaving everything that I knew and loved. I applied to internships all over the continental United States and then I waited. Believe it or not, I didn’t wait long. Actually, it was all of two days before I received a phone call. After a phone interview and a smack to my own face to make sure I wasn’t dreaming, I had accepted a job in Twin Falls, Idaho. To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t even sure where Idaho was. I had to Google it. Potatoes. Right? That’s all I knew having never been farther West than Kentucky. I packed my bags and my car with reckless abandon and prepared for the long (2000+ mile)  journey ahead. I was excited, and terrified, and overcome with all the emotions swirling through my heart. Everything happened so quickly. It had all fallen into place so easily. I thought that somewhere in the midst of all this chaos must be God’s plan. Or at least I hoped it was.

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Worst case scenario – it was only for a year. After my internship was over, I could finally finish my graduate degree and I could come home again if I wanted to. I remember that morning like it was yesterday. My Rav-4 was completely packed to the ceiling with my belongings. I said a tearful goodbye to the animals. My mom got into the passenger seat of the car. It was time. My Dad is not a man of many words. Well…that is not entirely true. Normally, if I was leaving on a trip, he would begin chatting off a large check list of things to do, and check, and ways to be careful. But not that day. He just looked at me and I at him. Neither of us could say goodbye and we were both on the verge of tears. So I hugged him, really hard. And then I practically ran to the car before I could call the whole thing off. Then I drove. Praying to have the strength not to turn into a crying ball of mush.

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We needed to make time the first day. Well, I needed to put enough distance between myself and West Virginia so that I wouldn’t turn around. My mother and I had big plans and sights to see. It was to be a Mother-Daughter-Trip-Extravaganza! Road trip playlist was a go, and so was the coffee. We headed West – through Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, and into Missouri – St. Louis to be exact. Lucky for us, I had a friend who was living in town with her husband. They were kind enough to let us crash on the couch for the night. The next day we were given the grand tour of St. Louis from the Gateway Arch down to Union Station. We walked through the train museum and ended the evening with a pasta dinner at Anthonino’s Taverna which had been featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. It was certainly worth the stop. We enjoyed the company of friends and prepared for our next stop on the journey. As much as my heart was still hurting, the sense of adventure was starting to set in with each mile and every new sight.

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Reminiscing

What is is about New Years Eve that brings up the past, even though we should, for one night, be focused on the future?

What is is about New Years Eve that brings up the past, even though we should, for one night, be focused on the future? Every year I find myself looking backwards. Perhaps it is to relive the good memories, or an attempt to learn from our mistakes, or even to be inspired to live differently after that clock strikes midnight. Personally, looking back through my photos allows me to recall nights of laughter with good friends, road trips to unforeseen places, and helps me to reignite those feelings of pure, surrendering awe as I stood in each captivating scene.

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I have been truly amazed more times than I can count while traveling through this enchanting world. After driving across the United States – twice – along with countless road and hiking trips, I now have photographs coming out the ears and stories just waiting to jump through my keyboard. My resolution last year was to travel as much a possible, and to seek out the small, beautiful moments of life. I would like to expand upon that resolution by sharing those moments with you. I am going to start at the beginning of my journey – when a small town girl from West Virginia got in her car, drove west, and her life changed forever. It is my hope that each of you will be inspired to seek out adventure, to break out of your comfort zone, and to enjoy the quiet, captivating moments of life. But for now my friends, enjoy your night. Drink, dance, be merry, cuddle up on the couch with your dog…whatever makes you happy. Welcome in the new year with open arms and a heart ready to seek adventure. Happy New Year To All!

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“May the road rise up to meet you. May the wind be always at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face, and rains fall soft upon your fields. And until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of his hand.” ~Traditional Irish Blessing