What to Do When One Path Isn’t Wrong, But It Also Isn’t Right

StandOut

Hand-lettering // Hope Hickman @sincerelyhope.designs

I proctored a lot of tests this week at school. It’s interesting to watch the students as they finish.

Some finish very quickly, which, as a teacher, my initial reaction is to question how much effort they really put into that test – but that’s a whole other issue.

Then the ones who aren’t finished begin noticing the ones who are. Some of these students get concerned, and you can almost visibly see their thoughts. They’re done? I better step on it. Wonder how much longer everyone else will be? Am I behind? Then they hurry it up so they’ll be finished, too. It’s obvious they don’t want to be one of the few still working.

There are still others, though they are few, that are going to take their time no matter what. Everyone else may be finished, but if these students haven’t checked their answers, they aren’t turning the test in yet.

Finishing a test early is not necessarily bad. Maybe you finish early because you studied a lot, and the answers come quickly because you know the information so well. Being the last one to submit your test is also not bad. Perhaps you want to take your time, check your answers three times, and feel extra confident in your work.

But what about the kids that turn a test in early when they weren’t really ready to do so? They rushed through their work or they didn’t read closely, yet they turned it in anyway. While this wasn’t wrong, per say, this also wasn’t the best decision for them.

How many times do you face decisions that don’t necessarily have right or wrong answers? Chicken or beef? Blue shoes or red shoes? Stripes or polka dots? Submit the test now or check your answers? The choice you’re making may not necessarily have wrong answers in a Biblical or moral sense, but one option might not be right for you.

Inevitably, you’ll have to make some decisions like this, ones that are based on what’s right for you. Sometimes they’re difficult because there is no clear cut, right and wrong answers. Likely, too, there will come a time when you must make a decision that’s much more serious than choosing between stripes and polka dots, and these can be life-altering or life-defining moments. You may have already experienced making one of these, or perhaps a few. A decision must be made, and you must live with the choice you make. That’s not dramatic; it’s just realistic.

Just think about some of the decisions you start making right after high school. The degree you choose will dictate the job you work everyday, and things progress from there. How hard will you study in school? What company will you apply to work for? Will you keep dating this guy? Even if you aren’t as happy as you’d hoped you’d be – or as happy as everyone else thinks you are? Will you go out of your way to make new friends? How active will you be in the gym?

Here are a few things you should remember to do and be encouraged by when it’s time to make one of these decisions.

  1. Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing. The reason some of the not-finished-test-takers go ahead and turn theirs in is because everyone else has. But if everyone starts falling on purpose to break their leg, will you fall and break yours, too, so that you “fit in”? No. You’ll look at the leg-breakers like they’ve lost their mind. At the end of the day, each individual person in the “crowd” must live with his or her choice. In other words, no one else will live with your choices the way you will, so think twice before you follow the crowd.
  2. That said, think about how your decisions affect others. Though you must live with your choices, the people closest to you will live with them as well.
  3. Look at the big picture. Don’t focus solely on the present. Think about your future. How is this decision going to change your life when you’re forty, fifty, and sixty years old? And though a decision may be difficult to make now, is it what’s best for your future in the long run?
  4. Seek advice if you feel led, but be very careful when you do this. Bad advice is sometimes hard to see in times of wandering. Trust those closest to you who want the absolute best for your life. For more on this, click here.
  5. Most importantly, ask for God’s guidance, and spend time in prayer. Pray for discernment and spend time in God’s Word. God gives us his Holy Spirit to guide us, and we need only to seek his help.

There will always be early test-taking-finishers. Yes, it’s tough when you’re the one who hasn’t finished the test and everyone else has. It’s hardly ever easy to stand alone. But prayerfully consider what the right thing is for you.

 

The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.
1 John 3:24

 

th-6     th     th-1     th-2     th-5

From High School to Kindergarten, In That Order

IMG_5964.PNG

IMG_5959

IMG_5958

FullSizeRender

I teach ninth grade English, and I don’t care what anybody says, the high school years can be brutal. Kids can be mean, and they all care way too much about what everybody else thinks. But these years are also precious because you’re only in high school once. (Thank goodness!) In what seems like a completely different world, my sister-in-law teaches kindergarten, and let me tell you, she does an amazing job. I cannot say enough about her as a person, but the same holds true as a teacher. I’ve seen it firsthand.

Rather recently, my SIL’s school was in session on a day that mine was out for break. She offered for me to come visit her classroom and read to her students, and I was so excited! I often hear the sweetest stories about these kids, and now I was going to get to put faces with names. Being in her classroom that day was so fun, and her students made me remember some very precious aspects of life. And sometimes we just need to be reminded of the simple – but important – things in life.

Recess

I was a bit early to her school, so I signed in at the front office and joined my sis-in-law’s class outside. Her class and two others were playing on the playground in the middle of the day, and these kiddos were having an absolute blast. They were talking, running, laughing, swinging, shouting, sliding, and loving their free time. Before my arrival, these kindergartners had been learning all morning, so this was a much needed and well-deserved break. As adults, we sometimes need breaks, too – big ones and small ones. Sometimes we need to take a walk in the middle of the day. Maybe you can go outside and make a lap around your building during your lunch break. Find a way to breathe in some fresh air. Use the buddy system, too. If you can’t get outside, try visiting a co-worked in the office over for a few minutes for a breather. Sometimes, though, we need longer breaks. You may need to take a relaxing vacation, or perhaps you want to take a fun trip. Recess is fun time, and it’s ok to remind yourself to have a little of that.

Love

Kindergartners are quick to tell you they love you, and they anticipate being told that in return. Their hearts are on their sleeves, and they’re excited to show their feelings. They want to feel loved, and they deserve to be loved. This certainly shouldn’t go away as we get older. If anything, we should mature in our ability to love others. Wanting to love and be loved in return is a value our inner kindergartner should fight for.

Patience

Wow does my sister-in-law have it! As a high school teacher, there are days that I feel like I’m asked a lot of questions, but I left her classroom saying that my ninth graders do not hold a candle to these little ones. (And mind you, I’m not advocating that they should.) But my SIL would answer one question only to turn and have another. She answered with both the gentleness and the knowledge that these little ones needed and sought. I can’t imagine how many times she is asked in one day alone for help tying shoes. Yet she never huffed and puffed nor rolled her eyes. Patience is a fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), but because our culture is used to immediate results, patience is often not our initial reaction. It is, however, much appreciated no matter who we are. If you’re in a position that demands a lot of patience, remember that you’re modeling a fruit of the spirit. Be encouraged knowing your model will not only affect others, it may influence them to do the same.

Support

After I read to the kindergartner’s, they took turns asking me questions. They asked things like, “What’s your favorite animal?” and “Where is your favorite place to vacation?” and “What’s your favorite movie?” I noticed that after I gave answer, some of them would quietly say, “Yesssssssss!” They would squint their eyes and do a small fist pump in the air. I felt like they were cheering for me! (I promptly shared this with my ninth graders when we returned from break. Every now and then, I’ll hear a faint “Yessssss” in my classes now.) My sister-in-law explained that they were excited when they realized they had something in common with me. Like, “Yesssssss, we both love lions!” It’s amazing how lots of little cheers can motivate you! This was a great reminder that we need to give these little cheers to our friends. We need to motivate, encourage, and support each other.

Centers

The kindergartners got some free center time while I was in the room, so they had a choice to make. Do they read the books, or do they work a puzzle? Do they play in this center or that one? I didn’t notice any of them standing around conflicted over where to go. They just made a choice and went with it. Life is full of choices, and sometimes a choice is just a choice. One’s not good and the other bad. Maybe you want to eat chicken for dinner instead of steak. You have the option to do either – or both! Enjoy your free center time, and take advantage of it.

Feelings

As it turns out, kindergartners have a lot of them. While I visited, they were all happy. But I know from talking to my sister-in-law, this isn’t always the case. Much like their love, they aren’t afraid to share any of their other feelings either. If they’re sad, they cry. If they’re confused, they ask a question. If they’re happy, they giggle and smile. As we mature, we learn to manage our feelings, but you should always have the people you can express your feelings to. Your tribe. Your people. We should not let our feelings manage us, but we also should not manage our feelings so much that we bury them all together.

Groups

Since the kindergarten classroom has tables, the students sit with three other classmates. They complete their individual work at these tables, but during snack time, they get to enjoy each other’s company. Like these little ones, we, too, need time to productive, sometimes surrounded by others, especially if you’re an extrovert. In a way, you’re somewhat of a siphon because your energy comes from being around other people. We all need time to just be with people as well. So sit yourself at a table and enjoy some company!

Hugs

The day came to an end, and I said my goodbyes. Then as I turned to leave, I was stopped in my tracks. One of the kindergarteners was wrapped around my legs! She was giving me a big hug, and it was the best thing ever. I was overwhelmed by her sweet, childlike way. No matter our age, we need more hugs. I’m not a hugger by nature, but I believe hugs just generate kindness. Give some hugs because it certainly won’t hurt anything.

*The above pictures were taken in the Cataloochee Valley in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Cataloochee Valley is now home to elk and lots of other wildlife, too. Getting there is quite a feat, so don’t head out unprepared – but the travel is well-worth the journey! You can read more about Cataloochee here.

Christ, Our Redeemer, Lives

FullSizeRender(2)

Hand-lettering // Hope Hickman @sincerelyhope.designs

Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.
1 Corinthians 15:1, 3-4

I have such wonderful memories of Easter growing up. I loved dying Easter eggs, hiding and hunting them, and excitedly opening my Easter basket. I always looked forward to choosing a new Easter dress and readying my white shoes. My mom and I wore matching dresses when I was little, and I adore those pictures! Easter Sunday church service was the focal-point of the week. But most of all, Easter was and is still a time of thankfulness for, honor to, and celebration of our redeemer, Christ Jesus.

Because of Christ’s love for man, He died for our sins. But on the third day, he rose from the grave; He overcame death. Death had no hold on Jesus. The depth of those words is immeasurable.

The Easter holiday is a time of newness, both in nature and in meaning. Nature remarkably symbolizes Christ’s resurrection. Spring has arrived, plants begin to green, and flowers bloom anew. In this season of new life, we celebrate Easter, the holiday of new life. Jesus rose from the grave on the third day, and His resurrection gives man new life in Him.

And if you take this one step further, consider the season before spring: winter. With the arrival of spring, nature returns from death to life. In defeating death, Jesus returned to life, and so, too, do we live when we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior.

Jesus is our redeemer. Our salvation is given to us by no doing of our own (Galatians 2:8-9). Romans chapter 5, verse 8 says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” When we accept Christ, we choose to live a new life, a life following Jesus. We are called to change. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone and the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17). And even when we drift, even in our wandering, Jesus will continually call us back to Him. Jesus, our Savior, can redeem anything.

 

I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Galatians 2:20

Busy Isn’t a Badge of Honor

IMG_4169.PNG

Photography // Hope Hickman @sincerelyhope.designs

I’ll be honest. I have no idea how often I say that I’m busy. I probably say it a lot because I like to be busy. I’m better when I’m busy. I’ve been like this since I was young. But that’s a story for another day.

Several Sundays ago, our preacher gently encouraged us to stop using busy as a badge of honor. I’ve never quite thought about it that way. How often do you ask someone how they are and they reply by saying they’re busy? And how often do they say that with a little sigh, like, “Whew!” When we say we’re busy, it really can come off as though we think we deserve some sort of medal for the amount of stuff we’re doing. Sometimes it’s in the way we say it. But sometimes it’s just that we say it.

I’m waiting for the person that says, “I’ve got all the time in the world! I just don’t know what to do with all this time on my hands. In fact, I’m actually looking for stuff to do!” We’re all busy. You have deadlines to meet at work. You take on more responsibilities to further your career. You volunteer at a local nonprofit organization. You’re in a Bible study or small group. You’re trying to spend quality time with your spouse. You’re running your kids to the fifteen extracurricular activities that they’re involved in – even if they aren’t in school yet. Your kids are older, and now they need your help for other tasks. And you’re trying to do everything and do it all well.

Even the single guy who leaves work at a decent hour to get back to his apartment is busy. He may be home, but he’s probably tidying up his place, making dinner, working out, and doing laundry. And yes, going to the gym doesn’t compare to getting home to take care of a child. But this guy chose to be busy going to the gym whereas someone else may choose to be busy working more hours, studying for school, or taking care of their child. None of the types of busy are any more right than another; they’re just different kinds of busy. We decide how we want to spend our time. Life is, after all, a sum of all of our choices.

Let me take this a step further by saying, let’s also stop qualifying our busy-ness. I speak as much to myself here as anyone else because I get over-involved. I’m better now at enjoying and prioritizing free time than I ever have been, but I still like to keep a full plate. I’m sure there are plenty of times that I chime in as soon as someone else rattles off whatever they’re busy doing, too. But I really don’t want to come off with a look-at-me attitude, nor do I want to complain about how busy I am. I like being busy, but I want to be intentional in not throwing my busy-ness in people’s faces.

Be busy or don’t. We’re all entitled to our own choice about the matter. But let’s be mindful to not seek a badge of honor for being busy. We live by the choices we make, but we don’t all get badges for them – and nor should we.

So the next time someone asks how you are, avoid the “Oh, I’m so busy!” response. Let’s intentionally try to quit saying this. The badge of business is not a badge of honor, so let’s stop striving for it.

 

Be still.
Psalm 46:10

Running, Faith, and Endurance

IMG_5891.PNG

I finally went to the gym after about three weeks of not having set foot in the door. To ease myself into it, I went to a morning hip hop class (thanks spring break!), and the next day I decided to hit the treadmill. Hip hop is certainly a cardio workout, and it also works my leg muscles. I hadn’t been to class in a few weeks, but I knew this would be a good way to get back into the groove (pun intended). The next day, I made good on my promise to myself to get a short run in. I knew a run wouldn’t be easy after having slacked off for a few weeks, but I also didn’t think I would be impossible.

I started out slow and intended on doing only two miles. At half a mile I bumped my pace up just a tad, and at one and half miles, I wanted to stop. But I have this thing about stopping before reaching the goal I set for myself that day. As cliche as it sounds, if I say two miles, I want to make the two. If something is wrong, like a body part is hurting, I’ve learned to pay attention to those aches; otherwise, I try my best to push through.

I made it to two miles and then slowed to a walk. I was really surprised at how winded I was, but I shouldn’t have been because this isn’t A typical for me. When I take a timeout from running (like I had the previous three weeks), I have to build my endurance all over again. It doesn’t take too terribly long; a couple two or three miles runs usually jump start my endurance levels, but, nonetheless, I have to rebuild.

There’s a clear analogy that can be made here, comparing this situation to our faith. Taking a timeout from faith is likely not something any of us do voluntarily but rather circumstantially. We have a lot going on or our normal routine changes, and we take an accidental time out. You don’t forget about it all together, just like I didn’t throw my tennis shoes away during the three weeks I didn’t go to the gym nor did I hang my workout clothes up for good. But we may take a timeout from our faith in that we aren’t as consistent with reading the Bible or perhaps our prayers become more sporadic than they are intentional.

Re-opening the Bible and picking up where you left off is just as easy as opening the gym doors and hopping on a treadmill. But while your endurance on the treadmill may be defined by how far you run or how fast you go, your endurance of faith doesn’t have to do with how much you can read or how long you can pray. These practices – reading your Bible, praying, and the like – strengthen your endurance to navigate life. They keep us focused on God and help us press on each day. They remind us of our purpose, encourage us in our comings and goings, and support us in our walk. Being active in our faith makes living life easier.

When I finished this harder-than-it-should-have-been run, I thought back to the last time I had been on the treadmill. I was running two miles at a much faster pace and was pushing myself at a different level. With each run, my endurance levels go up, and I have to push myself harder because the old pace doesn’t challenge me as much anymore. Similarly, with every act of faith, our ability to persevere is strengthened, and we become firmer in our walk with Christ.

 

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.
Hebrews 12:1

Life-Giving Moments

As many of you know, my brother just got married! I definitely consider myself a words person, but I don’t think I’ll ever be able to articulate just how sweet his wedding was. My brother has such a big heart, and he found his true match in his now wife. So it seems inevitable that their wedding would be the sweetest celebration uniting two of the sweetest souls together in marriage. Their wedding was filled with precious moments and cherished time. To say it was perfect will never do it justice. These memories will forever be treasured and held close in all our hearts.

A wedding is a life-changing moment. Ryan and Erin’s wedding was unique in that both families spent the weekend together. While we were obviously excited for the wedding, the whole weekend was filled with life-giving moments. I was reminded, too, of just how dear these times are in our everyday lives as well. So here are a few things to remember to enjoy in our day-to-day comings and goings.

IMG_5731.JPG

Good Food

There’s just something to be said about food that you love eating. Let me tell you, last weekend, we ate great food. We had everything from a plethora of snack foods to a chef with amazing skills. In our everyday lives, you don’t have to go to a five star restaurant to get some good eats either. Don’t get me wrong, I love getting dressed up and going to a fancy dinner, but some nights, I want to grab Moe’s on my way home so I can sit on my couch and eat in my jammies! Maybe McDonald’s’ fries are your thing, or maybe you like cooking pasta with a tasty marinara sauce. Regardless of you preference, enjoy some good food more often than every now and then.

IMG_5666.JPG

Atmosphere

I believe that atmosphere affects how we feel sometimes. The house we stayed in had huge windows, gorgeous wood floors, beautiful decor, and breathtaking scenery. Not to mention, the tablescape (courtesy of one of Erin’s sisters) and the flowers (done by Erin’s mom) were amazing. What a reminder of how much a pretty atmosphere does for our souls! Go to restaurants that you like the feel of. If you teach, make your classroom bright and colorful. If you work in a cubicle, create a space that’s as fun as possible. Add picture frames, holiday decorations, or sports trinkets to your cube. Most importantly, make home feel like home. Pick up some flowers to add tangible happiness to your room, and light candles to spread scented perfume through your place. Make it warm, cozy, and inviting. Make it you!

image1.png

Joy

We will all remember Ryan and Erin’s wedding because it was happy, yes, but it was a time filled with such true joy. It was a joy we all felt in our bones. I know if you get down to the nitty gritty there’s a difference in joy and happiness, but a lot of times, I use these terms synonymously. Technically, I think joy is chosen whereas happiness is circumstantial. Happiness is emotionally driven; it comes and goes. You feel it, and then you don’t. It’s fleeting. And though we choose to be joyful, I think sometimes we experience it whether we mean to or not. It’s peaceful. Joy comes when all is well with our hearts. And you feel it deeply, like deep down in your soul. These moments of sincere joy leave an impression on you, and you remember them. Moments of joy don’t have to be limited to milestone events; these moments can be appreciated in our mundane activities if we take the time enough to recognize them. So pay attention in the present, not to the past or future. Acknowledge these moments, and take time to be thankful for them.

IMG_5680

Time with People You Care Most About

I thoroughly appreciate quality time with the people who are most important to me. Over the wedding weekend, we were able to do just that. Ryan and Erin’s closest family was together for relaxation, rest, celebration, and fun! And much like the weekend, we can all make time for this even when we aren’t on vacation. Yes, we must be more intentional in making it happen, but time with those we love is life-giving. Those moments allow us to recharge, re-center, and rejoice!

IMG_5732

Music

Over the course of the weekend, we had a lot of music played on musical instruments, through speakers, and on a TV in the theater room. (We had a sibling dance party after the ceremony!) When you put two families together that love music as much as we all do, you’re bound to have a lot of musical notes floating around. But even if you don’t play an instrument or really even know that much about music, I’d encourage you to find some that you like! Check out iTunes top charts or surf through the radio stations. Then crank the speakers in the car! Put your earbuds in at work or during your run at the gym. In the words of Victor Hugo, “Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.”

IMG_5681.PNG
Photography // Alyssa Joy Photography

Words Spoken in Love

Perhaps my favorite part of the wedding was the brunch after the ceremony. Ok, not really the brunch – although it was beyond excellent! – but the words that everyone shared about Ryan and Erin. We spoke words of love to these two precious people. Let us speak in love each day to one another. Remind the ones you love that you love them and just why that’s so.

 

And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
Colossians 3:4

Packing for a Winter Getaway

I love the mountains. East Tennessee is a place near and dear to my heart, and my family still vacations there quite often. We just returned from a vacation in the Smokies about two months ago, and now we’re headed to a different set of mountains in less than a week for my brother’s wedding! Everyone is so excited! Considering that it’s March, we all assumed the weather would be cold, but with our ever-changing temps, at this point, who knows. Regardless, my packing list changes depending on what kind of trip we are taking and what season it is. In the summer months, my family R.V. camps, but when it’s cold, we stay in a condo or cabin.

I keep a general packing list on my phone at all times. Once upon a time I kept a written list, but it’s easier to add to a list on my phone since it’s always with me. Some items remain on the list through every season, but during the winter months, I tack on a few extra necessities. Here is a peek at what I take.

 

IMG_5577

1. Moisturizer

My skin gets dryer in the winter because of the cold air. When the temperature drops (or when I go to a colder place like the mountains!), I have to be careful to use plenty of moisturizer. I love MAC Cosmetics moisturizers. For a true moisturizer, I use MAC’s Complete Comfort Creme. It’s thick, but my skin absorbs it – so it’s not that thick. A little goes a long way with the Comfort Creme. For a lighter moisturizer, I go to MAC’s Oil Control Lotion. It does just that: controls oil all day. But it also provides just enough moisture initially before applying make up. This one is a normal, 1.7 fl. oz. size, but you get more bang for your buck with the travel size, even though it’s smaller. (It’s an ounces-to-dollars thing.)

2. Biosilk Silk Therapy

Before I dry my hair, I run some of this through my hair. I’ve been using it since high school! It makes my hair smoother because it works almost like a conditioner. Also, my go-to conditioner is Tresemme’s Moisture Rich Conditioner. I know you’re not technically suppose to, but I don’t actually rinse the conditioner from my hair. Leaving it in makes my hair smoother and easier to brush. This conditioner is particularly moisturizing.

image1

3. Facewash

This facewash is great for three reasons. (1) It cleanses my face really well. (2) It’s gentle on my skin. (3) It doesn’t break my face out. My skin is really sensitive so I don’t like to use any kind of soaps with fragrances. I’ve never had trouble using Clean and Clear’s. I do moisturize after I wash my face to help with dryness.

IMG_4132.PNG

4. Lotion

Again, much like soaps, I don’t like fragrance lotions unless I’m using hand lotion. For body lotion, I love Aveeno. It replenishes my skin, and the moisture stays locked in – even when it’s freezing outside.

img_4576

5. Uggs

Thank goodness they are back! Need I say more?

img_4583

6. Gloves

I have some gloves similar to these, and they’re great. They are lined on the inside, but they’re sleek on the outside and not bulky at all.

IMG_4553

 

IMG_4541

 

IMG_4534

7. Cable-Knit Headbands

I don’t always anticipate being outside just a ton in the mountains during the winter, but I always like to be prepared. Plus, even walking from the car down the street and into a restaurant is time enough to get very cold! I have loved this year’s thick, chunky headbands.

IMG_4422.jpg

8. Fleece

This fleece is super warm and really soft. My mom and I both have one, and we absolutely love them! We got them monogrammed at a shop nearby. You can find the fleece here or here.

IMG_4136.PNG

9. Pajamas

I love spending vacation time in my fuzzy pajamas. I absolutely love these! They are oh-so-comfortable and perfect for the winter months. Vera Wang is my favorite pajama brand.

img_4586

10. Books

I don’t go on vacations without some good reads. I just finished Show Your Work! by Austin Kleon and am about to begin Love Does by Bob Goff – Christmas gifts from my soon-to-be sister-in-law. How well does she know me?! I’m always looking for suggestions, so if you’re reading something you love, let me know!