Fall Leaves & Fellow Commuters: Discovering Beauty All Around Us

I love fall. The changing of the seasons. The brisk, cooler air. Everything pumpkin. The chance to get some variation in my wardrobe again. But probably most of all, I love the colorful leaves. They are simply gorgeous.

Each tree is different. The varying, distinct shades of green, orange, yellow, red. My personal favorites are the trees that get bright red on top, while staying a rich green underneath.

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Catching up with the Barnes…

In a nutshell… It has been a busy, stretching year. Time has flown by more quickly than I’ve ever been used to. We’ve now been in the DC area for 8 months, which is hard to believe.

In hindsight, I wish I had written more along the way. It’s been quite a journey. I feel like I’ve been stretched in every way possible. But in all honesty, starting a new job, part of it is a balancing act of figuring what you can & can’t say (or should/shouldn’t). Part of it has been the fact that I get home in the evenings feeling pretty drained & find it hard to exert the effort to write (or insert other productive activity). So for all that I’ve missed, here is the brief overview. If you were to call me and ask me about our transition, this is much of what I’d probably tell you… Continue reading

Emerging from our black hole

So it has been a wild ride these last 3 months or so. A little bit chaotic. I feel a bit like we’ve been shoved into a black hole that has sort of consumed us, and we might just now be starting to emerge.

I was hoping to blog through a lot of this transition, but just haven’t been able to bring myself to write much.

On the work side of things, know that I don’t have a lot to compare to. I was at my last company for about 6 years. So this might be a normal experience for anyone changing companies/industries. I’m not sure. The first couple of weeks of work, I was dead tired every day. I (supposedly) had the same number of hours in each day, but couldn’t seem to get anything done outside of work. I’d come home & feel completely drained. Ready for bed pretty quickly. I guess mental stimulation/exhaustion plays a large role, maybe?
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Spring is Here

Spring is definitely here, and I’m not talking about the weather or the time of year. I’m talking about this season of life. About 9 months ago I wrote a post called Embracing This Season. (click the title to read it in a new window) God had been speaking to me in themes, about the different seasons of life. We had been feeling really restless, like we were in a state of limbo, not sure of where we were supposed to be, or what we were supposed to be doing. We knew that God was preparing us for something. We just didn’t know what or when.
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Another Piece of the Puzzle

This transition has been a wild ride. From the beginning, we knew it’s what we were supposed to do – that it was God’s plan for us, even if we didn’t know how it was all going to play out. We took a leap of faith. Slowly, but surely, the pieces began to fall into place. It’s all been a huge lesson on waiting and trusting. First, with my job opportunity, second, with finding a place to live here, then, with our house in Nashville being taken care of. (Check out my post He Said “Trust Me” for a longer version of that amazing story.)

But there’s been one large missing piece of the puzzle – Cason’s job. He’s been amazingly supportive. He was willing to pick up and move, not knowing when he’d be able to find a job, or what it would be. For that, I feel so blessed & grateful. He really is the best!

He decided to go ahead and sign up with a temp agency, to have something, while waiting for his next big thing to come around. And last Monday he started a temp job, doing database entry and research. It is Mon-Fri, regular business hours (so much better than another potential temp position he was facing that would have been sporadic days & sporadic hours). We were so grateful for this opportunity!

Then, randomly last Thursday evening, he got an email from the assistant principal that he had a phone interview with 5 or 6 weeks ago. He hadn’t gotten that job, but she remembered him, sending him an email asking if he was in town yet, if he could come in to meet with them, that they might have another PE teaching position. Cason went on Friday… yada, yada, yada… on Wednesday they called and offered him the job! He works this next week for the current temp job and will start the following Monday at the school.

It is a long-term substitute position through the end of the school year. If things go well (which of course we assume they will!), they’ll hire him on for next school year full-time! It is a K-8 school. He’ll be tasked with building a program for the middle schoolers. And, it’s only 2.5 miles from our place! Fabulous!

We don’t know where the story ends, but it is an exciting opportunity, and again, we’re just feeling incredibly grateful! God has been so good to us and it’s been a wild ride, watching these pieces fall into place, one at a time. It’s clearly been His hand at work and we’re privileged to be a part of the story.

I guess we’ll see what He has in store for us next!

Hello DC!

King Street in Old Town Alexandria, a couple miles from our place.

My last post was Farewell Nashville. My goodbye to the city that’s been my home for the last 6.5 years. This post is Hello DC! We have been catapulted into another life and this post is to celebrate some of the things we look forward to in the N. VA./DC area.

It has been 3 weeks since we moved here. It’s been a lot of adjusting, unpacking, settling, etc. In some ways, I feel like I’m just now getting my head back above water. I have plenty that I want to be writing about, but need to get back to it. So first up is this fun post.

Granted, I grew up only an hour from here. 45 minutes north of DC. But I really lived there from birth to 18 years old when I went off to college. We came to DC for school field trips and to go sightseeing when someone came to visit from out of town. But it’s so different now being in the area (& much closer to DC) as an independent adult.

This new life is ripe with possibilities of endless exploration. We are a couple miles from DC. (9 miles from the White House, for a little perspective.) It is a 7 minute walk from our condo to the nearest metro station, which gives us some wonderfully easy access. From my office I can see the Pentagon and the Washington monument. It’s really surreal some days to look out and go, “oh, look, there’s the Pentagon.”

So in no particular order, here are some of the things I’m really excited about:

  • Old Town Alexandria is 2 miles away. It’s a super cute little downtown area, filled with all of the cute boutiques and restaurants you could ever want. For our Nashville friends, it’s kind of like Franklin times 10.
  • The endless supply of museums, monuments, and historical sites that are only a short metro ride away. Many of these I’ve probably been to in my growing up years, but I hardly remember some of them (Mt. Vernon, getting a tour of the White House, etc). It will take years to explore the plethora of these.
  • Miscellaneous cultural events, like Passport DC, which is happening in May. It’s where all of the embassies host open houses & events that you can just bounce around to.
  • The National Cherry Blossom Festival, in March/April. This is something else I’m sure I’ve been to, but I really don’t remember it.
  • A whole new world of potential weekend trips – Williamsburg, Philadelphia, New York City, etc. It’s nice to have more options than just Chattanooga now!
  • Riding the metro to work. Without the stress of navigating traffic, I’ll be able to read a book or something, and get some walking in on either end. I’ll start this up March 1st.
  • Restaurants, restaurants, restaurants. Any type of food you could ever want to find. And I love international cuisine. Now I just need to be able to finance my eating habit!

It’s kind of invigorating to be thrust into a very different world. We’ve already had plenty of “we’re-not-in-kansasnashville-anymore” moments. Like the fact that it took us 15 minutes to drive 3 miles south to a nearby shopping center yesterday [the traffic is definitely something to get used to]. Or how this area is so diverse – by income, ethnicity, age, etc. There are pockets of super nice housing 2 blocks away from really rundown areas, and there are people of every ethnicity (way more than the places we’d  frequent most in Nashville).

A huge bonus to being here – the proximity to so many members of my family. My parents are an hour away. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins are 30-40 minutes. Other grandparents are 2 hours. Brother, sister-in-law, 2 nephews are 4 hours north (which is an amazing difference from what we were before). And next summer, my other brother will be about an hour away. This is huge! We can be around for birthdays, to go to dinner, to see my cousin play football. I don’t even know what that’s like!

I think I’m starting to decide that I want to set a goal for us, so that we don’t get trapped into what feels too comfortable and not get out and about. Maybe something like exploring/doing 3 new things a month. We’ve already purchased a deal to do a walking restaurant tour in Georgetown. I can’t wait! Now we just need to set a date.

So Hello DC! We sure have some exploring to do!

Last Monday, we wandered over to the President's Day parade in Alexandria. So much fun!

Farewell Nashville

Photo by Chuck Felix

As this posts, I am leaving to catch my one-way flight out of Nashville. Is it really time for this? Am I ready? Where have the years gone?

Nashville has been my home for six and a half years and we have many friends here that we consider like family. I worked at Thomas Nelson for almost six years – longer than I have been in any one place (generally changing schools every 2-5 years).

While I know without a doubt that this is God’s plan for us and that He has been preparing us for this for a long time, it feels very surreal to leave. On a one-way ticket.

It was hard walking out of church on Sunday, out of a place where we have grown so much, were very involved, and made so many dear friends. We had the honor of being Bible study leaders for four years. It is out of those Bible study groups and our Sunday morning class where we really developed most of our closest friends here in Nashville. People came and went. Lives intertwined for a time. But that’s where relationships went deep. To a different level than you can get anywhere else.

It was sad leaving our house last night for the last time. It’s where we spent the first years of our marriage. We had it painted and decorated just the way we liked it. We had a very comfortable amount of space and a lovely little yard. It was home.

Then there’s the superficial stuff. I will miss the random warm winter days (like today when it’s sunny and in the 60’s). I will miss Puckett’s, GiGi’s, Sweet Cece’s, Basil, Pancake Pantry, and Sopapilla’s. I will miss the feel of being in a big town/small city, where southern hospitality reigns supreme. I will miss our neighborhood Publix, where we knew them and they knew us. I will definitely miss the low cost of living (in comparison to where we’re headed).

There are many exciting days and journeys ahead, but today I am celebrating Nashville, for all it has meant to us. There go my eyes filling up with tears again…

And so… we leap.

I guess we’re DC bound now.

Farewell to Nashville!

We're DC bound. Come visit us soon! (Taken at the fun going away bash our wonderful friends threw us last weekend.)

He Said “Trust Me”

Wow, we’ve been on a wild ride these past 4 weeks! We’re feeling incredibly blessed beyond what words can describe. I think God is now showing off and to Him be all glory! Read all the way to the end for the full story…

As I briefly mentioned in my last post, back in early October, as we sat with a realtor and our hopes to potentially sell our house were dashed (with bad market conditions), I felt a crushing weight come over me. I felt panicked, distraught, & confused. What were we going to do? Right in the midst of the panic, I felt a still, small whisper of “Trust Me”. It just washed over me. I’m not one to claim I’ve heard the voice of God often (or ever really), but I knew it was from Him.

Trust Me” He said. I’ve got this. Don’t worry.

However, I’m a planner, especially with something as logistically intense as a major move. I want/need to have a plan in place. But we have been trying our best to let things happen. To trust that God has it all under control. I’ve been leaning a lot on that still, small “Trust Me” whisper that I heard 3 months ago.

Over the Christmas holiday, we put in an application for a condo to rent. It was nice, had been on the market for 82 days, and we were so happy to have one major decision nailed. Two days later, we got an email from our realtor saying that there had been a competing application & they chose the other people. After 82 days on the market, someone else turns in an application at the same time that we do?! Again, I panicked. What were we going to do now and we’re so far away… [Read more about that story in the post “Some Perspective From Above the Clouds“]

Somehow, in the midst of going up to VA for an incredibly busy training week at IJM, I was able to go see one more condo. It was in the same building complex as the other. Long story short, it was beautiful, everything is newly upgraded, and it was the next floorplan up in size. It is 6 miles from work, and right on a metro line. I filled out an application on the spot with the landlord. A few days later we got word that it was ours! I’m convinced that we’re getting it for about $500 less per month than what it could be going for. An amazing deal!

We thought the first condo was good, and panicked when it fell through, but God said “Hold on. Trust me. I’ve got something far better for you.” Yes He did!

A week and a half ago we had gotten word from our property manager that we had renters for our house. They even turned in the security deposit in cash. I cried a little bit that day, in joy! But over a week later, we still couldn’t get a signed lease from them. Details got sketchy and even when they thought they had faxed in the lease, our property manager never got it. We were so frustrated and just wanted it to be finished.

But again, God said “Wait. Trust me. I’ve got something far better for you.”

On Saturday, another couple came to look at our house. Today, we signed papers and got two large checks! They signed a 2 year lease with an option to buy at a price that would let us walk away from the house. And in this market, that is the absolute best case scenario that we could hope for! In 2 years the man plans to buy the house in cash, which means we won’t have to pay realtor’s fees either! If he doesn’t choose to buy in 2 years, we keep their $5000 that they handed us today. He plans to handle all repairs and, since they eventually want to buy it, they will take excellent care of it. As if it could get any better, he just decided to go ahead & pay us the first 6 months rent!! What?!

This is ridiculous! I’m still in shock.

To God be all the glory for the great things He has done!

Lord, I am sorry when I doubt, when I panic, when I grow anxious. I am sorry when I try to take control. You always know what is best & we praise you for these answered prayers!

We are definitely not promised that things will be easy. It is not a given for those who follow Christ.

We are feeling beyond blessed and grateful today for these amazing gifts of grace!

We get to leave this week knowing that we have a place to move to and someone who will take good care of our house here. What a huge sigh of relief!

If you would, please continue to pray for Cason – that God would bring him to the perfect job for him.

“We give thanks to You, O God, we give thanks!
For Your wondrous works declare that Your name is near.”
~Psalm 75:1


A Life Less Comfortable

It is often fear that holds us back from taking a leap of faith. Fear of the unknown, fear of failure, fear of change…

When Cason & I started seriously considering this leap of faith, it was that fear of change that kept sneaking up on me, infusing me with doubts. We have a very comfortable life here in Nashville. In fact I wrote a post called “This Comfortable Life” early last spring (you can read it here), as I was wondering what God was really asking for from our lives.

In making this leap, we’ll go from our lovely, suburban 3 bedroom house with a small yard to a much downsized apartment in “the city”. Money will be much tighter (do you know what cost of living is like up there?). I’ll go from wearing jeans to work to wearing suits everyday. My commute will be much more brutal. If I choose to ride the metro, I’ll have to give up my sense of personal space & convenience. We’ll have to find a new church, make new friends. Cason is giving up his job here and has to find something new. I’m giving up a job that I’ve been very comfortable in for a number of years now for one that will definitely challenge & stretch me in every way I can foresee.

A lot of the above things are superficial, but it’s true that our lives are about to completely change. Even when that change is good, change is still scary.

There have been several instances along the way the last couple of months where I’ve stopped and half-jokingly said “Let’s just stay here where we’re comfortable.” Finding a place to live is too hard, finding renters for our house here is too hard, finding Cason a job is too hard. Saying goodbye to friends, co-workers, & our church is too difficult. Let’s just stay where we’re comfortable…

A short story… On the day we met with a realtor to start looking into whether we could sell our house, we learned that we had lost so much value that we’d have to take a huge check to the table to even get rid of our house. I panicked. What if this meant we couldn’t go. That weekend I felt entombed in our house. This house we had so enjoyed for 5 years had now become a heavy burden. I decided that weekend that I don’t want to be held back because of my material possessions. If that’s what keeps me from a God-given dream, then yikes.

God does not call us to be comfortable. Personal comfort is definitely not mentioned anywhere in the Bible. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. God requires everything from His followers.

We can’t play it safe in this life. Without risk, there is no great adventure. No chance for God’s glory to be revealed.

So I still have twinges of wanting to stay where I feel safe & comfortable, but I know that a God-sized adventure is waiting for us just around the corner!

Bring on this life less comfortable!

Caught Between Two Worlds

So January 2012 is flying by. I’ve had every intention of writing more. There are so many things going on that I’ve wanted to write about, but it’s that same number of crazy things that keep me too busy to write.

Here’s just a taste:

Week of January 1st – I worked at Thomas Nelson, lived at home in Nashville and worked toward all of the logistics that moving requires – finding a place to live, getting our house listed for rent, etc.

Week of January 8th – I went up to Arlington, VA, where I lived in a hotel for a week and dove into new employee training week at International Justice Mission.

Week of January 16th – Back in Nashville, I’m working my final week at Thomas Nelson. Booking moving trucks, one-way plane tickets, & the car shipper.

Week of January 23rd – Still in Nashville, but will be working full-time now for IJM, from home.

Week of January 30th – I will work for IJM from Nashville to start the week. The movers come to pack us up. I fly out on the 2nd and move into the new place in Alexandria, VA on the 3rd.

It’s getting out of hand. Just as a kicker, my last class for my MBA program also started this month. I’m starting to feel like a professional juggler.

Two jobs, two homes, two different lives…

Alexandria/IJM – A new job to learn, challenges to face, a whole new city to explore & conquer, new co-workers to meet…

Nashville/Thomas Nelson – A job to wrap up, wonderful co-workers to say goodbye to, a life to pack up, a house to rent, soaking up time with amazing friends and having to say goodbye to way too many…

I feel completely caught between two worlds.

I had an amazing week at International Justice Mission last week. I could write an entire post (or 4) on just everything I experienced and learned. I’m so excited for all that is in store!

But I’m starting to also go through a grieving process for my life here in Nashville. I’ve found myself way more emotional than normal. It’s hard to say goodbye. I’ve been so comfortable here for so long. This is the longest I’ve been in any one place, ever – 6.5 years. [I don’t count Clarksburg, MD, where I grew up, simply because I changed schools every 3 years or so.] I’ve been at the same job, in the same town for 6 years now. It’s not easy to wrap up into a tidy bow.

So I find myself getting emotional at random times these days – singing a random hymn in church on Sunday, sharing a last lunch together with a dear friend, hugging a co-worker goodbye today. I feel like I’m starting to have to say goodbye to someone every day now.

After spending last week away at IJM, as I flew back into Nashville on Saturday, I had this very strange feeling of “I don’t belong here anymore,” and that was strange. God, who has been planning this for our lives since before we were born, has been preparing us for this for a while now. He’s been slowing pulling up different roots, one at a time. I know it’s time to go, but that doesn’t necessarily make it any easier.

An exciting journey lies ahead, but I have a life to say goodbye to here also. There’s a season for everything though, right…

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:

a time to be born and a time to die,
     a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,   
     a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,   
     a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
     a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
     a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
   a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
   a time for war and a time for peace.

 ~Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

For now, I’m living life caught between two worlds.