The last few months have redefined epic adventure in my dictionary. From travel hacking Italy with a colleague to a surprise engagement trip in the mountains of North Carolina, I’ve been overwhelmed with God’s blessings and the people He’s placed in my life.
However, there’s a difference between amazing people and iron-sharpening people. I’m grateful mine qualify as both, but as we’re choosing friends to do life with, we should consider some important questions.
Do they point you to Christ?
There are plenty of people in this world who model ingenuity, bravery, kindness, and adventure. From the world’s standpoint, they personify the ideal. These charismatic people attract a crowd, and although they can be generous and inspirational, they’re missing the main thing.
Without a personal relationship with God, a person with everything the world has to offer has nothing of lasting worth.
Do the people in your tribe encourage you to have a closer walk with God? Do they keep you accountable and ask you to do the same for them? Beyond that, do they pray for you and with you (James 5:16)?
We need to surround ourselves with Spirit-filled friends who strengthen our faith and won’t let us settle for status quo.
Dear friends, please celebrate with us! I’m so excited to share that my wonderful boyfriend James asked me to marry him, and I said yes. Here’s the story for all you romantics.
Let’s take a road trip, he said.
James has been going to Beech Mountain, North Carolina for years, and last winter, I went for the first time as part of our church group’s ski trip. You may remember my takeaways as a first-time skier.
Since Florida doesn’t see foliage, James suggested getting a group of friends together to take a long weekend and hike around Beech Mountain. So along with my best friend Devon, we road tripped to Beech Mountain where our friend Conrad joined us.
After work on Thursday, we started the long drive, prepared with more snacks than necessary, of course. Some ten or eleven hours later, we rolled into the driveway of a rustic cabin along the ski slopes and crashed for a few hours.
Let’s wait for this view, he said.
North Carolina dawned with sparkling blue skies and cool fifties, the perfect hiking weather. It’s as if Beech Mountain were in on the surprise.
We had breakfast and coffee at Fred’s, and if you’ve ever been to this part of the Carolinas, you know Fred’s is a landmark! Fueled with food, if not much sleep, we started out for some hiking trails.
The last hike of the day was called Wiseman’s View, but to get there, we had to work our way over one of the bumpiest stateside roads I’ve ever seen! However, the view was more than worth it. Some people have even described the vista as the “Grand Canyon” of North Carolina.
The late afternoon chill was setting in, and after exploring one of the outlooks, we went to another. However, a couple was there taking pictures, so we waited against some fencing.
“Maybe we can just go check out another view or head back,” I said at last. “It’s freezing out here.”
Freezing is subjective. To a Florida girl, one flannel shirt is not sufficient for low fifties.
“No, let’s wait,” James said. “I want to do a picture like that one.” He meant a “facing away” picture like the other couple.
“Okay,” I said and shivered next to him.
Let’s spend the rest of our lives together, he said.
When he finally led me to the outlook, something was different. Maybe it was his breathing or the way his heart beat in his chest.
AND THEN HE STARTED TALKING AND GOT DOWN ON ONE KNEE.
So help me, I don’t remember much of what he said. Snippets included:
I love you more than I thought possible.
There’s no one else I want to spend the rest of my life with.
Will you marry me?
I said yes.
The video my friend took (which is good, because otherwise, I might not remember anything) involves me smiling as broad as the mountain range (hyperbole, perhaps), saying yes, and embracing the love of my life.
I couldn’t have asked for a more special moment. James was there, naturally. My best friend Devon was there capturing it all and celebrating with us. This cute hiking couple was there and insisted on shaking our hands and wishing us the best.
And God was there. We’ve bathed this relationship in prayer and sought wisdom for this road. I’m trusting this love is from Him, and He’s blessing it.
Let me be vulnerable for a hot second. I’m in my early thirties and wasn’t sure if God would bring along someone or ask me to stay single. Though I prayed for marriage, I was trying to be content with either option.
I’ve learned that both singleness and relationships bring their highs and lows. Right now, my thoughts and emotions feel like fireworks, but I also know marriage requires work. Regardless, my conclusion is this: Godly love purposes the good of another and pursues God first. When that’s the case, we can thrive-whatever the future holds.
I hope I can encourage my young friends today with this: Don’t wait for a relationship to start living. Be your best self right now. That best self will either be fabulous single or incredibly attractive to the man or woman God has for you. And regardless, God can use you for His glory.
Hello, friends! Thanks for joining me on my Italian adventure. Over the next several months, I’ll unpack more of this trip and its correlation to my upcoming novel, but for now, I’m limiting myself to 10 top moments, one for each day I was in Italy.
Day 1: The Streets of Orvieto
After an eventful rental car experience in Rome and finally finding our Air B&B in Orvieto, my colleague and I enjoyed a few moments roaming the cobbled streets before settling into our adorable apartment. After all, this was a working trip as well as an adventure.
Day 2: The Duomo in Orvieto
This breathtaking cathedral is a centerpiece of what might be the most charming, authentic city in Italy. Of course, I’m biased and haven’t even scratched the surface of Italy’s hidden gems, but there was nothing fake or superficial about this place. It was consistently the same whether I was visiting a back street or main attraction.
Day 3: Pizza in Civita di Bagnoregio
This place is a literal city on a hill. The views are breathtaking, and I should probably choose one of my landscape shots as my featured image, but you guys!! This was also the place I experienced my first Italian pizza. Enough said. (For actual pictures of this beautiful town, visit my Facebook page.)
Day 4: Walking Tour of Rome
I will never forget the day my colleague and I walked fifteen miles on a self-guided tour of Rome. The trek started at the Colosseum, so this picture seems appropriate.
Day 5: Fort Michelangelo at the Port of Civitavecchia
Nicknamed “The port of Rome,” Civitavecchia is a hub for cruise ships and tourists entering Italy. I gushed over it for a similar reason, because it is the point of entry into Italy (and the international scene) for my heroine Portia in The Reactionary(Coming 2019).
Day 6: Gelato in Palermo
Italian gelato is all it’s promised to be and more. My go-to flavor was fragola or strawberry. Delish!
Day 7: The Beach at Palermo
Naturally, the Florida girl in me feels at home on any beach, and Palermo’s was stunning! The water was a refreshing temperature and oh so very blue.
Day 8: Prickly Pear in Valguarnera
Have you ever eaten the prickly pear fruit? I never had, but it tastes as sweet as candy! Note: The locals eat the seeds, so just chew them and pretend to be Italian.
Day 9: Scala dei Turchi
My friend Maria promised me that the cliffs and beach in Agrigento would fast become my favorite place. How right she was! These pearly white cliffs and the sparkling blue waters of the Mediterranean were like nothing I’ve ever seen before.
Day 10: Cappuccino in Valguarnera
Before we returned to Palermo, we spent the morning with Maria’s family. Like many other days, breakfast consisted of a chocolate or cream brioche and a cappuccino. Yes, I’m basically in withdrawal at the moment.
I remember when I bought my first car after college. It had belonged to one owner before me and still had a faint new car smell. Even more potent was the feeling of buying a car for the first time. Perhaps you can think of an experience when life brought a “new smell.”
Today, we’re on the cusp of 2018. Perhaps 2017 was a year of tremendous blessing for you, but maybe, it also brought unexpected trials or changes that have been particularly hard. For some, looking over the year doesn’t leave a warm fuzzy feeling.
While reflecting on the past has its place, even more important is focusing on what lies before us. 2018 is a gift. It’s as if God is handing us the keys to a new car that will take us both exciting and unexpected places. There will be new adventures and challenges. There might also be some flat tires or even a fender bender along the way.
We don’t know what to expect when we pass the start line of a new year, but we can hold to God’s timeless promises that offer fresh hope in 2018.