Most often, adventure is just saying the next “yes.” Whatever that might be.
As you know by now, I love photography and am obsessed with mountains. I also love people. So, here are some of my favorites from my time in the Great Smoky Mountains.
To those who adventure, life itself is the greatest adventure of all. —me
Today's post will be a short one. It happens to be one of my very favorite adventurer's 30th birthday. To the guy who let me tag along, whether it was hiking, muddin', camping, or scrambling up and down the mountains of Virginia: It's your day; I hope it's a good one!
Anyway, I was always your typical, tag-along little sister. But Ben wouldn't just let me tag along. Oh, no—I had to participate. And you know what? Many of those things are now my very favorite activities.
In honor of his 30 years, I just want to give you a snap-shot of how our relationship works. Take last weekend for example. We were at Holden Beach, North Carolina with our family last week. The night before we left around 11:30, I noticed Ben setting up his tripod and camera near the end of our house's wooden walkway. He explained that he planned to use a long exposure to get some shots of the night sky along with the ocean.
Of course, as many times before, I was content to just stand there (outside is my happy place, y'all) and watch. Nod when the lighting was good, tell him when the flashlight we used didn't quite hit the Milky Way. Seriously, the photos turned out really well.
But after a few shots and playing with highlighting parts of the sky or ground with a flashlight, Ben looked at me and asked a question. (Exact wording may vary, but you get the gist.)
"Hey, would you want to run up and down the beach and shine the flashlight on the water so it stands out more?"
And what did I do? I only hesitated momentarily before I said, "Sure!"
Thus began my series of sprints up and down the beach. Of course, I couldn't see when I was in or out of the frame, so with Ben on speaker phone, around midnight, I was running up and down the beach with a flashlight pointed (very specifically) on the white caps.
The whole time, I was hoping the shrimp boats didn't think I was sending out an SOS. Nope, it's just a crazy girl running up and down the beach to highlight the waves for a photo—continue as you were.
There was a point when Ben asked me to keep the light steady, and I believe I informed him (or at least wanted to say) that he would get what he got because I was sprinting in sand. I mean, how do you hold a light steady while you run and try to point it sideways at the ocean while not falling face first into the sand?
Then, I finish. I come to a dramatic stop and I hear from the phone in my hands, "Uh, did you just fall?" I gave the ocean a "Seriously?" kind of look. Then, I replied, "No, I stopped."
I was then asked, "Hey, keep the light on and walk back toward the dunes."
When I got to the right place, he told me to stop, turn around, and face the ocean while keeping the light focused only a few feet in front of me without shaking.
Then he says, "Okay. There's a clip on the back of the light. Pop that open and see if you can hold it steady in your mouth."
Yep. You guessed it. I put the clip in my mouth and tried to point the light as he directed. But, as you can imagine, I was still a tad out of breath from sprinting up and down the beach. So, I had a little trouble holding the light while trying to catch my breath.
Apparently I did alright. He then asked if I could raise my arms up in the air like I was celebrating or saying "hallelujah." I did that too. Then we were done. For the night at least.
I went to bed around 2, then got up at 6 to assist him in a product photoshoot for a new apparel company. (You should definitely check out Coastland Apparel. I only got to test a hat, but the fit is super comfortable!)
This is life with Ben as my brother. It's always a little weird, unpredictable, and an adventure. But y'all, I always walk away with a really good story.
So, happy birthday to the weirdest, best brother a girl could ever hope to roll her eyes at. I love you Ben. Enjoy your Big 3-0!
p.s. I'll get you some pictures of my attempts at running as soon as I have them. I haven't even seen them yet! (Ben [ehem, Katie]: Hint, hint.)
"Maybe I'm crazy."
I've thought this about myself a lot over the last two weeks. I took on a lot of change, and I dealt with it much better than I would have a year ago. No yelling. No tearing my hair out. No channeling my inner hulk and smashing anything. (Actually, only one of those happened last time I moved. Your guess is the only answer you'll get.)
Anyway. July 27th was my last day at LifeWay as a full-time employee. They have graciously given me a few contract projects, and I'm really finding my rhythm as a contract worker. God created me to be more of a free-spirit than I ever considered myself, and I love being able to work when I want. You know what? I'm still on time, and I'm way more productive than I was two weeks ago.
But during the week that followed my departure, my life looked a whole lot like this:
Finally though, I'm halfway done. I'm settled into my parents' house for the next few weeks while I unpack and repack and prepare to move to the Great Smokies.
Oh, and by settled in, I actually mean my boxes are officially taking over their house. (Sorry Mom and Dad.)
On the surface, my life is a hot mess. I don't know where most of my things are. I'm balancing contract work and figuring out how to change over my insurance (which is a royal pain, by the way), completing all of the forms and training for my new job, and usually prioritizing none of that in favor of spending time with the people I will dearly miss when I move.
I still don't know my new address. I don't know what all I'll need to take with me. I don't know my move date. I'm a recovering control freak, y'all. A year ago, I would not be okay with this. I would want to know every single detail.
But God has taught me a lot over the last year. Even more important than what He has taught me about myself is what He taught me about Himself. I can trust Him. I know that I have a job and a place to live, both during the season and in the off-season. I know I start my job on September 9th. I know that I will be in one of my favorite places in the world.
God has given me many details, but not all of them. And as for the rest? Well, I know I can trust Him. And that's good enough for now.
Well, y'all it's been a while. I thought I'd be updating you on the dummies' guide to assembling a Thule car rack for a naked roof. (Yes, that's the technical term.) Or maybe telling you about sleeping under the stars (and my bug net) in my ENO Double Nest. I thought for sure my next blog would be about some kind of fun adventure. In a way it is, but it's not the adventure I was expecting. I'm sure it's not the adventure you were expecting me to write about either.
Instead, it's a major life-shift adventure.
It'll be more than a week-long trip this time. I'll be living just outside of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park and working for a company called Under Canvas. They offer luxury camping. In other words, "glamping." Yes, you read that right. G-L-A-M-P-I-N-G. As one of my co-workers clarified, it is in fact "glamorous camping."
In early September, I will move to East Tennessee and begin work as the Guest Experiences Coordinator. From what I understand, I am only the third person (within our seven locations) to hold this title. It's a new role, and I have some freedom to build it out as I see fit. While I've learned that I love freedom and don't really love structure, this is still a little scary. Doesn't everything new feel that way at some point? Anyway, my job basically consists of serving people and making sure their stay with us is wonderful. There's a lot more to it than that, but this is the basic idea.
I get to work with people. I get to work outside. I'll be living halfway between my parents in Tennessee and the rest of my family in North Carolina. And I'll get four months off every year. Yep. I'm pumped!
But with this change comes some sadness. I'm leaving a job I thought would be a lifelong career. I'm moving away from some of the best friends I've ever had. I just settled into a church that feels like home and now I'll be searching for a new one to attend 8 months of the year.
I'm not leaving a bad situation, I'm just grabbing hold of something new. Something I know God is calling me toward for this time in my life. I could keep rambling, but I want to leave you with a note from my prayer journal that sums up the struggle I've felt over these last few months.
For days, weeks, even months, I have tried to figure out how to make my heart spell out these words. Even as I type this, I don't know what this page will contain when I'm finished with it. All I know is this: I have questions. Mostly, where and what and how and when, with a few whys flung in between. The path You lead me down probably looks the same to You day in and day out, but to me, surprise lurks around every corner. I say that like the surprises are all bad—they're not—just unexpected, as surprises are by nature.
I mean, a month ago, I fully expected my future to include seminary and maybe a few more years at LifeWay, if not several. But something in me snapped or called me out of a trance or maybe both. It's not that vocational ministry is bad; it's just that I've realized it's not the right place for me now. Maybe I stayed because people told me I should be in ministry (appropriate for a pastor's daughter, You know). Or maybe I stayed because I thought it was the path I had to take, the most righteous path, the only way I could truly make a difference, the only way I could have security or feel good about myself or write. But I believe I overstayed my welcome and am now operating in a role I no longer feel called to fill. A role I felt called to fill a little over a month ago. I was so sure of it, so secure in it.
And I think I left You out of it all until now. My soul has long pled with me for healing. I believe there is a unique and sensitive trauma that comes from wounds within the faith community. It comes for the heart. It comes for the soul. It devours with an insatiable hunger because it is spiritual, from the depths, and seeks to remove our joy. This trauma takes a long time to heal, regardless of how quickly I encourage it to move.
I didn't know it a month ago, but heading was coming for me swift and cunning and unexpected. But it is a delight, like waves fizzling out over my feet on a hot summer day. I feel freedom in the healing that has come for me, to release me from this prison of my own making.
Now, I'm not really one for dramatics, but these words have been trapped inside of me for so long, beating against my chest. Like the well-worn skin of an old bass drum, my chest gave way to all that was trapped inside, namely, my heart. It has come to rest on a place it used to know well. Once again it will have more say in what I do. Once again, it has learned that the call of my Father's voice is not often loud, but clear as it gives me a strong sense of letting go and moving on, despite what my pride or other people tell me.
I don't really need to explain myself; I just need to trust You. I need to let go and move toward Your voice. It is time.
Disclaimer: Don't worry. Nothing bad happened. I love LifeWay and what it stands for. I'm even planning to do contract work for them during my downtime in my new job. The trauma I'm referring to here has nothing to do with LifeWay and everything to do with the church in general. My manager is wonderful. I love my team. I have loved being a part of various resources and events. I will always be grateful for the time I've had here, the people I've met, the training I've received, and all that I've learned. I'm only moving on because I knew God was calling me somewhere else. It was not an easy decision.
So, there you have it. I've accepted a new job in East Tennessee. I'm leaving LifeWay because I feel God calling me somewhere else. I'm moving away from a good life here in Nashville to a place where I don't know anyone. I'm both nervous and excited. I know this surprises some of you. That's okay. And believe it or not, this is the short of it.
If you know me, you know I actually don't like rules. I mean, I follow them and I know most of them are good for me; I just don't like being put in a box. So, like the pirate code (parlay) in The Black Pearl, let's treat them more like guidelines.
So, here's our road trip code (ehem, guidelines):
Rule 1: Take a friend. Y'all, Texas roads are a lonely place, and when you travel there from Tennessee, you have to travel through Arkansas—trust me, it's worse. I was planning on doing this trip solo and meeting up with my parents, but as you read in my last post, that didn't happen. But my sweet best friend agreed to go with me. Who knows how many hours we spent in the car together on our round-trip trek through Tennessee and Texas?
Pro Tip: Make sure it's a good friend—a really good friend. You don't have to talk the whole time, but man does it make the miles go by faster when you spend time catching up, talking about life, and breaking it down to Backstreet Boys. I know you can't always take a friend (I promise I'll talk about that one of these days), but it's so much fun if you can!
Rule 2: Stop whenever you feel like it. Lynn and I knew where we were staying each night, but other than that? We did what we wanted, when we wanted. See something interesting on an exit sign? Chase after it. Want to experience the open countryside and big blue Texas sky? Drive some back roads. (Arkansas has some gorgeous mountain roads too!) If traffic is at a standstill and you’ve been on the road for a while, get off the road for a bit and get a snack or explore the amazing Bass Pro in Garland, Texas. (Just us?)
Rule 3: Plan around people and food. Seriously, Texas is beautiful, but I found there wasn't a lot to do in the eastern and mid-state areas. But, y’all, the Tex-Mex is legit. (Obviously.) I experienced a lot of good food over the course of my trip. Honestly, their BBQ is pretty great as well. Also, if you’re going to visit a friend, ask them to show you their favorite places and make requests for anything specific you want to do. My friend, Elizabeth took us to places and restaurants we loved and we weren’t disappointed with any of it. Of course, visiting with a friend you miss is also a huge win!
Rule 4: Ask the locals. Texas is rich in culture, so ask around if you want to experience it. The people, specifically in San Antonio, loved when we would ask them for recommendations. Most of the places we visited weren’t found through online searches, but through word of mouth from shop owners, waitresses, and baristas. We even met a wonderful, kind, encouraging woman named Carol through doing just that. I’m actually still in contact with her and love how God used this trip to bring her into my life.
Rule 5: Know what you’re getting into. Much of what we did while we traveled through Texas and Arkansas was best kept to a few hours. Hot Springs National park is great, but it’s smack dab in the middle of town. So, really, a couple of hours, Goat Rock Trail, and a National Parks passport stamp later—and we were ready to go. Also, as amazing as Chip and Joanna Gaines are, The Silos weren’t meant for an entire day. Unless you’re waiting in line for the bakery, souvenirs, or food trucks, you can walk the entire property in about 15-20 minutes. We only had one or two days in each place, and we found that time frame absolutely perfect for what we wanted to do.
Bonus: Also, Texas is hot. During the day, makeup is useless; ladies, tinted sunscreen is your friend. In general, sunscreen is your friend. The after 4 pm rule we used in North Carolina does not apply in Texas— not at all. It’s also a good idea to bring clothes for activities and nights out or one outfit for the morning and one for the evening. You will sweat and you will want to change at some point, trust me. Lynn and I both took two outfits per day, and each of us came back with only one clean shirt to spare.
There are several more things I could say about Texas and Arkansas, but you should experience both—they’re worth it. But I will leave you with a list of my favorite finds on this trip.
Hot Springs, Arkansas.
Rudy’s BBQ and Torchy’s Tacos are amazing. I’d suggest the Potato with Meat (choose from pork, turkey, or brisket; I had pork) at Rudy's and the Tipsy Chick at Torchy’s with a black cherry soda (The taco is a soft-shell with a blend of chicken, corn, lettuce, avocado, and a bourbon/honey sauce).
Baylor University’s campus is beautiful at night, particularly the bridge between the main section of campus and the stadium. Take a quick walk there, and maybe try to see the bears if they decide to wander outside. (Yes, they have real bears on campus. No, they aren’t roaming free—don’t worry.)
Cameron Park has several trails, and the one we chose took us right along the water. About halfway down, you can take a short detour onto a rock outcropping with a gorgeous view of the river.
Although I wouldn’t plan a trip around The Silos, they’re still worth the visit! The Silos provide food, a cooling shelter with a mist system (Trust me, this is important!), a garden, an open turf area for kids to play, the gift shop, and several amazing back drops for photos.
San Antonio, Texas.
Set aside some time to visit La Villita. Much like it sounds, it’s a small village of local artisan shops. This is where Lynn and I met our new friend, Carol, who encourage us and treated us with kindness. Be sure to visit her in the Spanish leather shop there if you go!
Casa Rio is the oldest restaurant of its kind on the Riverwalk. The outdoor seating is right by the river, where we watched baby ducks play in the water as we ate. It’s also a key location for people watching. If you go here, I’d recommend the chicken nachos with a nice helping of sour cream. This pairs well with the black cherry soda, which is one of my favorite brands: Stubborn. (No, this is not a metaphor for my life. I just love their sodas.)
The River Walk is the coolest and quickest way to get somewhere. It doesn’t hurt that it’s pretty and has a variety of food options.
I guess that’s about it. If you have any other questions or just want to say, “Hi,” please drop a comment or an email. I would love to hear from you!
See you soon!
I had to look up the date to write it in the corner of my journal page today. Can I tell you how freeing that was? The last two weeks have held quite the adventure(s), both bad and good. I'll ease you right into the messiest part or give you the "bad" news first, as they say.
It all started two weeks ago with my dad's Thursday morning appointment for a heart cath turning into an emergency surgery. While we are certainly grateful the doctors located the blockages and placed stents where necessary, I think it shook us up a bit. Don't unmet expectations—for better or worse—always shake things up a bit?
With the unexpected surgery, I unexpectedly spent five days at my parents' home, an hour from my place. After much discussion with the doctors, my parents decided not to take their trip to Texas the next week—a trip I had planned to join. While I agreed with and wholeheartedly supported their decision (my dad's health was my primary concern), I also felt a sense of loss in not being able to travel with them.
Then my mom, ever the problem-solver (she's a mathematician, you know), decided I should still go; she even suggested inviting along one of my best friends. I'll be honest, I felt a little guilty making plans for the trip they would no longer be taking with me. I also wasn't sure my friend would be able to go, but I typed out a quick text and prayed she'd say yes.
Selfishly, I needed a break. I was in a place where, if I didn't take a break, I thought life would break me.
But God knows what He's doing—even when it doesn't make sense to me. With that text began the good part of my adventure. My friend responded with an almost immediate, "Yes!" and began organizing all of her plans to be able to go with me.
Y'all, you need a friend like this one. The one who will drop everything and take an unplanned trip with you. Thanks, Lynn. (Also, Jarrett: Thanks for being a champ about your wife adventuring with me.)
By Monday afternoon, we set out for Texas—our only plans were hotel reservations and hanging out with our good friend, Elizabeth, once we arrived in Waco. We woke up when we wanted. We stopped when we felt like it. We hiked, shopped, laughed, and ate our way through Tennessee, Arkansas, and Texas.
I really want to tell you more about our adventure. Honestly, I do. But right now, I'm curled up in my own bed for just the second time in 12 days, dreaming of Torchy's Tacos and riverwalk heart-to-hearts with my friend.
In other words, I'm still processing reality. I go back into the office for the first time in 12 days. I actually have to remember the date. Deadlines will do that to you, you know.
But soon enough, I'll take you on a written tour of our trip: Texas, Tacos, and Talks.
See you soon,
Hi, I'm Steph.
If you know me, you know I'm always planning my next adventure. (Sometimes, I'm even tempted to look past the current adventure because I'm so excited about what's next.)
To me, adventure doesn't always mean a trip across the world, the US, or even the state; adventure can be just down the road or right outside the door. Those of us with a little bit of wanderlust—well, we crave new experiences, wherever that takes us.
However, being an adventurous single young adult—especially as a young woman—can sometimes be difficult. People question me relentlessly about the safety of my decisions. (Hi, Mom). But my own fear can also slow me down. A small amount of fear is good, it makes me ask tough questions and pay attention to my surroundings, but sometimes fear holds me back.
This year I decided I don't want to live in fear. I don't want my place in life right now to hold me back. I want to receive it as the gift it is. Adventure is waiting, and I want to dive in.
I'm digging into this because this is where I am. I am a single woman in her 20s, living in a world that isn't always safe for me to walk through alone. While wisdom says certain activities probably shouldn't be done alone (like kayaking and hiking), you can take steps to keep yourself safe and do what you love—whether someone else is with you or not.
As you adventure with me here, I'll dig into more specific topics like road-trips, travel abroad, hiking, camping, kayaking, adventure buddies, researching and putting together all the right equipment for your adventures, and other people who've helped and inspired me.
If any of you adventurous peeps have other questions, ideas, and topics you'd like to see discussed, send them my way. I'm just getting started, so let's take this adventure together.
Are you ready?