In Retrospect: 13 Years Later

Weeping may tarry for the night,
but joy comes with the morning. –
You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
you have loosed my sackcloth
and clothed me with gladness.
– Psalm 30:5b, 11

Thirteen years ago today, my world changed drastically. Thirteen years ago today, I lost my best friend. Thirteen years ago today, I learned one of the hardest lessons I ever could — but thirteen years ago today, God took something terrible and began using it to make me stronger. Bolder. Kinder.

This is not going to be a lengthy post, nor is it going to be a sad post. This is simple a post of remembrance — an acknowledgement of the impact that my father has had on my life — and a moment to sit and rest in the knowledge that one day, I will see him again.

What is joy?

Joy, to me, is the expression of more than happiness — more than a feeling. A state of the heart.

Sometimes I have trouble finding joy. I let myself get bogged down. Sadness. Loneliness. The feeling of being unloved, undesired, unwanted. Being overwhelmed. Exhausted. Never being enough. I take on all these negative feelings and get so mired down that I’m not sure exactly how I’m going to ever get back up again.

But joy.

When you’re eight years old and your joy disappears, it can be really hard to get it back.

I was an eight-year-old Daddy’s girl who wouldn’t go to bed at night until he sang “Edelweiss” and kissed me. He was my best friend… the man who carried pictures of his two little girls in his lab coat to show to all of his clients. The man with the big red diesel truck. The man who took me (yes, me) to gun shows every year. Tall and strong and an earnest lover of toasted pb&j, Snackwells, and chicken chimichangas, there wasn’t a more wonderful man in the world.

If it weren’t for Rick Lange, I would not be the girl I am today. His faith — and the way he lived for Christ… to this day I cannot think of anyone who personified a true follower of Christ more so than did he. His heart sought to pursue God, and his life reflected that. And that… that is where I find my joy.

See, my heart broke when I lost my best friend… but he left me so much. Not only did he leave me with a mother and a sister who love me more than I could ever ask or expect, but he left me with memories and the knowledge that my father was a good man. A great man. A man who loved the Lord and was doing all he possibly could to bring Christ to the world.

And that… that is more than anyone could ask for.

My joy does not come from worldly things. It doesn’t come from silly songs or big surprises or those tiny little special moments… my joy comes from knowing that I am blessed. From working through sadness to see that those things that hurt the heart are also the things that help us grow. That is where I find my joy.

I still remember big hugs. Singing Carly Simon in the car. Driving to Iowa or that cabin in Crossville. Shooting hoops in the driveway, or trying (and failing) to bike without my training wheels. Eating at Fujis… running around the animal clinic. Precious moments that I won’t let go of easily. And yet, I know, without a doubt, that I will see him again one day… and that, my friends, is a beautiful thought.

Blessed. Loved.

“Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.” (and a sinfully sweet Peanut Butter Dream recipe)

What do you do when someone hurts your feelings?

I mean really hurts your feelings. The kind of hurts-your-feelings that goes so deep that only your best friend can see it because you’re that damn good at hiding it. The kind of hurts-your-feelings that causes you to walk to the car and melt into a puddle of tears in the passenger seat. The kind of hurts-your-feelings that leave you asking, “Seriously? What did I ever do to you?”

My soul is of the sensitive sort, I will admit that… I take EV-ER-Y-THING the wrong way. Tell me that my hair looks nice curly, and I’ll assume that you prefer curly over straight and convince myself that you hate it when my hair ISN’T curly. I have this awful, awful ability to manipulate words meant to be complimentary and twist them into this derogatory mass — and I let my feelings get hurt in this way ALL. THE. TIME.

But there is a difference.

Somewhere deep in my confusing, all-over-the-place psyche, I know that regardless of the crap I’m taking from the words my friends are saying… they love me, and the words they are saying are never meant to hurt me.

And then there are the words that cut way deep. The ones that are meant to hurt.

I have to ask, friends… why do so many people want to view the world as glass-half-empty? Why is there such a desire to stomp on dreams, to squelch hope, to make people view life in a “realistic” manner? Isn’t living in the reality enough?

I am a dreamer. A big-time dreamer. A planner and schemer of a million ideas that will never come to fruition and quite honestly, I know that and I’m okay with that. Dreams are meant to be dreamt in order for us to reach our highest potential. They are the things we seek. They are the paths we take. They are the lives we pursue. Dreams keep me going.

Try as I might, I can’t see why it’s a problem to look at the world as a glass half-full. Maybe it’s not “realistic” — maybe the world isn’t this lovely place that I strive to see it as — but what makes it so wrong to see the light?

My feelings got hurt recently. They really, really, really got hurt. But I think that even in the mess that is a hurt heart, one can learn so much… and maybe, just maybe, the best way to cope is to pull a Rhett Butler and move on. “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”

If ever an iconic line there was…

On a much more cheerful topic, today’s recipe is a little something I whipped up for my coworker Rusty’s birthday last week. Upon asking what he liked, I was told, quite simply, “chocolate and peanut butter.”

Well. Reese’s Cup Cheesecake had already been done and I wasn’t really feeling any of the recipes I found… so a rummage among my cupboards and a quick trip to the store later, my kitchen counter was covered with a multitude of chocolatey-peanut buttery-goodness — and from that mess came this delectable little sucker (fondly titled “Peanut Butter Dream”).

Rusty’s No-Bake Peanut Butter Dream (feeds ~20)

Ingredients:
One package ~30 chocolate sandwich cookies (give or take a few)
1/4 cup butter (melted)
One cup heavy whipping cream
One cup smooth peanut butter
One 8 oz package cream cheese
One teaspoon vanilla extract
One cup confectioners sugar
One package sugar-free chocolate Jello pudding mix
One cup milk
One package semi-sweet chocolate chips
Canola oil
Cinnamon
Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (your choice on big or small, but I prefer the small ones)

Other:
Food processor (or) gallon bag/hammer
9×13 casserole dish

1. Make your crust using the Oreo cookies and butter. Although it would be easier to use a food processor, this poor college student hasn’t made that purchase yet — so I use the good old-fashioned method of cookies-in-bag and pound with a hammer to properly crush them. You want them smashed to smithereens (and leave that cookie filling in there!), but it’s okay if the size of the cookie crumbs vary. This is easy.

2. Once you’ve properly demolished your bag of Oreos, spread them over the bottom of your casserole dish, then carefully drizzle the melted butter over the top. Try to get the butter spread as evenly as possible over the Oreos — this acts as a holding agent to make the crust less crumby and more crusty. Once the butter has been evenly distributed, you can gently shake the dish to help your crust form.

3. Now it’s time to make your peanut butter layer. I know this sounds a little weird, but I promise it’s worth it. First, whip your heavy whipping cream until peaks form (I always second guess myself and think that I’ve done it wrong, but remember that whipping cream takes time… if it’s not whipping well, it just hasn’t had enough time! Give it a bit).

4. In a separate bowl, combine one cup of smooth peanut butter, 8 oz of cream cheese, and one teaspoon of vanilla. Whip until smooth and creamy (no lumps), then start adding in the confectioners sugar. Do this a bit at a time (I recommend in quarter cups). Continue whipping until the consistency is smooth and the flavor is a perfect peanut-buttery goodness (…you best have been taste-testing as you went!).

5. Carefully — carefully – fold the peanut butter mixture into the whipped cream. This is a wee bit tricky, but if I could do it, you can too! Never ever ever use your mixer to blend these two together… too much mixing can lead to your whipped cream falling. Once you’ve reached a smooth, fluffy texture, layer this peanut butter mixture on top of your Oreo crust.

6. Time for pudding! Now, I know the box calls for two cups of cold milk… but I want you to use one. Whip the pudding mix together with a dash of cinnamon and one cup of cold milk (preferably Cruze Dairy Farms!) for two minutes, then allow it to set in the refrigerator. In the meantime, crush 10 Reese’s Cups.

7. Once the pudding has set, mix in the crushed Reese’s Cups and spread in an even layer over the top of your peanut butter mixture. If you have any left over Oreo crumbs, now is the time to sprinkle those on the top of your pudding.

8. Carefully melt your chocolate (I use the double boiler method, but microwave is fine too) and mix in a VERY small amount of canola oil (this will keep it from setting too quickly). Drizzle the melted chocolate over the top of your dish.

9. Finally, cut ~15 Reese’s Cups in half and place as you wish on the top of the dessert. For best results, chill for at least two hours before serving. Enjoy!

What Paula Deen taught me about men (and the best Triple-Chocolate Cupcakes EVER)

“Today, I’m going to show you how to cook for your man,” she said in typical Paula-Deen fashion, waving around a spatula with a delectable, buttery something-or-other simmering on the stove in front of her.

My attention immediately went from the bowl of cereal I was munching on to staring raptly at the TV screen. You see, when I really think about it, everything I have ever learned about men has come from Giada, Ina, and Paula — because clearly, they know what they’re talking about. It’s all in the cooking, my friends… all in the cooking.

I started a new job this summer. Now, I’m still in college, yes — but I also work part-time at a software company as a technical writer… with a lot of men… and they love their food. Pie. Cheesecake. Lasagna. Cupcakes. You name it, I’ll cook it — because as the old idiom says, “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach!” And so, I’ve taken a few lessons from my three cooking-comrades.

Allow me to explain.

Giada DeLaurentiis. Oh, Giada, why are you so gosh-darn attractive every single time you cook? I mean good gravy, lady, leave some pretty out here for the rest of us! Somehow (and I don’t exactly know how), she looks flawless even when wrestling with mixers, boiling oil, cocoa powder… it doesn’t matter what she’s doing or how much of a mess the kitchen will end up being — she just looks lovely. Unfortunately, I can’t say that I’ve perfected that art yet (hand me some cocoa powder and a mixer and you’ll end up with a room coated in a lovely light brown film, myself included), but I’ve discovered that wearing a frilly apron hides a lot of the cocoa dust, and when you add pearls and heels… you’re halfway there! Small steps, Meggo, small steps.

Of course, we also have Ina Garten, the woman with a name that younger Megan mistook as a play on “in a garden.” This talented lady taught me how to include a man in the cooking process without actually letting him do a single thing in the kitchen. She is brilliant. Every episode of Barefoot Contessa includes some nice guy (often her husband Jeffrey, but not every time!) running to the store to pick up the perfect wine, cheese, bread, or combination of the three (Ina, where are you finding all of these men?). SUCCESS. He’s out of the kitchen, and while she whips up a mouthwatering spread at home, he’s grabbing the extra treats to make the meal perfect! I call that genius.

And then… you have Paula. Bless you, Paula Deen, for cooking with butter and always being so bubbly. Without you, I might not be brave enough to cook the terribly unhealthy but disarmingly delicious goodies I’ve become so deft at whipping up — and all with a smile on my face! Think about it, friends. Have you ever seen an episode of Paula’s Kitchen where at least one friend or family member doesn’t pop in? Paula’s kitchen is never empty. There are her sons. Her hubby. Her friends. Grandchildren. She’s practically a people-magnet, all thanks to hard work, dedication, a bubbly personality… and a hefty helping of butter.

So, in honor of Giada, Ina, and Paula… I am going to post my semi-homemade recipe for the best triple-chocolate cupcakes in the world — which means you better get ready. These suckers are the most moist, indulgent cupcakes you could ever imagine… and they have a little kick to them as well. Expect proposals, ladies, because they’ll be coming!

Triple-Chocolate Pudding Cupcakes with Chocolate Buttercream Icing

Ingredients:
One box Duncan Hines Devil’s Food Cake Mix
Three Eggs (I prefer to use organic, but it’s up to you)
1/3 cup Canola Oil
8 oz Sour Cream
A dash each of Cinnamon, Chili Powder, and Vanilla Extract
One package sugar-free Jello Chocolate Pudding Mix
2 cups Milk (again, I like to use raw milk… but it’s your choice!)

1. Mix the cake mix with a good dash of cinnamon and chili powder — I recommend 5-7 shakes of each (I like to say that the addition of these adds a bit of complexity to the cake — just adjust until you get the right amount of “kick”!), then add in eggs, oil, and sour cream. Beat until a firm, slightly fluffy consistency.

2. Line your muffin tin with cupcake liners, the use an ice cream scoop to get the perfect amount of batter into each mold. Place in the oven at 350 degrees for 12-14 minutes (until a toothpick comes out clean).

3. In the meantime, whip up your pudding! 2 cups of cold milk mixed with one package of Jello pudding mix, blend with your hand mixer for 2 minutes, then place in the fridge to set.

4. Once your cupcakes have cooled slightly, take your knife (use a non-serrated cooking knife — a butter knife will not do the job here) and cut a circle around the top of the cupcake (see photograph below). Next, use a small spoon to scoop out the cake within the circle and cut off the bottom portion so that you have a lid-type piece of cake to cover the cavity you’ve made.

5. Grab the pudding from the fridge (it should be set by now) and place a good-sized spoonful into each cupcake — then replace the lid-piece you created earlier. Now it’s time to make some buttercream!

Chocolate Buttercream Icing:
2 softened sticks of Salted Butter
Powdered (Confectioner’s) Sugar
2 tsp Vanilla Extract
1/2 cup Cocoa Powder
A dash of Milk

1. For the buttercream, first take your butter and whip it with your mixer until a smooth consistency — then add in your powdered sugar. Many recipes call for three cups of sugar, but I think that is way too much… so do it by taste!

2. Once your butter tastes sugary-sweet, you can add in your cocoa powder and vanilla. Keep mixing — but be aware that cocoa powder will go EVERYWHERE, so I recommend adding it in a little at a time.

3. Time for milk. You want your buttercream to easily pipe through the decorating tip, so have your milk handy and be prepared to add it just a bit at a time. Don’t let the icing get too runny — it needs to be firm enough to stay on the cupcake, but not too firm… you know how you like your icing!

4. It’s up to you how you ice these puppies. I use a Wilton No. 19 Open-Star Decorating Tip with my pastry bags and do a simple round-the-cupcake icing job — and it’s lovely!

Once you’ve iced your cupcakes, I recommend letting them sit for a few hours — these cupcakes taste BETTER with age because they have time to let the pudding sink in. Talk about delicious! I guarantee that with these, you will be the belle of the ball… so give it a go — and let me know when you do. :)

How Raw Milk Changed My Life:

On any given Saturday at approximately 10 o’clock AM, you can find me wandering through the Market Square Farmer’s Market pretending to be a bohemian dreamer.

I have my routine — first a stop at Mountain Meadows Farm for tomatoes, potatoes, corn, grapes, or really any sort of produce that strikes my fancy (they are, without a doubt, one of my favorite booths at the market), then I make my way to Cheesecake and Bread by Rick for a loaf of Jalapeno Cheddar bread, hit up Sweetwater Valley Farm for a hunk of Salsa or Roasted Garlic Cheese, and swing by Rouxbarb for lemonade (or, if they aren’t there, Coffee and Chocolate). Throw in the random stop for pickled okra, honey, a German pretzel, or cinnamon rolls, add in lunch with Ashley at Pete’s Coffee Shop (best hamburger in town — I swear!), and you have a typical Saturday morning.

(Typical lunch at Pete’s — Bacon Cheeseburger all the way, fries, and a Diet Coke. YUM.)

But this past Saturday was different.

You see, my mother (love you, Mum!) hadn’t been to the farmer’s market before, so I thought it would be a nice Mother-Daughter trip — peruse the local wares, see the sights, listen to the ever-changing musical offerings that make Market Square so special, and then a trip to Pete’s for lunch — and so, at 11:45 this Saturday, she picked me up and we made our way downtown. Little did I know it would be a life-changing trip.

(The music, the bread, the produce — no wonder I love it so much!)

Have you ever had raw milk? Or better yet, Cruze Dairy Farm milk? No? Well, I hadn’t either… until yesterday morning.

Mum has been asking me for months to pick up some Cruze whole milk for her cheese-making endeavors, and I, in my stubborn and ever-sensible ways, never did… because how would I get it to her? And how would I keep it from spoiling? The list goes on and on — and so for the first time, we stopped by the Cruze Dairy Farm tent to get some milk.

(The pepper tent — haven’t been brave enough to actually buy anything yet, but SO pretty)

Holy habanero. One sample and I was caught hook, line, and sinker.

She (Mum) bought me a gallon of light milk just because I didn’t have any… and I have already consumed the entire thing. That gallon of milk didn’t even make it back to my apartment until 2:15 yesterday afternoon and it’s already gone — and I don’t even like milk.

Now as I sit on my couch watching Storage Wars and attempting to study Greek (although we can all see how well that is going… after spending hours and hours stuffing my brain with verbs and Lysias, I’m completely burnt out), all I can think about is how much I want another gallon of milk. I suppose this a lesson learned — don’t buy delicious milk and drink all of it in a day and a half, because then you’ll end up craving it for the next five days. Whoops.

(My very sad, almost empty gallon of milk. Counting down till Saturday!)

Guess this means I’ll be buying a cow share!

A final word to leave you with: as I ponder the direction my life is currently leading (I graduate in May, y’all!), I’ve come to the conclusion that a few things are going to change — one such thing being my blog. Look forward to a new direction… a good one, promise! I’ll still be updating you on the many things God is doing in my life, but as I pursue the career I really want, there are also going to be blogs about other things — things like cupcakes, Paula Deen, movies, hair dye, and the occasional road trip to nowhere. Don’t you worry, my darling readers — I’ll do my best to entertain!

And now… time for bed, and I hope to see each and every one of you out exploring the wonders of the Market Square Farmer’s Market come next Saturday morning! As always, thanks for reading.

Oh yeah — don’t forget to check out all the different links! Super cool places with SUPER delicious food.

We All Make Mistakes Sometimes

As I stood on the roof watching the sun set, we talked about mistakes we had made.

You see, I don’t want to let things follow me around… but they do anyway. Mistakes have this relentless attachment to my always-guilty conscience — they know all the right buttons to push and make me crazy. They are the reminder that I am fallible: far from perfect, utterly wretched, a human being in the worst way.

One of my favorite Bible stories has always been that of the woman at the well. Her words near the end of the tale say it so well: “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” (John 4:29).

I hate — hate — to think of all of my mistakes, knowing that even if I keep them a secret from my friends, my family, my church… He still knows all of them. Can words even express the depth of guilt that I feel? How can someone so pure and unblemished care for me, clothed in rags, broken, unclean? And yet, in knowing all of me — all of my mistakes, all the things that leave me stained red instead of snow white — He still loves me.

Mistakes seem to be a recurring topic in my life lately — my own mistakes, the mistakes of others, conversations at the dinner table, in coffee shops, standing on the roof of Wesley (Heather and Tim, you do not know about that) — and the common theme is simply this:

“I can’t let go. I can’t move on. I just feel so guilty.”

But where do we draw the line? Where do we stop and say to ourselves, “This is enough,” and, “I’m done letting this rule my life,” and, “It’s time to move on”? If Jesus — the same Jesus who was nailed to a cross because of our sins — can forgive us… shouldn’t we forgive us?

Now mind you, I’m no Biblical scholar, so please don’t take this as Biblical truth — but it seems to me that by not forgiving ourselves, we’re spitting in the face of the one who died to take away those mistakes. It’s like sending your roommate to the store to buy you a can of black beans, only to say thank you and then immediately throw the can back at her when she brings it home… “Thanks for going out of your way just for me, but no thanks. I don’t want them.” Seriously, who would do that?

So here’s the kicker. I wouldn’t do that to Ashley (…and by the way, thank you for picking those up! Balela salad, here we come) — but I’ll do that to Jesus? Are you freaking kidding me?! Something is WAY wrong with this picture.

As I told a friend recently, there (most unfortunately) is no How to Move Past Your Mistakes For Dummies book in the bookstores these days… and more’s the pity, because I would EASILY be the first person in line to buy an autographed copy. However, that doesn’t give me license to grovel in my past mistakes. They’re done. They happened. They ruled my life for a little while… but now they’re in the past. Time to move on.

It’s time to let go of these mistakes, friends. I don’t know the secret move-past-my-mistakes formula, but I think this sums it up rather nicely:

“To be known is to be loved and to be loved is to be known — and you know me, you actually know me — all of me and everything about me, every thought inside and hair on top of my head, every hurt stored up, every hope, every dread, my past and my future, all I am and could be — you tell me everything. You tell me about me.” (as heard in the clip below)

I’ve made some really dumb decisions in my life, but you know what? It doesn’t matter what the hell I’ve done — because I serve a God who knows our hearts, and He sees the guilt and brings restoration, and He sees the hurt and brings salvation. Mistakes happen, and they’re going to keep on happening… but dwelling on them does no good. Time to say thank you for that can of black beans and move on.

If you have a minute or two extra in your day (two minutes and thirty-seven seconds, to be exact), I highly highly encourage you to watch the video I’ve included below. It gives me chill bumps every time I watch it… brings me to tears, literally. He knows me. He loves me. There’s nothing more I could ask for.

Thanks for reading, blog-friends. As always, you’re the best!

The Birth of the Tritones (the Annual Sertoma Auction)

“By and large, jazz has always been like the kind of a man you wouldn’t want your daughter to associate with.” – Duke Ellington

When I was little, I had these big dreams of being the next pop superstar dancing around on stage with one of those cool headset mics and a sequined dress. “Call me Megan Nicole,” I’d say to the teeming masses lined up for miles to get my autograph, “and excuse me, but where’s my Diet Coke?” I had it all planned out.

While I realize that some of you may be unaware of this, I’m not exactly world-famous pop superstar Megan Nicole (although there IS a Megan Nicole on YouTube who is doing extremely well). Instead, I am simply Megan Lange, still living in Knoxville, TN, still going to school, working full-time at a software company (let me just state for the record how much I love my job and coworkers… seriously), and singing far less than I ever thought was possible.

Somewhere in between school, work, and the all-around busy-ness of life, I’ve let music slip through my fingers. I won’t say that it’s been forgotten… we all know how much of a lie that is. I still sing in church choir. I still take lessons of some sort or another. I find myself staying up late at night to strum my guitar and throw together little ditties, and whenever certain friends show up in town there is inevitably a jam session of which I am a part. No, music is still around — but what happened to the big dreams of the tiny three-year-old Megan singing on a cedar chest in Mommy’s high heels?

Over the past few months, I’ve had the opportunity to dedicate a lot of time and energy towards an extremely worthwhile cause: Sertoma Center. This incredible organization works to serve the mentally challenged and disabled of Knoxville, and it has been my pleasure to serve on the committee for their annual dinner and auction fundraiser — one that raises a lot of money for this organization. In addition to serving as their graphic designer and finding a photographer for the event (THANK YOU, Elisa!), I was also asked to come up with the musical entertainment for the evening — specifically, I was asked if I would be the entertainment. The theme of the auction, you see, is Cool Jazz, Warm Nights, and the committee chair happens to have some knowledge of my prior singing experience.

It was with some trepidation that I said yes — and I immediately began to pull together a group of boys to play with me. Couldn’t be jazz without a proper jazz band, see?

A few weeks later, and you have Megan and the Beats — composed of Wendel Werner on keys, Garrit Tillman on percussion, Ashton Williams on bass, Jake Smith on guitar, David Platillero on sax… and myself, of course, on vocals. One awkward and overwhelming radio appearance later, it became clear to me that this adventure was going to be a bit more than I had originally bargained for. The problem, you see, was that I was going to miss having so much music in my life… and that was not okay.

Which brings me to the news of the evening: Megan and the Tritones.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. “I thought it was Megan and the Beats! What’s this business about the Tritones?” …and you’re right. It’s a little confusing, but I’ll try to explain. The Beats, you see, were brought together specifically for the Sertoma dinner and auction. The goal was to create an incredible jazz group to provide much needed entertainment the night of the auction… nothing more (speaking of the auction, attendance is currently at over 300 — so awesome!). However, upon working with Garrit, Ashton, and Jake, it became quite clear to me that I wasn’t going to be able to stop singing once I had gotten back in the habit — and so, the Tritones were formed.

These three über talented young men and I are going to be working together through the upcoming months to bring a little more jazz to Knoxville-town… and I couldn’t be more excited. In all truth, pop superstar Megan Nicole isn’t the gal I want to be — but a sexy, sultry jazz singer? That’s what I’m talking about.

Nothing planned yet, but something is cooking down in the basement of Melrose… and it sounds like jazz to me. Funny how the childhood dreams we push aside can come true all those years later, isn’t it?

If you’re interested in attending Friday’s Sertoma auction, tickets are $100 per person and $1250 for a Table Sponsorship. For more information or to make reservations, please contact Joan Brown O’Kane at 865.524.5555 ext. 239 or joan@sertoma.com… or you can get in touch with me.

The images included in today’s blog are (drumroll) new business cards! They’ll be here on Thursday and I’m almost giddy with excitement. The beginning of a new adventure!

Wanderlust:

“All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.” — Martin Buber

The past few days, my car has been in the shop… which means that I’ve been driving my momma’s tiny aqua convertible since Thursday. With a vivid imagination like mine, this has led to the delusion that I am a fabulous, elusive, mysterious French woman who flies around the French countryside listening the jazz stylings of Carla Bruni and Stacey Kent (all in French, of course), wearing big glasses and scarves in her hair, and living only the most glamorous of lifestyles — wine and escargot every night, sexy black dresses, the works.

(Fittingly, the image above is one that I took whilst visiting Nice in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region of France)

When I was little, I had this brilliant dream that grown-up Megan was really just going to be the next Samantha Brown from Travel Channel. Perky and bubbly and as effervescent as a gal could be, she was living the dream life — traveling the world, seeing the sights, tasting the wine, experiencing the culture — and it was her job. I couldn’t imagine a better life.

(Wish I could remember where I took this one — beautiful)

Fast forward eight years and six majors, then you have the Megan of today. She isn’t the next Samantha Brown, and she doesn’t have any plans to travel the world with her own show on Travel Channel. She does, however, have a passion for capturing all the beauty of the world on film… and that leads to a severe case of wanderlust.

(A rooftop breakfast in Avignon, France)

I’ve been really lucky to travel as many places as I have in my short life. When you look at everything the world has to offer… is it any wonder that people spend their entire lives wanting to do nothing but travel? There’s so much to unearth, to discover, to marvel at — and the thought of spending my entire life without seeing any more of it than that which is right outside my door is absolutely horrifying.

(A beach port in Barcelona, Spain — stunningly beautiful. One of my favorite shots)

Take the Coliseum, for instance. All of that history, built so many years ago and yet still standing… and that, I think, is where I got my first taste for Classical studies, and that, I think, is where my strange, unexplainable desire to learn Ancient Greek comes from. To understand the culture. To understand the people. How can you see something so ancient, so beautiful, and not long to know more?

(The Coliseum — holy hell, the COLISEUM — in Rome, Italy)

…which leads me to today. I love Knoxville. I love the people. I love the culture. I love the sights and sounds and smells and tastes and everything about it… I really do. But there comes a time when someone who hungers after adventure as much as I do starts to want more — and that is happening right now. Do you see these pictures? These sights that I have seen? The places that I have been? There is so much out there and I’m just sitting here. Good gravy.

(Poolside at the Los Suenos Resort and Spa in Herradura Bay, Costa Rica)

This isn’t my normal blog post, and I realize that… but with a case of wanderlust as hefty as this, what better place to share than here with you, readers? I look at these pictures and can’t help but to be in awe at how stunningly beautiful each place is — and then I realize how clear it is that God’s hand was working through each one. I mean, my stars above — we are not capable of making anything so breathtaking by ourselves. Though our hands might have helped to build some of them, the beauty of each spot stems purely from God… and that is mind-boggling.

(Gaudi’s Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família, found in Barcelona, Spain)

And so there you have it, friends. I am experiencing rather an overwhelming case of why-can’t-I-be-traveling-the-world-like-Samantha-Brown right now… and maybe someday (someday in the far off future), I can. Saint Augustine is supposed to have said, “The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” If you ask me, bibliophile that I am, St. Augustine was quite correct. Traveling… seeing the world — the experiences, the memories — they allow you to grow. To learn. To become more than you were before — and I want that. Grateful for what I’ve seen so far, but ready for more.

(An overview of the city of Talin, Estonia — one of the quaintest cities I’ve ever visited)

And so, if you happen to be driving through the French countryside one day in the far-off future, don’t be surprised if a woman speeds by in a tiny aqua convertible, lifts her hand, and waves… that will be me. Just don’t expect it anytime soon. :)

(A shot from a mountaintop restaurant near Jaco Beach, Costa Rica)

(And finally… this is why I love – LOVE – cruises)