more gifts

for the first post about this list of gifts, see this.

63. The mystery behind the wind

64. Hummingbirds

65. Dreams that come true. Literally.

66. The anticipation of an upcoming photo shoot.

67. Sitting in a pitch black apartment, blogging by the light of a computer screen.

68. Receiving a ‘Mother’s Day’ gift from a student who doesn’t have a mom. 

69. Being able to go to a grocery store and buy anything.

70. A warm, comfortable, furnished apartment to come home to at the end of the day.


This week in pictures


I have a photo shoot this Saturday- a family of 4 with one on the way! I am loving my new lens and can’t wait to see how the pictures turn out! Being able to get paid to do photography is almost as good as getting paid to teach… it seems like I should be doing it for free because I love it so much 🙂


Artsy photo #1 of the week. Can you tell what it is?


Artsy photo #2 of the week. Can you tell what it is?


Believe it or not, this was a sunrise I drove into this week on my way to school. I absolutely love clouds that are scattered- they let lots of light through and create amazing photos… I will literally pull over on the side of the road to take pictures like this. If you know me, you know how much I LOVE sunrises and sunsets. I just usually am not up for early morning sunrises. But as a teacher, I see them And yes, I doubted the profession I chose when it hit me how often I’d see the sunrise 🙂


On my way to good ol’ Trader Joes this past Sunday after church and this view caught my eye. BEAUTIFUL Danville night and I once again realized how darn lucky I am to be in the Bay Area. It truly is gorgeous.


I don’t pride myself on this photo- in fact, I really don’t care for it. But, it is a reminder of my fun walk/run with Lynnie on Wednesday before Youth. Great conversation during our walk/run ended with an aerobics, dancing, moon-walking session in the parking lot of the church to some tunes blaring from my iPhone. This crazy dance sesh caused my hair to fall out of its bun- which then lead to me bragging about this massive mane I have. Lynnie was hardly jealous 🙂 She snapped a photo to capture the moment. Gosh, how I love cameras.


And here we are tonight. Dinner is gone, the screen door is open, the wind is blowing while the sun sets, and I get to listen to birds chirping and the waterfall rushing. I love my apartment. I love nights like these. I love sitting by myself and getting to soak up all that surrounds me. My run today was much needed- I was in a terrible mood, stressed with the unknowns of my future job, housing, etc., and I was beating myself up about various stuff. At the end of my run I ended up, conveniently, at Whole Foods and bought some delicious food to make at home- and walked the rest of the way home. It’s amazing what time outside in the amazing California weather will do- what headphones, worship music, walking, and thinking can do for your mindset.

On my walk home from Whole Foods today, I was listening to a song that I have left on repeat many times throughout this past year in different circumstances because of how much it speaks to me. It’s the song “You Are I Am” by MercyMe. I have to be honest, they are not typically a band I love or listen to very often. But the more I listen to it, the more I sink into the lyrics, listening as it voices my true heart. The deepest parts of me have felt, muttered, and experiences these things.

“I’ve been the one to shake with fear, and wonder if you’re even here. I’ve been the one to doubt your love, I’ve told myself you’re not enough. I’ve been the one to try and say, ‘I’ll overcome by my own strength’. I’ve been the one to fall apart, and start to question who you are.”

This is where I think we find ourselves so many times if we are honest with ourselves. We fall apart and then question who God himself is. shake with fear and then wonder if God himself is near. I doubt God’s love and then tell myself that I am not enough. Funny how they never match up with God’s truths about us. The song goes on to then reveal that we don’t just have wrong theology so many times, but who God is and he powerful, gentle, and loving character.

“You’re the one who conquers giants, you’re the one who calls out kings, you shut the mouth of lions, you tell the dead to breathe. You’re the one who walks through fire, you take the orphans hand. You are the one Messiah, you are I am.”

What hit me today on my walk was this: God conquers the giants in my life. Not me. I walked around all day today trying to fight my own giants- trying to conquer my own struggles, trying to win my own battles, and while leaning on God, not realizing that he is there wanting to fight for me this entire time. He conquers the giants, not me. He fights my struggles for me, he steps in when I am too weak, and he never has asked me to do this on my own. He shuts the mouths of lions. He not only conquers my giants, but he protects me from situations that try to harm me. It doesn’t mean I don’t experience hard circumstances or situations- it just means that he protects me from ultimate destruction.

You and I get to walk around all day knowing we are fully protected in the grace, promise, and sacrifice of the one true God. He is sovereign, gentle, kind, merciful, full of grace, full of forgiveness, full of love and he has never ending patience for you and I. He has our futures in the palm of his hand. He goes behind and before us, promising to shape us into his likeness and reveal his glory in us. He promises to meet us where we are, but not to leave us there. He promises to build us up and use us for great purposes. He promises us his Spirit, which guides us, speaks to us, and reveals secret things to us. What an incredible gift.

And yet, if we don’t take the time to reflect on these truths, we (I) sit in the unknowns full of fear and doubt, lacking faith, and struggling through each day. God has not called us to live like this. He has big plans for us- are we willing to jump into the river and experience what is moving? The reality is that the river will flow with or without us. We just have to be willing to get in if we want to see what He will do. He promises to use us- and we don’t have to get it all together first.

Sit with this quote today: wait at God’s promise until he meets you there, for he always returns by the path of his promises.

“And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature…” 2 Peter 1:4

One Thousand Gifts

photoAbout 6 months ago, I read through One Thousand Gifts and was so encouraged by the amazing, little, mundane, and also extraordinary things that the author was grateful for. Through her journey of finding 1,000 things to be grateful for, she began to see the everyday, common things as extraordinary and special, each containing their own precious and unique qualities from the Lord. I began keeping a list of things I find myself grateful for- and while I am nowhere near 1,000- I am going to start listing things I am grateful for throughout my blog entries. I would love to have you join me in finding something to be grateful for each and every day. There are SO many things that happen right before our eyes, and I encourage you to start finding them, noticing them, and appreciating them.

Henry Ward Beecher once said, “The unthankful heart discovers no mercies; but the thankful heart will find, in every hour, some heavenly blessings.” 

Here is my list so far:

1. Pillow talk conversations with best friends that offer belly-aching laughter, truth, and calm before bed.

2. Walking out of the gym sweating, feeling tired yet on top of the world.

3. The tranquility of a waterfall.

4. The sound Grayson (my nephew) makes as tries to pronounce letters and words.

5. Phone conversations with my mom that are raw, honest, life-giving, and full of truth.

6. The smell and feel that candles bring to a room.

7. The sound of people flipping through their bibles at church.

8. The face one of my students makes when I tell him how proud I am of him.

9. A hug from a student.

10. The quiet hum of students hard at work in a classroom.

11. The comfort from sharing an inside joke with a friend.

12. The way true surrender feels- when you finally let go once again and understand all you have to do is fall at the feet of Jesus.

13. Winter Retreat 2013

14. “Aren’t you forgetting something, Miss Williams?” A student asks as he reminds me of our end-of-the-day hug routine.

15. Crisp, cool air during an outside walk. Sun shining, winter air still hitting your cheeks.

16. I get to call myself a daughter of the Most High King, Lord of Lords, and Lover of my soul.

17. The healing power that comes from pure weeping.

18. Delicious taste of a new cookie recipe as it comes out of the oven.

19. Praying for someone and knowing the Lord gave you all the right words.

20. Getting a gift from a secret pal.

21. Homemade dinners with my parents.

22. Couch time with my mom where we can vent, talk, laugh, and enjoy each other’s company.

23. Accountability from friends- the trust that is built between each other and with God, they are challenging and raw.

24. Laughter between friends.

25. Complete comfort within silence with a friend.

26. The way the Holy Spirit reveals truth perfectly in his timing.

27. Having coffee at a coffee shop that has it’s own flare and environment. Sipping a latte over good conversation? Perfect.

28. My mom’s health. Her devotion to and love for her family.

29. The joy and raw truth that my senior girls share with me at youth group.

30. The anticipation of how a relationship with these girls will develop.

31. The beauty of changing seasons and the restoration that comes through them.

32. Delicious food- but that it tastes 100x better with great company.

33. Sleeping in on Saturdays and the rest that comes from not having to be anywhere.

34. The rest that comes from a worship-ful environment.

35. Healing conversations where the full truth is presented, misunderstandings are put to rest, and questions are answered.

36. Plane flights with friends.

37. Laughter that only you and another friend understands.

38. Second chances… and third ones too.

39. When the Lord answers questions you’ve been asking for a long time.

40. Hearing Grayson say “Auntie Ally”

41. Early mornings when it’s raining outside

42. Clarity from God in situations you’ve been unsure of

43. Starbucks on Sunday mornings

44. The anticipating mystery of the Holy Spirit working

45. The sound of ocean waves crashing on the shore.

46. Family dinners: conversation is sweet, honest, real

47. Waking up without an alarm

48. Hugging students who need a little extra attention

49. Ending the school day by telling my kids: I love you, I’m proud of you, you are awesome

50. The anxious heart of a woman when a relationship is brewing

51. The feeling of being flat on your face before the Lord for what he is doing in your life.

52. The morning buzz of Starbucks as people await their morning wake up call

53. Anticipation for church

54. Praying for people in a moment of response as a form of worship and surrender

55. Hearing “Miss Williams” from my students

56. Tears streaming down your face as you worship

57. Praying for someone over voicemail

58. Making homemade meals for people

59. Long walks with friends

60. Hikes that end with an amazing view

61. The power and awe that is felt from watching any and all sunsets.

62. Photographing people’s most precious moments

I will continue adding to this list- please join me in finding the random, yet beautiful things to be grateful for.

“Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly prayer. And let faith be the bridge you build to overcome evil and welcome good.” -Maya Angelou 


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What does that even mean?

We are so often told to “surrender”- and that the result will be freedom.

I want to feel fully free. Christ gave it ALL in order that you, that I, might live in freedom. And not just when it is easy to live freely.

But in everyday life, through all of life’s situations- free. Completely, utterly, and deeply free.

Sitting in traffic the other day, I felt a nudging. “Ally, with everything going on in your life right now, you should be surrendering and re-surrendering multiple times a day.”

So I decided to look up what this word means in Greek. I love looking up definitions in Greek- such a raw and real definition. I read through the first few definitions, getting a clearer idea of how to view this word, how to make it more applicable for my own life.

to give into the hands (of another)
to give over into (one’s) power or use
to deliver to one something to keep, use, take care of, manage

I love those definitions. The idea of surrendering to a God who would give, and still does give, anything and everything to chase after us, to pursue us, to find us, to mold us, to hold us, and to teach us is worth giving in to. I kept reading down the list of definitions, and if the earlier ones were not enough, I got to the bottom of the list… and I was in awe of what I read:

when the fruit will allow that is when its ripeness permits

I was quickly reminded of the verse in John 15:2 that says, “He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.”

I love the imagery of this verse. I was so encouraged by thinking of the idea of surrender. I am hopefully living my life in a way to bears fruit, but when that fruit (various areas of my life) will continue to surrender, daily- sometimes many times daily- it will continue to grow more and more ripe. So much hope, and anticipation for the way God will choose to use me, to mold me, to teach me… all in hopes of becoming more like him.

The faithfulness of God. Brings me to my knees in humble adoration of such a loving and patient God.

Freedom- being free. Living free in all areas of my life.

This is something I continue to work towards.

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