Welcome to Ryley Writes, a collection of thoughts, stories, and work from deep in the heart of Texas.

In With the Old

For Christmas, my mom's parents gave me plane ticket money, because I always prefer going somewhere to getting something.

I immediately had about five places I wanted to go, all of which would have been incredible, exciting, and brand-new. But the more I thought about it and the closer I came to buying any of those tickets, I couldn't shake the feeling that maybe, just maybe, I didn't need to go somewhere new this time.

I kind of just wanted to go somewhere old. And really rest.

So last week, instead of some crazy adventure, I went to good old Lynchburg, Virginia.

I spent time with the coolest sister who I don't see nearly enough. I shazammed all her music and tried to absorb some fashion advice and trailed after her as she whipped me around Liberty's campus, which has apparently been entirely renovated in the past year and was a very disorienting experience and makes me feel like I'm 80 instead of 23.

I laughed until I cried over loud, chaotic, happy family dinners with my grandparents and uncle and aunt and cousins.

Side note — my cousins are, like, OLD now, you guys. (Apparently they grow??? Without my permission???) They're now 17, 15, and 11, and it would be weird except that I like them so much.

Austin is kind, smart, hilarious, and very possibly has his life more together than me. I'm happy that he'll be an adult, soon, because he is the kind of person we want in charge of things; and I'm lucky he is in my family, because I would just want to always be friends with him, anyway.

Aiden is sweet. I don't know that he would immediately appreciate that terminology, but there's no other word for it. And do you know how rare and awesome a sweet 15-year-old boy is? The world needs more sweet men. AJ loves and protects other people fiercely, and it makes me so proud. He's also a complete redneck and one of those annoying people who can pick up any sport in like 30 seconds, which I think is very unfair, but I'll let it slide.

And I could hang out with Ashlyn all day and hear about her creative ideas and projects and dreams. She had a few separate art projects going, showed me presentation she and a friend made at school outlining their idea for a website for kids in the hospital, and has casually started writing a devotional for girls her age. Because that's just what 11-year-old girls do, right? No? Oh. She's full of joy and imagination, and I love that.

Basically, if I could have my choice of any family to be a part of, I'd pick mine every time. Getting to spend a few days with those in it I don't see as often anymore filled me right up.

I drove down to Charlotte for a night and spent it eating salted caramel brownies and Owen's Bagels with the one and only Madi Vincent. What little bits of the city I got to see in 20 hours I loved as much as I'd hoped, and we'd spoken a lot of life into each other and laughed until my stomach was literally sore by the time I hit the road again.

And other than that, I did a whole lot of nothing. I trail ran and hiked through the mountains I miss so bad. I hit my old gym with my favorite WOD partner (hi, Ale!). I hung out with old friends. I drove the Blue Ridge Parkway. I laid on my grandparents' back porch for hours. And it was all just what I needed.

The day before I left, I hiked Sharp Top by myself. It's a trail I've done, oh, about a million times. It's a Lynchburg and Liberty classic. There's nothing original about it. But, like I said last week, being back in a familiar place gave me a chance to really compare and contrast where I am now (mentally, emotionally, spiritually, the works) to where I was when I last lived there.

Climbing Sharp Top was one of the last things I did before I moved last year — sad, a little scared, and kind of ungrateful, if we're being honest. So it felt like the perfect place to go this year just to say thanks.

Thanks for being wrong, and thanks that God was right.

Thanks for making me do what I didn't want to do, so I could learn that what He wanted was better. Thanks for keeping that realization fresh in my mind and heart (may it always be so) for yet another move just seven months later. And thanks for every bit of goodness that has followed, and thanks for every bit of goodness to come.

I love new. I'm always up for new. But sometimes, old is what I need, and a little Lynchburg was just perfect this month.

Conversational: Gabe Henderson

High-Five Friday: March 17