Friday, April 14, 2017

He Is With Us

{Shelby Nickel Designs}

It is easy for us to feel as though when things aren't going according to (our) plan that God has left us or become distant. We may feel as though He's changed and He's no longer who He says He is. In those moments (or seasons for that matter), we have a choice.

Do we stand on the truths that He has given us, or do we believe the lies that shout and scream at us, convincing us He's walked away?

Do we fight to walk in victory over sin and discouragement, or do we lay down in defeat?

Do we ask for more faith to believe His promises, or do we stay small in unbelief?

God never said that our lives would be easy, but He did promise that He would be with us in every season. In this Lenten season, I've been reminded (almost daily) of just how fickle I can be. I claim that I love Jesus, but in my flesh, I really want an easy and comfortable life that is virtually void of pain. Anyone who's walking with Jesus can tell you that a cushy life is pretty much nonexistent this side of heaven if you're serious about following Him. Because when we come to know Him, we come to all of Him-the good and the bad, the pretty and the pain.

What do we do when we feel as though the weight of the world is on our shoulders?

What do we do with the sleepless nights and the early morning fears?

What do we do when we're tired of wringing our hands and writhing in pain?

We press on. 

Come let us return to the Lord; for He has torn us, that He may heal us; He has struck us down, and He will bind us...Let us know; let us press on to know the Lord' His going out is as sure as the dawn; He will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth. -Hosea 6:1, 3

And when we press on and do the hard thing

... of waiting

... of resting

... of remembering

... of abiding

He is there.

Before they call I will answer, while they are yet speaking I will hear. - Isaiah 65:24

He's never left. We may forsake Him, but He doesn't forsake us. On this Good Friday, our hearts are somber as we remember His sacrifice. But they are also full of hope as we remember that His tomb is empty. He gave us His Spirit to walk with us in all our days. And friends, we are never, ever alone. Let's rejoice in the beautiful mercies of our generous Father! And let's press on together, knowing that He is with us.

My sweet friend Shelby made the beautiful print in the image above, and today I am giving it away! It is hand-painted and one of a kind; you'd be the only one to own it. All you have to do to enter the giveaway is leave a comment below-tell me your favorite Easter tradition or your favorite part of Easter. :)

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The Proposal

Today marks the two year anniversary of Rory and I's engagement. It is hard to believe that the day of his proposal was two years ago, because it seems like we blinked and all of a sudden we were married. But alas, two years have passed, and within those two years, we have packed in many memories and adventures. I can't wait for what's in store for the next two months, let alone the next two years or the next two decades! Today, I'm sharing the story of Rory's proposal. It truly was one of the sweetest days, and I'm so grateful for his love, patience, and kindness every single day. Life is so much sweeter by his side, and I'm truly honored to be his wife.



Rory and I had been planning a trip to the beach for about a month. We were watching Parks and Recreation one night, and the episode where Andy and April spontaneously drive to the Grand Canyon and camp out in their inspired us. Obviously we can't drive to the Grand Canyon too easily from Athens, but nevertheless, we were inspired. We have a bucket list to which we're always adding adventures we want to have-places we want to go and things we want to do. So the beach trip to see the sunrise was going to check off one our sights-either Charleston or Savannah.

As the day got closer, I just had this feeling that Rory would propose on that day. I knew that when we went, it would be days away from our six month anniversary. We talked about when we wanted to get married and how we wanted a short engagement. We had gone ring shopping...all the signs were pointing to a proposal on that special day. I told my mom what I was thinking, but I didn't tell anyone else for fear of being wrong. All throughout the week, people asked me if I thought I knew when he would propose, but I didn't tell anyone what I hoped would happen on Saturday morning.

On Friday night, we both went to bed around eight o'clock. It felt so strange to go to bed anticipating that I would be getting up in the middle of the night. I had packed a little bag with a change of clothes and road trip snacks, and I was ready. A little after one in the morning, I got up (I hadn't really been sleeping anyways) and pulled on my yoga pants and my "prophetic shirt," which reads, THE BEST IS YET TO COME. :)



Ror came and picked me up around two in the morning, and we were on our way. The ride down was easy and smooth; we talked and listened to music and comedians to keep us awake. I took a little nap and continued to pray that the weather would stay nice and not get yucky so that we could have a good day. We got to Tybee Island around 6:30 in the morning, just in time for the sunrise at 7:00. Ror had a little gym bag that he brought with him to the beach, and I was hoping that there was a little something special in there for me. He had mentioned that he had some surprises for the morning...

We got to the beach and put our things down on a swing. He opened up as his gym bag, and he had a sweet surprise- Chinese lanterns. We talked about how we wanted to include them in our wedding but wouldn't be able to, so we lit them that morning and watched them float away above the ocean. After we watched the lanterns drift until we could no longer see them, we took our blanket down closer to the water and laid down for a little bit.



At this point, I was hoping for and expecting the proposal, but I so badly did not want to be wrong. I was staring out at the ocean, just praying that the Lord would help me to have a good attitude if it didn't happen that day and to enjoy the special trip we took together. After what seemed like an eternity, Rory sat up and told me that he had a special gift for our six month anniversary, even though it was a few days away. Of course I told him I wanted it right then. He pulled a stack of journals out of his bag, and in my mind, I thought, "Oh my. Where's the ring? I hope we didn't drive for four hours for him to give me journals. I mean I love journals, but seriously?!"

I pretty much put them aside and looked at him expectantly, and then he asked me to actually look inside one of the journals. And that's when the mini freak-out commenced. He had made the sweetest scrapbook entitled "Our Firsts" that had pictures and dates of all our milestones- first date, first road trip, first kiss, etc. And on the very last page, it said..."Engagement Day" with that day's date (which just happens to be exactly three months from our wedding day). In the back of the journal, Rory had glued all of the pages together and then carved out a hole where he put the ring on a string. I was floored and so taken aback by his thoughtfulness and creativity, knowing that it doesn't come naturally to him to get crafty. Plus I was freaking out and wanted to see the ring. Ha. As soon as I saw it, I just kept saying "Oh my gosh! Oh my gosh! Oh my gosh!"
Just minutes after the proposal on the beach!


Rory took the ring out of the journal and said a bunch of sweet and wonderful things, and then he asked me to marry him. I enthusiastically said "Yes, yes, yes!" and kissed him, and then we sat and stared at the ring together. Right after he asked, the sun started to peek through the clouds, and we took it as a sign that the Lord was pleased with our upcoming nuptials. I called my parents, and he texted his. Everyone was super excited and knew it was coming. This all happened before eight in the morning, so it was quite the day. I was so excited and wanted to tell the world, but we spent the day together by going to breakfast and seeing special places around Savannah before getting in touch with all of our friends.

Overall, our proposal day was one of the sweetest days, and I know that our wedding day will be even more special. I am incredibly honored and excited to be able to say that I will be Mrs. Rory Mathisen, and I could not imagine anyone better to walk with for the rest of my days.

And two years later, I feel the exact same way. Love you forever, Rory Alexander!

*All professional photos by Elissa Ewald

Friday, April 7, 2017

He Is Enough

{via}

For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed," says the Lord, who has compassion on you. - Isaiah 54:10

Through this week's reading in Isaiah, I was struck with the fact that God Himself is enough. He is enough for our trials, mishaps, hurts, and unfulfilled desires. He is enough when things aren't perfect (which, let's face it, is all the time) or even close to being perfect. He is enough when we feel as though all hope is lost. He is enough.

He never, ever leaves us, and all that He does is for His glory and our good. Even on the cross, He prayed for us. His entire life was lived to give glory to the Father, and God sent Him to step right into the ugliest of messes and bear our shame so that we might have life in Him. He doesn't walk away when things get ugly, and He is never afraid of anything that we bring to Him, even when we are reluctant to come to Him with the messy and the broken. He makes the broken beautiful and makes all things new. He is the only One who can do that- bring life from death and beauty from the ashes.

It's easy to live life like everything depends on us. And yet so little actually does. He gives us each breath we breathe, and we think that there is something we can control?! Seems a little backwards, don't you think? When we're spinning our wheels and looking to so many other things to satisfy our weary souls, He reminds us gently that His ways are not like ours, and He gives us His presence to cheer, guide, and strengthen us. This week, I was reminded once again that He alone is enough. Even when we can't see Him, He's fighting for us and working on our behalf. We just have to ask for the eyes to see Him.

Today's giveaway is hosted by my sweet friend Elizabeth of Shop Oak and Oats! She makes the most beautiful planters for succulents, and one of you could win one today! The giveaway will run through  Monday, so be sure to enter soon! :)



a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, April 6, 2017

April Goals

Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is in the LORD. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and it is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit. - Jeremiah 17:7-8

This is going to be a good month, my friends. I can just tell. There are many things on my calendar that I'm looking forward to, and I honestly am genuinely excited about things that are to come! Time is just ticking along and things are moving faster than the speed of light, it seems. I'm craving some slowness and wondering when I'll get it, so I'm trying to be intentional about my time at home by just enjoying Rory and the time we have together that isn't scheduled or spent with others at an event.

Here's what I was working on last month:

Monthly

continue growing with Young Living
keep working through Blog Life
make recordings of memory verses
blog plan for April
meal plan for April
blog rebranding


Weekly

listen to the book of James
talk to a family member on the phone
work out more days than not (how's that for grace?)
write someone a note
social media free weekends

Daily

be in the Word
pray
encourage Ror
encourage someone else
no phone zone (social media) from 7p-10a

The Nitty Gritty

Thanks to my amazing friend Rachel and my sweet sister-in-law Whitney, this blog got a complete makeover last month! I absolutely love the new look. It feels clean and bright and it's custom, so there's nothing else like it on in the interwebs. I definitely forgot about making recordings of the verses I've been working through, but I have been listening to James on the way to work about once a week and am enjoying that. My friend Hannah and I decided to run the first annual Chick-fil-A Half the Half, which was so very fun! Technically this was on the very first day of April, but we had a lot of fun running/walking together in March as we got ready together. I didn't train nearly as much as I wanted to, but we did it and had a ton of fun together! I think that a 10k is my sweet spot, so I'm going to be looking for more to run in the near(-ish) future.



What I Was Grateful for In March

March was full, as it seems most months are. But it was full of good things! We celebrated my niece's second birthday, my sweet friend Erica had a bridal shower, and we saw Johnnyswim in concert for the first time! We also got to meet some friends' new baby who is super sweet (obvi) and we had a wonderful ladies' ministry night at our church. Not to mention we scored some great furniture secondhand from Rory's family that we are really excited about refinishing. :) Some home projects are definitely on the docket for this month.  Plus in March, we BOUGHT A CAR! God provided the most perfect deal for us and we couldn't be happier. I was also able to spend some quality time working on my next book, which I am CRAZY excited about. AND, my sweet friend Retha interviewed me for her podcast called My Light Still Shines, which is now available to listen to at this link.

April Goals

Monthly

add at least one member to Young Living
complete Instagram 101 course
Blog Life course (still truckin' through it!)
May blog plans
May meal planing
Charleston trip itinerary
host a make and take
begin our garden!
clean out carpet room closet

Weekly

work out more days than not ;)
call a family member
write someone a note
listen to James
make IG plans
pray through prayer journal 

Daily 

pray
read the Word
encourage Ror
encourage someone else
drink plenty of water


What are you working on this month, friends?


Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Currently: April



They say "April showers bring May flowers," and this month, I'm ready for all things spring. Spring has always been one of my favorite seasons because of the beautiful new life and growth that we see all around us. The earth gives way to beautiful blooms, and things just feel fresh. I don't know about you, but I love this time of year. Here's what I'm up to currently:

Accomplishing: Last week I was able to spend a day writing and working on my next book! I am seriously excited about the words God has given me to share with you.
Feeling: Excited and ready for lots of fun things ahead! We have a trip planned for our birthdays next month (because they are exactly two weeks apart) and I can't wait!
Needing: To slow down. Y'all. I feel like life is going so very quickly! I love all that we are involved in and am so grateful for our church, family, and community, but things be cray this time of year. Just sayin'.
Practicing: Preaching truth to myself and taking my thoughts captive. Much easier said than done.
Pinning: Lots of things for our garden that we will be making in the next couple weeks. Eeekk!!!

Linking up with Anne and Jess today!

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

#weread2017: Everything Is Possible



Friends, today I get to tell you about an incredible book. I know I say that a lot, but Jen Bricker's story is incredible! In Everything Is Possible: Finding the Faith and Courage to Follow Your Dreams,  I was challenged and encouraged by Jen's amazing story. Jen was born to Romanian parents, and as you can see from the cover, she was born without legs. Her parents didn't know how they would raise her within a culture that was very harsh to children who were not "normal," so they made the difficult decision to make her eligible for adoption. Jen was adopted by a loving Christian family within the same state of Illinois shortly after birth, and that's where her story changed forever.

Jen describes a childhood in which she didn't really know she was "different." She pushed herself and challenged herself to do everything she could, even when others thought she couldn't. It was incredible to read about how she played all the sports, rollerbladed, and was an accomplished gymnast! Even though people were skeptical of her ability, she never saw herself as someone with a disability. She just believed she had to try to do things a different way, and when she did, she inevitably succeeded just about every time. And now, she's an incredible world-renowned aerialist!

Jen writes, "I will never apologize for being who I am or doing what I love. Whenever you follow your passion, you can bet people will judge you, stand in your way, or make you feel bad about your choices. They will watch and wait for you to mess up so they can jump in and say, 'Told you so.' Or when something great happens, they will rain on your parade and try to make you feel unworthy...respond with love. There's no need to argue or prove anything. Instead, be kind, compassionate, and calming. It's possible to change hatred into love, negativity into positivity, envy into friendship. It all starts with understanding."

I was struck by Jen's honesty and her ability to have an unwavering faith and positivity in the midst of challenges, obstacles, and setbacks that would have caused most people to give up. She blew through barriers and was determined to do what she knew she could do, defying the odds and shocking people left and right. Reading Jen's story helped give me perspective about my attitude. Oftentimes I employ phrases like "I can't" and "I don't think I can do that" or "That's impossible." But Jen decided that the impossible was possible, and she watched it happen. I think we could all use a little more gumption in our attitudes, and it just might change the way we pursue our dreams and goals. 

Friday, March 31, 2017

Our Only Comfort

{via}

Friends, can I be honest with you about something? Sometimes I think that God isn't really the answer to my problems. Sometimes I run to other things or people before I run to Him. Because Netflix and my phone are much more accessible (it seems) than He is, even though He's the One who placed my breath in my lungs. I literally couldn't and wouldn't exist without Him, and yet it is so easy for me to search for that quick fix that makes me feel better, if only for a moment.

But God is the source of our true comfort. He doesn't just make us feel better by patting our backs and telling us to keep our chins up. No, He reminds us of His constant lovingkindness. Of His ability to carry our wounds and our struggles. Of His never-ending, never-giving-up-on-us kind of love. That's a lot better than ice cream and Netflix, am I right?

A sweet reminder from Facebook memories of a post from three years ago. There's power in our praise!

So why do we reach for the Talenti gelato and the remote instead of our Bibles? There's nothing inherently wrong with Netflix and ice cream, and there's nothing wrong with self care. But when we look to the screen and the spoon to be our comfort, we've missed the mark. He doesn't want us to run away from or push down our hurts, fears, and struggles, He wants to walk through them and sit in the mess with us. It seems to good to be true, but it is truth. He loves us, wants us, and will walk with us. No matter what.

I've been working on memorizing Philippians 4:4-9 for a week or so now, because God tells us in His word that we can always run to Him. He is always there for us and He wants us to come to Him with everything. But friends, He wants us to come to Him with thanksgiving. Just like we covered last week, everything that comes to us is for our good and His glory.

There's nothing that's too big or bad or scary for God. After all, He sees all, knows all, and is in all. He's faithful and constant in spite of that, and that's what makes Him so very beautiful. Everything else in our lives can and will pass away, but His love and His word are going to last forever. And that, my friends, is our only true comfort in this thing we call life.

Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the Lord's hand double for all her sins...The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the Lord blows on it; surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever...Have you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. - Isaiah 40:1,7-8,28-31, emphasis mine

Monday, March 27, 2017

5 Ways to Overcome Discouragement

{Art by Jenna Kutcher}

As human beings, we are all prone to discouragement. Sometimes we are discouraged because we are in the midst of a difficult season. Other times we are burdened for the lives of dear friends and family. And further still, there are times where we are discouraged and just don't know why.

There have been seasons in my life where discouragement seemed unshakeable. I wondered if I would be able to genuinely enjoy life again because of the load that seemed to be so heavy and impossible to bear. And yet in those seasons, God has met me time and time again. Because that's what He does. He is the lifter of our heads, and He catches all of our tears. Not one tear we cry is ignored by Him. He sees us, He knows us, and He cares for us.

When seasons of discouragement come, what do we do? Do we despair and give in to the feelings? Do we allow ourselves to be consumed by negativity? Do we "fake it till we make it?" Today I want to share with you five action steps that have helped encourage my once discouraged heart.

1. Pray

This seems so basic and elementary, but just do it. God knows your heart already. Pray and talk to Him about what you're dealing with. If at all possible, talk out loud! Tell Him what is on your heart and ask Him to help you.

2. Preach

...the Gospel to yourself. Oftentimes I think of "the Gospel" as this story that I tell people who I want to know Jesus, but it is life-giving truth that I need to remind myself of every single day. I can't do anything in this life that's worthwhile in my own strength. So I've got to remind myself of the truth of God's word and let that soak in so that I'll be strong in Him.

3. Ask

Talk to a friend and ask for help! It is far too easy to get prideful and think that no one will understand your situation if you were to come to them. This my friends, is false. We are not meant to live life alone. Shoot someone a text or pick up the phone and ask them to pray with and for you. Ask for advice and ask for support.

4. Listen

Pull up your favorite worship station on Pandora or Spotify and go to town! Have yourself a little praise party in your car, office, or on your run, and just praise and thank God for who He is, even if you don't feel like it. He honors our sacrifices of praise.

Current Favorite Worship Albums

Kari Jobe: The Garden
Brian and Jenn Johnson: After All These Years
Bryan and Katie Torwalt: Champion
Watkinsville Worship: Hymns Volume I
Bethany Barnard: A Better Word
Ellie Holcomb: Red Sea Road

5. Rest

Give yourself some grace, my friend. When you're in the middle of a discouraging season, it can be easy to try to make yourself more and more busy to try to run away or distract yourself from your problems. Don't do this. Don't dwell on them and allow them to control you, but don't run away. Face your problems head on, give them over to God, and then rest in His grace. He knows exactly what He's doing.

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