Monday, February 29, 2016

#sistersofinfluence: Jenna Simmons

Friends, today I have the privilege of introducing you to an amazing woman. Her name is Jenna Simmons, and she is quite a gem. She and I have many mutual friends, and we met when I led a small group through BCM a few years back for college small group leaders. We would often see each other at the same events and run into each other in the strangest places. Last year we had the joy of actually getting to know each other by celebrating the wedding of another friend, and I just love her sweet heart and her infectious smile. You will love her words and her heart, too.

Tell us about yourself. Who are you?

I'm Jenna. I recently got married to a man that I truly believe God made for me, even though I don't believe in "The One". I am a UGA graduate, hallowed be thy name, where I immersed myself completely in the world of the Baptist Collegiate Ministry. I am passionate about missions, stories, adventures and the arts. I love dancing, singing and climbing tall things. I hate cold weather and wearing shoes.

How did you come to know the Lord?

I was fortunate to grow up in a Christian home and my parents faithfully took me to church throughout my childhood. I understood that I needed Jesus in the 4th grade, and I prayed for salvation and was baptized then. I truly came to know the Lord and his merciful character in high school after experiencing an abundance of grace over my rebellious teen years. In college, my walk with the Lord deepened as I learned to live out his love and experienced the joy of walking in obedience and faith to Him. Each season of my life has given me a unique opportunity to know Him better and my faith is always growing.

What do you think it means to be a woman of influence right where you are?

For me, the phrase "Home is where your feet are" has been my mantra to remind me to live missionally right where I am. After years of thinking I needed to be on the international mission field in order to be influential, I finally started to learn that God has called us to share His love with those around us right where we are. Seasons change and our location and our spheres of influence change along with them, but there is always purpose to be found and ministry work to be done wherever we are. For me, that meant stepping up into leadership at BCM in college, and discipling some local high school girls one one one. When I've been on international trips, it meant teaching and preaching to word of God to locals. The past few months have been a struggle for me, because we've moved to a new city where I've been working from home. Without a church or a workplace to love on people each day, my apartment has become my "sphere of influence", meaning I've been doing my best to love and support my husband and be satisfied in that. Long story short, it means being content and effective where you are and digging deep wherever you are, instead of wasting your days wishing for a new place or a new situation.

How does the Lord allow you to shine His light through photography?

The most obvious way He's allowed me to use photography for His glory has been taking photos of missionaries and their work across the world. Evan and I are working on building a nonprofit that will allow us to capture the stories of God's work happening around the world, and ultimately to teach missionaries how to share their own stories.
In the meantime, He has blessed me with a growing wedding and portrait business. I try to focus on building relationships with my clients, and truly getting to know them so that I may not only serve them well but let them see Jesus in how I work. One portion of my business is doing "glamour" portrait sessions with women. This is one of my favorite ways to help women feel beautiful and comfortable in their skin and celebrate the way Jesus has fearfully and wonderfully made them!

{Claire Diana Photography}

What is the best piece of marriage advice you have been given?

"Never go to bed angry."
Jk. That's just the most frequent.
Someone once told me to have a date night every single week. So far, in our 5 months of marriage, we have done that and I believe it is crucial for us. Each week we reserve one night to do something fun, creative, romantic or adventurous together. If we ever settle for a movie or tv show, we create a theme for the night and make fun food and drinks to go along with it. It gives us something to look forward to in the midst of a long work week and keeps us growing and having fun together. I can see how easy it would be for the romance and fun to fizzle out of a marriage if a couple doesn't intentionally make this a priority.

What advice would you give to twenty-something women today?

To be patient with yourself. This advice was given to me by a mentor in college. I saw how effective she was as a wife, mother, mentor, minister, and woman of God and felt like I would never live up to be that kind of woman. I believe we all struggle with comparison and it's easy to get discouraged when you're constantly striving for perfection. She reminded me how much older she was than me and told me that I was way further in my spiritual journey than she had been at my age. Not that I should compare to others my age, but it was just a reminder that God is working in His perfect timing and we all have room to grow, but we need to enjoy the journey!

What is your favorite verse or passage of Scripture?

"If I take the wings of the morning, if I dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me." -Psalm 139:9-10
This has always been my favorite verse because it reminds me that no matter where I am, physically or spiritually, God is holding me and guiding me. I find it to be comforting and encouraging in almost any situation.

What is one truth you want others to remember and cling to?

You are loved.
So simple. So powerful.

And last but not least: coffee or tea?

COFFEE. Hands down.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Tuesday Ten: Songs for the Valley

It is no secret that I love music. Music has the most amazing power to transform your day, take you to a memory, and lighten your step. It also has the power to remind you of truth and help you to set your mind on the promises of God. Sometimes, it is so hard for me to remember, what God has said, much less truly believe and walk in it. But His promises are sure, and He is singing over us. Today I'm sharing a compilation of just a few of my favorite songs for the valley. I pray they bless you, wherever you are!

1. "Not for a Moment" by Meredith Andrews

2. "Your Love is Strong" by Jon Foreman 

3. "Nearness" by Jenn Johnson

4. "Your Love is Mine" by I Am They

5. "Mercy" by Amanda Cook

6. "My Portion and My Strength" by Ellie Holcomb

7. "It Is Well" by Kristene DiMarco

8. "Forever" by Kari Jobe

9. "You Are Faithful" by Kim Walker-Smith

10. "Your Hands" by JJ Heller

Monday, February 22, 2016

#sistersofinfluence: Allie Gibbs

Today I have the privilege of introducing you to a sweet dear friend of mine, Mrs. Allie Gibbs. Allie and I met our freshman year at UGA at the Baptist Collegiate Ministries. Our paths have crossed many times over the years since then. After graduating in 2010, we both went into missions positions which included raising support and living in new places, and we were prayer partners through it all! She is an incredibly passionate individual with an amazingly devoted heart that is solely for the name of Jesus to be made known. She is a newlywed just like me; she and her hubby Aaron were married just one week after Rory and I! You will be so encouraged by her wit and sweet heart. 

Tell us about yourself. Who are you?

My name is Allison Renee Gibbs. I am the little sister of John Vernon & Ross, Georgia-grown daughter of Lynn and Wendell, the stepdaughter of Allan Frank, and big sister to about a zillion college girls, whom I treasure deeply. I am a 2010 UGA grad who is passionate about nonprofits, church planting, optimism, and art.  My weeks are composed of hip hop classes with my mega hot sister-in-law, my Eno, yard work, hanging out with my dog Rain as much as possible, and a 22 year long obsession with interior design. One day I'll be as cool as @amberfillerup, my Instagram idol. Please don't ever ask me to play a game of Monopoly.

 15 months ago I fell in love with Aaron Jake Gibbs, the most respected man I know; 6 months later we were engaged. 2 and ½ months later we were married. 2 ½ months later we were surprised to discover that we are pregnant with our first baby! We are delighted to report that we will meet him or her around July 13th of this year (!!!!!)! I like to imagine that Jimmy Fallon, Justin Timberlake and I are the three best friends that ever were. All I want to do is strap my baby to my chest, hold my husband’s hand, and go tell the world about how much Jesus rocks.

How did you come to know the Lord?

As a little girl in the church, I believed that Jesus came solely to save us from our circumstances, namely to heal broken families, like my own. I took refuge in the church and became a youth leader who attended innumerable mission trips and events. As my family’s circumstances improved and I forged a hopeful future for myself, I assumed I was healed, although I had only been trusting Christ with my circumstances, not my heart. I spent my college days actively sharing with others how Jesus could free them yet I spent my nights seeking satisfaction in partying and guys. I felt extremely empty. It wasn’t until my senior year of college, however, that I began to realize that Jesus came to save me from myself. It was then that I was made whole and Jesus became more than a glorious humanitarian. I began to see him as the one who rescued my soul, not just my family.

What do you think it means to be a woman of influence right where you are?

I cannot remember a season when I didn’t worship the idea of being a rescuer. Jack London’s “Ashes than dust” soliloquy was my mantra. Forgetting the supremacy of Christ as our true Savior, I’ve always imagined myself as someone they’ll write books about - rescuing women from slavery in the middle east, adopting every orphaned child I meet, dressed in colorful clothing, friends with the Dali Lama… a true ‘woman of influence.’ My friends Hannah, Darby, Marie and I often joked that we would rather die than live a humdrum life of suburbia and a monotonous 9-5…. as if Christ, too, scoffed at the mundane.

And yet here I am, totally unraveled over the past 2 and a half years, and realizing for the first time the value of, what my husband calls, “embracing insignificance”... of worshiping Jesus, not myself, day-by-day. I no longer work for a fruitful campus ministry in the heart of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, spend my summers in China illegally sharing the Gospel, nor am I still fighting tooth-and-nail for injustice in the foster care system. For this season, I’ve had to step away from working with kids I deeply love and had to stop directing a gymnastics program for inner city girls. Instead, since December of 2013, the Lord has called me to be faithful servant in finance and agriculture at The University of Georgia. I could not think of a more random job.

On many, many, many days I hate the job and daydream about a life of creativity and adventure. And then I remember that I am Christ's, not my own, and it is a joy to go wherever He sends me. I could probably convince my husband to hop on a plane and leave our jobs for something more glamorous .... But I feel strongly that He is sovereign in bringing us here, now.

Right now to be a ‘Woman of Influence’ means praying faithfully for my coworkers and neighbors, sharing Christ in authenticity and vulnerability, and inviting them to our dinner table... into my life as I wrestle imperfectly to follow Jesus. It means letting others watch me sin, repent, and be transformed by the Gospel. It means that my discipleship group of 10 college seniors has dwindled to 2 but I don’t care. It means dragging these girls  on prayer walks with me around the neighborhood to pray for our neighbors, to basketball games where Aaron coaches and plays that we may embark on awkward conversations with parents and siblings. It means making friends with our cousins’ college girlfriends so I can pursue them as Christ pursues His people. It means handing over a large, uncomfortable portion of our income to those that are advancing the Kingdom in our city and beyond. It means being a beacon of peace, encouragement, and laughter for my husband, even when he’s being selfish or the whole house smells like fart. It means investing in our church, not tomorrow, but today. It means setting our roots in Athens, GA and not believing the grass is greener on some other battlefield.

First and foremost, to be a “Woman of Influence” means a fierce commitment to growing in intimacy with Jesus. It means that wherever my roots may fall I must be quick to ensure that they are growing deeper and deeper in Christ … and I’ll let Him worry about who is watching and the fruit that is produced.

What do you love about the Classic City: Athens, GA?

I love the colors: The graffiti in train depots. The murals outside famous restaurants. The sunsets over the Broad River or in Watkinsville pastures. The metallic greens and blues as they race past at Twilight (an annual bike race downtown). The fire-engine red which frames the Georgia Theater and dusty greeny-browns on the Morton Theater’s columns. The luxurious ebony of Terrapin beer. The pale pinks, and yellows and chocolate browns of kids playing on playgrounds throughout the city. The twinkling yellow-whites of Christmas lights on Clayton Street. Neon chunks of hair peeping beneath college girls’ ponytails, specs of silver reflecting the sunlight on their noses. I love the unnatural orange of mac and cheese at the Grit and the deep evergreens of collards at Last Resort. The blackened feet of notorious barefoot townies and the white of Weaver D’s teeth.

What is your favorite verse?

(As a giant stampede of soldiers run at Jehoshaphat to attack, He declares to the Lord) “I don’t know what to do but my eyes are on you. “ - 2 Chronicles 2:12

What is one truth you want others to cling to?

Palms up, sister. Literally. Put your knuckles on your knees and your palms up. The spiritual surrender will follow this physical posture. --------- You own nothing you hold. Receive what He gives you, even if it’s unexpected. A life of walking with the Holy Spirit is a continual posture of “palms up.” Listening and receiving and surrendering.

And last but not least: coffee or Tea?

Iced coffee :)

Friday, February 19, 2016

#weread2016: Boundaries Book Review


This year, I decided that I would read one book a month. My first book of 2016 was Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life. I chose to read this book because the Lord has shown me a lot about myself in the last year, and it hasn't all been pretty. Shocker, I know. There are many lies I have been believing and many wrong ways of thinking that have been holding me back from making healthy choices, whether internally or externally.

Why I Recommend It

It is increasingly evident that within our culture, and even within our Church families, we have expectations regarding our responsibilities. Within our families and other close relationships, we have expectations about how we should be treated and how we will treat others. And some of us really don't like to say no. Many of us spend our time and energy thinking about how to impress people who aren't thinking about us at all. Some of us have trouble with saying no and managing our time wisely. There are so many places where boundary lines can be blurred and misunderstood or simply unstated and nonexistent. 

Before reading this book, I believed many of the common misconceptions about boundaries. I thought that to have boundaries was to be selfish, to hurt others, and to live in guilt. But boundaries are a God-given means of protection for our hearts. To set boundaries is to truly believe that "I am loved and valued by God, and I will love myself by placing a boundary." (kudos to my sweet Bible study leader, Margo, for dropping that truth bomb)

Boundaries are important in our relationships, our workplaces, and within our own hearts. In Exodus, Moses was trying to be all things to all people as he led the Israelites to the promised land. However, his wise father-in-law, Jethro, said:

"What you are doing is not good. You and the people will with you will certainly wear yourselves out, for the thing is too heavy for you. You are not able to do it alone. Now obey my voice, and I will give you advice, and God be with you! You shall represent the people before God and bring their cases to God...Every great matter they shall bring to you, but any small matter they shall decide themselves. So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you. If you do this, God will direct you, you will be able to endure, and all this people also will go to their place in peace."
 -Exodus 17:17b-19,22b-23

Jethro told Moses to look to God to be His help and to recognize that he had a say in how he interacted with the world around him. I can completely relate to Moses-feeling as though you are responsible for the well-being of others around you. I don't want to waste time trying to please others at the expense of my health and obedience to Christ. My ultimate calling is to please God. I want to take Him at His word. 

{Naptime Diaries Shop}

What I Want to Remember

"God designed our personal boundaries to have gates. We should have the freedom to enjoy safe relationships and to avoid destructive ones."

"A strong strand throughout the Bible stresses that you are to give to needs and put limits on sin. Boundaries help you do just that." 

"We are responsible to others and for ourselves. 'Carry each other's burdens,' says Galatians 6:2, "and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.' This verse shows our responsibility to one another...Everyone has responsibilities that only he or she can carry. These things are our own particular "load" that we need to take daily responsibility for and work out. No one can do certain things for us. We have to take ownership of certain aspects of life that are our own "load."

"God's discipline teaches, not punishes."

"God is interested in people loving others, and you can't love others unless you have received love inside yourself."

This book truly was one that I will go back and reference for years to come, and I cannot recommend it enough. What have you learned about boundaries?

Monday, February 15, 2016

#sistersofinfluence: Nadine Schroeder

Hello again, friends! I am so excited to introduce you to my virtual friend, Nadine. Ok, so we actually met, but only once. Nadine is an incredibly kind and rooted woman. She lives in Canada and is a student. So how did we meet? The internet, folks. I stumbled upon Nadine's writing through Jess Connolly's blog a while back and just was so encouraged. She has such a refreshing perspective, and she loves the Gospel. In September, Nadine also attended the Influence Conference, and I sheepishly went up to her and introduced myself. And guess what? She's pretty bomb! I know you'll be encouraged by her words and inspired to sit at the foot of the cross as she does. 

Tell us about yourself. Who are you?

I'm Nadine. I love the Gospel because I was saved by it. I like looking people in the eye and hearing stories. I work in education and believe in caring well for the next generation as they journey through school. I'm passionate about freedom in Christ and quite love the colour red. 

How did you come to know the Lord?

Well initially as a child, but I kind of never want to tell the long story cause in scripture it asks me to have reason at all times for my hope! I don't have hope because of my childhood belief in Christ. I have hope today, this day as I type these words, because I was reminded profoundly just an hour or two ago - through scripture - that Christ left heaven, that God gave up His son. Reading that truth set me newly free. 

And also I'd say I got set free and received the Gospel about six years ago. The church I was newly attending in a new city kept preaching about how there's no condemnation in Christ. I felt deep shame for my past and so I asked a pastor what he meant. He didn't clarify, he simply reminded me that no condemnation means no condemnation.  Somehow in that moment I realized I could walk in chains and brokenness or I could accept the freedom offered to me in Christ. 

What do you think it means to be a person of influence right where you are?

Well, this minute I'm by myself. So my first person to influence is me! I get to, whenever I am alone, speak truth to myself. Cause it's easy to forget truth but far more fun to walk in it. So influence to me simply means what needs to be said in the moment. Sometimes that means texting a friend to encourage, or posting something on Insta to exhort, or sitting by myself to pray. 

It's not complicated. I think we like to complicate things but Jesus was fairly straight forward. He met people where they were at and introduced Himself. He got to know them - though He actually already knew them - and only offered them what they needed. Which was Himself. So I try to get to know people and tell them about my hope. 

What is your favorite verse or passage of Scripture?

So many! Sheesh! I love the Word so I'm constantly finding new chapters and verses to underline and ponder. 

Today, this minute, I'm thinking Philippians 2:5-11

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,  who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

I've been praying a lot and trying to educate myself on diversity and privilege. This portion of scripture compels me to believe that Christ does not believe in division. He left heaven. He left His privilege so that those who call upon Him might gain His. So I'm living in the tension of living with privilege and I'm trying hard to ask the Lord what that means for my story. 

What is one truth you want others to remember and cling to?

Jesus is Lord. 

And last but not least: coffee or tea?

Coffee. Always. 

Friday, February 12, 2016

Five on Friday: How to Encourage Your Husband

It seems as though the past couple weeks have gotten away from me, and I looked around and it's Friday already! I'm not complaining; I love a good weekend. :) The past couple Tuesday ten posts have been dedicated to cheap date ideas and fun date spots for local Athens friends. Since Valentine's Day is this weekend, I wanted to write a quick post about some easy ways to encourage your husband (or significant other).

{Elissa Ewald Photography}
I don't know about y'all, but it is super easy for me to be a nit-picky nagger. I am a bit of a recovering perfectionist, and I can be a little harsh. The Lord has definitely given me the spiritual gift of encouragement, but in my own home with my husband, I feel a level of comfort I don't in other places, and I sometimes say and do things I wish I didn't. So in the spirit of all the lovey dovey mushy things, and more importantly, in the spirit of placing others before ourselves, here are five ways to be the voice of encouragement in your significant other's life.

1. Write him a note and leave it in a hidden place. 
- I absolutely love the written word, and putting in words how I feel is quick and easy, plus you can make it silly and fun, too.

2. Pray for and with him. 
- Choose specific scripture to pray over his life, and pray with him every chance you get.

3. Send him a treat at work. 
- If he's having a hard time or if you've got something to celebrate, let him feel super special with a delivery at work!

4. Ask what he needs.
- At the beginning of the day, ask, "What can I do to make today easier for you? What do you need today? What would make today awesome for you?"

5. Tell him you love him.
- This one just doesn't get old, friends, :)

What are ways you encourage your significant other?

Monday, February 8, 2016

#sistersofinfluence: Allie Beck

Friends, today I get to introduce to one amazing woman. Allie Beck and I met back in college in a Bible study led by our pastor's wife at Watkinsville First Baptist Church and became fast friends. I love her passion for life, her creativity, and her generous spirit. She's a kind, giving, and fun-loving soul, and I know you'll love her!

Tell us about yourself. Who are you?

Hi! I'm Allie (and it's not short for anything). I only say that because my teachers always called me Allison, and being a teacher I now know how big of a mistake that can be! I was Georgia raised and am currently Chicago based.  I love the city; it's rejuvenating and lively. I get to rub elbows with the greatest people. However, I'm proud to be a Georgia Bulldog! I get the privilege of teaching Special Education at a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics)  high school while finishing my master’s in education. I'm an art lover through and through. God created me to create; whether by creating lessons, crafts, or painting- it's all a joy to me to work with my hands and with people.

How did you come to know the Lord?

I came to know the Lord when I was six years old. I had grown up in a small Baptist church and just grew to know the Lord as truth at that young age by confessing Jesus as my only Savior. I still remember my mom telling me that God and His angels were throwing a party at my decision; maybe devoid of balloons and candles like I imagined at that age, but still a celebration of Christ! Through the years I made decisions to be involved in the church and pursue a relationship through daily devotions and continual prayer. God has showed His continual and  relentless pursuit of me! It's not been an easy road, but I'm glad to have such a Savior that is the strength of my heart and by my side every step.

What do you think it means to be a person of influence right where you are?

I think being a person of influence is a decision. God has given me a heart for His people, whether through mission work in Thailand, serving my family, leading a Bible study, or teaching in an inner city school. Influence is something that I desire, and I think most people do. However, I know that the greatest influence comes when I'm working for the kingdom. God loves people, so I think the greatest investment is in humanity.

How does the Lord use teaching to help you understand Him more?

Every time I teach I think to myself, “Wow I never knew that I knew that!” It keeps you on your toes! I've taught art, biology, the Bible and English over the years. The more I teach, the more I realize it's not always about the content on a given day; sometimes lessons are learned slowly over months or years. This realization had shown me God's  unmatched patience and persistence with me.

How does the Lord allow you to use art to bring Him glory?

Gosh, every time I make something the world grows silent. It's like I'm having a conversation with the painting or the clay or the wood. I'm able to relax and feel akin to God's creative mind. He is the great creator after all and calls us His masterpiece! It's amazing to think that I can feel the same sense of wonder that I felt as a kid when I paint. I may not ever share that work with anyone else, but it's creating for the sake of the experience. Just as in worship, God teaches me things when I'm working on a project. I see each work of art as a story or opportunity to share! I'm always shy to sell work because I'm a perfectionist, but my friend Amanda bought an abstract "Life Lines" series painting last spring. She said that God has taught her things when doing her devotions and looking at the work. The way painting looks disorganized but then somehow comes together has been a picture for her life this year that God is sovereign in working all things in ways that don't always make sense. Life lines has been a motif in my drawings and paintings. I think it represents the marks that we make on each other and how life is a continuous chance to make those marks.

What is your favorite verse or passage of Scripture?

I always cry when I read Psalm 139. Knowing that He holds our every moment and that He knit us together is affirmation that we are his masterpiece. He doesn't leave us to walk through life alone.

What is one truth you want others to remember and cling to?

Happiness is not the absence of challenge.

And last but not least: coffee or tea?

Hard question. First instinct, coffee. Always coffee.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

February Goals

Yes, this is a Bitmoji. Yes, you should download the app.

Let's talk about goals, y'all. I am still loving my Powersheets and how they help keep me organized. It is interesting how thinking about things I want to do as goals instead of resolutions has helped me think more clearly about how I want to spend my time. So let's review- here are my goals for January:

purchase/begin Blog Life e-course
clean up my closet
read Boundaries
look for a place to submit my writing
have our neighbors over to dinner
begin memorizing James

work out at least 3x a week
talk to a good friend/family member on the phone
meal plan
look at weekly spending
read marriage book/Bible with Ror

read the Word
love on Ror
encourage someone
practice gratitude

I was pleasantly surprised as I took a look back at the last month. Most of my monthly goals were met! Some of the highlights there are that we had a really great time with our new neighbors, and I have really enjoyed memorizing James. My weekly goals have been fun to accomplish as well, but I will say that working out three times a week has been hard to manage.  We joined a gym and have been able to go at least once a week, sometimes twice, plus I've tried to walk a couple times when the weather is nice. My daily goals were something that were not hard for me to complete each day, except for stretching. Oops. 

Let's look forward now, shall we? Here's what I hope to accomplish in February:

continue memorizing James
read Hands Free Life
observe Lent
start training for a 5k
clean up my closet (it didn't happen in January...)

same as last month, but also: plan blog posts and observe social media free weekends

instead of love on Ror, I want to encourage him. Something about that wording makes it more intentional for me. 
I took out stretching because I wasn't really doing it. 
quote James

What are y'all trying to accomplish and work towards this month?

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Currently: February

Well, friends, February is here! January has come and gone, and we are officially established in the year 2016. I hope that January was a good month for you. It flew by for me! Here's what's going on in these parts.

We celebrated the 100th day of school last week! :)

Sending: I've been sending off pregnancy prayer journals for all of my soon-to-be mama friends! It is so fun to celebrate this season with them.
Eating: Oh man...I have been eating well, y'all. Cooking is so fun for me, and I am trying to be even more creative with clean eating in our home. I've still been eating a ton of popcorn though. It's my favorite! And I discovered this incredible popcorn at Kroger- it's the Simple Truth Organic brand, and the flavor is salt and's dee-lic-ious.
Dreaming: Right now we are in the thick of house hunting, so I am dreaming about our perfect first house. So. many. decisions.
Smelling: Well honestly, I've been a little congested, soooo I haven't been smelling much. Haha. No but really y'all- I have been enjoying some sweet candles from Philanthropy.
Hearting: I stinkin' love Fixer Uppper, y'all. Chip and Joanna Gaines are incredible, and I want to be their friends. It is so fun to see what they do with a blank slate of a home.

What are you up to these days?

Linking up with Anne and Jenna today!

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Tuesday Ten: Athens Date Spots

It is no secret that I absolutely love this beautiful Classic City of mine. After living here for four years as an undergraduate student at the University of Georgia, this city worked it's way into my heart and hasn't left since. There are so many lovely spots in this town, and while I have lived here for almost ten years cumulatively, there are many more haunts that I want to discover. Today's compilation is a mix of dates that Rory and I have actually been on and things we would like to try in the future.

{Full on deliciousness at The World Famous}

1. Ted's Most Best

Ok, so obviously I had to include this restaurant, because it's where Rory and I had our first date! But seriously, the pizza is delicious, and it's got a sweet atmosphere that's great for just getting to know someone or hanging with your long time love. :)

2. Memorial Park and Bear Hollow Zoo

When the weather is nice (and even when it isn't), taking a walk around the lake and visiting the free zoo to say hi to the bears can be so fun.

3. Georgia Theatre Rooftop

Not only is the Georgia Theatre an amazing venue for concerts, the rooftop offers an incredible view of the city, and the food is scrumptious.

4. The World Famous

Amazing cocktails. Delightfully creative food. Fun atmosphere. Sweet little space.

5. North Campus of UGA

Taking a walk around North Campus, especially during the fall, can be so sweet.

{Walking at Memorial Park}
6. Paddle Boarding at Sandy Creek

Not for the faint of heart, but rather for those wanting an adventure with their significant other.

7. Creature Comforts Brewery

Head over here after Ted's Most Best, and whatever you do, make sure you have an Athena.

8. State Botanical Gardens and Intramural Fields Trails

These are both properties owned by the University, and they are beautiful any time of the year. If you're wanting to burn some calories and also enjoy some of nature, these spots are where you need to be.

9. The Rook and Pawn Board Game Cafe

If you like games, this is your place. With hundreds of board games to choose from and a menu to keep you satisfied as you play, this little spot has much to offer to those looking for something a little different.

10. The Foundry

This is easily one of the best concert venues in Athens, and it is a great place to enjoy yummy food, good drinks, and wonderful tunes.

Athens friends, where are your favorite date spots? What did I miss?

Monday, February 1, 2016

#sistersofinfluence: Taylor West

Today, I welcome a sweet friend to the blog. Her name is Taylor, and though we have only been friends for a few short years, I am grateful for her friendship and the memories we have made together. Taylor and I met at Watkinsville First Baptist Church in their singles young adult Sunday school class. We laugh at the same things, and we both had a good run with getting each other through the work day with Snapchat posts. :) She and her sweet husband Jessie are great friends and kind hearted individuals. I am glad to count her as a friend of mine. 

Tell us about yourself. Who are you?
Hi Blog People, I'm Taylor. Athens is where I call home thanks to attending UGA and falling in love with a pretty great and cute guy. That cute guy is Jessie, my husband. We currently have no fur babies or real babies, although we hope to in the future :) We attend Watkinsville First Baptist, where we met and we love the community God has provided for us there. I work at UGA and Jessie currently works in Midtown Atlanta as a Landscape Architect.
How did you come to know the Lord?
Ever since I can remember, my family has been involved in church, but not just as a "we go on Sundays" kind of deal. My parents have always modeled what it looks like to practice what you preach, even though we're far from perfect. Growing up, we were always doing church things, learning catechism, involved with youth group, etc. But I would say that I didn't really become a Christian until my college years. At this time, I really had to own what I said that I believed. I think the great thing about college is that it really is a time where you can choose and decide who you want to be. For the first time, I was away from my parents' constant care and I had to choose what I believed in and who I was going to be. Because of the foundation of faith that was laid for me by generations before me, I did choose to follow Jesus and understood that it wasn't just a family heirloom that could be passed down; I had to own it. So, long story short, I came to know the Lord for real in college thanks to a great church, community, a family that prayed for me and modeled God's love, and the Lord working in my heart.
What do you think it means to be a woman of influence right where you are?
One thought that is so convicting to me is the thought of local missions. I think we as Christians can tend to think that missionaries are those overseas who do missions vocationally, when God calls us to love and serve others right where we are. I think a woman of influence would be a woman who knows who she is in the Lord and seeks to fulfill that mission any way that she can. I think it is hard for us to pin point what our mission is because oftentimes what we are best at comes naturally, so we don't see it as a gift. Does that make sense? So, a woman of influence would be a woman who does what she is good at the best that she can, in an effort to better serve those around her.

How does the Lord allow you to shine His light through your job?
To be honest, I struggle with finding purpose in my job. Honestly most days I feel void of purpose. Yes, I am helping people with questions, but I personally do not feel fulfilled. While I may not enjoy the tasks of my job, I do try to build relationships with those around me. When you're with your coworkers more than you are with your family, I think it's important to get to know them as actual people, not just the person that you have an office next to. We all want relationship, whether we realize it or not, so I try to ask people about their children, their families, anything that's going on in life to build a rapport that only helps the work relationship. I hope that through these interactions, I can be a source of encouragement to people and while I may not be able to mention the name of Jesus or talk about God openly, I hope that others can see that my interaction with them is genuine.
What is the best piece of marriage advice you have been given?
I don't know if this was mentioned to me directly or if I just read it somewhere, but I do believe that having the mindset of continually dating your spouse is extremely important. I mean, Jessie and I are just over six months in, but already I have found myself slipping into the mindset of him just being my roommate or the handy repairman. That shouldn't be so! So, I must choose to see him as someone that I want to pursue because I really do... sometimes life just gets in the way. So yeah... continually dating or pursuing your spouse stands out to me.
What is your favorite verse or passage of Scripture?
I've always loved Ephesians 2:1-10
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works,which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
My favorite part is the start of verse four: BUT GOD. If it weren't for that "but", we wouldn't have the hope of salvation! I'm so thankful for God choosing to offer us a way to Him and for seeing Christ in us instead of just us.
What is one truth you want others to remember and cling to?
God offers hope.
So often I have found myself having a pity party (party of one) or becoming discouraged about events in the world, events in life... you name it, it has probably discouraged me at some point. But, when I broaden my perspective to consider God's plan in things, there is always hope. There is a song by a group called TRUTH (they're not around any more, sad day) and the chorus says, "There is a hope, no matter what happens; there is a hope that overcomes all. We can stand on the promise Jesus never fails, even if this world should fall. There is a hope through all of life's changes; there is a God Who's always the same. Hope does not depend on what is seen; hope is found believing in His Name." Yep... there is always Hope! His Hope.
And last but not least: coffee or tea?

Well, considering that my mom used to have to make me coffee as a kindergartner to wake me up, I'm going to have to go coffee. (It was like 90% milk, but still). I do enjoy coffee more than tea, although I'm not a tea hater!


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