Monday, November 28, 2016

#sistersofinfluence: Rachael Milner

Today I have the privilege of introducing you to sweet Rachael Milner. She and I met at the Influence Conference in April (I feel like I've said that about the last few Sisters of Influence :)). I first was introduced to her via Instagram, though! She has a beautiful page in which she shares her beautiful art through Bible journaling. She has a gift, friends! You will be encouraged by her heart and life. 

Tell us about yourself. Who are you?

Hi friends! My name is Rachael Milner. If we were in person, I'd probably give you a hug and pull up a chair so we could get to know one another. I love the Lord and have been walking with Him for twenty-one years. I married my best friend, Ethan, who I met in middle school at the same church where I work now. We live in Birmingham, Alabama and have an adorable dog named Lainey (no kids yet, but we would love to adopt one day!) I work part-time for two ministries that I absolutely love. I do Girls College Ministry at Shades Mountain Baptist Church where I get to spend my time investing in girls, leading our discipleship programs, designing for our ministry, and planning and leading mission trips. I also work with Life Lived Beautifully, where I get to direct social media for the Shop and help with design and writing and a few others things. I do a good bit of freelance work on the side and have an Etsy shop for fun!

How did you come to know the Lord?

I accepted Christ at a young age, just five years old. I grew up in church about as often as the doors were open since my mom has played the piano here for years - so I was very familiar with God, who Jesus was, and what the Bible said about Him, even before kindergarten. My relationship really began to flourish when I was twelve years old. The Lord spoke clearly to me that I was called to ministry and that He had big plans for me, but I couldn't wait to become a "grown-up" before I started walking with Him. From that summer after my 7th grade year until now, it's been one huge, ongoing, life-changing journey of walking with the Lord. 

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

I fully believe that God does not allow us to be planted where we are by mistake. Any people you see regularly, whether that's your family, your friends, your co-workers, your classmates - those are people you have influence with. It may not feel like much or it may not be the people you would like to have influence with, but God has put you there for a time and a purpose. So I believe that being a woman of influence means taking advantage of that opportunity, sharing the love of God with those people, and actively seeking Jesus in all that you say and do in those relationships. This could even be how you use social media, how you speak to people in conversations, or how you encourage others when they need it most. Using those opportunities one at a time to honor God creates a lasting influence that can point people back to Him!

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

I know without a doubt that anything good about me is from Jesus. Recently I've been humbled again and again as God is pointing out sin in my heart that needs pruning or surrendering. So when it comes to art and creating, I know that those are merely gifts from a gracious Father - and I want to glorify Him through using those in every way possible. I love to create art that can be a reminder of truth - whether that's a favorite verse, a promise to cling to, or just a simple reminder to stop and think about the goodness of God in your life. I also love to work on projects for friends and use that time that I'm designing, painting, writing to pray for them and whatever season of life they are in currently. Those are some sweet moments between me and God!

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

Honestly, it was something that my husband said to a girl I was discipling in our first year of marriage. I love that it came from him, because I see him actively living these words out in our relationship. He told her to love Jesus more than she loved herself or her spouse, and everything else would follow suit. It's so easy to get caught up in pursuing the best possible marriage or longing for the love, affection or approval we crave from our spouse - but when we start seeking that more than we are seeking Jesus, it doesn't take long for everything to feel off. We have to love Jesus first and more than our husband, then serve and love him out of the overflow of our heart!

What is one thing you want the women of our generation to remember?

That anything good about us or in us is grace. I think we get so caught up wanting to be the best, have it all together, be known, etc. - but God is the one who is renewing and restoring us day by day. If we do something well, it's because of the talent He's poured into us. If we are great mothers, wives, friends - it's because of the love and grace He's shown us in relationship. When we start to make a name for ourselves and forget that this little life is actually about making His name known, our days will be just a shell of the abundant life that He's invited us into!

What is your favorite verse or passage of Scripture?

Philippians 4 is a favorite passage for sure. I struggle with anxiety and depression, so the words of promise and peace that come from those verses are some that I've clung to in a lot of hard seasons. God has taught me so much about surrendering my anxiety to Him and trusting Him to provide all that I need. I also love Psalm 145:16, so much that it's tattooed on my wrist. The promise that God opens His hand to us to satisfy our every desire - it's something that blows my mind! It also reminds me not to hold onto anything too tightly, because when our fists are closed shut we cannot receive the grace He freely gives.

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

Honestly what I shared about Psalm 145:16 is probably the one truth I remind others of as much as possible. God satisfies, He sees, and He is capable of working and providing in our situation beyond what we can comprehend. When we grasp tightly to the fleeting we miss out on the opportunity to experience the eternal - and that's no way to live when we've been redeemed by a holy Father!

And last but not least: coffee or tea?

Tea all the way! Recently I discovered Bigelow's Pumpkin Spice Tea and I drink it every single morning with a splash of milk. Also, if it were healthy in any way, I'd have a permanent cup of sweet tea in my hand. It's always been my favorite! :)

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thankful Thursday

It is hard to believe that it is Thanksgiving Day, but alas, we are here, and I'm not mad about it. I have so many things to be grateful for today and every day, for that matter. God is so very good, my friends. Here's what I'm thankful for today:

  • my ever-supportive and patient husband
  • our puppies
  • our beautiful home
  • my sweet Downtown Academy babies
  • four Thanksgiving celebrations
  • my health
  • my amazing job
  • the sweet interns
  • two cars that are paid off/minimal debt
  • my in-laws' relocation to Watkinsville
  • my kind and generous parents
  • my sister
  • my best friends
  • the amazing love the Father lavishes on me every single day
And y'all, if you haven't yet, listen to this song. We sing it in church sometimes, and I just feel it is so apt for today. I love you, friends. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

An Questionnaire for the Hubs

So there is this silly little Facebook status/game thingy going around, and I decided to drink the Kool-Aid, because I just wanted to know what Ror would say as he answered these questions. He got most of them right! It would be a little concerning if he didn't...

WITHOUT prompting, ask your husband these questions and write EXACTLY what they say. The outcome can be hilarious!

What makes me happy?
  • Food
What makes me sad?
  • Injustice
What's something I say often?
  • You know?
How tall am I?
  • 5'9"? (WRONG! I’m 5’ 7 ¾”) :)
What's my favorite thing to do?
  • Read
What do I do when you're not around?
  • Take baths (LOL so true)
If I become famous, what will it be for?
  • Writing books (swoon)
What makes you proud of me?
  • Your heart for other people
What is my favorite food?
  • Mexican
What is my favorite restaurant?
  • Trappeze (maybe...I’m not even sure I know what my favorite restaurant is because I have too many favorites.)
If I could go anywhere, where would it be?
  • Uganda
Do you think you could live without me?
  • No.
How do I annoy you?
When you block my path or when you keep me up at night. (Like when I won’t stop talking and get deliriously tired and silly, hahahaha.)
What is my favorite tv show?
  • Downton
Where can I be found?
  • On the couch under a blanket
What is one thing I'm not good at?
  • Whispering (LOL)
What is your favorite thing I cook?
  • Mexican
Who's my favorite person?
  • Me

Monday, November 21, 2016

#sistersofinfluence: Jenna Griffin

Today I get to introduce you to my new friend Jenna of Gold and Bloom. She and I have actually never met in person, but we have several mutual friends, and we share the same birthday! We've got a lot in common- Jenna is a teacher and a blogger, but she also owns a floral design business. Her work is stunning, y'all. Too bad I already got married, because I kind of want to have an occasion where I need flowers so that I can use her. I love flowers so very much! I reached out to her to be a part of the Sisters of Influence series, and she kindly obliged. You will be encouraged by her story; I know I was!

{Carrie Joy Photography}
Tell us about yourself. Who are you? 

My name is Jenna, and I am a born and raised Georgia girl--a little bit outside Atlanta. I've been teaching elementary school for six years now, but one year ago I started my own floral design business. My husband and I were married three and a half years ago, and now we are expecting our first child in April! It's a boy!

How did you come to know the Lord? 

I grew up thinking I was a Christian, but I had no Christian community. I knew very little about God, except that if you didn't love God you went to a very scary place. In college, I made some pretty poor choices, experienced some depression, and realized something was missing from my life. I did not like the person that I was, and I was allowing some things to happen that were putting my life and well-being in danger. A childhood friend who lived hundreds of miles away who knew the Lord with her whole heart was used to point me into the right direction. She encouraged me to find a campus ministry, which I reluctantly did. That decision changed my life forever. Within 2 months of joining the ministry, I was part of the welcome team which helped me find purpose and gain confidence (I had some social anxiety). Within four months, I was baptized and began raising money to go on my first mission trip. My life was changing rapidly, and God was revealing Himself to me in amazing ways. I never knew that having a close and intimate relationship with God was even possible. Those years were some of the most difficult, yet beautiful years of my life. I wouldn't trade them for anything!

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

No matter what situations we find ourselves in, we can look for ways to show God's love and bring glory to Him. Sometimes it's difficult to allow ourselves to be used by the Lord, and it's much easier to retreat into ourselves and not reach out to others. God didn't call us to do the 'easy' stuff, though. You just never know who you will be able to influence with your actions and your words. Honestly, I struggle with this in my workplace and it's so easy to get wrapped up in the negativity. So I pray every morning for my school and it helps start my day off with a focused heart and mind, which makes it easier for God to use me to influence others. 

How does the Lord allow you to shine His light through your teaching and floral design? 

Like I said, this has been a difficult one to navigate. I'm extremely busy working two full time jobs (although I don't consider floral design a job, because right now it's my passion). I've struggled using being busy as an excuse, which has taken away from my ability to be used by God to reach people in my workplace. When I hear gossip or experience negative attitudes from other teachers, I try to remind them that God's got them. I offer to help them become less stressed out, send encouraging texts, and surprise them with gifts. I also pray for them on my own time, but I need to be better about this part. There is so much power in prayer! In floral design, I recognize that God paved this pathway for me. I couldn't have done this without Him! I know there is a greater purpose than just designing flowers, and that God truly wants to be at the center of my business. I'm still praying about how exactly to keep Him at the center and what that looks like. While I design flowers for my brides, I pray for their marriage and listen to God and what He is speaking to me in those moments. On wedding days, I mentally have to make my heart a "yes" heart. Business people can often have the mindset of "if they didn't pay for a service, I'm not doing it." I want to be the opposite of this. I try hard to say yes on wedding days to serve my couples, their families, and to make their day perfect. I'm still looking for other ways to keep God the center, though. I feel like there needs to be more of Him in Gold & Bloom. 

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

Serve each other with a happy heart. It's simple, but I think about it almost every day, and it reminds me to serve Lamar in a way that would please God as well. 

What is one thing you want the women of our generation to remember? 

You have purpose, you are enough, and you can do anything you set your mind to!

{Hannah Forsberg Photography}

What is your favorite verse or passage of Scripture? 

Right now, I'm really leaning on the verse John 16:33, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

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

We can absorb lots and lots of information, great verses, and connect with God on so many levels. However, it's so important we go out and serve and influence others as well. Your voice and your heart matters!

And last but not least: coffee or tea? 

Definitely coffee! Panera Bread's caramel latte is my guilty pleasure right now!

Friday, November 18, 2016

Fashion Friday: #newstyleNovember Week 2

Playing mix and match with my wardrobe has been a blast. I love getting to put things together and thinking through what I will wear each day. Clothes are such a fun way to express ourselves, friends! Here's what I've been wearing:

{This is what happens when you forget to take a picture for the blog/it rains all day. Also this was a self-timer pic...}

As always, thanks to my Instagram Husband for taking the majority of these photos. :)

And in case you missed it, here's what I wore last week. 

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Thankful Thursday


It's Thursday again, folks! Thanksgiving is ONE WEEK AWAY, and I could not be more excited. I just absolutely love this time of year. So much togetherness and gathering and FOOD. :) Here's what I'm thankful for this week:

  • my job and all the neat perks that come with it- working with the interns is by far my favorite part
  • Thanksgiving food
  • lots and lots to look forward to in the coming weeks
  • the fact that I haven't cooked dinner once this week because we have so much going on (insert all the praise hands)
  • community
  • the body of Christ
  • my sisters in Christ and all my mamas in Christ
  • sunshine
  • Georgia football wins
  • my crazy puppies
  • free furniture (always a win)
  • house projects with the hubs
  • my sweet Jesus
What are you thankful for this week, friends?

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

My Next Book: Already Chosen

For the longest time, I wondered if something was wrong with me. I was in what seemed a perpetual dateless season. No flowers, no wining and dining, and certainly no kisses. I watched as friend after friend found their "happily ever after," and it seemed that I was left behind. But God had a greater plan that was even better than finding a spouse. He had a plan that would lead me to His heart and into a deeper relationship with Him, my King and Beloved.

Friends, I am writing a new book, and I need your help. The title of this book will be Already Chosen. Because even if you feel as though no one on earth gives a flip about you and that you are long forgotten or discarded, your Heavenly Father has a great plan for you and longs to make you His and teach you about His ways, which are so much higher.

Would you share with me your stories? How have you struggled in singleness if you are single? I knew that life very well. Rory was my first (and now forever) boyfriend- no one else thought I was worth the chase until he came along. So trust me when I say that I know how it feels to be left out and rejected. It was pretty much my entire adult life in the dating arena. I want to know how you feel. What are you struggling with? Married friends, what would you tell yourself as a single person? What would you change about that time if you could go back? Tell me your stories, friends. And please, pray for me as I begin the processing of penning mine.

Monday, November 14, 2016

#sistersofinfluence: Heather Ritchie

Today I get to introduce you to Heather Ritchie of Heather's Letters. She and I met at the Influence Conference back in April. Her smile is infectious and she is a kind soul. Not only does she make beautiful things, she is a wife to a youth pastor and the mama of two precious kiddos! I loved getting to know her better through these questions and learning more about her heart and mission. You'll love her, too. :)

Tell us about yourself. Who are you?

I am Heather Ritchie, I live just outside of Charlotte in Huntersville, North Carolina and I am an artist, avid coffee drinker, I love the water, especially the ocean and am a classic extroverted introvert. For 10 years, I have been married to the only love of my life, Daniel. He is a student pastor, and writer amongst other things, and we have two awesome children, our son,Teague is 4 and our daughter, Elliott just turned 1. I stay home with my kids, full-time while also running a small hand lettering and calligraphy shop called Heather's Letters. I am also super lucky to get to spend a lot of time with our students that range in ages from middle school to college. Student ministry is all we've ever known and we love it.

How did you come to know the Lord?

I grew up in church, and came to a saving knowledge of my sin and need of a savior when I was 8 or 9. I was baptized and thought that was it, I had done it and was saved. But like many who are saved young, I didn't understand that this is a relationship, and relationships take work. So I would say I finally got serious about pursing a relationship with Christ when I was about 13 years old after getting involved with my youth group. I am thankful I don't have much memory of a time without Jesus in my life. 

{Fifth of June Photography}

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

Oh, this question is so good! I was just telling my high school girls this at church on Sunday! You are here, on this earth right now! That means you, here, today, have a purpose. God isn't wasting time, so we ought not to be wasting time either! We don't have to wait for someday, for that big thing in our lives to finally happen. Today is here and happening, there are people God is intersecting our lives with so we can show and share His love with them! Our little acts of everyday faithfulness to share the gospel to whomever and however God has given us an avenue matters to the kingdom of God!

For me, I feel like I live several different lives. Some days I feel like I am perpetually 17 years old, frozen in time as I am meeting with and talking to our sweet students all throughout the week. Then I have "mom mode" shuffling kids to school, making lunches, going to practice, tackling the never ending laundry, groceries and so on. And then I am this highly creative person that wants to make, create, and run a business, but buck all the lists and to-do's and just be and connect with that community of creatives. So, since I am pulled in so many very opposite directions in life I have very much accepted the philosophy that we are to be using our influence every day in every way we can.

 Some days that means pouring into the little lives of my home, folding laundry and spending extra time connecting with my husband, to the glory of God. Other days it means sending texts to students, discipling some of our girls, making intentional conversations with them and speaking truth into their lives. And sometimes it means sharing on social media whatever the Lord is laying on my heart to share. I think for very few of us our lives look exactly the same every day so we must be willing to see every opportunity that crosses our days and tackle it faithfully. 

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

Well, that is my hope and prayer for my work. Whenever asked something like this I always think of a song by Shane and Shane, and part of the chorus is, "we've come to declare the beauty of the Lord!" I am very prayerful about all decisions made in my business and in my art. Down to "what should I make today, God?" and I don't mean that trite. Whatever I am putting out there for the world to see I want to know the Spirit led me to make it. Even the fun and silly things! I am always so humbled by emails and messages I receive from clients about my work bringing any amount of encouragement, joy, hope, or comfort. To God be the glory! I would have never dreamed I would be so blessed to make things that God used in other's lives like this. 

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

"He is not your enemy. You are on the same team." I don't remember one person in particular saying that and maybe it is a bunch of great advice I have heard and read and mushed together? Just keeping that team mentality helps me from thinking selfishly and rather how to serve our team, our family, well. Sometimes that means I have to pick up the slack and other times Daniel does. And we do a fairly good job of that. Satan loves to see marriages crumble. Especially gospel-centered ones and those in ministry. We are well aware we are under attack on the home front. And I have personally seen many marriages where everything is tit-for-tat and the spouses are always complaining about one another, they might have stayed together for 40+ years but it is not a marriage worth aspiring to or reflects the love of Christ and his church.We are determined to remain each other's best friend for the next 40 years, and that means working for that future today.  

{Cassie Helms}

How do you raise godly kids in a world that shies away from truth?

Wow, ask me in 20 years once I have actually raised those kids - just kidding. I get asked this a lot, perhaps because Daniel and I work with teenagers but we have not actually raised any of our own yet. So my advice to them and myself always comes from Scripture.

Deuteronomy 6:6-9 says,"And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates." 

This is what we model in our home. We try to weave conversations of God into everything we do. We look for opportunities to lay the foundation of talking about sin, the need for a Savior and God's great rescue plan in Jesus for the children He loves. Start young. Feed them scripture, read it aloud at the breakfast table, post it all over your house and most importantly, you, the parent must live this out in front of your children! For older kids this is actually crucial - teenagers can spot a fake a mile away. So be honest in living out your faith with your older kids. Tell them when you have sinned and ask for forgiveness, show them you are so very dependent on God in all areas of your life. And don't be fake, that only hurts your testimony with them and teaches them to put on the "everything is fine" church act. 

I will say this, we haven't raised our own teenager yet, but we have done life with them and their families for over a decade. And it shows in the kids lives when they come from a home that the parents spiritually disciple their own kids. We live in a culture where we outsource everything for our kids and the church is being used for their spiritual growth. Pastors that see your kids for a few hours a week cannot do for them what you can as the parent that spends every day with them. We are here to guide and support you as a parent, not do the job for you. I don't want that to sound harsh, but it grieves my heart to see kids that fall through the cracks and I know there is not much if any spiritual discipleship going on in that home. 

What is one thing you want the women of our generation to remember?

I want us all to remember, and myself included, to revisit your priorities often. As women of faith, when we do that we remember our individual callings and priorities that God has placed in each of our lives. God's will for our lives is to bring Him glory and be on mission to carry the gospel with us everywhere. We won't do either very well if we are flying through life at 100mph and flailing pitifully in all areas. Our generation was the generation of girls that were empowered as children, "you can be anything you want, dream big, be independent, be all that you can be!" With the explosion of technology in our generation too I think it was a recipe for disaster and we took all of those mantras to heart and have literally tried to be ALL that we can, all at once. And the conversation I am hearing everywhere and in my own heart is that I'm tired, beyond tired, I am suffering everywhere and most hurtfully, in the areas that mean the most to me. God is growing my heart in all of this currently, that I am not meant to do all the things all at once. So everyday I revisit and pray over my priorities God has made clear in my life. It refocuses me, makes me more intentional and I stop trying to do it all, and I don't have to end each day feeling guilty for not being enough. 

{Fifth of June Photography}

What is your favorite verse or passage of Scripture?

How do I choose? I have many favorites for many occasions. I've never been that "life verse" girl. But right now it is probably Philippians 4:6-7.

"Do not be anxious about anything but in every situation with prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus."

Daniel and I are about to leave the country for a few weeks away from our kids, the holidays are upon us and I am reorganizing my personal priorities and all those things can bring a fair amount of worry and anxiety. But God is all I need and these verses set my heart right again. To depend on Jesus for every need and worry and in turn He gives me His strength to have peace. What sweet promises!

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

"But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." - Romans 5:8  This is grace on display, amazing grace. It is the gospel in one verse which is why it is the first verse we had our son memorize. That verse can bring salvation, hope and love. I love that about God's word!

And last but not least: coffee or tea?

In the words of Lorelai Gilmore, "I can't stop drinking coffee. If I stop drinking coffee, I stop doing the standing and the walking, and the words putting into sentence doing."

Friday, November 11, 2016

Fashion Friday: #newstyleNovember Week 1

Friends, I am having so much fun with this style challenge! It has been fun to plan my outfits each week and look at Pinterest, then go to my closet to use what I already have to mix and match several different looks. When I first started this challenge, it was still unseasonably warm for November, with the high temperatures in the low eighties! But it seems that fall has finally been ushered in, and now, the highs are in the seventies, with crisp mornings and evenings. Here's what I've been wearing, my friends.

This time of year is so perfect for layering! Here in Georgia, it can be 40 degrees in the morning and then 70 degrees later that day. Layers are key, friends! I happen to be very cold natured, so it is hard for me to stay warm inside without then walking outside and feeling like I might have a heatstroke. But alas, light jackets and scarves to the rescue!

As you can see, I'm quite partial to sweaters, army green, and jackets. Gotta love my layering pieces. What's your favorite thing to wear in fall weather, friends?

Thursday, November 10, 2016

How to Move Forward After the Election

{via Gracelaced}

Well friends, it was a crazy election season. No matter your political leanings, I think you can agree with me on that statement. It has been insane. There has been mudslinging, name calling, and just a whole lot of junk. It's been hard to weed through and hard to know where to stand and what to say.

I know that a few weeks ago, I wrote about how I wasn't going to vote. That's how discouraged I was, friends. When I looked at the state of our nation, I just figured that there was no other option but to abstain. I didn't know what else to do except stay home from the polls on November 8 and pray. To just fervently pray seemed like the only action step.

But thanks to you, my sweet friends and community whom I love so much, I realized that staying home just wasn't an option. There was a lot more at stake than the presidency on Tuesday, and it just didn't seem right to talk about being the change in my community without taking the time to educate myself on local issues. So I did some reading, did some more praying, and on Tuesday morning, I went to the polls.

As I thought about all of the people who fought so many years ago for me, an African-American woman (a bit of a double whammy curse in this day and age, if you will) to be able to vote, I knew that I couldn't stay home. Fearless women (and men) went through countless trials and fought countless battles in order for me to exercise the rights of a normal citizen. I didn't want to take that for granted.

When I looked at the Democratic and Republican candidates that were in the race for our presidency, I didn't have much hope about the future of our nation. I was left with a sense of sadness and fear. And I know I wrote about that fear a couple weeks ago and how it is crippling the church, but can I just be honest with you?  On Wednesday, I woke up saddened. As an African-American and a woman, I am sad. I succumbed to the fear, too.

But here's the thing. I am not afraid of where our country is headed. I'm not afraid of policies and political strife. I'm afraid of the disunity I see. I'm afraid of the hatred in people's hearts. I'm afraid of the church's seemingly unwavering hope in a politician to somehow "save our country" and "fix things."

The Bible says in Psalm 20:7, "Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God." Can I just get an amen right there?

I get the fear. I truly do. Because I am afraid. I am afraid of my own unwillingness to listen and learn. My bullheaded stubbornness to only see my perspective. That's pretty scary. It's easy for me to get wrapped up in my world and my ways. But there is another way.

I'm convinced now, even more than ever, that change starts from the ground up, not the opposite. I have been a myriad of emotions through the last two days. Sad, shocked, dismayed. But my favorite emotion that has coursed through my veins: encouraged.

I've been encouraged in knowing that God has a plan for me in this very moment, today, to make a difference for Him. I've been encouraged in knowing that God is so completely unshaken by the events of our nation and that He's already in the future, fighting for His people. I've been encouraged knowing that there is still work to be done and that He's anointed His church to do it. There is no plan B. The Gospel must shine in the darkest corners, because it is the only hope for our cities, states, and our nation. And it starts with you and me, examining our hearts, doing more listening than talking, and praying our knees off.

**Beth Moore wrote an amazing article a couple weeks ago that is oh so eloquent, encouraging, and convicting.
**And this video from CNN brought a lump to my throat and so beautifully articulated my heart.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

November Goals

It is November, my friends. I just love this time of year and am so encouraged by the many gatherings that we get to have in these months. Sometimes it can be overwhelming because I want to see ALL MY PEOPLE and do ALL THE THINGS. But there is great comfort in knowing that God gives us opportunities and beautiful memories with people for a purpose and a season. So even if I don't get to do everything I dream of during this holiday season, I can rest in that. I've still been using my Powersheets each month to help keep me on track with my goals, and it has been fun to look back and see all that God has done.

Here's what I was working on in October:

train for Chosen for Life 5k
blog plan for November
make a plan for Instagram/Facebook Proverbs 31 study discussion
meal plan for November
budget for November

call a friend
call a family member
memorize a new verse from James

read the Word
encourage Ror
encourage someone else

The Nitty Gritty

This month flew by. The last quarter of the year seems to do that with each passing year! October through December can be a whirlwind, but I want to savor as much as I can. This past month was so very full in the best of ways. I published my first book on Amazon, which was altogether terrifying and exciting. The James memorization is still slower than I had hoped, but I just discovered that I can listen to it on my ESV Bible app! That's pretty cool. Gotta love technology, folks. Some mornings I have been able to do some yoga, so that's been good. We've also been trying to do more with the dogs so they aren't maniacs. :)


What I Was Grateful for in October

The very first weekend in October, we had our annual church picnic, which was oh so fun. Our small group went to see NeedtoBreathe in concert, which is always a pleasure. Rory and I celebrated our two year date-aversary, and this year he made it super special by going to Ted's Most Best early and placing a single red rose on "our" table. It was pretty stinkin' sweet. :) In October, we also got to hang out with our lunch buddies from Downtown Academy and took them to Washington Farms for a family night that was hosted by the hospital where Rory works. I may have eaten my weight in kettle corn. We also ran a 5k in October, but I say "ran" quite loosely. It was for one of our favorite ministries, Chosen for Life, which works with Athens area families to provide orphan care and help children who need a safe place to land. 

What I'm Working on in November

begin writing my next book, Already Chosen (more on that soon!)
blog plan for December
December meal planning
Christmas shopping list
Christmas menu planning
December budget

work out more days than not (how's that for grace?!)
walk dogs more at least every other day
call a friend
call a family member
listen to James 

read the Word
encourage Ror
encourage someone else

What are you working towards, friends?

Monday, November 7, 2016

#sistersofinfluence: Ruth Chou Simons

Today I have the privilege and joy of introducing you to Ruth Chou Simons. I met Ruth a couple years ago at the Influence Conference. She was one of the breakout speakers, and her words about the necessity of preaching truth to ourselves still ring in my ears. I went up and introduced myself afterwards, and y'all, she is just so kind and real. Her art is in our home, I use one of her journals to write out Scripture, and I am daily encouraged by her Instagram feed in which she shares snippets of her life through the lens of truth. I know you'll love her, too. 

Tell us about yourself. Who are you?

My name is Ruth Chou Simons, and I am the artist/author/speaker over at I am a wife, mother of 6 mancubs, and I paint and write as a reflection of God's work in my life. 

How did you come to know the Lord?

I came to know the Lord years ago, after being invited to a church camp in 5th grade. I wasn't saved at the time, but I began taking my parents to church and was drawn to Christ. Years down the road, a Chinese Church reached out to my family and shared the gospel- we all came to faith and continue to pursue the Lord's will for our lives.

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

Being a woman of influence right where we are begins with the Lord- He makes our lives purposeful. Regardless of our location or occupation-- whatever He has given us to do, He has given us that thing so that we can most glorify Him. Right where we are, we can begin to understand God's goodness and find purpose in our lives. To have influence on those around us means to help them understand those very things- how to display the glory of God and find His goodness and purpose their our lives.

How does the Lord allow you to shine His light through your art and writing?

When I paint and write, I am always reflecting what the Lord has done in creation and what He is doing in my heart. My artwork is an attempt to display the glory of our creative God, the creator of all beauty in the world He made. It is my prayer that people are drawn to the Lord and His word through God's use of my voice/hands.

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

In seminary, an older woman told me that the person your husband becomes in 20 years is affected by the every day ways you love him. I have found this to be true- that the way I love my husband in the mundane, daily tasks is the greatest reflection if the gospel in the day to day.

How do you raise godly kids in a world that shies away from truth?

I think for me, my goal is not to raise Godly kids. My goal is to really show my kids the greatness of God in the midst of comparison to what is offered to them in the world. I want them to love Jesus and pray that their lives would be transformed in the process.

What is one thing you want the women of our generation to remember?

This generation of women are so preoccupied with how they appear to the world at large through the internet, through their accomplishments, or through being the master of multitasking. I want them to remember that their full worth and purpose comes first and foremost from knowing that their God is the king.

What is your favorite verse or passage of Scripture?

Romans 11:36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

And last but not least: coffee or tea?



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