Tuesday, June 21, 2016

#weread2016: Spark Joy

"Cleanliness is next to godliness," they say. While some people say that this is truth and can be found "somewhere" in Scripture, others will argue back and say that it is nowhere to be found. And they would be correct. While I do not believe that having a clean or tidy home means that you are more spiritual than your neighbor, I can make an argument for being a good steward of the possessions that God has allowed you to have.

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Some people are naturally able to clean well and keep their possessions nice and tidy. They are masters of organization and shudder at the mere thought of a dust bunny. Others live in a constant state of confusion in which it seems their possessions own them. I'd like to say that I'm somewhere in the middle. I definitely don't think of myself as a neat freak. However, I do not like to live among clutter and filth.

This year, I thought I would read the highly recommended The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo because I knew that one of our goals was to purchase a home. I wanted to ensure that when we moved into said home, we were able to get rid of any junk we didn't need and then organize our possessions in a way that made sense to us. I want a home that is inviting and cozy, not cluttered and overwhelming.

One day in Target (my happy place), I was perusing the books and came across Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up. Because I have moved several times in the past few years, I have purged more than the average person. I knew that my possessions didn't own me, but I still wanted some help on making storage and organization systems.

And so I took this little nugget with me down to Orlando back in May. It was an easy read; I think I was able to read it in a matter of days. The approach Marie Kondo takes towards organization and tidying is somewhat extreme. She has some rather interesting ideas about material possessions- very much about the feng shui and spirits of things, which I'm definitely not. However, I like that she made it easy to take baby steps towards organizing and purging things that we hold on to unnecessarily out of a perceived need.



For instance, she discusses how many people love to keep old stuffed animals or gifts from an ex-boyfriend or girlfriend. She explains that there are many things we want to hold on to because they remind us of certain seasons. For me, there are certain articles of clothing I have that were given to me by loved ones who are no longer living, and I wanted to hold on to them even though I no longer wear them. I was able to sort through my clothes and say goodbye to things that had served me well but I no longer needed. I still want to work through my closet one more time to make sure I've kept only the things I truly love. I've got a few things that I could probably still bear to part with, and I want to organize my dresser drawers and linen closet using her awesome folding method. My goal now is to work on the immense amount of papers and books that I have. I have so many things that I brought home from my classroom that I can't bear to part with yet, although I definitely purged quite a bit there. As I said above, I have purged so much, but have far to go. Sadly, I can't keep everything, and I shouldn't.

Spark Joy is a must read for anyone who would like to truly enjoy their home. Marie not only discusses the importance of loving the space you live in, but explains how the objects we hold dear tell a story. She writes, "Our things form a part of us, and when they're gone, they leave behind eternal memories." Getting control of our possessions helps us regain focus on what matters, which is often the people we hold dear. I'd say that's a win, wouldn't you?

Thursday, June 16, 2016

A Prayer for Orlando

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Lord,

We do not understand the chaos that seems to come from nowhere.

We do not understand senseless acts of hate.

We do not understand motives that lie in the heart and remain unchecked.

We do not understand.

We are tired. Tired of crying, tired of hate, tired of confusion and fear.

We are weary. Weary of wondering, questioning and longing.

Lord, comfort the mama who can no longer wrap her arms around her child.

Lord, comfort the daddy who can no longer pick up the phone and call his child.

Lord, comfort the friends who can no longer make memories and share inside jokes.

Lord, comfort the partners who can no longer walk through life with their best friend.

Lord, bring your healing and your peace, your restoration, and your grace.

We need it now more than other.

Lord, be with the people of Orlando.

We trust You.

We love You.

Amen.

*Through June 24, all proceeds from a purchase of the above print will directly benefit the victims and families of the June 12 tragedy in Orlando.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Tuesday Ten: My Favorite Worship Albums

I absolutely love music. We grew up with music being a part of our everyday lives. As a toddler, I would cry for my mother to turn on the radio when we were in the car. On road trips we listened to it all- top 40, Motown, disco, funk, jazz, and worship. The value of music is something that is still so near and dear to my heart, because it has the power to transport you to another place and completely change your mindset. Music is something that helps me focus on truth and put aside my worries.

In His word, there are so many places where people praise God with a song- not only in times of abundance, but also in times of trial and heartache. I want to answer anything life throws me with a song, placing my confidence in Him.

Here's my favorite worship albums right now, in no particular order. All album titles are linked to YouTube, so happy listening! Tell me friends, what are you listening to?

1. All Sons and Daughters by All Sons and Daughters
Calming, worshipful, and full of genuine cries and prayers.

2. Let It Be Jesus by Christy Nickels
Gorgeous vocals. Timeless truth.

3. Let It Echo by Jesus Culture
Vulnerability and just all around praise for who God is.

4. Have It All by Bethel Music
A cry for surrender and an album devoted to making His name greater.

5. I Am They by I Am They
Just plain fun sound with truth that speaks to the core.

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6. Brave New World by Amanda Cook
Incredible lyrics that remind you of truth and challenge your heart.

7. How Can It Be by Lauren Daigle
Beautiful vocals and an amazing first album by a girl who was on American Idol!

8. As Sure As the Sun by Ellie Holcomb
Straight Scripture and so comforting.

9. Empires by Hillsong United
"Even when it hurts like hell, I'll praise you." Best line ever.

10. The Undoing by Steffany Gretzinger
Perfect to accompany a morning quiet time and filled with truth.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Why I Stopped Trying to Be White

It was elementary school. A boy told me that my plaited hair looked like a T-Rex, so I decided I didn't like my hair. Why couldn't my hair look like my neighbor's hair? Hers was bone straight, and it seemed to be so agreeable. Blowing in the wind, swishing in a ponytail. Locks of gold or maybe brunette. Desired and coveted by so many and seemingly taken for granted by those who owned it.

But my hair? It wasn't bone straight. It was nappy. Never long and flowing, always too much to deal with. So in late elementary school, I got my first relaxer. I can still remember that it felt like my head was on fire, but I knew that I was going to be one step closer to having good hair. I could curl it and wear it in a ponytail! I could wear it down and look my white friends! Except not really. My ponytails didn't quite swish in the wind, and I still had quite the love-hate relationship with my hair. For sixteen years, I made my quarterly trip to the salon to get the creamy crack, always trying to allow the chemicals to work their magic, even if it meant I came home with a headache and a scabbing scalp. It was worth it to get that illustrious "white girl swish."

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Let's just skip over middle school, because that was an awful time. I'll just sum it up by saying that I wasn't too happy about my outward appearance at that time. High school wasn't much better. Hair just wasn't really my strong suit; I also didn't really know how to do makeup. Ok let's be real, I still don't quite know how to do my makeup.

Too much of my time in my teens and early twenties (ok, the mid-twenties, too) was spent wondering what the opposite sex thought about me and wanting to fit in with my peers, who were mostly white. A boy most assuredly wouldn't like me if I had nappy or kinky hair.

The standard of beauty which we all hold is influenced by many factors- our heritage, our culture, our preference. The prevailing beauty standard for hair in the United States for women is long, flowing hair. As I began to think about the choices I made regarding my hair, makeup, clothing, etc., the Lord began to show me that I wanted to cover up the parts of me that made me me. I did not want to be different from those whom surrounded me, so my choices reflected what mainstream culture said was beautiful instead of embracing just who He made me to be.

I don't think it is a sin to relax your hair if you are African American. Sin finds its root in the heart. Always. For me, I have a desire to not want to ruffle any feathers and to fit in; never would I want anyone to think I was "weird" or "different." But there was something stirring within me as I considered the reasoning behind my choices. I began to see that I just wanted to be like everyone else- I wanted my hair to lay flat and look "cute." People unknowingly (and unfortunately, sometimes knowingly) inflict judgment with derogatory comments that use African American physical stereotypes as the punch line. Why would I want to give anyone material to use in their arsenal?

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When I met Rory and we began to get closer and closer, I introduced him about the world of black hair, and he was so confused. Poor thing. He always encouraged me to wear my hair in styles with "more volume" and wondered why I would chemically straighten it. I brushed him off, even getting angry sometimes and saying, "You just don't get it." But he had spoken right to my heart, and I knew it. I just wasn't quite ready to accept the natural me yet.

In reading The Honest Life by Jessica Alba last fall, we both talked about ways to be more natural in other aspects of our lives- food, cleaning products, medicinal treatments, etc. I was challenged once more to think about why I was hanging on to my relaxed hair. Although it had been about six months or so since my last relaxer at that point, I still wanted to blow dry and straighten my hair to get it as flat as possible. I wanted a little bit of volume, but not too much. Didn't want to look too Black.

Rory challenged me, but so did the Holy Spirit. Did I have to have relaxed hair to be considered beautiful? Why was my day slightly altered ruined if I had a "bad hair day?" Who says whose hair is "good" anyways? Why did I "need" a relaxer or straightened hair to make me "feel" beautiful?

Here's the root of my problem: I wanted to look to others to assign to me my worth. No more. So last Friday morning, I chopped off all of my relaxed, straight, dead hair. I looked in the mirror and saw a woman with an afro, and I was proud. I was excited about all of the fun styles I can try now and all of the fun hair accessories I can buy. I was pumped about the money I would save by not going to the hairdresser as often. Instantly, I felt completely exhilarated and lighter. If God wanted me to have straight hair, He would have made me with straight hair. And one day, Lord willing, if we have daughters, I want them to be bold and confident just as they are. Curls and all.




Further Reading:

We Each Have Our Own "Becky with the Good Hair"
New Natural Hair Magazine Sets A New Standard For Black Women’s Beauty
10 Natural Hair Bloggers Who Will Unleash Your #CurlEnvy

And last but not least, this spoken word poem by the beautiful Amena Brown Owen.





Thursday, June 9, 2016

An Inspired Home

So commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these words of min. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Teach them to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, so that as long as the sky remains above the earth, you and your children may flourish in the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors. - Deuteronomy 11:18-21


Top left: Southern Weddings, East West Design Co., Naptime Diaries
Bottom left: Naptime Diaries
Top right: artwork by my sister-in-law
Bottom right: Gracelaced
It is easy to think when we read the Bible that there some things that we should take literally and others that we should dismiss as relevant to the culture of Biblical times. We can take verses out of context and search for the Scriptures that will make us feel better or that will allow us to justify our actions. But the verses above simply speak to the importance of knowing the Word and allowing it to permeate every aspect of our lives. The Bible is the inspired word of God- He gave it to us to know Him more and point us to His Son. When He says to write the words on the doorposts of your and on your gates, I like to think He meant it literally. There are so many ways to allow the Word to be a part of our homes. In recent years, I have found that God has given many creatives the desire to use their gifts to bring Scripture to life in a new way. 

When Rory and I first moved in to our new house, I was so excited to put things on the walls. I love making a house a home. Yes, I wanted there to be pictures of our wedding day and our family and friends, but I also wanted to fill the walls with truth. I don't know about you, but I need to be reminded of truth daily moment by moment. Plus, I have some friends who make some amazing things. It is an encouragement to look at these beautiful pieces of art and also be reminded of truths that the Father longs for me to embrace wholeheartedly- He is good, faithful, and true. 




How do you remind yourself of truth? Do you have special pieces of art around your home that point you to Him?

Today, because I love you and want to put a little sunshine in your day, leave a comment below and tell me about your favorite part of your home, and I will randomly choose a winner to receive one 8 x 10 print of their choice from any of the shops above! The giveaway runs from today until Friday at noon, EST. :) 

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Tuesday Ten: Summer Bucket List 2016





Friends, I am so glad that summer is here. I may not be teaching anymore with a summer off to watch Netflix to my heart's delight, but I am so glad that the summer months have arrived. Summer is always a fun time of refreshing, travel, and just plain fun. It's been quite some time since I have written a Tuesday Ten post, and I am excited to bring it back! Here's what's on my list for fun, fun, fun this summer:

Go to the beach with Ror's college friends.

Read a fiction book just for the heck of it. 

Try a couple new restaurants in Athens while the college kiddies are away. :)

Travel to Nashville for the Looking for Lovely conference and meet Annie F. Downs!!!

Walk through the book of Ruth with friends whom I have affectionately named the Watty Hotties. :)

Welcome a couple friends' babies into the world and become an honorary auntie.

Go blueberry picking at Washington Farms and make Shauna Niequist's blueberry crisp recipe.

Go to the pool with a friend at least once.

Reconnect with friends I haven't seen in a while. 

Celebrate our first wedding anniversary with a tech-free, super fun weekend in Chatt-town. 

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What are you looking forward to this summer, friends?


Monday, June 6, 2016

#weread2016: Hands Free Life Book Review

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This year I made some goals. They were not easy or typical New Year's Resolutions, but rather aspirations that I prayed through and felt like the Lord had laid on my heart. A couple of those goals were related to what I like to think of as quality of life. I said that I wanted to do the following:

Embrace boundaries and learn to live in the moment.

Give up my phone addiction.

Cultivate a life of joy, gratitude, and peace, not of fear, negativity, and comparison.

When I picked up the book Hands Free Life: 9 Habits for Overcoming Distraction, Living Better, & Loving More by Rachel Macy Stafford, I kind of thought it would be a book about putting down the phone (and other screens) in an effort to pay attention to who or what is right in front of you. And that it was. But it was so, so much more. 

This book was one that I picked up back in January but had a hard time getting through because it was not what I expected it to be. I don't mean that in a negative way at all, because it was exactly the message I needed when I finally had the time to really read it and receive the lessons Rachel doled out so beautifully and humbly with her well-written words. 

Rachel writes so honestly as she shares her "Hands Free Journey" that involves so much more than giving herself boundaries with technology in an effort to be more present with her family. In her book, she describes how attempting to control everything her life was not only driving her crazy and leading her to a deep sense of discontentment, but it was also affecting her children's well-being and her relationship with her spouse. 

The nine habits Rachel outlines organized into three powerful parts: Creating Lasting Connections, Living for Today, and Protecting What Matters. The habits are as follows:

  1. Fill the Spaces
  2. Surrender Control
  3. Build the Foundation
  4. Take the Pressure Off
  5. See What Is Good
  6. Give What Matters
  7. Establish Boundaries
  8. Leave a Legacy
  9. Change Someone's Story
As a recovering people pleaser who has stereotypical eldest child syndrome, Rachel's words deeply resonated with me. She explained how she went from wanting everything in her life to be perfect and easy, with no problems and a pretty exterior that others envied or at least admired, to someone who wanted to serve others, take risks, and be the best she could be for her kids- all while being humbly human. One thing that has stuck with me is Rachel's mantra of "Only love today." When I am tempted to get stuck in negative thinking, anger, comparison, etc, I have repeated those three little words to myself, which has allowed me to focus on where I truly need to devote my mental energy. There were so many parts of this book that I know I will reference when I have children, because she explains so well how to be a present, loving, and encouraging parent who enables your child not only to succeed, but to thrive and be a good human. I underlined so many things and had tears in my eyes and was challenged and encouraged by Rachel's conviction to live for what really matters. If that sounds like something you're into, then I highly recommend you pick up a copy and discover the power of Hands Free living. 

Thursday, June 2, 2016

June Goals



Well, we have made it June, friends. I have to say that I was actually pretty nervous about May. It has historically been a month that is chock full of family celebrations. With Rory's thirtieth birthday and ending my time at Downtown Academy added to the mix this year, I just knew I was in for an emotional roller coaster, and I wondered how the month would go. However, it turned out to be a super sweet month. God did so much in my heart and showed me that He is truly taking care of me, our family, and all of the people around me. It was a good month because of our good, good Father.

Here's what I was working towards in May:

Monthly:
finish reading Hands Free Life
goals blog post
begin working on a thirty before 30 bucket list
tie up loose ends for Ror's birthday
figure out summer Bible study/book group

Weekly:
walk twice a week
yoga/Pilates once a week
meal plan
talk to a family member on the phone
talk to a friend on the phone


The Nitty Gritty
As I said above, May was crazy. But it was a good kind of crazy. I was able to finish reading Hands Free Life, which I truly enjoyed and was challenged by in a different way than I thought I would be. I'll be posting a book review soon. I also read Spark Joy and finished reading Steadfast Love. :) I have thought about my thirty before 30 bucket list, but have yet to put pen to paper. Rory's birthday went off without a hitch, and he was genuinely surprised. It was so much fun to celebrate him, and our friends and family were so awesome to make his day so special! This summer, I am really excited to do a study with a few friends of mine from Watkinsville. We are going to make it a supper club of sorts, because food makes everything better. Duh. So I am pumped to be studying Ruth with them using my friend Gretchen's study that she wrote. I've always loved the story of Ruth and am really excited about digging deeper. I didn't do much yoga or Pilates this last month, but I was able to walk more. We found some walking trails near our house, so we are ready to discover each one of them. :)




What I Was Grateful for in May
May was an amazing month. I turned 28 and Rory turned 30. This was my first married birthday, and Rory made it a really sweet time for me. We went kayaking and got dinner at one of our favorite restaurants and then came home to watch a movie and eat popcorn and cake in our new house. :) I got to tell people about my new job at the church. I was able to say goodbye see you later to my sweet kids that I taught for two years and enjoy a insanely emotional and crazy really fun last few weeks with them. The Lord also provided lots of sweet friend time, so that was good for my soul. 

Here's what I am working on in June:

Monthly:
read The Finishing School
establish a new morning routine
finish content for devotional
establish a workout routine
pray for Rory intentionally every day
begin planning anniversary trip
set up my war room

Weekly:
talk to a family member on the phone
talk to a friend on the phone
blog at least twice
write someone a note
recite James 

Daily:
pray
read the Word
encourage Ror
encourage a friend
encourage a stranger

What are you working towards these days, friends?

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Currently: June

Well, friends, we are at the halfway mark of the year! Cuh-razy as it is, this is real life. It is not a drill. 2016 is flying by and I am praying I don't miss it. Here's what's going on in this neck of the woods!



Planning: We decided what we are going to do for our first anniversary trip, and I am excited to start planning our adventures for a weekend in Chattanooga!
Enjoying: It has been so fun to be in a space that we can call our own. I love having our own home, and we have already begun to fill it with many memories. We are very much enjoying our home and our neighborhood.
Buying: I have been buying a lot of new clothes and shoes as I restock my closet-birthday money has offically been spent. Ha.
Craving: I want to eat better this summer, so I am craving salads full of fresh ingredients and yummy goodness from God's green earth. :)
Pinning: These days I am thinking about how I want each room in our house to look, so I am pinning away inspiration.

What are you up to these days friends?

Linking up with Anne and Jenna today!

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