Sunday, July 31, 2016

A Prayer for the School Year



For the first time in six years, I will not be attending pre-planning. I will not be decorating a classroom or looking at new curriculum. I will not be making plans to contact parents or drafting a class newsletter. For the first time in six years, I will not be teaching. There are plenty of emotions that go along with that reality, but I know that God has me where I am for a reason. So I pray all the more for the teachers I know (and don't know) because teaching is dang hard. You're a counselor, nurse, and many other professions all wrapped up in one little bow. You're constantly on call and your emotions are fried. You give and give and give and give and don't expect much in return. It is a calling, and it is a privilege- not for the faint of heart. But for those who do it each year, day in and day out- we thank you.

Lord, thank you for the teachers who give sacrificially of their time and lives in order to unconditionally love Your children.
Thank you for calling them into a profession where they can make a difference every day.
For the teachers who are tired, please renew their strength.
For the teachers who are excited, please sustain their joy.
For the principals who are overwhelmed, help them to lead well and serve their staff.
Give each teacher an attitude of love and patience, especially when the days are long.
Give each teacher joy unspeakable and peace unexplainable, even when they don't want to send their babies home each day.
Give each teacher arms welcome to hug and lips ready to praise and encourage.
Give them the boundaries they need at school so they can also love their families well at home.
Please protect each child and help them to learn and grow.
Please instill Your confidence in each child and help them to enjoy school.
Please show each child their God-given potential and give them the keys to reach it.
Thank you for the parents who entrust their children to others every day.
Thank you for the parents who work with their children at home to ensure their success.
Thank you for the mamas and daddies who love their kids and help them to know You more.
For the mamas and daddies who are ready to send their kids back to school, we ask that You give them the patience they need to savor these last days of summer.
Lord, please make this school year one that changes lives by drawing teachers, students, and parents unto You.

Thank you for the privilege and joy it is to have a place to learn about this world You created.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Looking for Lovely Weekend Recap



So this weekend was incredible-one of the best I've had in a while. But I have to go a little further back than this weekend to give you some history. I've been stalking following Annie Downs for a while now, and I relate to her as she shares with vulnerability and truth but also with a good dose of humor. She is an amazing woman who loves fiercely, that is evident in the stories she tells and the people who surround her. Her writing forces you to wake up and pay attention to the life God has given you, moving you from tears to laughter within the pages of each story she pens. I've been joking for a while that I was going to be her BFF if we ever met, and y'all, after this weekend, I feel so very welcomed into her story and her heart for Jesus and His desire for us all to truly enjoy this one life we've been given.

I found out about this weekend early on as a part of the launch team for Looking for Lovely, and I knew I go. My sweet husband encouraged me to go, even if it meant I were going solo, and bought me the ticket for an anniversary gift. (He's pretty much perfect.) Because I was born in Nashville, we still have family friends that we are in contact with, and I knew I could stay with my sweet friend, Ms. Anita who used to babysit me. :) I asked around when I first got my ticket, but was unable to find a buddy to accompany me. "Oh well, guess I'm going solo," I thought to myself. Then in June, I reached out to a girl I had met just once to see if she wanted to go to coffee. She and I are both in young married small groups at church that meet on Tuesday evenings, and we had met at a joint gathering back in the fall. Since then we had become friends on Facebook and begun following each other on Instagram. I saw that we liked some of the same things and that she blogged, too, so we met up for coffee and clicked so well! We discovered our mutual obsession love for Annie, and she bought a ticket within days. Moral of the story: GOD IS GOOD AND BIG AND AWESOME.



This weekend was no ordinary "women's conference"- it was an event of great proportions that far exceeded my expectations. When we arrived on Friday evening, we were welcomed into the fellowship of Forest Hills Baptist that had been decorated with such care and intention. There were lights and round tables, inviting conversation and the start of new friendships. We were served a BBQ meal that was so good it made you want to slap your mama, then welcomed by Annie and her team. There was so much laughter and anticipation in the air as we all waited to see what the night would hold. After dinner and a little intro, we were treated to a mini-concert by the amazing up and coming trio, Post Monroe, and then worshiped with the beautiful Meredith Andrews. Annie's own dad gave a sweet and hilarious introduction (even though we all already knew how awesome she is).

Annie shared a little bit of her heart with us on Friday evening, inviting us into her story and the heart behind her book and the event. We learned that when Jesus does something, we need to throw a party and tell people about it. That's something I can get behind. After a wonderful time of worship and listening together, we all got in a receiving line and got a picture with Annie in the photo booth- so fun!

Saturday morning we met and walked around Radnor Lake, a beautiful trail in a state park. We then headed back to do an awesome workout with B. Fab Fitness. Think Zumba, cardio dance, and a whole lot of sweat. I absolutely loved it. I love me some Jesus, but I also like to shake it. Ain't nothin wrong with that when He uses it to bring you confidence in who He's made you to be.



On Saturday afternoon, we enjoyed another delicious lunch at The Sutler and heard the story and heart behind Fashionable, an amazing company that makes absolutely gorgeous products to support women by providing sustainable income and giving them a leg up out of poverty. I've been following them since they were a part of Mocha Club, and I'm quite the fan, so it was neat to hear their heart as well. We then loaded up our awesome coach buses- affectionately named after Annie's three favorite beverages- and were on our way to the adorable 12 South district for some shopping. Each store was unique and fun, and we found little treasures to take home as reminders of this truly lovely weekend.



I've been to various women's conferences and events, and this one was by far one of my favorite experiences. There was a perfect balance of fun, faith, and food. :) We were able to meet new people, interact with our favorite author, and learn about how much Jesus loves and cares for us. All ages and stages of life were represented, which is a huge credit to Annie's reliability and her ability to allow others into her story, regardless of where they are. A huge thank you to Annie and her team for having the guts to take on such an undertaking and for all of the hard work that you did to pull this off and make us feel so loved and welcomed. Every little touch- from the handwritten tags on our awesome swag bags to the silly names for the buses to the heartfelt hugs- they all counted and made this weekend one I'll never forget. And on this Monday, as I'm back to the daily grind, I've had my eyes peeled to the lovely all around me, and God has come through, just like He always does.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Zesty Cucumber and Tomato Salad

Well, y'all, it is the dead middle of summer. As my friend Lyndsey once, remarked, "It is hot as fire outside." And friends, when it is hot as fire outside, why start a fire in your home by heating up the oven or stovetop? I love to cook, and the oven and stove still get their fair amount of play during the summer, but sometimes it is just too. dang. hot.

Enter the salad. The salad gets a lot of hard knocks by my sweet husband, but I'm bound to make him a salad lover if it's the last thing I do. When we went to Chattanooga for our anniversary trip, our sweet Airbnb hostess made us this salad to refresh us from our road trip, and we got home, I just had to copy it. Rory brought home a bunch of cucumbers from the produce stand at work, my pastor gave me a big cucumber from his garden, and another coworker has been sharing home grown tomatoes. I had to do something with all of that lovely produce! This morning I made my third batch of the last week and a half. To say I'm obsessed would be an understatement. So without further adieu, here's the easiest thing you'll make this summer:



Zesty Cucumber and Tomato Salad

Ingredients:

1 cucumber, chopped
2 big tomatoes, chopped
1/4 red onion, sliced thinly
juice of half of 1 lime
1 tablespoon EVOO
1/2 packet zesty Italian dressing mix
salt and pepper to taste

Put all of your ingredients into a bowl or container that has a lid. Give it all a big shake and then place in the refrigerator to chill for a couple hours so all the flavors can marinate and taste the yummiest. If you're low on time or just super hungry, you can definitely just eat it immediately.

A few fun additions/amendments to the recipe:

Radishes for extra crunch
A few sprigs of mint, parsley, or cilantro
Lemon juice instead of lime juice
Balsamic vinegar

What fun meals are you making to keep you refreshed in the heat?

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Spark Joy In Real Life

Ok y'all. The Konmari method is no joke. Tell that to my closet, my book collection, and all of the papers that never seem to stop piling up in every corner of the house. I may have read Spark Joy a couple months ago, but I am still working on putting everything I learned into practice. One of the key foundations of the Konmari method is that you ensure that all of your possessions are actually something that bring you joy- not just clutter or things you no longer need. I have purged and re-purged quite frequently in the last few years as I have moved five times in the last four years, but I was still holding on to a lot of junk. My closet can prove that much. It's gotten better, and I hope to continue to streamline its contents.




One Sunday afternoon, Rory and I both decided to do a major clean-up of our closets. I dumped a lot of stuff from a big trunk onto the floor of my closet and sorted through it. Then, I went through my dresser drawers and purged while also reorganizing their contents using the Konmari folding method. People...that junk works! I thought that my dresser was too small and that I needed to get rid of more things (which I did...) but I also found so much more space when I folded my clothes in neat little rectangles. I love opening my drawers now and seeing all the bright and beautiful colors jump out at me.

{via}



The next stop on our tidying marathon will be our books and papers. Lord help us, because I love to read, and I really, really, like paper. :) Have you ever tried to tidy specific areas of your home? What worked for you?


Friday, July 15, 2016

What Love Is



It's been a year since I walked down the aisle to Rory Alexander. One whole year. I cannot believe all that God has done in this last year- we both have new jobs, we've moved and bought a house (!!!), and it just seems like the good times keep coming. God has given us a community of friends and family that surround us and made this first year so wonderful. We've traveled, explored, and learned so much about one another. And everyone keeps telling us that it gets better with time. I think I just might be starting to believe them.





The love we had for each other in the beginning was so bright-eyed and fun, and now I feel that our love is so much deeper. I can't wait for how I will feel when we are twenty years in with kids and so much more history between us and a family that we call our own. This little space was a place where I was able to process, and y'all were so gracious to me as we found our way. I still stand by my thoughts that I wrote just a few months into our first year- marriage isn't hard. Life is hard. But marriage is good. And life is good.

When I dreamed about being married as a little girl, I often envisioned flowers, romantic dinners, and a perfect little home. We're only a year into this, and already my perspective on what love is has changed so much.

Love is when you take out the trash when you really would rather sit on the couch.
Love is being a shoulder to cry on and a hand to hold onto.
Love is when Ror makes dinner because I'm an emotional mess and just can't even.
Love is watching a movie you'd rather sleep through- and staying awake. (Right, babe? ;))
Love is driving during a road trip when you're tired, too.
Love is being excited when your best friend comes home from work.
Love is loading and unloading the dishwasher.
Love is making brownies just because.
Love is a card on your dashboard to wish you a good day.
Love is choosing to let it go instead of fighting to have the last word and be heard.
Love is getting dressed up for a date night and getting the appetizers and drinks, too.
Love is silly nick names that are super lame and mushy because they're just more fun that way.
Love is early morning cuddle sessions.
Love is late night prayers after a bad dream.
Love is tolerating hangry diatribes.
Love is breakfast in bed.
Love is Netflix and chill (in a fort, of course) for date night.
Love is a look across the room that needs no words.
Love is laughing until you cry and can't breathe because your stomach hurts so bad.
Love is way too much fun.
Love is being known in all the best and worst ways.
Love is hard.
Love is good.
Love is worth it.



Happy anniversary, Rory Alexander. I love you more than words.

More thoughts on marriage in previous posts here:

on marriage so far
The Monster in My Mind
The Monster in My Mind Part II
Real Talk with My Husband
My Husband is Not Jesus

All images via Elissa Ewald Photography

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

July Goals

It's July! A month of celebration- Independence Day, our first anniversary, and and fun travel adventures on the docket. :) I've been waiting for July for a while, and I am so glad it has finally arrived. In June, I began my new job at WFBC, and I have now settled in and am enjoying my time so much. It has definitely been an interesting transition from the world of teaching to church life, and I am really loving it. God knows me better than I knew myself, and He knew just exactly what I needed.

Just for a refresher, here's what I was 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




The Nitty Gritty

June was a really great month. I started my new job at WFBC and have really enjoyed my morning time for the first time in a while. It has been really nice to be able to ease into my morning and not feel rushed. I have been able to establish a morning routine that really works for me, and it has also helped Ror not feel so stressed. My new morning routine is:

6:00/6:15 - get up, quiet time
7:00- iron clothes, get lunches ready, tidy up, pray with Ror before he leaves
7:30- work out or blog
8:00- get ready, eat breakfast
8:30- leave for work

This routine has been so wonderfully refreshing. When I was teaching, I got up around 5:45/6:00, and I had to be out the door by 7:15ish. ;) It was much more frenzied and I felt bad as Ror was stressed getting out the door because I was always pushing it to the last minute. Timeliness is something that I struggle with, but I want to be more considerate and respectful, so it is also something I am working on. :)

In June, I was able to finish reading The Finishing School and will have a review up for that soon; it was so so good! This past month I also finished my content for a devotional I have written and am now putting some finishing touches on it. Hopefully I will be able to tell you more about that soon! :)

Annndddd we painted our master bedroom and bathroom! It was kinda stressful and trying  mostly fun. The end results are awesome; I'm sure I'll do a more official post on that in the near future. We also bought a new desk for our office/media room space and moved the old desk to the room which will now be my war room/office/workout room. :)

I've definitely struggled with my James memorization lately because I just haven't had the accountability for it, so I am going to try to make reminders on my phone to do it at certain points during the day at work and at home.

What I Was Grateful for in June

In June, I finally cut my hair, and I love my new style. :) One of my best friends welcomed her sweet son into the world, which was very exciting. I loooove my new job. Bible study every other Wednesday with the Watty Hotties has been a blast. We went to the beach for a couple days and I've been able to see lots of friends I hadn't seen in a while plus make new friends and cultivate some growing friendships. June was good to me.



What I'm Working on in July

Monthly:
put the finishing touches on my devotional
organize the office/war room
tidy my papers and books using the Konmari method
meal plan for August
budget meeting
get brows done (self-care, peeps...gotta plan for it)
set up a prayer schedule with Ror
get master bathroom organized/decorated
catch up with Andrea

Weekly
work out/be active for 20-30 minutes 5 x a week
call a friend
call a family member
write someone a note
blog at least 2x
weekly gratitude with Ror

Daily
pray
read the Word
read James
encourage Ror
encourage someone else

That's all, folks! What are you working towards this month?

Friday, July 8, 2016

Why #BlackLivesMatter



Every morning, I wake up, go out to our living room, and open the blinds, ready and anxious to see the sun rise. This morning I woke up with a heavy, aching heart. I haven't fully been able to process the most recent murders of Alton Sterling and Philander Castile. Each morning I anticipate the sunrise because the painted clouds across the sky remind me of God's faithfulness. In a world gone crazy, the colors I see across the sky tell me that there is some semblance of peace that we can hold on to. And that peace can only be found in Jesus.



I've struggled with these recent deaths because I am really tired of seeing the same story over and over again. As a person of color my heart aches for all of the people who have spent their blood and tears to work to eradicate hate and effect change in our nation. My heart aches because one day it could be my father, uncle, cousin, or friend on the news. My heart aches for my sweet, sweet babies who I've taught through the years who will one day have to learn a very hard lesson- just comply no matter what-your life is at risk.

My heart aches because these men who are being killed are image bearers of God. They are fathers, sons, brothers, friends, and employees. And yet they are seen as a threat and viewed with eyes of fear. When we allow fear to taint our actions, sin always follows. We all have prejudices in our hearts. If you think you're an exception to the rule, sit down.

Your traces of prejudice may surface when you move to the other side of the street when "someone shady" is walking near you. You may believe that interracial marriage is not ok. You may think that some people deserve to die for being "so dumb."



Fear leads to judgement, which leads to prejudice, which leads to hate. The level of hate in our world literally terrifies and overwhelms me. I just don't know what to do anymore. This morning I woke up feeling so sad for these men who were killed and for their families and friends who have been affected, and then my husband informs me that five police officers have been killed in Dallas, with a total of ten shot; others are wounded. This is too much. I'm so done with all of this hate. I don't even know what to say anymore.

What I do know is this: Martin Luther King,  Jr. stated that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. Where are there traces of injustice in your neighborhood? If you don't think they exist, you're not paying attention. Open your eyes. See those who are ignored and ostracized and then think about what you could be doing to show them grace and compassion.

If you are not a person of color, please do not feel as though you have to have just the right thing to say. No one does. If you are a person of color, don't be overly critical when people who are not of color attempt to converse. We have to start somewhere.

Black lives matter because we are created in the image of God. Period. When we say that black lives matter, we aren't invalidating the value of other lives. We are simply calling attention to the value of a race that has been overlooked, oppressed, and overly misunderstood for centuries. Lord Jesus, please come quickly.

Further reading:

Obama on police shootings: 'This is not just a black issue'
A Cop's Job is Difficult, But It Can Be Done Without Killing Humans
Minn. governor says race played role in fatal police shooting during traffic stop
Jesse Williams- Full Speech at BET Awards 2016 (don't read the comments on this one, just listen)
Dallas sniper attack: 5 officers killed during protests against police
Alton Sterling shooting: Homeless man made 911 call, source says
I don't think I'm allowed to kill something just because I'm frightened
Black female police officer speaks out

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Currently: July

Well my friends, it's that time again! July is here and with it 100+ temps, so I've definitely been enjoying the air conditioning. How about y'all? Is it hot where you are? I can't believe the highs we've seen lately and am greatly enjoying being inside or at least taking walks in the early morning when it is somewhat pleasant! Here is what's been going on around these parts.



Toasting : I haven't been toasting much at all since the heat is so intense; ha. :)
Going: This weekend we are going to Chattanooga to celebrate our anniversary and I am so excited! It will be fun to get away just the two of us and explore a city that we love.
Smelling: Last weekend we were at the beach and stopped in at a local farmer's market before we dropped off some friends at the airport. We picked up an essential oil scented candle titled "Happy Hippie," and it smells so good.
Wearing:  I basically wear my denim shorts and a tee any time we go somewhere that is outside of work hours these days.
Wishlisting : We are still loving our new house and are so grateful for this place to call home. I've been pinning away all kinds of cute home storage ideas, paint colors, and accessories to make it our own, so the wishlist is definitely growing!

What are you up to currently?

Linking up with Anne and Jenna today!


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