Friday, April 14, 2017

He Is With Us

{Shelby Nickel Designs}

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We press on. 

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

And when we press on and do the hard thing

... of waiting

... of resting

... of remembering

... of abiding

He is there.

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

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

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

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The Proposal

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



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

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

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



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

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



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

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


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

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

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

*All professional photos by Elissa Ewald

Friday, April 7, 2017

He Is Enough

{via}

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

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

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

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

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



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Thursday, April 6, 2017

April Goals

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

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

Here's what I was working on last month:

Monthly

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


Weekly

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

Daily

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

The Nitty Gritty

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



What I Was Grateful for In March

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

April Goals

Monthly

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

Weekly

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

Daily 

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


What are you working on this month, friends?


Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Currently: April



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

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

Linking up with Anne and Jess today!

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

#weread2017: Everything Is Possible



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

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

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

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

Friday, March 31, 2017

Our Only Comfort

{via}

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, March 27, 2017

5 Ways to Overcome Discouragement

{Art by Jenna Kutcher}

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

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

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

1. Pray

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

2. Preach

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

3. Ask

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

4. Listen

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

Current Favorite Worship Albums

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

5. Rest

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

Friday, March 24, 2017

When Life's Just Plain Hard



This week has been a doozy, friends. It's been one of those weeks where tears have been a daily occurrence and heartache has been a theme. Yet my Jesus has been just the sweetest. And why would I expect Him to be otherwise?

As I've read through the book of Isaiah, the Lord has shown me just how fickle the hearts of His people can be. We say one thing and do another. We make promises and break them. We make commitments we can't keep. We are weak indeed.

But God's heart? His ways?

Perfect.

Good.

Kind.

Faithful.

Sure.

True.

Steadfast.

Loyal.

Loving.

Sweet.

Everything that is good or sweet or lovely that we can think of has come through His hand. And every difficult circumstance or heartbreaking situation? He's in the midst of those, too. I don't know what your week was like friends. But I pray that no matter your situation, you know that God is right there with you, in the midst of it all. He's the rescuer and redeemer, and He keeps His word. He's not like us. He doesn't go back on what He says. That's what has comforted me this week, friends. I pray you've found comfort in His love and in His word, too.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

#weread2017: Chasing Slow



So friends, I love Erin Loechner. I heard her speak at The Influence Conference a couple years back and was so challenged and encouraged by her ability to speak so eloquently and vulnerably at the same time. She spoke in a way that allowed everyone in the room to feel as though they had a seat at the table and a place to process their life in light of reality-not in a comparative sense or with unrealistic expectations, but with grace.

Erin is an accomplished woman in every sense of the word- she's a highly capable mom to two, a former HGTV show host, and a seasoned blogger. And yet in Chasing Slow: Courage to Journey Off the Beaten Path, she paints a picture of an everyday woman who sometimes gets it right and sometimes gets it wrong. She explains how fame and money became idols and allowed bitterness and anger to creep into her marriage. She explains how she struggled in her relationship with God and how she's still just learning to know Him more. She explains how her entrance into motherhood wasn't completely seamless and how that's ok. And she explains how it's ok to not be ok.

There are so many dog-eared pages in this book and so many highlighted and underlined passages that I might as well have just highlighted the whole dang thing. It's that good. She writes about her experiences with honesty and invites you into her story by helping you to own your story. Erin is approachable and witty, fun and classic. Her words are soothing and challenging, and as I read this book, I found myself wanting to self-examine and think through the way I make decisions and the perspectives I hold that influence my thought processes and the way I treat others. Turns out that our thought processes can heavily influence the way we treat our friends and family. So if our thoughts stink, our words and actions probably do, too. It's much easier to lash out against someone else instead of taking the time to work on whatever's bothering you. Erin challenges the reader to think about what's going on inside of you and asks: how can you address it to help you be who God's created you to be?

I used to think the opposite of control is chaos. But it's not. The opposite of control is surrender. 

What might God be asking you to surrender over to Him? Let's live with open hands, friends. It's easier said than done, but it's so worth it.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Everything You Wanted to Know



Ok friends, last week I asked you to come at me with your questions. I've been at this blogging thing for almost seven years now. Some of you have been with me for the whole ride, while others of you are new friends. I'm so grateful for your loyalty and encouraging words. Without further adieu, here's what you wanted to know: 

What got you interested in blogging?

I first began this blog as a little space where I could process my post-grad life and share what was going on in my new home of Chihuahua, Mexico. I graduated from the University of Georgia in May 2010 and started this blog shortly thereafter. It was a place for me to share about what I was learning, enjoying, and struggling with as I made the transition to life after college and as a missionary teacher at Colegio Binimea with New Tribes Mission.

What are a few big changes you've learned from then to now (in writing and blogging)? Do you blog less or more?

While I no longer live outside of the United States, I kept coming back to this blog because I love to write. When I was younger, I devoured books (well, I still do) and wanted to be a writer one day. This is my place to write, process, and encourage other women by helping them know that no matter what, they aren't alone in their struggles. In the beginning, I blogged a lot more; now I think I'm trying to go with quality over quantity. :)

What do you enjoy the most about a vocation in ministry and what do you wish you could see done differently? 

I absolutely love my job at Watkinsville First Baptist. The position I hold is technically called "Executive Administrative Assistant," and it is a mixed bag of administrative responsibilities and ministry opportunities. What I love is the privilege I have of serving a church I love so dearly and getting to be behind the scenes. My favorite part of my job is working with the interns we have that serve in various capacities. This role is something that wasn't "on paper" with my job description, but it is so fun. I get to disciple college girls and hang out with them, and I get paid to do it when I'd do it for free! That's pretty sweet. 

I think it would be wonderful if we came together with other churches in the area more often, because there is strength in numbers and beauty in learning from our neighbor. There are a lot of amazing churches in our area and in surrounding counties, and it would be a beautiful thing for us to unite under the name of Jesus Christ.

What are some of your favorite questions to use when discipling a young woman?

This is such a good question! I usually ask:

What is your relationship with God like right now?
What are you reading?
What are you learning?
How can I pray for you?
What are you struggling with?

Just having someone ask those questions is so encouraging because you know that there is someone in your life who cares about your well-being and wants you to thrive.

Do you have a favorite hymn and if so, which one? 

I think it is a tie between "Great is Thy Faithfulness" and "How Great Thou Art." I love reflecting on how amazing God's faithfulness is and how His ways are higher than mine. It is also incredible to think about how He created this whole world and yet He thinks of us and loves and uses us, His creation to bring glory to Him.

Which family member has had the greatest impact on your testimony?

I think that my mom has had the greatest impact on my testimony, because she is the one who led me to Christ in the first place. She has a deep abiding joy, and it is through her that I have learned what it means to be a woman of God.


What do you wish you could tell your 5-years-ago-self? 

Oh man. So. many. things. Good golly. Don't give your heart away so easily because you're desperate for attention. It's ok to say no sometimes. You don't have to be all things to all people. Be quiet and learn to listen. Know yourself and what you're comfortable with. Learn some dang boundaries. Chill the mess out. Enjoy your season. :)


Friday, March 17, 2017

When You've Had Enough



For too long, I have lived with a scarcity mentality. This mentality has not served me well. It has hurt my emotional health and strained relationships. This mentality has led me into darkness and has allowed me to believe that God is not who He truly says He is. 

But this week, in reading through Isaiah and in various life circumstances where God just straight up showed out, I realized I've had enough. I've had enough of comparing and striving. I've had enough of trying to control every little thing. I've had enough of the negativity. I've had enough of the wishing and hoping and thinking my life would be better if... fill in the blank with your chosen desire or dream that is currently unfulfilled. 

I shared this on Instagram yesterday:


Y'all can I just say something? I've spent way too much time being jealous of, comparing myself to, and resenting other women. It's dumb and stupid and all those other negative words. Because there is no point to it. When we truly come alongside each other and walk with each other on the mountain tops and in the valleys, ain't no stoppin' is. And it's just way more fun that way, amirite? I'm so incredibly grateful for the women God has providentially placed in my life as sisters. Go hug a friend today.


Because you know what, God is really good. And He's more than enough. For all of my junk. For all of my sin. For all of my shame. And He's given me a pretty dang awesome life. So here's to embracing the mess and walking in freedom of who He says He is, because when I take my eyes off of myself for more than five minutes and am still in His presence, I find that His words are true. His presence is near. And His embrace is real. I'm clinging to that these days, because it's all I know to do. 

O Lord, you are my God; I will exalt you; I will praise your name, for You have done wonderful things, plans formed of old, faithful and sure...It will be said on that day, "Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation."- Isaiah 25:1,9

God is good at being God. He is in control, and His name is worthy of my praise in spite of my circumstances and my feelings. As my friend Gretchen says, truth trumps feelings. I can lift my song of praise even when I don't feel like it, because when I do, He changes me and I am made new all over again. 




For today's giveaway, would you tell me something you're grateful for in the comments? That's all, friends. My sweet friend Taylor Oakland of Florals and Flourishes made this beautiful print that is so simple yet beautiful, and it's a perfect reminder of truth. Tell me something you're grateful for, and you might just find yourself as the winner! Love you!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

#weread2017: The Lipstick Gospel



So in full disclosure, I did not purchase this book, my friends. A couple years ago, some friends and I attended The Influence Conference, and it was in my swag bag! It's been sitting on the shelf for some time since then, and I finally got around to reading it a couple months ago. I needed a quick read and wanted something different and new, and this delivered.

The Lipstick Gospel: A story about finding God in heartbreak, the Sistine Chapel, and the perfect cappuccino is a beautiful story of how Stephanie May Wilson was found by God and wooed by Him in the most unlikely of circumstances. She writes with candor about how her life was in shambles, but she was trying to hold it all together. When it all fell apart, she was embraced and loved on by friends who knew Jesus and just wanted her to know Him, too.

Stephanie shares all about her college experience and how God used that time to lead her closer to Him and to make Himself real in her life. In all honesty, her college experience was completely different than mine. She was a sorority girl and had romantic involvements, and she studied abroad and had all kinds of adventures. But even though our experiences were different, I could still see myself in her story- she endured heartbreak and uncertainty, just as any twenty-something does.

Every misconception I had about God and Christianity had been blown out of the water. God was thrilling and dangerous and safe all at the same time. He was wild. He would send you to the corners of the world if you said you were willing and would heal your wounds with soothing tenderness. He was everything good about life wrapped up into one. He was French wine and Spanish olives and Italian cappuccinos. He was quiet times in Costa Rica and being baptized in the mountains and best friends and the creakiest bunk beds. He was fireworks and adventure and love that seeped into every corner, spreading farther than the eye can see. And I wanted more of Him.

This book drew me in because Stephanie didn't hold back. She didn't write of past mistakes with shame and regret, but rather with gut-level honesty and gratitude for how God had changed and shaped her as His beloved daughter. I highly recommend it for anyone, whether your story is similar or different. Reading other's stories is a way for us to find connection amongst those who are not like us by understanding the greatest connection we have, which is the body of Christ.

Friday, March 10, 2017

He Is All We Need



This was the first full week of Lent, friends. How are you doing? Are you finding it hard to make the Word of God a priority in your life? Are you seeing how easy it is to place other things above your relationship with God? Sometimes it is shockingly easy to just forget about the very One who gives us each breath we breathe.

This week, in reading through Isaiah for Lent, I was struck with the fact that I often place so many people, things, and values above God Himself. It is so easy to think that my husband, my job, my title, my socioeconomic status, my outward appearance, or my friend group define who I am. But this week, as I read through chapters in Isaiah that talk of rebellious people and warring nations, it was easy to see that so often, we get it so wrong.

Isaiah 9:2-7 is often a passage we read at Christmastime to remind us of the prophecy of Christ's birth foretold. It reads:

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, 
on them light has shone.
You have multiplied the nation;
you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you 
as with joy at the harvest,
as they are glad when they divide the spoil.
For the yoke of his burden,
and the staff for his shoulder,
the rod of his oppressor, 
you have broken as on the day of Midian.
For every boot of the trampling warrior in battle tumult
and every garment rolled in blood 
will be burned as fuel for the fire.
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace 
there will be no end, 
on the throne of David, and over his kingdom, 
to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this. 

In the midst of great sorrow and wickedness and rebellion, God breaks through with a promise. He tells His children of a man who will come and change the world, not through His power and His desire to reign as the ultimate authority, but through love, peace, and grace- authority in its purest and most beautiful form.

In Isaiah 13-17, there is a jarring description of God's judgement on various nations who have completely turned away from Him and are living in utter darkness. It is a strange juxtaposition after reading of the goodness that is to come, is it not?

Right next to the passage in Isaiah 9, I wrote this excerpt from the She Reads Truth Advent plan:

"If the future depends on whether or not I'm on my best behavior, it is bleak indeed. But the prophets foretell of Christ." 

Do you see it my friends? Every single part of the Bible points to our greatest need- Christ. We can do nothing without Him. We read the Bible and see all of these stories about people groups who turned away from Him and participated in horrendous acts, and we may think, "Man, these people were so jacked up!" But we're all jacked up messes without Christ. When we read of the people's rebellion and refusal to turn to the Father, we can be reminded of our rebellious ways- through pride, dishonesty, jealousy, strife, bitterness, and fear. We, too, are a rebellious people.

Thanks be to God for sending His Son to rewrite the narrative and give us our only hope through His Prince of Peace.

{Image via Life Lived Beautifully}

Friends, today's giveaway is a Give Me Jesus journal from Life Lived Beautifully! The Give Me Jesus journal was created by my sweet friend Gretchen to help women dig deeper into the Word of God. I have owned several and am currently using a 40-day version through Lent, and I love it! All you have to do to enter is leave a comment below. Share what God is teaching you, ask a question, or leave encouragement for others to see! Winner will be announced on Monday, so you've got all weekend. :) Have a lovely Friday, friends.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

#weread2017: You Are Free Review


I was first introduced to Rebekah Lyons through her first book, Freefall to Fly. I remember weeping as I read through the pages, because even though I couldn't relate exactly to everything she experienced by overcoming her panic and anxiety, for some reason, her words deeply resonated with me. 

Rebekah's sophomore book, You Are Free: Be Who You Already Are is no different. Each chapter went deeper and deeper and brought truth through the beautiful art of storytelling. She simply tells her story, shares about all that God did in and through her as a result, and then challenges you, the reader, to consider how God could change, mold, and free you, too. This book was like a warm hug, as Rebekah's journey to freedom helped assure me that we are all always in progress. I usually picked up this book in the evenings and would read it after a long day as I soaked in the tub, and it was sometimes my book that I read before bed. As an avid journaler, underliner, and highlighter of all the things, I'll definitely be going back to work through each chapter. With every chapter, Rebekah includes a few questions to consider. These questions beg you to dig deeper and be completely honest with yourself and with God. 

Growing up, I never understood my longing for approval was really an unquenched thirst for Jesus and his unconditional love for me. But Jesus came and rescued me in my thirst. He freed from anxiety, and now he wanted to free me from the spiritual weight of striving...This understanding was another step in my journey to freedom. I'd tried to quench my thirst for the goodness of God by drinking the world's water, but I could never get enough. The world's water only created more drought and famine. 

Instead, I needed learn a holier thirst, the thirst for the presence of God, for revival, for small ministry in the church. I needed more of his goodness, not more of the world's acclaim, and I hoped to carry this goodness to a world thirsting for the same thing. God was already walking with me into the goodness; I just hadn't recognized it yet.

You Are Free invites the reader to taste more of Jesus. As Rebekah shares her journey from striving and perfectionism to knowing and loving Jesus more each day, you'll want a taste of the freedom she's got. I couldn't recommend this book more to anyone who is thirsty for more of Him.


Monday, March 6, 2017

Ask Me Anything


Well, friends, I've been at this blogging thing for almost seven years. It seems strange to say that, but it began as a place where I processed everything I was going through as a recent college grad and kept friends and family abreast of my adventures in Chihuahua, Mexico. Now it's a place where I've shared about everything-the good, the bad, the ugly- of a twenty-something's life. :) It's a place where I feel like I've grown as a writer and a person. And you've been there all along, friends. Thank you for that. 

Today, I'm taking your questions. I want to know what you want to know! This space is where I share my life, and I try to do so honestly. So today, ask me anything. Leave a question in the comments below, and in a few days, I'll post with my answers. 

Friday, March 3, 2017

The Beauty of Lent

{Beautiful painting and photo by Ruth Simons of Gracelaced}

So technically, we're only on our third day of Lent, but this is the week where set our intentions and commit to making this 40 days about more Jesus and less us. That's the whole point of this thing anyways- not to lose weight, to be "better," or to look good in the eyes of our brother or sister, but to enjoy Jesus more. I've so enjoyed the She Reads Truth "You Are Mine" plan through the book of Isaiah this week and am looking forward to learning even more. There are some thoughts from Day 4 of that plan that really captured me and keep rolling around in my head:


  • Followers of Christ no longer fear punishment because Jesus received it for us. The cross was enough and no further penalty is necessary. 
  • Pain or brokenness or even societal strife can be a severe mercy. This strange yet good brokenness is an opportunity to learn and repent and cling to God like never before. God beckons us to turn back from the path of destruction and choose the path that leads to life, and the good news is, it is never, ever too late.

And I loved these points from the Gospel Coalition:


  1. Lent affords us the opportunity to search the depths of our sin and experience the heights of God's love
  2. Lent affords us an opportunity to probe the sincerity of our discipleship.
  3. Lent provides us an opportunity to reflect on our mortality.
  4. Lent gives us the opportunity to move towards our neighbor in charity.
  5. Lent prepares us to celebrate the wonder and promise of Jesus' resurrection on Easter Sunday.
And lastly, this post from Life Lived Beautifully encouraged me to think about the real reason for Ash Wednesday. Rachael writes:

The Old Testament records ashes being used as a sign of penitence and mourning. Ash Wednesday is intended to make us pause and remember that we are human, we are sinful, and we are in need of a Savior. It was created as a way of relating to Christ in His suffering.

I'm looking forward to learning more, digging deeper, and enjoying Jesus in the weeks ahead. What have you learned so far during this Lenten season?




Don't forget! Today is the last day to win this beautiful 8x10 art print from Lindsay Gilmore Illustration! Be sure to enter today, and the winner will be announced tomorrow! 





Thursday, March 2, 2017

March Goals



March is here, my friends, I am so excited about what is in store. February was a short month (as always) that flew by, and I really enjoyed it. There were so many fun things in those twenty eight days! Here's what I was working on in February:

Monthly

meal plan March
blog plan March
Young Living March plans
work on blog pages
Blog Life
write About Me for blog
no social media on Sundays

Weekly

work out 5x (definitely haven't done this yet lol)
call a family member
call a friend
write someone a note

Daily

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

The Nitty Gritty

I've really wanted to work on my blog and have had lots of creative juices about how to rebrand this little space. :) I decided to keep my goals for February pretty simple and focused, and I was able to get most of those things done! If you look at the top of this site, you'll see that I finally added pages to organize my posts and wrote an About Me! The Blog Life course by the ladies of A Beautiful Mess has really helped me make goals and think about what I want this little space to be and just what exactly I want to do with it. 


Yes, we ate fries at two different places. #yolo


What I Was Grateful for in February

February started off with the Chosen for Life Choosing to Care Conference for foster care and adoption. We've talked about pursuing one or both of those options in the future, and we learned so much. It was truly a powerful weekend and full of so much truth and encouragement to care for the orphans and widows right in our own backyard. Later in the month, we had a super fun Valentine's Day celebration this year. I decided to be grateful for what came my way, and we had so much fun. Rory suggested we do a progressive dinner of sorts, and we ate at three of our favorite Athens spots (The Grill, Trappeze Pub/Highwire Lounge, and Zombie Coffee and Donuts) before going to see Penny and Sparrow in concert. It truly was one of my favorite date nights we've had. I also had my very first podcast interview in February, which was super exciting and a lot of fun. It was fun to do another closet challenge in February as well, and while we didn't have the normal February weather I had anticipated, I mixed and matched all kinds of things from my wardrobe and created some new outfits with items I had long neglected.


Some of my favorite looks from #funflirtyFebruary

March Goals

Monthly

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


Weekly

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

Daily

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


What are you working on lately, friends?

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