Posts in Unexpected Seasons
What It’s Like to Live Fully in Singleness While Still Hoping for Marriage
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A few weeks ago, I sat across from a friend at my little dining room table, coffees in hand (of course), talking about life, faith, callings, and building God’s Kingdom from wherever we are. At one point in our conversation, my friend looked at me and said she thought I was living a wonderful and full life for the Lord. She saw God’s work in all I was doing. And she celebrated where I was and the opportunities He had given me.

Her words meant so much to me, because sometimes, as a single woman, one of the greatest challenges I face is devaluing where I’m at in life and what God is doing in and through me. I haven’t hit the major milestones our culture puts so much emphasis on — milestones I long for — like getting married and having kids — and so it’s easy to compare what God is doing in my life to others’ lives and feel both left behind and lacking purpose.

But I am realizing that no one season or calling has more value than another when our hearts are focused on making much of this life for Him. We all have the same call to know Him and build His Kingdom, and realizing that has been bringing me so much freedom.

I’ve also realized that I can both make the most of my singleness and also still hope and pray for marriage. The two are not mutually exclusive. I don’t have to suppress my hopes and dreams for marriage, or be embarrassed by them. And I also don’t have to hinge my life around them...

If you'd like to read the rest of this post, head on over to Chelsea's blog Trials Bring Joy. I am both honored and excited to be included in her current series What It's Like To.

Cultivating What Matters: My 2018 Goals
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My focal verse for this year is Mark 12:30 (AMP), and I am writing all of my goals with this verse in mind.

“And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul (life), and with all your mind (thought, understanding), and with all your strength.”

I want to live 2018 completely devoted to Christ, loving, knowing, and serving Him with my entire being.

With that in mind, I've created the vision board below and settled on the following goals for the year ahead...

1. Know God more and trust Him more.

Why: I want my pursuit of knowing God to be the center of everything I do. And as I grow in knowledge of Him, my trust and confidence in Him will also grow. I've also realized I have been struggling to trust Him with some of my deepest desires (like marriage), and I want to completely surrender that desire into His Hands this year and TRUST that He has a good plan for my life AND for those desires specifically.

Starting Steps (how):

  • Join the Well Watered Women community and commit to Word Before World this year
  • Study the Bible with my heart and my mind (Jen Wilkin); I hope to focus much of my study time this year in the Old Testament, since I completed a study on the New Testament last year
  • Study the attributes of God (and choose one attribute each month to study and meditate on)
  • Pray the promises of God
  • Cultivate an expectant faith (and write and publish my devotional on that topic)
  • Memorize scripture (see "practice praise" goal for more on this)
  • Learn more about fasting and consider a fast at the beginning of the year to draw near to God and hear His voice (“There are walls of intercession that will never be scaled by dispassionate religious service. But when you take steps to break out of the ordinary and worship Him as He deserves, you will begin to see facets of His being you never knew existed. He will begin to share secrets with you about Himself, His plans, His desires for you. When you worship God as He deserves, He is magnified.” Jentezen Franklin)

2. Grow STRONGER (mentally, physically, and spiritually).

Why: I LOVE what my sweet friend Bailey had to say about building strength: " I want the Lord’s best for my life, and I want to be able to wholeheartedly run after the dreams HE has for my life as best as I can for as long as He calls me to it.” YES and AMEN. And I love how the Amplified translation speaks about this very idea in Proverbs 31:17: "She equips herself with strength [spiritual, mental, and physical fitness for her God-given task] And makes her arms strong." I want to do all I can to be equipped for everything God calls me to.

Starting Steps (how):

  • Continue working with my personal trainer twice a week
  • Incorporate at least one day of cardio each week
  • Yoga
  • Choose foods that nourish and fuel my body; consider doing Whole30 and/or Daniel diet fasting plan at the beginning of the year

3. Practice praise.

Why: Praise is powerful, and I want to make it a more regular part of my life (especially in prayer). “Praise is really the most vital preparatory ministry to the working of miracles. Miracles are wrought by spiritual power. Spiritual power is always proportioned to our faith.” Dr. Jowett, Streams in the Desert

Starting Steps (how):

  • Choose an attribute of God each month to include in the Adoration section of my prayer journal; spend the month learning more about this attribute of God and praising Him in prayer for it
  • Memorize scripture that correlates with the attribute I am studying each month
  • Practice praising Him in prayer before I've seen the answers; praise Him with confidence that He WILL answer and that the way in which He answers will be GOOD because HE is good
  • Fill out my praise reports each month in my The Best is Yet to Come Planner from Horacio Printing
  • Fill out the answered prayer section of my Val Marie Paper prayer journal each month, and take the time to pray a prayer of thanksgiving for all God did and provided

4. Be humble, willing, and faithful right where God has me.

Why: I have been so encouraged reading about Ruth and Mary these past few months. They were both women who were humble and willing to be faithful right where they were, trusting God and being obedient, even in the face of hardship, unknowns, and lots of uncertainty. I want to live with this kind of heart posture this year...I want to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit and brave to take action when prompted. I want to be faithful right where I am, making the most of every day and every opportunity all for Him and His glory. And I don't want to miss out on the season I'm in because my eyes and heart are too focused on what's ahead. "Where you are right now is God's place for you. Live and obey and love and believe right there."  1 Cor 7:17 MSG There are so many adventures to be had, ways to serve, and opportunities to fall more in love with Jesus right where I am.

Starting Steps (how):

  • Be a good steward of all the blessings, gifts, and margin in my life (this will sound familiar as it was one of my main 2017 goals!); I feel it’s vitally important that I continue to intentionally steward my life and resources for Him
  • Simplify at home (clothing, office, books, etc.)
  • Create a new monthly budget (and be more intentional with saving, spending, and giving)
  • Continue to explore the calling and dreams I have to study and teach His word as a Light Giver in the Kingdom through creating devotionals, blogs, journals, online studies, and being a part of the women's ministry team at my church
  • Prioritize people + relationships (focus on building strong, meaningful relationships and connections with others); continue to disciple women at my church

5. Wait well (purposefully, not passively).

Why: "Love is patient..." I have been reminded recently that it truly is an honor to wait and pray for my future husband. I don't want to lose sight of that when the waiting gets hard and frustrating. And while it's true that I don't know when or if my waiting in singleness will end, I do know it is changing me in the process and teaching me to rely on the Lord more completely. And I know that if I am blessed with marriage, this season of waiting will have shaped me into the wife I will be.

Starting Steps (how):

  • Continue to pray through the book 31 Prayers For My Future Husband (January marks my ninth month of praying this daily!)
  • Live fully for God right where I am (a purposeful life NOW, not a passive one)! Use Natalie's Wholeheartedly Devoted collection for encouragement in this! (See goal #4 for more on this)
  • Surrender my future daily into His Hands, trusting that He will always know better than I know
  • Pray and wait for the story that gives Him the most glory — even if it looks different than what I or culture — expect (be open to new possibilities)
  • Date intentionally (always keeping Christ at the center)

 

So there you have it! My five main goals for 2018. :) I'm so excited to get these written and to be looking at the year ahead with faith and hope. My heart and hands are open to his leading, and I'm excited to see all He has in store.

Did you set goals for the year? If so, I'd love to hear about them!

 

Cultivating What Matters: 2018 Powersheets Prep
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Powersheets time is one of my favorite times of the year, and I'm excited to be making some space these last few weeks of 2017 to dig into my 2018 Powersheets and get equipped for the new year ahead. The snow is falling outside, my tree is twinkling, and I'm drinking a hot mug of coffee from my favorite Birds Don't Worry mug.

I'm ready. :)

2017 was one of the hardest years I’ve had in a long time. It was a season of broken and redirected dreams, but through it all, I have seen His faithfulness to me, and I know He has been growing me and strengthening me.

I know the best is yet to come, and my story isn’t over yet.

As I began writing my celebration list for the year, I realized how much GOOD truly did come out of a year I'm tempted to label BAD. It was a hard year, but it wasn't a bad year. God is good on the mountaintop and in the valley. And He doesn't waste a thing. I'm praising Him for ALL the goodness He brought, even in the midst of challenges.

HERE'S WHAT I AM CELEBRATING ABOUT 2017:

  • New adventures (my trip to Nashville and getting to reconnect with a sweet friend)
  • Learning and growing (I read and was encouraged by so many good books)
  • Praising through the pain (I got to worship with my sister and with some of my favorite worship artists this year: Rend Collective and Elevation Worship)
  • Bold prayers (even in the face of disappointment, I found God prompting me to keep praying boldly, and I’m excited to see the ways He answers each of those prayers)
  • I went deeper in my Bible study and am so excited to continue this more in-depth study in 2018
  • I redesigned my website!
  • I began writing my women's devotional Expectant Faith (coming in 2018! Stay tuned!) :)
  • I grew STRONGER - emotionally, spiritually, and physically
  • I started working with a personal trainer in September and have been strength training twice a week for the past four months —  I'm so encouraged by this progress!
  • I completed the Whole30 program
  • I shared my story in Laura Dudek's Written Bible study (releasing in January 2018)
  • I have another piece of writing being published, too (I'll share where in January!)
  • I took another God get-away in June, and it was such a sweet and refreshing time

AND HERE ARE A FEW LESSONS I LEARNED IN 2017:

  • I want to practice praise more often. Doubt, discouragement, and comparison stole my focus and my joy much too often this year. I want to live so fully surrendered to God that I trust and praise Him even when the story looks like it has gone terribly wrong.
  • I want the story that gives Him the most glory — even if it looks different than what I (or culture) expects.
  • Doubt often leads to discouragement and despair. It's so important to remain anchored and immersed in His truth. I want to focus on studying and praising His attributes this coming year.
  • I can trust God with my dreams and desires — even when it feels or seems like I can't.
  • I can do hard things. But not because of my strength. Because of HIS.
  • Waiting is a disciplined refusal to act before God acts (Eugene Peterson). God ALWAYS knows best. So often I trust myself, rather than trusting Him. But I want to wait for the story He knows is best. I want to trust Him even when things don't seem to make any sense.
  • Chasing dreams — even God-given dreams — should never replace chasing God.
  • Prayer changes things — and it changes ME.
  • I am a Teacher, or Light Giver, in the Kingdom (Five-Fold Ministry Assessment); I want to study and teach His Word, using my creativity and curiosity to build His Kingdom.

I'm going to end with a great question Lara asked in her 2018 Cultivate What Matters goal-setting series:

What’s the one thing you most want to cultivate in 2018?

The thing I most want to cultivate in 2018 is an expectant faith. I want to trust God completely with my most precious dreams and desires (like marriage and family and teaching and writing for Him). And I want to live with the kind of hope in Him that NEVER gives up, the kind of hope that knows He’s a God who can flip the script at any time.

How are you doing today, friends? I would love to hear from you in the comments. Tell me about your year, what you've learned, how God's worked...I'm cheering you all on as you reflect on the year behind and look forward with HOPE and FAITH to the year ahead. :)

Reflecting on My 2017 Word of the Year: FULLY
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I started this year at a much different place than where I'm ending it.

Last year ended with a flourish, and as 2017 began, I found myself in a full and hopeful season of building, investing, and planting. 2017 looked to be the year that would bring a long-awaited-for and long-prayed-for harvest.

But sometimes, things don't go according to plan...

At the beginning of the year when I selected FULLY as my word for 2017, I wrote: I love that the dictionary describes fully as completely, entirely, to the furthest extent. It’s giving something your ALL, holding nothing back. That’s the kind of faith-filled life I want to live. One that trusts and seeks and follows Him without reservation, without exception.

FULLY: completely or entirely; to the furthest extent

synonyms: completely, entirely, wholly, totally, altogether, thoroughly, in all respects, in every respect, without reservation, without exception

I also wrote that I wanted to live a life of fullness and joy, not based on circumstances, blessings, or possessions, but on HIM.

And that's exactly the kind of life I was challenged to live this year...

When my deeply hoped for and prayed for plans unraveled, I felt Him very clearly whisper: "Will you still follow me FULLY, trust me FULLY, and live your life FULLY for me, even though your current circumstances and season don't look the way you expected, hoped, or even prayed they would?"

He knows how to cut right to the chase, doesn't He? :)

Sometimes my response was an enthusiastic YES! to that question. Other times, it was barely a whisper of agreement, but in all of those moments, whether I found myself feeling weak or strong, I continued to seek out His heart and follow where He was leading.

I failed often. I grumbled. I complained. I doubted. And I definitely can't say I always followed without reservation.

But in His grace, He kept picking me back up, drawing me near, strengthening my faith, and encouraging me to recommit myself to the on-going process of FULL trust and surrender.

So while 2017 may have broken my heart, it also built my faith.

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I'm ending the year knowing Him much more FULLY, and I have an even greater understanding of what it means and looks like to FULLY trust, follow, and serve Him — in any and every circumstance.

As 2017 draws to a close, I will continue to put my trust in Him — completely, entirely, in every respect, without reservation, and without exception.

Because He is good. Always, always good. He's good when we are on the mountain top, and He's good when we are in the valley. This year taught me that I want to live so FULLY surrendered to Him that I trust and praise Him even when the story looks like it has gone terribly wrong.

This year taught me that I want the story that gives Him the most glory.

And as He continues to work that story out in my life, I will continue to FULLY trust, praise, and follow Him wherever He leads.

 

 

Navigating the Now and Not Yet: Lessons in Dating, Waiting, & Singleness

Being the curious person that I am, I love to read all the books and blogs, watch inspiring sermons, and listen to thought-provoking podcasts. It's been such a season of learning for me that I thought I'd put together a post summarizing some of what God has been teaching me (especially when it comes to dating, waiting, and singleness). I've organized everything into four main lessons God's been teaching me.

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1. Focus on seeking first the Kingdom, and go deeper in your life of worship and faith.

I'm listing this lesson as #1, because it's foundationally important to navigating any and every season we face, whether it's singleness, dating, marriage, parenthood, etc. Seasons of waiting and transition offer us unique opportunities to deepen our roots of faith, and trust our Good Father in new ways. Ask Him what He's calling you to do or learn in this specific season of life (even if it's unwanted). How is He calling you to serve? How is He equipping you for where you are (and possibly what's ahead)? How can you be faithful right where you are? There are so many things happening behind the scenes that we can't see. But no matter what season we find ourselves in (and no matter what season we may be longing for), He's inviting us to discover who He is and all He is capable of doing in and through us. Get lost in that discovery process and allow Him to change you in the midst of it.

2. Be transformed by the renewing of your mind and the refining of your character.

This isn't an easy one, I know. But as I mentioned in lesson #1...God cares about our growth and transformation. In fact, as Nicole Reyes said in one of her videos on following God's call on your life, God cares more about inward transformation than He does about outward promotion. Be open to His work in you. Ask Him what areas He wants to grow and prune you in. Focus on filling your mind with His truth, His wisdom, and not what the world tells you. There are so many lies I've believed that have caused me to live (and date) from a place of discontent, discouragement, fear, and frustration, rather than hope, faith, and victory in Christ. As a single, if we can learn to cultivate a mind that overflows with joy and hope and faith, we will then be able to produce that fruit in dating and marriage, too.

3. Become a good steward of your emotional health.

Pain from our past can prevent us from living in freedom and stepping into all God has for us. Unresolved pain and bitterness in our lives becomes bondage. Ask God if there are any places or areas where you need healing. Then take the time to do what's necessary to truly heal where you need to heal, so you are fully ready when God does bring the right person into your life. I think it was Steven Furtick who said that if you're not ready, you can turn the right person into the wrong person. That was convicting for me! I've also been learning it's important to be a good steward of our emotions while dating. This means keeping in step with the Spirit, as well as dating in community, so we aren't tempted to rush ahead, and we aren't blinded by feelings of romance or infatuation. Being a good steward of our emotions means being aware and able to recognize what we are feeling, but also knowing how to put our emotions in their proper place and be guided by faith over feelings.

4. Be faithful and FLOURISH!

Seasons of waiting and transition have gotten a bit of a bad wrap. And I get it. I'm the first one to admit that I'm certainly ready to leave the season of singleness behind. ;) But I also know God desires for us to be so rooted in Him that we can be faithful, fruitful, and flourish in all seasons, not because of whatever circumstance we may find ourselves in, but because we are trusting and relying on Him fully. He is the one variable that does not change. And He promises to give us all we need for this day. And the next. And the next. Whether we are single or married.

One of the ways I focus on flourishing in my faith is by setting goals. I use Lara Casey's Powersheets process to set a vision for my year and then set Christ-centered goals that support that vision. Doing so helps me to cultivate what matters and know I am doing all I can to live this life as fully as I can for God's glory, right where I am. It also gives me a vision for my future that I can focus on when I'm making decisions and determining where God is leading me (and this includes dating!). For example, I know I want to build a marriage that's centered on Christ, and that I want the main mission of my marriage to be to seek and serve God together. That vision is going to influence who I choose to date and what I'm looking for in a partner.

I love what Danny Silk said about having a vision and building relationships around vision in his book Keep Your Love On: "When two people establish the pillar of vision in their relationship, they share the knowledge of one another's identity and calling, as well as their joint vision, and remind one another of these things on a regular basis. When seasons of difficulty, pain, or loss come up, the pillar of vision strengthens a relational connection and protects it from being thrown into survival mode."

Even in singleness, the vision we have based on the unique way God has created us will influence the decisions we make and help us to persevere through the hard and dry seasons of life.

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I think all of these lessons could be summarized simply as this: be faithful and obedient right where you are. I've been spending a lot of time in the book of Ruth, and I think her life is such a beautiful example of that. Even facing loss and hardship, she was humble and faithful and trusted God to provide and do what only He could do. She did all she could with what was right front of her, remaining loyal and steadfast. Our faith often requires us to do and act and trust before we know what the outcome will be. But we know who DOES know the ultimate outcome, and that frees us up to keep moving forward in obedience. We can be like Ruth and do all we can with what is right in front of us, trusting our Father with where we will go from here.

I hope these lessons are an encouragement to you today.

(And I'd love to hear what God's been teaching you lately, too!)

Resources that inspired this post: videos from Nicole Reyes, Instagram encouragement from Jessica Hoffman Shakir, and books like The Meaning of Marriage by Timothy Keller, The Sacred Search by Gary Thomas, and Keep Your Love On by Danny Silk

When Freedom Writes Our Stories

I recently did exactly what Lauren Daigle sings so beautifully about in her song Trust in You.

I let go of every dream and laid them at His feet.

And I discovered a freedom and a hope I'd truly never experienced before.


A few months ago, I discovered the book I Don't Wait Anymore by Grace Thornton. The question on the back was about the only incentive I needed to pick it up.

Have you been waiting for life to turn out the way you expected?

If I was honest, I had.

In all my years of wrestling with God over my singleness, I hadn't realized just how tightly I was still holding on to my own dreams, ideas, and expectations for my life.

I almost don't even have the words for how good this book is. I've already recommended it to so many of my friends (and not just those who are single). I Don't Wait Anymore is a hope-filled invitation to freedom, an invitation to see just how big and good and wise our God is and just how great a plan He has for us.

In I Don't Wait Anymore, Grace inspires you to seek God more earnestly and to seek Him for Him — not just for the blessings or answers He can bring.

Her words are raw and honest, but also full of poetry and possibility.

 

The section that may have impacted me most was when she asks her readers to consider what unmet desires are hidden in their hearts.

She goes on to encourage them to ask this question: "If [God] never fulfilled that desire, would I be able to be content? If I walk a road where those things never happen, would I be filled with joy knowing I would get Him at the end?"

As I got quiet and good and honest with myself, I realized that while I had been living that yes on the outside, the answer was still a no inside my heart.

But there was hope.

Her next invitation?

To ask myself why God was smaller in my heart than the life I wanted.

And to ask Him to show me who He really was.

This beautiful book is a journey through that process, and I honestly can't recommend it enough. Grace brought me back to who God really is. She shook up the dreams and expectations I've been carrying around and woke me up to the freedom of true surrender.

And it was truly different than anything I'd ever felt before.

Because when God gets in our hearts and replaces our dreams with Himself,  "our hearts become blank canvases where He can paint pictures of His love, fill us up with His Spirit, and change our desires and hurts from the inside out. It feels different. We begin to see Him write a new story. One with a whole lot of freedom."

I'm Teaching an Influence Network Class

Have you ever struggled with where you're at in your story, wondering why God has you where He does and what might be next for you in this adventure called life?

Well, you aren't alone. ;)

I'm really excited to share that I'll be teaching an Influence Network class next Thursday, October 22 on that very topic.

Trusting God with our stories doesn’t always come easily. Sometimes, it can be a serious struggle to believe that where we are is right where we’re meant to be and that God is working out all things, even when we can’t see the fruit. Sometimes, we just want to get to that next chapter — or at least get a hint at what it could be!

But all of the really good stories have twists and turns that keep you guessing, so it makes sense that we can’t quite seem to predict the entirety of God’s plan for us, given that it’s been written by the greatest Storyteller and Creator there is.

So, what does it look like to trust God with our stories and to live each day with courage, confidence, and creativity? In my class next week, I will share some of my own still-in-progress story, as well as some of the ways God has shown me what it looks like to live an inspired life and a story that’s surrendered to Him. I continue to learn that His plan is always, always better than ours, and that the good stuff, the growing stuff, is often found in our unexpected chapters.

If you have any questions about the class, please don't hesitate to reach out.

You can learn more and sign up, here.

I hope to see you there! :)


AN INSPIRED SEASON | Resources & Inspiration for Singles

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Thursday, July 23rd. // Who are others you admire WHO are living/celebrating a similar season well? What resources/books/posts have encouraged you?

These amazing ladies are some of my favorites to follow in this season of life, and I'm excited to introduce them!

MEET CARRIE: Carrie's Instagram is full of colorful encouragement! She has the sweetest, most giving heart, and I'm fairly certain that even though we've never met, we could become fast friends, bonding over bright colors, polka dots, and living each day with thankfulness and joy!

MEET NATALIE: Natalie Metrejean has created an incredible devotional for single ladies (see below), and she is daily encouraging other single women to embrace their season and live a full, meaningful life. So lucky to call her a dear friend!

MEET NATALIE (YEP, TWO NATALIES!): Natalie of Good Girl Style is fabulous in so many ways (and another lady I am so lucky to call a friend). She's stylish with a fantastic flair for vintage, a fellow latte lover and coffee enthusiast, an amazing and inspiring poet, and above all, she loves the Lord in a really brave, beautiful, and faithful way. She's currently walking through an incredibly tough season, but she still shares with honesty and joy.

MEET BAILEY: Bailey has become such a sweet online friend, and I absolutely adore her heart for living fully and savoring her season. Her blog and Instagram are just chock full of creative inspiration — from books to read, quotes to remember, adventures in life and theatre, and crafty Project Life pages that celebrate God's goodness and all He is doing in her life. She will encourage you to live, dream, and create with courage!

MEET EMILY: Emily reminds me often what it looks like to be beautifully content in the Lord. She is an encourager, a cheerleader, and such a sweet spirit and friend. You'll find peace, rest, and inspiration in each of her lovely posts!

MEET ALI: Ali has written some pretty spot-on blog posts about what it's like to be single in your 30s (see link below). This girl is living proof of how to rock the single life, too! You'll love following her adventures in food blogging and making the most of life! photo 2

Photo credits: Left to right, top to bottom: Natalie of Good Girl StyleEmilyAliNatalie Metrejean  

Looking for more inspiration? Here are some of my favorite reads and resources for singles:

So, who's been inspiring you lately? And if you know of other single ladies who are living life to the very fullest, I'd love to be introduced! :)

An Inspired Season | The Single Girl's Bucket List

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Today, I'm bringing you the third installment of the #AnInspiredSeason collaboration with Bailey of Brave Love!

Today's topic: BUCKET LISTS! :)

Over the years, I have written bucket lists of all kinds (birthday bucket lists, dream bucket lists, holiday and seasonal bucket lists etc.), but this is the first time I am actually writing a Single Girl's Bucket list.

And I could not be more excited to share it with you!

An Inspired Season is all about embracing and celebrating life RIGHT where you are... And singleness? Well, that's a pretty big part of where I am these days, so why not have a bucket list specifically dedicated to the opportunities such a season provides? :)

I had a blast brainstorming these ideas! Dreaming up some new adventures that don't require waiting for future seasons really helped me look forward with hope and appreciate right where God has me.

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  • See an outdoor movie this summer
  • Sample the new vegan mint chocolate chip ice cream at Scoops
  • Try purchasing my weekly bread from a local bakery as recommended in 100 Days of Real Food
  • Eat brunch at Townhall (hello, sweet potato pancakes & crepe bar!!)
  • Start making connections at craft shows and begin collaborating with local creative makers to help them tell the stories of their products and businesses
  • Promote and share new collaboration idea above
  • Cook with more veggies! Follow Real Food guidelines as much as possible
  • Take a trip to Nashville this fall
  • Explore the local restaurant scene with my sister (there's a pizza place we are especially excited to try!)
  • Attend a local mum festival this fall
  • Clean out my art supplies and donate what I don't need
  • Attend the Cleveland Flea's Sunday Market (what's better than brunchy foods, crafty stuff, and antiques?!)
  • Purchase a retro swimsuit from Rey Swimwear
  • Invest in a large canvas or art print of this piece from Naptime Diaries
  • Read books that challenge, teach, and inspire me
  • Take a creative weekend of some kind — lots of creative and quiet time with Jesus
  • Sample more of the gourmet mini donuts at Peace, Love, and Little Donuts (next up on the list: chocolate chip pancake and maple bacon)
  • Paint my living room side tables with brightly colored chalk paint (coral + teal!)
  • Take an art or writing class to expand my skill set and get inspired
  • Spend a day at the beach
  • Have a picnic
  • Add to my Fiesta collection
  • Visit the adorable new shop called Vintage Love that I just discovered
  • Pick strawberries this summer and pumpkins/apples this fall

So, what's on your bucket list these days?

(Don't forget to hashtag #AnInspiredSeason when you share!!)

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I don't know where I'm going from here, but I promise it won't be boring.

This post is dedicated to all those who find themselves in a season of quiet, question marks, and, at times, restless expectation. This post is especially dedicated to my single friends who are figuring out how to embrace where they are and live each and every moment to its fullest, trusting God to pave the path they are traveling. IMG_3107

A few days ago, I read an awesome page in Jesus Calling. The very first sentence was (in all caps); YOU ARE ON THE RIGHT PATH.

Wow, did my heart need those words — more than I even realized!

And then this powerful reminder from Him followed: Listen more to me and less to your doubts. I'm leading you along the path I've designed just for YOU.

It can be so hard to keep our eyes on our own path. But when we compare, when we doubt, when we question, we are MISSING OUT on all God has for us right where we are.

Comparison cheats us of the opportunity to see and appreciate the adventure to be found in the dips and turns and twists of our own journey.

And when we doubt and fear and question, we are taking on burdens we are not meant to carry.

If we are following Him, we can trust that we are where we are meant to be. We can trust that He knows what today AND tomorrow holds, and that He is working to bring the best out of our current and future circumstances.

I'll be honest, I have reached the point in my own season of singleness where really the only thing left to do is truly let go and let God.  I have listened to others' success stories and tried what they've tried, I've read the articles, and I've prayed the prayers — all to no avail.

But I'm beginning to think that maybe I'm not meant to plan or pray or work my way out of this season. Maybe I'm meant to really look at it with new, grateful eyes that are free to see the possibilities it holds. Maybe I'm meant to embrace it with excitement and faithfulness and HOPE.

I used to fear that if I was too content or "successful" in my singleness that maybe God would decide to just leave me in it forever. It seems silly now to believe such a thing, but I have, time and time again. And tonight, I've realized that when I'm believing lies like that what I'm really doing is listening to my doubt more than I'm listening to God.

So, tonight, I'm ready to say goodbye to all of that doubt, and I'm ready to listen to what HE has to say about my season instead . I'm ready to fully surrender my hope for marriage to Him (trusting that in His perfect time and way He will lead me into whatever new season awaits).

I'm ready to turn my attention back to today — to the stack of books waiting to be read, the new paints that will soon brighten up a blank canvas, and the words that might find their way into a poem.

Today is right in front of me, exactly as He designed it, planned it, and purposed it. Today is right in front of me, and I choose to call it good. I'm ready to embrace it and make each of its moments count.

I am ready to be and go and do exactly what He has planned for me in this beautiful and sometimes unexpected season, ready to live both with contentment and expectation (if I may borrow that phrase from the fabulous Lindsay Sherbondy).

And it's true that I may not know where I'm going from here, or when or how I'll get there...

But He does.

And I promise it won't be boring.

Neither will today.

P.S. I snagged this post's title from a piece of art in the new Messy Box from A Beautiful Mess.
Goal-Setting with Lara Casey: My 2015 Goals

Header_My2015Goals1 I'm excited to finally share my 2015 goals (they've been about a month in the making), and I feel really settled and good about them. I think they are doable, but also stretching. I'm also looking forward to searching for scripture that speaks to each goal. I got the idea from Valerie of Val Marie Paper. (Here's a great post on doing that, if you'd like to seek scripture for your goals, as well.)

Moving on to the actual goals... :)

WaitingCROP

  1. Seek and find God in everything. I want to find and follow Him wholeheartedly, filling my  mind with His truth and thinking about the best, not the worst. I want to memorize scripture and recite His promises DAILY.
  2. Wait on the Lord — especially in my singleness.  I want to lean not on my understanding, but instead, I want to trust Him and look to Him in all things — including dating and singleness (especially dating and singleness?!). I want to remember that those who wait on the Lord will not be put to shame and that waiting on God is always worth it. I want to believe that He is good and that He has a good plan for me. I want to live fully today, with hope for tomorrow.
  3. Make time for creative adventures. Paint, draw, read, write! Create "just because." I want to take myself on inspiration and creativity dates often, filling my life and heart with what fires me up and points me to Jesus. I want to take classes, explore new art forms, and learn new things. I want to live fully and creatively, thankful that God gave me a creative, inspiration-loving heart.
  4. Spend, save, and give with intention. I want to be wise financially, so I can use  my resources for good and for God.
  5. Find a fitness routine I love and make it a regular part of my week. I want to take care of myself — health, heart, and spirit. I want to practice self-care regularly, so I have energy to go, do, and create everything that God has in mind for me this year. I want to be healthy and whole, so I can love well and bless those in my life.
  6. Continue to simplify my life. Give away what I don't need and keep only what is useful, meaningful, or inspiring to me.
  7. Be an encourager and a celebrator. I want to mentor and encourage others — online and off. I want to lead a Bible study for college/early career at my church, and I want to write blogs that speak to women who are in that season of life. I want to support my church, my friends, my family, and my city. I want to be a resource and an inspiration for those God connects me with this year.
  8. Use social media and my blog with intention, and continue to evolve and find the focus/niche God has for me. I've been blogging for almost eight years, and my blog and experience online have changed pretty dramatically during that time. I want to continue to evaluate the heart  behind what I'm doing and ask the Lord for guidance. I want to focus on community over followers, and God's heart for what I do over what's deemed "popular."
  9. Find the balance between living the stories and telling them.  I want to journal every day, capturing thoughts, dreams, ideas, prayers. I want to get back into the practice of art journaling, too — telling stories with paint and paper. I want to have cell-phone-free time every day, and I want to be intentional about making meaningful memories with friends and family. I want to live in the moment — being fully present — but also make time to capture the good stuff and tell the story God is writing in my life. And that leads me to my final goal...
  10. Be brave in writing and creating. I want to take risks for Him. I want to write and create honestly and vulnerably, and I want to go after big dreams. I want to collaborate with people who inspire me and pitch my ideas to publications I dream to work with. And I want to start taking steps toward my dream of writing books. I've got an idea that's been slowly taking shape, and I want to dig into that this year and see where God might take it — and me.

So, there you have it! My goals for 2015. I'm sure they will evolve as the year goes  on, but I'm looking forward to seeing how God works and moves and orchestrates in each of these areas. I also hope you'll help hold me accountable to the things I've listed here. I'd love to hear about your goals, as well!

Let's cheer one another on and get excited about all God is going to do!

P.S. I wanted to announce a little something exciting before signing off!

HeartOfTheWord

I'm hosting an online study through the book of Ephesians with a group of amazing ladies this month, and I'd love for you to be a part of it! Go check out Bailey's blog post today for more details and to get in on the action. (To be honest, my heart has felt a bit disconnected from God the last few months, and I'm so looking forward to diving back into His word and seeking Him wholeheartedly!)

 

God's Plan for You is Right on Time

NotBehind

If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook, you may have seen this photo. It's part of a new 'lil collaboration I have going with one of my talented friends Kelsey of Pinegate Road. It's my words + her lovely hand lettering. And while it's not a fancy or complicated collaboration by any means, it's giving me lots of fresh inspiration for new stories to write and tell. (You can follow this collaboration on Instagram using the hashtag #aptdnotes.)

You’re blessed when you stay on course, walking steadily on the road revealed by GOD. You’re blessed when you follow His directions, doing your best to find Him.  (‭Psalm‬ ‭119‬:‬ 1-2 MSG)

I've been thinking a lot about these verses lately and how it can be easy to take our eyes off the path God has for us. When I start comparing my story with others,' I'm tempted to veer off course and write things the way I think they should go. I wrestle with God over timing, circumstances, and the way my current season stacks up against those around me.

It's so easy to think someone else is living a better story than we are, isn't it? Or that because our story doesn't look as far along as theirs, something must be wrong with ours — or worse, with us.

But those thoughts are just lies that we believe.

And we don't have to believe them.

God's plan for us is right on time, and He will faithfully reveal each next step for us when the time is right.

The second part of those verses in Psalms does require action on our part, though. The writer of this Psalm is reminding us that we are blessed when we FOLLOW God and do our best to FIND Him. That means seeking Him in everything, asking Him for wisdom and guidance, and making Him a part of everything we do.

I find myself comparing more frequently and feeling the most dissatisfaction when I'm NOT seeking God regularly. And I think that's because when I'm not seeking Him and listening for Him in all I do, I can't clearly see the path He has marked out for me. Instead, I see the path that everyone else is on and what I think is missing or lacking in my life. I completely miss the opportunity to praise Him for what He's doing in my life and what is unique and special about the story He has especially for me.

I am so thankful that we can find Him in every season, in every chapter — in both the joyful and the challenging moments of our lives.

And even though I sometimes wrestle with some of my current realities, I take comfort in knowing that when I seek Him, He will continue to reveal the road before me and lead me step by step.

So, today, I am choosing to celebrate this particular part of the road I'm on, this part of my journey. I am choosing to look around at where I am with gratitude and with eyes that can see and appreciate beauty. And I am choosing to live with hope for what's ahead, for all of the twists and turns and bends that I cannot yet see.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2014 Influence Conference Recap - Be Where You Are and Be All There

unnamed-1024x511 It's been a few days since I returned from this year's Influence Conference, and I've been processing through everything — the notes, the heart stuff, the "what's nexts..."

To be honest, I arrived at this year's conference feeling a little heavy...

When I went the previous year, I went with specific hopes and dreams to explore and specific prayers I wanted to pray. I had an eBook I was about to release to the world, and I was just bursting with excitement for all that was ahead.

I was in a quieter, much more tender place this year.

On the drive into Indy, my friend (and conference roomie!) Holly asked me if I had anything I was hoping to hear from God about (she remembered I went with questions and prayers the year before).

But I didn't.

"I guess I just want to be a part of God doing something big," I told her. "I just want to hear from Him."

After the Black-and-White welcome party hosted by Mocha Club, I started  feeling lighter and more hopeful about all that was ahead. I still wasn't sure what I hoped to learn or hear from God, but I was sure He would show up.

SoMuchCoffee

In my still-slightly tender and uncertain place, I had a hard time selecting the sessions I wanted to hear the next day (they ALL sounded so good)! ;) And as we began that first day of speakers and workshops, I found myself reading the tweets from the session I wasn't in, feeling restless and like I was missing out.

But then, all of a sudden, I felt like I was finally hearing from God.

Be where you are and be all there.

Yes.

Be where you are and be all there.

And it wasn't just about those sessions, it was about life in general. It was about continuing to embrace my current season and live it fully and creatively (exactly the topic I had explored in the eBook I wrote the previous year).

LiveCreatively

Later, in Lara Casey's session, I stood up in front of a room full of more than a hundred women and gave voice to one of my deepest fears. As other women stood up to share their own, walls and tears came down, and I felt God continue to work something out in my heart.

And even though I was at a blogging conference, He wasn't speaking to me about how to blog better, create more, or find more followers online...He was speaking to me about my life in general and how I'm living it for Him. He was asking me to trust Him more, surrender more, and make even more space for Him to move.

Lara asked us to answer this fill-in-the blank statement: My life is too short not to______. 

During her session, I made notes, but it wasn't until a few days later that this phrase stuck with me: "My life is too short not to love the story God has for me."

TooShort

It's such a simple statement but it says SO MUCH.

My life is too short to wait for someday.

My life is too short not to live with purpose — right here, right now.

My life is too short not to pray boldly and with big belief.

My life is too short not to believe that God can do the impossible.

My life is too short not to pay attention to all God is doing.

And my life is too short not to share it...

Bookclubbers lipstickgospel    

This year's conference was so much different than last year's, but in the best of ways.

I did leave with new creative ideas and dreams to explore, but I also left with a deeper desire to truly trust God with my story and a hopefulness about all He is capable of doing in my life and in the lives of others.

He's written all of our stories differently, and there's goodness and purpose in that. 

And while He may not give us an outline about what comes next, He has gone before us, and He promises to lead the way in love.

* * *

Before I wrap this up, because I just can't resist, I'll leave you with this picture from my departing brunch at Cafe Patachou. (Honestly, that needs to be a Sunday Influence tradition from here on out...) WOW, that waffle was amazing! I'm STILL thinking about it! ;)

Patachou

If you'd like to learn more about the conference, feel free to email me. I'd be happy to answer any questions you may have, if you're wondering if you'd like to attend. (You can also check out this fun video recap from The Busy Budgeting Mama. And, yep, that IS me dancing around at minute 3:34.) ;)

 

You Make Me Want to Be Brave

bebrave

Because it’s been fear that ties me down to everything,

But it’s been love, your love, that cuts the strings…

Friends, for years I have blogged about my hopes to meet and marry my best friend. I have shared with a hopeful heart about my prayers and my journey, but if I'm honest, there have been so.many.times I've been scared to really believe God can make that hope a reality — and more importantly, that He will. I tiptoe around it, saying someday prayers and trying not to sound too assured, or even get my hopes up too, too much, because God is God, and we can't really KNOW what He'll do in our lives, right?

Well, yes...

* ...BUT... *

I don't want to live with such a fragile faith.

I want to live with a faith that FULLY believes in God and His plan for my life. I want to live with a faith that isn't afraid to say I believe God can do the seemingly impossible, a faith that trusts that all of the no's and closed doors have been leading me to a part of my story I couldn't have imagined on my own, even if I tried (and let me honestly tell you that I've tried plenty). ;)

I want to live with a faith that is bigger than my fear, bigger than my doubt, and bigger than every bit of my unbelief.

I want to live with a faith that continues to believe and pray about my hope for marrying my best friend — until God tells me to do otherwise.

And so, that is the faith I am choosing to embrace tonight, the faith that is fueling this blog post, the faith that will give me joy and hope and confidence, as I get ready to celebrate another birthday and continue to follow God on this unique adventure of mine.

I have chosen the way of faithfulness;

I have set my heart on your laws.

I hold fast to your statutes, Lord;

Do not let me be put to shame.


I run in the path of your commands,
    

for you have broadened my understanding.

The other morning, as I read these verses in Psalms, I was reminded of how much I want my love story to be God's doing and not my own. I am confident that my decision to wait for God's choice is the right choice for me. And while that doesn't always make sense to everyone — and it's certainly not always easy to do — I have chosen to be faithful and trust in Him.

But faithful and trusting doesn't mean timid.

So, as of tonight, I am going to stop saying someday prayers from a place of fragile faith.

I'm going to stop tiptoeing around my hopes.

I'm going to hold them with open, trusting hands — and with confident, brave belief  — that God will take them, with love and with purpose, and weave them into something more beautiful than I could have ever dreamed.

 

*Lyrics from the song Brave by Nichole Nordeman

Learning to Let Go

Patience_01 Sometimes, life feels like a lesson in letting go, an adventure in not knowing.

Lately, I'd say that's especially true for me when it comes to dating and my hope for marriage. As I watch life change and unfold for those around me, it's hard not to wonder what's going on in my own story. It's hard to be patient and hard not to feel stuck.

I love what Megan Gilger had to say about patience over at The Fresh ExchangeI begin to wonder if I am doing something wrong, or if I haven’t tried hard enough, when in truth I try to remember it simply isn’t my time yet. The time will come, and it will come just when it should. When I think about the weight of what I am waiting for, I begin to realize that I still need this time here in this weightless freedom in order to prepare for what will come.

So good, right? (Definitely read the whole post, here.)

As many of you know, I’ve been praying to meet and marry my best friend for years, so I can definitely relate to wondering if I’m doing something wrong, or not trying hard enough when it comes to meeting and dating said best friend.

But the lesson God has been teaching me lately is that sometimes, we really do need to just let go and be open to life as it unfolds.

Because letting go allows us to more fully live right where we are. It sets us free from trying to control what we were never meant to control in the first place. Letting go is a brave yes to following God and the plan He has for our life.

Oh, but sometimes it's a hard yes to say, isn't it?

I am a go-getter. I dream, set goals, make a plan, and then start marching toward those goals and dreams. But I'm realizing that doesn't really work in dating. Sure, I can do all I can to be ready to begin that next chapter, but there's not much I can do to actually get that chapter started.

I have to let go.

I have to wait for God.

DeathtoStock_NotStock5

And I'm learning.

Little by little, I am letting go of the expectations I have around this area of my life and the way I think things should go. I'm learning to ask God what He wants for me now, in this season, and I'm learning to trust Him with what will unfold in the next one.

And while some might view letting go as giving up, I've found it to be the opposite.

Letting go brings me hope, and it strengthens me in the waiting.

As I keep saying a brave yes to letting go and following God, I'm learning to be thankful for my own unique adventure of not knowing. And I'm grateful, so grateful, that God holds every bit of that adventure in His creative, loving, and faithful hands.

 

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