Posts in Seasons
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!

 

Settling Into Summer: Featuring Peripeti Candles

Hi, friends! I don't know about you, but I can't believe it's already July! (I'm truly wondering where the first half of 2017 has gone...!) It's been a tough year so far for me in many ways, but God has been pouring out His grace and comfort and peace, as I press in and allow Him to heal and prune and prepare.

Given the hurt the first half of the year held, I've been settling into summer by slowing down and seeking rest and restoration in Him. I've been getting lost in good books and spending lots of time sitting outside writing and reading and praying.

I've also been adding little touches of summer to my home to stay inspired and create a welcoming and refreshing space. One of my favorite ways to do that is with colorful fresh flowers and clean, bright scents. It's amazing what a positive effect color and scent can have on you! :)

Lucky for me, my friend Kate creates the most amazing all-natural soy candles and boutique fragrances. Not only do I love her products and scents, but I also love the name of her shop and the inspiration behind it.

The name of Kate's boutique, Peripeti, means a turning point or point of change. And that name and idea couldn't be more meaningful to me than it is in this current season of life. I can feel God using the circumstances of the last few months to prune and prepare me for all He has ahead. And as painful as it's been, it's also exciting! There's a hopefulness in that, and I love that the name of Kate's boutique is something that evokes hope and possibility.

One of my all-time favorite scents she's created is called Silver Linings, and it features a unique blend of mood-boosting and stabilizing essential oils like lavender, lemon, and eucalyptus that evoke positive memories and hope. Kate developed it at a time in her life when circumstances felt overwhelming, and the scent she created acted as a bright ray of light. I'm currently enjoying it daily in one of her reed diffusers, and it always lifts my heart and reminds me to breathe, to take in the goodness of today, and to look forward to tomorrow with hope and trust.

I've also been loving her summer collection this year, and my favorite summer scents are currently her Vetiver + Lemon (which I'm burning as I write this post!) and Orchid + Orange. Both are such bright, fresh scents, and they honestly just smell like summer. :)

Her Nature's Shield is also the perfect insect-repellent (that actually smells good!) for those summer nights spent watching the sunset.

This has honestly been my favorite spot all summer, whether I'm enjoying my first cup of coffee and spending my morning with Jesus, or I'm watching the sunset with a sweet friend, talking about all the complexities of life and the great hope we have in Jesus.

It's definitely been a different sort of summer for me so far, but it's a rhythm I've needed, and I know that the slower pace is allowing God to do an even greater work in me, so I'm able to cultivate and grow good fruit for Him in the seasons ahead.

What about you? How have you been settling into your summer? I'd love to hear how you've been! :)

P.S. Be sure to visit Kate's website to learn more about her inspiring fragrances and maybe pick up a little something for yourself, or someone special, to add a fresh touch of inspiration to your home this summer!

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."

The Unmaking of Plans & Gracious Uncertainty

"Our natural inclination is to be so precise — trying always to forecast accurately what will happen next — that we look upon uncertainty as a bad thing...Certainty is the mark of the commonsense life — gracious uncertainty is the mark of the spiritual life...

To be certain of God means that we are uncertain in all our ways, not knowing what tomorrow may bring...

We are uncertain of the next step, but we are certain of God. As soon as we abandon ourselves to God and do the task He has placed closest to us, He begins to fill our lives with surprises...We are not uncertain of God, just uncertain of what He is going to do next...

Leave everything to Him and it will be gloriously and graciously uncertain how He will come in — but you can be certain that He will come. Remain faithful to Him."

-Excerpts from My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers

The Gracious Uncertainty devotional reading quoted above was for April 29, a day I happened to begin a new season in my life. I didn't read it on that day, however. I only stumbled on it a few months later, marveling at how God has been working out gracious uncertainty in my own life and heart.

I have begun to live out the truths in this devotional more and more, stepping out in faith, uncertain of what could be next, and watching God fill my life with surprises (both large and small) that grow my faith and trust in Him.

I've been giving up control more and more, little by little, saying YES to His way and His plan over my own. Sometimes it's hard and scary. And sometimes I can be downright stubborn.

But with His grace, I am finding more and more joy and hope in the knowledge that I have no idea what's next in the plan.

And I'm becoming more certain that He always knows best.

 

Friendship, Faith, and Coffee Spoons (Plus a Giveaway {CLOSED}!)

I recently spent a morning having coffee and breakfast goodies with a friend. She brewed some delicious coffee in her french press, put on some worship music, and we shared stories of God's love and faithfulness in our lives.

It was such an inspiring morning and filled my heart with thankfulness.

It reminded me how important community is and the blessings that come from investing our hearts and time into building it. As I continue to learn to appreciate life where God has me, I am encouraged to see the community He surrounds me with — the friendships that bring so much to my life and also my faith.

I was excited to bring my new vintage hand-stamped spoons and jam and butter spreader from JessicaNDesigns, too.

When I chose the phrases for my spoons, I was reminded of my grandma, who passed away at this time last year. She lived each day with such faith and joy, and no matter what trials or sorrows one day held, she would look ahead to the next day with the assurance that God's mercies are new every morning.

My "anything is possible" spoon reminds me to keep living my inspired life of possibility for Jesus. It reminds me that nothing is impossible with God and that He is the ultimate hope and anchor that I cling to.

Surrounding myself with art and inspiration brings beauty and purpose to my days, and I know these coffee spoons will make me smile each day as I have my morning coffee.

Would you like to win a few of your own JessicaNDesigns goodies? Leave a comment on this post and let me know what phrase you'd like on a coffee spoon of your own. I'll be choosing one person as the winner of a $50 gift card to Jessica's shop!

You can also shop now and get 15% off your order by using this code: JNDplacetodwell15

I'll choose the winner of the giveaway at random Saturday, April 16. Good luck!! :)

Congratulations to Susan Lloyd! You're the winner of the JessicaNDesigns giveaway! :)

    

 

 

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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! :)


End-of-Summer Adventures & Dreams

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It's hard to believe that summer is almost over.  I've been in a bit of a dreamy place the last week or so, and in the midst of that, I put together two new moodboards that capture some of those thoughts and dreams.

The first one (above) is more end-of-summery, while the second one (below) is more in anticipation of fall and all that fall might bring.

Together they show a heart filled with plans for adventure, dreams  of making art, and taking risks for God.summersend

I could write quite a bit about each image and what it means to me right now, but I think I'll let the images speak for themselves.

 

(Image sources found here, here, here; "Seek the Unfamiliar" from Sseeko Designs; Lucky Bean Coffee from their FB page)

AN INSPIRED SEASON | The Joy of Everyday Adventures

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Tuesday, July 21st. // Write about one of the best adventures you’ve had so far in this season.

I have a whole category about adventuring on the blog. I love it. And originally, when I thought about answering today's prompt, I I thought I would talk about a recent adventure, something super current in this season of mine — or maybe one of the more exciting adventures I've lived like my trip to California, or doing my internship in New York City.

But then I was reminded of one day and one small adventure that just may have been the start of my love of everyday adventures, of exploring right where I am, and living in the present moment fully.

And that's when I decided that's the story I wanted to tell.

***

This story takes us all the way back to my college days. I can't even remember what day of the week it was, but I do remember my journalism assignment was to go check out an art show opening and write about it.

So, I hopped in my car with my MapQuest directions (hello, pre-GPS days...), and I drove to a small town about 45 minutes to an hour away from my university. Some of the details of the day are fuzzy, so forgive me if I mix up their order, but I do remember finding the art show, wandering around the opening, and loving every second. I pored over the artwork and the descriptions of each,  took lots of notes, gathered inspiration, and began working out sentences in my head for the article I would later write. I remember being filled with energy (perhaps that is also when my love for  discovering art began...)

Instead of leaving after covering the art opening, I decided to explore the town. I remember wandering up and down the main street, ducking into an antique shop or two, eating at a local restaurant, while going over story notes, and then I think I may have even sampled the town's local coffee shop. (I can't imagine I'd have skipped out on that.) In fact, that may have happened on the way TO the opening. Who can be sure... ;)

It's funny, because I had this adventure pre-iPhone, so I don't have Instagram shots to capture the day. I can't remember the name of the coffee shop, or the restaurant, or the antique shop. I can't even remember clearly the art I saw that day, or who had created it.

I do remember how much that day inspired me, though, how it made me want to create more, explore more, experience more. It made me want to tell the stories of those experiences and discoveries, too. I couldn't wait to share the stories of those artists, what had moved them to create and what those creations were sharing with me and with the world.

It's funny to think now how little pieces of the woman I am today were being formed on that seemingly normal day back in college.

Looking back, I can also see how God has only furthered developed each of those pieces, and it's pretty spectacular to think about. They may seem like tiny, insignificant details, but in God's hands, they've become meaningful moments in the greater story, stepping stones in a creative journey.

I wish I knew where that story was and what I had written...maybe I can find it in my portfolio someday and revisit everything in more detail.

But for now, it's enough remembering — even if it's all a little fuzzy.

Even though so much time has passed, I'm still grateful I didn't just do my assignment as quickly as possible. I'm grateful I lingered and explored and learned more about that little town. More than anything, though, I'm grateful I realized that day what a joy everyday adventures can be and how much there is to discover and appreciate right where we are, right where God's placed us.

Because the truth is, even the little moments are leading us somewhere good.

::art source::

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.
Heart of the Word: Ephesians 1-2:13

bible My apologies for this late link-up, friends! It was quite a busy week, and I'm just now able to sit down and gather my thoughts. (Whew!) :)

How are you enjoying the Heart of the Word study so far? Have you linked up over on Rachel's blog yet?

(Psst. If you haven't joined us yet, and you'd like to, you can find out more about the study over at Bailey's blog.)

Ephesians is one of my favorite books, and  I'm excited to see what new goodness the Lord will reveal to my heart through this study! 

In the last week, I've read through this first section a few times, both the NIV and Message translations, and I've been soaking in the familiar passages that have been highlighted and underlined many times.

One of my favorite verses in Ephesians is verse 2:10 (For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.)

I love the reminder that He's already planned our path and that He created us with unique gifts and purposes to be used for His glory. It's so incredibly humbling that God wants to partner with US! He could absolutely accomplish everything on His own, but He chooses to partner with us; He chooses to invite us to help Him build His Kingdom. I think that's pretty incredible, don't you? :)

I pray that on days when you're hit with discouragement, doubt, or uncertainty, that you would be reminded of this truth, my friends. You were created to do good things through Christ, and God has already planned these in advance. Draw near to Him, seek Him, and trust that He will lead the way and equip you for whatever it is that He is calling you to today.

I look forward to hearing about the verses that have been speaking to you! (Remember that you can also connect with us on Instagram using the hashtags #heartoftheword and #heartofephesians.)

God's Plan for You is Right on Time

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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.

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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...

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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.

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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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