jesus

Monday Funday

This weekend sort of went the opposite of the way I had planned it. We had a run in with a previous owner of our apartment late Saturday night which resulted in a visit from a cop, and staying up until after 1 am. Then Sunday included an unexpected trip to my in laws house 2 and half hours away to get some things taken care of for Ben before he leaves for Texas on business this week...basically the weekend got turned on it's head and all my plans went out the window. 

So no blog post scheduled for today, no design projects wrapped up, no shop orders packaged and ready to go out, and my house looks like it was hit by a hurricane. 

BUT my mantra this year has been Thriving over Surviving, so that is what I am doing. Laundry is going, coffee is in my hands, and the SUN IS SHINING after a week of dreary clouds and rain. I refuse to let my life get lost in chasing perfection, plans, and structure. This weekend was such a reminder for me that I must hold loosely to my plans and embrace what comes with joy and gusto! Grab those curve balls and make some memories with those bad boys!!

I encourage you to rest today and not find yourself caught up in a case of the Mondays, and to encourage that I leave you with this quote...

"What if you wake up some day and you are 65, or 75, and you never got your memoir or novel written; or you didn't go swimming in warm pools and oceans all those years because your thighs were jiggly and because you had a nice big comfortable tummy; or you were just so strung out on perfectionism and people-pleasing that you forgot to have a big juicy creative life, of imagination and radical silliness and staring off into space like when you were a kid? It's going to break your heart. Don't let this happen." -Anne Lamott 

When Fear Leads to Freedom

"You are often paralyzed by fear. Instead of taking action on the things that keep pulling at your heart, you get out your phone and look at what other people are doing..." - Lara Casey, Make It Happen

These feelings were different than the "blogging burn out" so many talk about and warn against. No, after many days, weeks, and months of trying to figure out why in the world I could not write consistently, I have come to this realization. The uneasiness, the lack of motivation, the doubt, the questions...these seemed to be the Holy Spirit pulling on my heart. 

The past few weeks, well months really, if I am being honest, I have felt paralyzed when it comes to writing. I am sure many of you noticed I have been inconsistent with my posting and in and out here on the blog. I have had the hardest time articulating what has been happening within my heart and mind. For so long, I have been tormented with one question.

WHAT IS THE POINT OF MY BLOG? 

This question (and my inability to answer it) has haunted me. In a fearful panic, I began chasing after anything and everything to make my blog feel put together and official. I would be a "cooking/helpful tips" blog...or no, I could be a "handmade/small business" blog...or wait, maybe I could be a "design/inspiration" blog. Yet, still I was uneasy, refusing to sit down and write out my thoughts for days on end because, honestly, I did not know what to say. I could not move forward into those "things that keep pulling at my heart" as Lara Casey says in her new book, Make it Happen

These feelings were different than the "blogging burn out" so many talk about and warn against. No, after many days, weeks, and months of trying to figure out why in the world I could not write consistently, I have come to this realization. The uneasiness, the lack of motivation, the doubt, the questions...these seemed to be the Holy Spirit pulling on my heart. 

I began to see that I needed to step away and critically think through the purpose of my blog and presence on the Internet before I could move forward. As I have spent concentrated time thinking this through and talking with my husband and several others, here are a few things I have found to be true...

First, I struggle with desiring affirmation from others, so, naturally, in this online world that is closely affiliated with likes, followers, stats, and page views, I tend to fall into my flesh and sin.

First, I struggle with desiring affirmation from others, so, naturally, in this online world that is closely affiliated with likes, followers, stats, and page views, I tend to fall into my flesh and sin.

I have realized I need to posture my blog in such a way that doesn't allow me to feed that affirmation-craving beast hidden deep within me. I love reading how-to blogs, design blogs, food blogs, and business blogs, yet I have seen that, if Oh Simple Thoughts were solely one of these blogs, I would be able to justify my selfish desire for more followers, more likes, higher stats, and more page views...those are part of the business blog world, after all, right? This is a necessary part of these blogs, so it is not bad in itself, yet it feeds a sin in me with which I struggle. So lesson learned, I cannot allow my blog to become driven by numbers, or I will undoubtedly fall into a pattern that I see as unhealthy for my spiritual, emotional, and mental well being. 

Second, I have realized that my online and offline life must be balanced in a healthy way and that my offline life needs to take first priority. 

Community is a big buzz word online and in real life. We all desire to experience community, be in community, and share community with others. Yet, true community is about life on life. It is messy and inconvenient at times, and, most importantly, true community takes away our ability to have total control. This is scary, but necessary, to experience deep, real, family-like community. It is about people showing up unannounced and seeing our messy houses, imperfect marriages, and our sin...community has to see it all in order to truly be what it is, a family. 

When it comes to blogging and the internet, I often see the opposite of this. We say we are pursuing online community, yet, in reality, everything is under our total control. We dictate when we show up and when we shut the door, we filter what is put out there, we edit our words and images to fit our "brands". So while I believe elements of community can exist online, I am not sure that true Biblical community can ever fully be experienced on the Internet alone. 

Don't get me wrong. I have been blessed to meet so many amazing and inspirational women through the internet (honestly, some of my very best friends), yet I am learning something very important about online community....it is, by default, limited. This is why I feel my biggest priority must be placed on my physical community and then on my online community. 

Yet, true community is about life on life. It is messy and inconvenient at times, and, most importantly, true community takes away our ability to have total control. This is scary, but necessary, to experience deep, real, family-like community. It is about people showing up unannounced and seeing our messy houses, imperfect marriages, and our sin...community has to see it all in order to truly be what it is, a family. 

Finally, I have learned that my deep desire is to write, blog, instagram, tweet, share, and all the other social verb words for Jesus' name. 

Oh Simple Thoughts is about Jesus. I do not want it to be about me or my amazing recipes or my perfect marriage or my great fashion sense or my successful small business. Can I let you in on a little secret? None of those things exist...so why would I make an entire blog about fake things? I mess up in the kitchen on a regular basis. I fight with my husband and sin against him. I struggle to prevent my love for fashion and handmade business from mushrooming into discontentment and materialism. I struggle to keep my small business surrendered to the will of Jesus. I am soo far from perfect, and that is what Oh Simple Thoughts is about. 

This blog is a place to share real life. The good, the inspiring, the messy, the convicting, the challenging, and, sometimes, the stylish, yummy, and handmade. 

There has been a lot of learning happening within my heart the past month, but now I am here. I am ready to commit myself to this space and to show up here regularly, for the Lord's glory. I will be posting only 3 times a week and focusing on our community here in Starkville with more of my free time. But I am here friends, and I am eager to see the Lord make much of himself here at Oh Simple Thoughts. 

I have a heart so see the Internet used as a tool to bring glory to the Lord, and want to encourage others who have an online presence to consider the same thing. Will you join me tonight for my second #ohsimplechat on Twitter to talk about these things? I will be hanging out asking some questions for whoever wants to join in from 7-8pm CST tonight. 


Friday Letters / 1.23/2015

Dear Benjamin Caleb, you really are my soul mate. You dream bigger than I do, which is saying something. It fills my heart to dream big with you and to create alongside one another. ALSO you were totally okay with going to bed at 7:30 the other night and waking up before the sun so you could see me off to work and watch the morning news. It's official, we are old souls...and I love it! 

Dear Oh Simple Thoughts, I am back for real this time little bloggy! I spent so much of 2014 floating between burn out and too much zeal which left me unsure of what to write about or how to use this space. But the recent switch over has breathed new life into my writing and I am just full of vision as far as you are concerned! 

Dear Holy Yoga, you have become my new favorite part of the day. I come home to you after work everyday and you have become my reset button. I do not have time at 3 am to read or spend time in the Word, but spending 30 minutes opening up my heart and body to the Lord has been beautiful. You are stretching both my body and emotions, teaching me to relinquish control and dig deep for strength that can only  come from Christ. 

Dear Saturday Off, you make me smile every time I think about you. I cannot wait to spend time with family, sweet blog friends and learn something new! I am praying that you are full of sweet memories, successful calligraphy, and laughter...lots of laughter. 

With Love, 

Rachel

Listening Long & Logging the Hours

    

The other night I was sitting next to my husband at church. He had just arrived back in town from a work trip to D.C. and we were both weary and eager to spend time together. Yet, our church had a meeting on this particular week night so we were there sitting quietly trying our best to listen to our pastor share. I will be honest, this was quite the struggle for me. I was sleepy, and having a hard time focusing on the words coming out of his mouth. 

However, there was one moment during the teaching time that these words were said, "We must respect one another enough to listen, and to listen long. We must listen long to look for the areas of unbelief." I quickly whipped out my notepad and jotted these words down. They struck me to the core. 

Often we desire quick community, or at least I often find myself desiring this. The type of community that instantly hits it off, has everything in common, and is totally comfortable opening up and sharing deeply with one another. I don't think it is wrong to desire this, no I really think we should all desire this. However, it is unrealistic to expect this to happen within days, weeks, months or even the first year of a relationship. Listening long takes a long time. It may take 100 conversations over many different meals and events before we really break through to that level we consider to be true community. 

Shauna Niequist is one of my favorite authors, and she recently spoke at a conference and was asked about pursuing community. She began to talk about the topic and address the question and one thing that she said was, "you have to log the hours...". How true this is. Community takes time, and SO MUCH of it. I have seen this to be true within our own church community here where we live. We have been a part of this body of believers for almost 2 years yet still find ourselves longing for a deeper community than we currently have. I often find myself discontent and frustrated that I am not surrounded by deep soul sister that understand everything about me without me even having to explain anything...I often feel as if I am alone and without "my people". 

But, in light of these two talks, one by our pastor and the Q&A with Shauna, I am able to see two things.

One. Community takes effort. It doesn't happen by chance, and it is not something we should wait around for. We must be the ones willing to log the hours and listen long, we must initiate it rather than crying behind closed doors hoping someone else will reach out to you. The pursuit of community is brave, and willing to be rejected, but most of all it is patient. 

Two. Community takes time. Listen long. Log the hours. Long and hours are words that imply more than just a few minutes, and more than just once every now and then. Time, community truly takes time. It is not a quick fix kind of thing that we get simply because we want it. Similar to family, community takes years to truly develop, and it messy and hard to navigate, and beautiful when you are accepted exactly as you are. 

I am blessed with a loving church that is committed to community. We are not there yet, but every member is willing to log the hours and try to listen long. It is a beautiful thing to be a part of a community that is stumbling along somewhat clumsily at times towards a goal that takes so much time and effort. I am reminded that I am not exempt from these things yet should make it my goal to seek others out and to labor to develop truly genuine relationships with them. Laboring long, and logging the hours. 

What are your thoughts on Community?

Retreating, Taylor Swift, and Joy

This past Saturday was incredibly refreshing for my soul. It rained and stormed all day long, and all day long I stayed in sweatpants, a white tee, and did not even think of applying makeup. I had a surprise day off from work and enjoyed every minute of a day cooped up in our little home. Ben and I slept in late and cuddled with Piper in bed for quite sometime. As we both got out of bed we slipped into our little weekend morning routine. Ben got dressed and headed out the door with Piper to take her for a little walk so she could do her business, and I began to work on "waking up the house". Going from room to room, I turned on lights, and began getting some breakfast ready. We had warmed up biscuits and yummy pour over coffee. We enjoyed some time reading books, and drinking coffee together for awhile and then Ben began working on a journal article he had to complete by Monday.

It was the perfect kind of slow morning, the type of morning I miss most now that I work on the weekends. Yet, I still found myself discontent as Ben made his way into the office and left me on the couch with my book. I began digging a little deeper, and continued to process and meditate on what was going on in my heart all day. 

Slowly the Lord began bringing some things to the surface through some really interesting avenues. To begin with, I deleted all the social media apps on my phone for the weekend so I could really be present for my weekend with Ben. I have noticed I am too quick to scroll through my phone while he talks or while we are just sitting and having down time and this is something I want to get away from being so dependent on. I found that on this particular "social media free" weekend the Lord really used that clarity of mind to speak so directly to me when it came to this issue of discontentment. I was free of at least a few of the distractions I normally have, and was eager to hear him speak to me. 

Secondly, Taylor Swift. YES! The Lord revealed something to me about my heart through a super old Taylor Swift song. I was listening to my girl T Swift as I attempted to make French Macaroons for the first time (more to come on that attempt at a later date) when the song 15 came on. I found myself mindlessly singing along only to begin crying halfway through the song. I was transported back to a time in my life when I was 18, a senior in high school, and my sister was 15, an incoming freshman. So much of that song resonated with my protective big sister heart back then that I began fervently praying for my little sister that year. Praying the Lord would protect her, show himself to her, draw her closer to him...it was one of the first times in my life I can remember consistently and intentionally praying for someone else. 

So what do these things have to do with my feelings of discontentment on Saturday? Well...through the clarity of mind that the Lord gave me as a result of throwing off distractions...AND through an old Taylor Swift song that reminded me of a time in my life where I walked in selfless love, and deep intention...I was able to see on Saturday (in my kitchen, with T Swift blaring) how selfish I truly am. My discontentment stemmed from the fact that Ben could not 100% pay attention to me on my surprise day off. My discontentment was also rooted in the fact that I have created this box in which my ideal weekends must fit into, and when they do not fit the bill...anger, rage, hurt, bitterness, discontentment, and depression sink it. 

These realizations left me in awe. Yes I was more aware of my sin, and my selfishness in particular...but man was I so aware of grace in that moment. The Lord brought to mind a song that I love, and I began singing it with tears...

"Father what love you have shown to rebels, that you would send your son so dear, into this world of grief and trouble, to bring unworthy sinners near. We will never fathom how it pained you, when you supplied the offering, to rescue who had disdained you, to watch your dear son suffering. 

Jesus it fills our hearts with wonder, that you would leave your heavenly place, to take on flesh, to thirst and hunger, to save the ones that spurned your grace. You came to forfeit every mercy, to die that mercy we may find, and then you hung alone in darkness so in our hearts your grace would shine." -Father, How Sweet (Sovereign Grace Music)

He dies that we may know grace. In our darkest moments, when sin is near and overwhelming, and plentiful...he shows us grace!

The feelings that I had Saturday morning of discontentment were quickly replaced with deep feelings of JOY! I wanted to ugly cry, laugh, sing, and write all at once. It was the sweetest and most refreshing time with my Father. 

I am sharing all of this with you because I was made aware of something so important Saturday. The Lord desires to speak to us, to teach us, to reveal sin in our lives. Yet, all too often we are bogged down with distractions. We simply cannot hear Him...we are numb to his call. Retreating is something Jesus did often. We see all through the gospels that he withdrew to be alone, to spend time with his Father. So for us to not follow in this practice if foolish. I have gone too long without building times of retreat and rest into my schedule, and it doesn't work y'all...there are just so many tears, and fights, and sin when I choose to not take time away to pursue Jesus, on my own, free from distractions. 

I am praying for more times away from distractions like Saturday, not because being put in my place about sinful habits is fun. Rather, because the joy that came from that correction was so sweet! Joy abounded in those moments, and I want more of that joy! 

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Handmade Holiday Gift Guide (Discount Codes + Giveaway)

Hey Y'all! Man does it feel wonderful to be back after a week away from blogland for the Holidays. We spent Thanksgiving with Ben's family this year and it was wonderful. We ate ourselves silly and then came back home for a restful and productive weekend at home! 

My Etsy shop,

Oh Simple Joys

, has been keeping me so busy (the best kind of busy), so I have been crocheting, packaging or shipping orders around the clock lately. I cannot express how incredible it feels to have a vision, walk in that vision, and then have friends and strangers come around you and support you in that vision. It is something that I will not ever get over. Every one of your that has bought something from my shop has been prayed over, and your money is going to sending me to Hope Spoken, Influence Conference as well as helping out our family of 3 (our little pup is always included in my count). 

Now that it is officially December I cannot wait to share some amazing handmade shops with you! These ladies are not only amazing creatives, but they love Jesus and I call so many of them dear friends! So it is with a really full heart that I share their shops and products with you today! Each lady has included a discount code OR is donating an item from her shop for several lucky winners! 

SHOPS

Heavens To Betsy Handmade

- Scarves, Handlettered Prints. Betsy d

onates a percentage of all of my profits to kingdom-building work through organizations like Mocha Club, foreign and local missions, and Project Rescue! Use code

ohsimplethoughts

for 10% off!

Elle & Company Library

 - 

The Elle & Company printable library is filled with files for all kinds of paper goods to brighten day-to-day life. This resource is great for inexpensive and creative gift ideas, organizational tools, and pretty paper.

Elah Tree

 - 

Elah Tree is dedicated to creating products and content to encourage, inspire, and equip you in your dreams. Use code

OHSIMPLETHOUGHTS

for 35% off!

Life Lived Beautifully

Life Lived Beautifully is about living life with one purpose: for the glory of God and the love of Jesus Christ. Use code

OHSIMPLETHOUGHTS

for 20% off!

Pretty Lovely Littles

 - 

Pretty little affordable things to add whimsy to your everyday life! Use code

MERRYMERRY

for 30% off!

Arroway Creative Design

 - 

The vision behind this shop is to create uniquely handmade watercolor prints through uplifting words and encouragement. Use code

GIFT GUIDE

for 25% off!

East West Design Co.

 - 

Our vision is to create products that our customers will love, that will be reminders of the glory of God in their everyday lives, & to build a business that always points to Jesus.

Joyful Papery

 - 

I desire to plant beauty, honesty, truth, and hope all around us; Bringing beauty in the everyday.. in the hard, the tired, the happy, and the hopeful. That we might all see Joy hiding in our everyday lives.

Heathers Letters

 -

Heather's Letters is a shop that delights in creating beauty, joy and fun. My faith inspires me to create and watching other women follow their passions and grow closer to God makes my heart wake up! Use code

RACHELCOX

for FREE shipping!

Riley Writes Scout

 -

Hand Lettered prints, invitations, gift tags, stationary and more. 

Magnolia Street Shop

 - 

34 Magnolia Street Shop is all about celebrating life's little moments through custom paper goods. Life is too short to live blandly - let's celebrate! Use code

SIMPLE2014

for 25% off!

Gingerly Styled

 - 

Gingerly Styled specializes in handmade burlap items. Inspired by creating handmade items for my own wedding, burlap has become a material I love working with. It's my goal to create personal items that bring joy into the homes of my customers. Use code

OHSIMPLETHOUGHTS

for 15% off!

Southern Glow Bangles

 - 

Southern Glow offers fashionable bangles at affordable prices. Bangles make great Christmas gifts for any special female in your life. Let me know how I can customize your order. Use code

20off

for 20% off!

Oh Simple Joys

-

Oh Simple Joys is a shop dedicated to creating products that remind us to savor life's little moments. From crocheted goods to coffee mugs and tote bags this a shop striving to surround you with reminders to slow down and breathe deep. 

I cannot encourage you enough to go and check out these AMAZING women and their shops, and to BUY from them. These ladies are just normal ladies using their creative gifts for the glory of the Lord. They are using their gifts to help their families financially and by supporting them you are literally supporting their dreams...how cool is that?! Let's love these ladies and fill up our carts with some handmade goodness! I know I am. 

In addition to these amazing discount codes, several shops donated items to giveaway! So here is what is being given away to 7 lucky winners! 

-a print of choice from Heavens to Betsy Handmade

-a print of choice from Arroway Creative Designs

-6 month subscription to Elle & Co Library 

-Christmas Bundle from East & West Design Co (1 pack of 5 cards + 1 8x10 print of choice)

-8x10 "peace be still" raised gold letter print from Joyful Papery

-8x10 print and set of gift tags of choice from RileyWritesScout

-Tote bag from Oh Simple Joys + 

$30 Etsy Giftcard!

A special thanks to Rachel of

Rachel Rewritten

and Jenni of

Frankly My Dear

for the Etsy giftcard! 

All entries will be verified so play fair! The winners will be announced at the end of the day Friday the 5th of December! 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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To My Dear Readers - A Letter of Honesty & Changes

So, I have had so many things swirling around in my heart and mind lately in regards to this little blog. I have taken a long time to stop, ponder, and really work through my feelings and thoughts the past few months. So, I wanted to take a few minutes to be very honest with you and share my heart. I love Oh Simple Thoughts. This blog means so much to me and has served to mold and shape me in so many ways since it's beginning. This space has allowed me to share my life and passions with so many people I may never meet face to face, and that is amazing. I have been doing this a little over two years now and cannot express the joy that this hobby brings me.

Don't worry...this is not my "I am quitting the Internet post".

I began blogging to document mine and Ben's life together, but quickly this space grew into something so much bigger. It has become a place for me to share my passions for food and handmade goods and to share openly and honestly about how the Lord is shaping me and teaching me. 

However, lately I have been coming to this blog worn down, empty and lacking the words and inspiration I have had in the past. I have been spinning in a million directions and feeling as if I am being pulled in a human tug of war match. I have felt inadequate, overwhelmed, and honestly like a disappointment. I have found myself sinking in the notion that "blogging success" must be quantified by x, y, and z...when in all honesty I am not sure x, y, and z are what I want this blog to be about. 

I went through a season of being totally consumed with the numbers, the stats, the profitability, and the followers of my blog...when, in all reality, none of these things make my blog successful in my book. I blog because I love sharing my life with you as my readers. I read other blogs because of the writer's honesty and life-giving words they share. I desire to grow this blog in order to see my mission of encouraging women to use their unique gifts for the Lord embraced by more readers. I truly want the Lord to bring more and more eyes to this little blog...but not at the expense of my sanity. 

When I stress about likes on Instagram, Twitter followers, page views, sponsors, comments, and how much money I am making...my blog is no longer accomplishing the goal for which it was created. When these things become my focus, then my blog has become about my own pride and my own vanity. I wrongly make this space all about me, myself, and I...and y'all, that is just not why I set out to write. 

So I have seen that the Internet can be such a life giving place, but that comes with boundaries and a balance. The constant pull to pour over Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and Bloglovin' day after day has drained me, and the Lord has made it very clear this is not what he is calling Oh Simple Thoughts to (though he may be calling you and your blog to that! Praise the Lord! I am behind you, and praying alongside you and cheering you on!). I naturally struggle to say no to good things...and blogging, and sponsorship, and promoting bloggers we believe in are all GOOD THINGS! However...I am in desperate need of saying YES to just a few really great things right now. 

I have just launched my Etsy shop, Oh Simple Joys, and have such fresh vision for this store. I have so many ideas and awesome products that will be rolling out in the months ahead, and I want to be able to focus my time and energy wholeheartedly in that venture. Also, Ben and I are part of new church plant that is wading through so many big, exciting changes...changes that require me to be fully present in our church member's lives on a daily basis. And when it comes down to it, I want to be living a full life, so that I can share that fullness with others virtually and in real life. The Lord fills me so that I can pour more out, and when I am not at a place of fullness or thriving, I cannot use this blog the way I feel the Lord desires me to. 

I am saying all this to say, I am stepping back, taking some deep breaths, and setting out to find myself again in a place of thriving. I have eluded to little changes and feeling overwhelmed here and there the past few months, but here I am laying it all out and truly walking in the way I feel the Lord calling me to walk right now.

I will be changing my sponsorships to fit what I feel the Lord is asking of me. I will still offer sponsorship spots, however they will no longer include things such as tweets, pins from pinterest, and the like. They will simply be a sidebar ad, plain and simple. I will do one post a month on all my sponsors, and I will keep offering this option as long as interest in the spot is around. For all current sponsors things will remain the same and the new sponsorship spots will be available beginning January 1st, 2015. There will no longer be monthly giveaways, just simply the occasional collab giveaway and giveaways to support businesses I believe in. I hope this all makes sense.

Nothing will change for sponsors that are lined up right now; everything will change in January. I am hoping this can be one little step I am able to take toward a place of refreshment, fullness, and thriving. I am saying

no

to some really awesome things in order to say

yes

to hopefully even better things. This may not make sense, but all I can say is that I am fully convinced this is what the Lord is asking of me, and so, therefore, I am walking in obedience to his calling as best I know how.

I praise the Lord for each of you that comes to this place and reads my words, comments, and follows along with our life. I pray you stick around, bear with me, and continue to seek out Christ in this space!

-Rachel

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November Goals + Fresh Starts

photo credit:

Jenni

Happy Monday friends! Mondays are my "rest days", and I have grown to love them and look forward to them with great anticipation. I have mentioned this off and on lately here on the blog but our life has been crazy to a level neither Ben nor myself have experienced thus far in life. We are busy, worn down, stretched thin, and overwhelmed almost daily. These have been such hard emotions for me to navigate, and to be honest they have created so much guilt in my life. Whether that is blogger guilt for not being able to post and keep up with things like I once could when I had 30 more free hours a week, or guilt due to not being able to keep up with things at home like cleaning or maintaining our home. 

However, I read something on Instagram yesterday that has affirmed a work the Lord has been doing in mine and Ben's heart this past week. It was a

post

by a sweet blog friend, Valerie of

Vallarina Creative

. These were her words, "

I'm tired of the word overwhelmed. I am tired of using it as an excuse and a crutch. I'm tired  of having poor time management, giving into distractions, saying yes when I should say no, being frivolous with my money and then throwing out, "I'm sorry, I'm just so overwhelmed." instead of facing the consequences..."

Valerie continued to speak about how she is committing to diligence and discipline to see this cycle ended. 

Friends, this resonated so deeply within me. I teared up, and verbally said AMEN to this post! This has been my life. I have gotten new schedule, after new schedule (which is so exciting!) with my new job, and have used that as a crutch for too long. I deeply desire to find myself in a place of thriving yet again, and in a place that I can love and serve others well. So I am starting fresh this November. I am committing to working hard, and spending time with people even when I am tired and overwhelmed. I am committing to being diligent with this blog, and blog friends, as well as my Etsy shop. I am committing to rest in the Spirit, and not my flesh or negative attitude. 

So here are some goals I am setting this month, for accountability's sake! 

NOVEMBER GOALS

1. Set a schedule with my new work schedule to make time for blog design, house chores, blog work, and Etsy shop orders. 

2. Create a new financial spreadsheet (or have Ben do it and help me learn to use it) for design, blog, and Etsy money flowing in and out. 

3. Take pictures of mugs and tote bags once I receive them. 

4. Have 2 social media free weekends. 

5. Go home to Georgia and create a weekend bucketlist of Fall things to do while there. 

6. Make 1 recipe from my foodie bucketlist. 

7. Finish reading

The Best Yes. 

8. Begin Christmas shopping and planning for handmade gifts. 

9. Get Christmas card pictures taken. 

10. Have people over for dinner once or twice every week! 

photo credit:

Jenni

photo credit:

Jenni

What goals are you setting for this new month? How can I be praying for you this month? 

Also!!! Big huge congrats to our Influence Conference winners Lindsey C and Chelsey J!!! We have sent you both emails and are so excited to meet you and hug you come next September!! 

Community Brew / Vol. 5 - a peek into our living room (video)

I am really excited about this post today. I have actually been really struggling on what to write for this month's community brew. I have been so overwhelmed in so many areas of life lately, that I could write about a lot of things. But I want more than anything for this to be a space of positivity and encouragement for you, as well as vulnerability for me...and that is a balance. 

I am grateful to be joining with

Madison

for another round of Community Brew, and am thankful for all of you that will be linking up with us! :) Rules are simple, and listed below. Most importantly we want to create space for honesty and encouragement! 

Let me introduce you to our co-host, Jenna from

A Mama Collective

. Jenna is a wifey and mama to three girls, and she blogs over at A Mama Collective about the beautiful imperfections of life. She believes in chasing your dreams, no matter what phase in life you're in, and that coffee and a good book can fix anything.

jenna-a-mama-collective

Many of you many not know this but Ben and I both LOVE music. I have grown up singing my entire life, from being Maria in the Sound of Music in high school to leading worship at our church. Ben also grew up in a musical home and plays the piano, guitar, and banjo. Music was a huge part of our relationship early on, and we spent evenings in our Campus chapel regularly huddled around the piano singing together. 

So for this Community Brew I wanted to take you into our living room. We sing together often and really enjoy relaxing together as Ben plays hymns and we sing together. This particular song spoke soo deeply to me last week at our church meeting. I knew I had to share it. It is rich with meaning, and resonates so deeply with me. 

Poor sinner, dejected with fear, 

Unbosom thy mind to the Lamb;

No wrath on His brow He does wear,

Nor will He poor mourners condemn;

His arm of omnipotent grace

Is able and willing to save;

A sweet and a permanent peace

He’ll freely and faithfully give.

Come just as thou art, with thy woe,

Fall down at the feet of the Lamb;

He will not, He cannot say, “Go”,

But surely will take out thy stain

A fountain is opened for sin,

And thousands its virtues have proved

He’ll take thee, and plunge thee therein,

And wash thee from filth in His blood.

The soul that on Jesus relies,

He’ll never, no never deceive;

He freely and faithfully gives

More blessings than we can conceive;

Yea, down to old age He will keep,

Nor will He forsake us at last;

He knows and is known by His sheep;

They’re His, and He will hold them fast.

I am moved by songs so often, and find the Lord speaks so clearly to me through the words of songs and hymns. This was a new song at church and I found myself really focusing on the words because of it being so new.  

The line that says, "

No wrath on his brow He does wear"...

wow, so much freedom in that line. The Lord doesn't look down wagging his finger at us. Our righteousness as his children is secure, we can do nothing to add to it or take it away, and there is such relief in that reality for me. 

Also, the fact that the song talks about how the Lord will not, cannot, turn us away when we approach him with our woes. Relief number 2. The Lord loves to carry our burdens, and guys, these past few months I have been carrying SO MANY burdens. To know I can dump these out and the Father will receive me, and know me, and see me, and comfort me...ah, it is like fresh, cold water on a hot day. This truth is so soothing to my weary and beaten down soul. 

I hope you enjoy "hanging out" in our living room with us. We are not professionals, and we have a camera that likes to cut off before the 3rd verse, and a puppy that feels the need to move every 5 seconds, but we love singing about Jesus and pray this song brings joy to you today!

An InLinkz Link-up

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BEST GIVEAWAY EVER!

I have been counting down the days for this post to go live...I have the most exciting giveaway to date for you all. I am just giddy about it. I am teaming up with

Jenni of Frankly My Dear

, my new kindred spirit that I met in real life last weekend at the Renew Retreat to bring you all something HUGE! We have teamed up with a large group of bloggers to bring you not one but TWO tickets to the Influence Conference 2015. YES! TWO ladies will get tickets for the conference next September, for FREE!!! 

Photo Credit -

Madison Wetherill

I found out about the

Influence Network

through Jenni. Which is why she was the first one I contacted about teaming up with me on this...she introduced me to this amazing community that I want each and every one of you to be a part of. The Network is just incredible. It is full of creative and God fearing women who desire to use their online influence for Jesus and his glory!! Hello?! Count me in. They offer classes, and community groups, and a opportunity to connect and "network" with women just like you. 

I have reaped rich benefits from being a member of the network, and I have purchased my ticket for the conference next year, as has Jenni (we will be roomies!). So not only will you get a free ticket if you win this giveaway, but Jenni and I and several other ladies helping host this giveaway can hug your neck in person in September and pray with you, and maybe even grab a meal together! How amazing would that be?

A big thank you to all the ladies that are helping give these tickets away! You are all so wonderful! I hope everyone will show them some love today as they are all HUGE in making this happen! 

What is the Influence Network?

TWO lucky readers will win a ticket to the 2015 Influence Conference. The conference is a three day event held in Indianapolis, Indiana at the Westin Hotel. You will meet women from all over the country who are seeking to learn the right tools for their passions. There will be workshops, classes, speakers, coffee, & shopping. There will be bloggers, mothers, small business owners, writers, and the list goes on & on. 

Two Places At Once

    //    

What She Saw

    //    

Rivers & Roads

Oaks & Oats

    //    

Amy Cornwell

    //    

Simplicity Relished

She Lives Free

   //    

Elah Tree

    //    

Mandy Living Life

Vallarina Creative

    //    

Camp Patton

    //    

23 and 9 Creative

Wetherills Say I Do

     //    

Oh Simple Thoughts

    //    

Frankly My Dear

You do not have to be a member of the Influence Network to enter or the giveaway OR go to the conference but I can personally attest to the growth I have seen in my life through the network and the relationships I have built through it.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

**Please note that this giveaway is in no way sponsored by The Influence Network. 

We are a group of independent women who are joining together to make this conference happen for two of our readers. The two recipients will only receive tickets to the event & are responsible for ALL other expenses, including but not limited to travel, lodging, meals, parking, etc. If for some reason either of the winners cannot attend the conference they will be expected to contact one of the hosts immediately so that another winner can be chosen.

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Reflections on Renew

I have briefly mentioned my trip to Gatlinburg the past two days but wanted to take some time to share more, and reflect some on all that happened while I was there.

I was so anxious prior to the weekend. I kept thinking about how crazy it was that I was going to meet 14 ladies that I follow online for the FIRST time ever in real life. Looking back now it was so silly for me to be anxious...the Lord brought us together this past weekend and it was beautiful! Absolutely beautiful. 

The minute I was in the same room with Madison, it was as if we have been best friends since elementary school...seriously. The level of comfort we felt around each other was something I have not experience with anyone since college, and was truly good for my soul. 

So thankful for this lady and her constant encouragement in my life. Madison listens to me panic, complain, and stress on a regular basis and she always points me back to the Lord. It is such a comforting thing to be her friend. 

Also, the coolest part of the weekend was how myself I was able to be. These ladies understood me. They got my creative desires, and my entrepreneurial instincts...and it was awesome! 

Sadly I hardly have any pictures with other people on my camera...fail. I know there are pictures on other cameras so check out everyone else's blog that was in attendance to see more pics! 

Madison

/

Rachel

/

Christin

I am having a hard time really putting into words what this past weekend meant to me. It was the restart button for me that I needed when it comes to blog land. I was beginning to feel so defeated and burnt out as many of you noticed lately. Being around passionate and Godly women was exactly what I needed to reawaken motivation for this blog. 

I was able to see for the first time in awhile that the Lord has given me this space for a purpose, and he has brought me followers and readers for His glory, and I am to be a good steward of that gift. I am so excited to dig deeper into what that means for this space! 

Cannot for the next time I am able to hug each one of these ladies in person...my heart aches for them, but I am so deeply grateful for our time together this weekend! 

What a little taste of the weekend? Don't forget to enter my

"swag bag" giveaway

to win a swag bag from the retreat! 

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Stepping Away, Recharging, and Being Present

I want to begin this post by saying how much I love this space. I love my little blog where I can share my thoughts, recipes, and stories with so many of you. I love the sweet friendships I have made through being a blogger and I love the creative outlet that this blog is for me 90 % of the time. I truly love all of those things.

However, there is that other 10% that I find myself plagued by guilt because I cannot reply to every comment, email, and shout out. I am distressed and overwhelmed because I am not scheduling posts as often as I want, falling through on commitments left and right...and honestly just defeated. I have been dwelling in that 10% this past weekend/week. To the point that it was affecting my mood and relationships around me. 

It is not anyone's fault really, but I am seeing that too much of a good thing can sometimes be a bad thing. When this little blog begins to pull me away from family, friends, and my community here so that I can "keep up" with posts, and comments, and reading blogs...it is time for me to step back. And when this space begins to cause me anxiety and constant feelings of guilt, it is time for me to step back, reevaluate and come back after a period away. Being present and invested where the Lord has me and my husband is so important. Starkville, MS and the community here is what I am called to first and foremost...and I have to remember that. 

Don't worry, I am not quitting the internet by any means. I will still be blogging, and often I hope! But I am going to be taking the rest of this week to spend time in the present, and recharge. I will be meeting up with some sweet blog friends for the Renew Blog Retreat in Gatlinburg on Friday and spending the weekend resting and being present with some awesome ladies! 

So just know that I haven't fallen off the face of the earth, I love each and every one of you that come to this blog time and time again to read my words, and I am just stepping back to recharge and spend some time being present with my friends and family in hopes of returning with a renewed heart and mind next week! 

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On Grocery Shopping & My Need for Control

Once a week I take time to plan out meals for my little family of two. I cook every night of the week except for Sunday night, this is our designated "out to eat" night. I usually am making some dish for our Tuesday small group meal, and I try to have food stocked for breakfasts and lunches as well...oh and I am making anywhere from 15-20 loaves of sourdough bread right now and selling them from home.

A huge portion of my blog is dedicated to lovely recipes, and food inspiration. I love to cook...but can I let you guys in on a little secret? If I had to identify one thing that causes me more anxiety, stress, and tears since becoming a wife...it would be grocery shopping. 

And here is why...

I love the grocery store. I hate budgets. I find that as I am meandering around the store picking out my veggies, and ingredients for my weekly meals, I begin to get anxious. As I watch my calculator total climb higher and higher to our budgeted number my hands begin to sweat and my heart races...I start over thinking what is in my cart and trying to decide if I should put things back. I begin freaking out if I go over our budgeted number and still have 3 more items left to purchase...

This all boils down to something much deeper than hating budgets. I hate being out of control, and I hate feeling constrained by a budget, and I hate feeling as if I do not have "enough". Silly isn't it? But I really bet some of you can relate. 

When I feel like our pantry is getting bare but I know I cannot simply run to the store and grab more because of our budget I feel so uneasy. I lack the ability to rest in the provision of the Lord and trust that He will (as He always has) provide for our needs. 

Don't get me wrong, we have plenty. We always have food in our fridge and pantry, we have never gone without. What I am saying is that I struggle to rest in the Lord, I desire to always have what I quantify as enough and really have to fight against this consumer mindset of always needing more to make me feel secure and settled. 

I have been meditating heavily on this verse,

"And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:19

I have found such comfort in remembering that the Lord promises to provide...this may not always mean I will have the money for the organic or seasonal food kick I want to go on, or that I cannot afford to buy everything fair trade and directly from local farmers like I want...but the Lord will sustain and provide according to who He is, and He is faithful. 

Do you struggle to rest in the promises of the Lord's provision? How so? 

Community Brew / Vol. 4 / Gratitude

Friends I am so excited about this month's Community Brew topic. Madison and I have so deeply enjoyed getting to know each of you and hosting this link up. It truly is a joy for both of us. I feel as if thanksgiving and gratefulness have been two things the Lord has been teaching me for several months lately and I am eager to share some thoughts with you today. 

First, we want you to meet our co host this month, Martha Kate of Seasons with the Strattons. Love Martha Kate, and fun fact, we both went to the same college and even had a super fun English class together in which we sat by each other and loved every minute of the super boring class...remember that MK? Meet Martha Kate!

Seasons with the Strattons is a lifestyle blog focused on bringing Glory to God while living out the Minor League Baseball lifestyle.  You will find stories from my adventure of being a Minor League wife, recipes, home projects, and faith posts.  Mostly, Seasons with the Strattons is a creative outlet for me to share glimpses of our life and the way God uses it. 


The rules for the link up are the same as they have been...
1. Follow your hosts and co hosts
2. Comment on at least 2 other blogs
3. Share your heart on the topic we provide for the month!

So gratitude. Where do I even begin. I feel as if lately the Lord has pressed the slow motion button on my life, and been patiently showing me how to slow down and notice the smallest moments in my days. It has been so easy for me to just blaze a trail every day full speed ahead ready to tackle anything and everything in my way. I hit the pillow at night wiped out emotionally, physically, and mentally...I am so empty. Yet, I arise the next morning with the same goal...get everything done as quickly as possible. 
I fly through my days and fail to notice the beauty of sun rays pouring in through the bedroom. Or the way that it seems like magic to smell bread baking that has taken three days to get prepared for the oven. Gratitude means so much more than saying thanks for physical items. or the big things in life. In fact, I feel as if I am seeing in my own life that I simply cannot be truly grateful for the big things if I do not have the ability to express thankfulness for the small things. 

So now I name things. I take time daily to write in my journal, take pictures or document things in my phone and count the little moments, and speak them. If I do not speak my joy, awe, and thankfulness for the yellow leaves falling life gold to the ground, I will forget and blaze my selfish trail without stopping. 

Here are a few things on my list from the past few weeks. 

Homemade whipped cream
Movies that make me cry
projects using my hands alongside my husband
Wind that whips my hair 
relaxing days that end with naps on the couch
lunch with friends that is not awkward
the beauty of onions becoming caramelized
sourdough bread...how does it become bread?! Magic!
Air that is easy to breath and cool on your skin
muscadine wine that reminds me of summer
baby messes and drool
I love these lists. Some people may think they are silly, or shallow, but they mean so much to me. They truly do teach me how to practice gratitude. They remind me of moments I would normally storm on by and forget before they are even over. They remind me to rejoice in the Lord daily. 

What does gratitude mean to you? 

PSA- if you would like to purchase one of my handmade crochet headwarmers I am having a Flash Sale on my @ohsimplethoughts instagram account today until 3:30 pm CST. It is Auction style so everyone has a chance to win a headwarmer! 





Against the Grain.

Ben and I walked up the driveway toward the quirky and quaint house to be greeted with the delicious aroma of grilled sausages. We walked inside and were warmly welcomed in by our pastor and his wife. Instantly, everything slowed down. Phones were away, people were coming in unannounced to join for dinner, and we were all just happy to be together. As we gathered around the table with drinks, and large glass milk jars filled with cold water, I was overwhelmed with what I was feeling at that table...time slowed. We sat around the table for hours, talking, laughing, processing spiritual matters together. It was wonderful. We moved from dinner to dessert to coffee, and still lingered. Life seemed so slow while we were within the walls of that home. Ben and I left eventually, and though it was late, we felt so filled, rested, and encouraged. A slower way of life was achieved for a short time, around a table with people we love. 

Heavy on my mind lately has been the idea of slowing down. Everything in our culture screams for us to rush from one thing to the next...we should always be thinking not just steps but years ahead or else we are behind. I find myself feeling as if I am drowning, perpetually behind, and unable to truly rest when I am running this race...so this rushed way of life has been put on the hot seat. I have been mulling on why we live this way, and why we subject ourselves to so much stress and anxiety by constantly trying to be ahead, rushing from point A in order to get to point B before someone else.


I long for slow. I long to live a life in which time does not dominate every aspect of my life. I long for more moments like we experienced around that table in our pastor's home. 

I have quickly realized that this is not a way of life that will naturally happen. It takes diligence, and intention. It takes selflessness, and flexibility, and it takes a willingness to create space for others (which is not a natural behavior, but a learned one). So while I still feel very clueless about how to create this type of space for others, I do know that my quest for a slower life is something that needs to happen. The Lord desires for his children to rest, and to daily interact with one another. If I am playing the rushing game, I am so much more likely to shut the door at the end of the day and want to hole up with Ben forgetting everything and everyone outside of our little house. However, when I intentionally pursue slow, when I intentionally go against the grain, I am able to open our doors, to breathe deeply, and to leave dishes dirty in order to talk with friends around the table just a little longer. 

So all this to say, I am learning. Learning how to truly be hospitable by the Lord's standards and not by the standards of Pinterest, Southern Living or Martha Stewart. Learning that purposeful rituals like making homemade bread, cooking slow dinners, and putting away my phone for long periods of time help me to breathe deeply of the life happening around me here and now, and it has been beautiful. Life is rich, and I do not want to miss it because I am living my life in survival mode. 

DON'T FORGET WEDNESDAY IS THE BREAD & WINE PROJECT LINK UP! JOIN US HERE WITH YOUR RECIPE, AND MEET SOME FUN NEW FRIENDS! HOPE TO SEE YOU THERE! This week's prompt is- How do you slow down when it comes to the food you feed your family, and the time you spend with others in your home? 

Flexibility and Pizza.

It was Wednesday at noon and had been a long morning at work. I came home covered in sticky glaze and flour from work, for an hour to rest, recharge, and eat lunch before headed back up to the shop to finish the workday out. I briefly began running through dinner options for that day, and remembered I was planning to make a pizza..."Shoot, I totally forgot to make the dough yesterday.", I thought to myself. I began to panic, because I always make our own pizza dough, and it takes several hours to rise or proof due to the yeast.

I had no choice but to make it during lunch. So out came the flour, yeast, and olive oil. And I began to make the pizza dough. I gently measured out four cups of flour and tossed them into the mixer, only to miss and get half of one cup on the floor. I turned the machine on and watched as the flour, yeast, water and oil became one to form a sticky dough. I sighed...something about make bread calms me. The dough could rise while I went back to work and all would be well. 

I had decided to make a healthier pizza this particular evening. Kale, caramelized onions, a little bacon, and a garlic sauce were all going to come together to make a hearty but wholesome dinner for us. I began on all the toppings. Frying the bacon, sauteing the kale, caramelizing the onions, building the garlic sauce, and chopping green onions. I was in my happy place, the place where I can combine food and creativity, and pour out love. The sounds and smells were overwhelming my senses, and I felt I could truly breathe deeply for the first time during the day. 


However, I noticed our little pup had gotten unusually quiet. I went to check in on her, only to find she had left me a nice little steamy present on our guest bed. Instantly my peaceful breathing, and calm composure sped away and were replaced with anger . I shouted at her, my eyes filled with tears, and I sent Piper to her crate. For whatever reason this little event, that was easy to clean up, had me undone. I was then stressed about dinner, and unable to rest and slow my emotions down. 

Our dinner guest arrived a few hours later, only for Piper to have yet another accident on me this time, which included more shouts, and close tears. I was frazzled, worn down, and defeated. Dinner commenced and we enjoyed the pizza and the fellowship even more. It was sweet to share a meal with our dear friend.

As I reflected on this meal, and the events of the day...what created stress and what led me to tears I was somewhat ashamed...my tears were brought on because my little perfect world was being upset. I wanted Piper to be well behaved so I could cook in peace, I wanted everything to go according to my plan. When it did not I panicked, I became stressed and unintentional with my emotions and responses. I pray the Lord will continue to reveal himself to me during these daily moments of weakness and struggle against my flesh. He is able to show himself to us in the small moments of our days if we ask, and I pray he will continue to refine and sanctify me in grace in the midst of these small moments. 

Sprinkles and Sundays.

The rays of golden sunlight began to pour into our small master bedroom. Colors danced magically on our crisp white French doors, and bounced back and forth on the floor and walls.  I opened my eyes, rolled over and looked at the clock, 7:34...glorious! As I breathed deeply of a new morning I was filled with the realization that it was indeed Sunday. Sunday has truly become our day of rest now that I work most Saturdays and have to be up earlier than the sun.

I was filled with joy as I rolled over and stretched in the cool sheets. Sundays mean slow mornings, and nothing to do since our church meets at 4:00 in the afternoon. I heard the front door open with a slow creak, and then immediately found myself attacked by our little Piper girl. She covered me with little warm licks all over my face and ears as if trying to beckon me out from under the sheets and to begin my day. I felt Ben climb back into bed, we had no where to be and nothing to do, so more time in bed all together was fine with all of us. 

Minutes passed slowly, and eventually we gave into Piper's licks and decided to get out of bed. I walked into the kitchen and began to heat a pot of water for our coffee. I love using our French press on Sundays, it sets the tone for a slow morning. I grabbed our jar of coffee beans, and ground them up to a coarse grainy consistency and poured them into the press. I added the hot water, stirred, and added the plunger. Now to wait. 

I poured us a glass of rich local chocolate milk, heated up some yummy biscuits, and sat down with Ben to enjoy breakfast. We poured our coffee, laughed as Piper sat and stared at us, and began a day of rest. 

This morning awakened deep thankfulness and joy in my heart. Thankfulness for slow moments, magical morning light, and puppy kisses. Joy found in a cup of strong coffee, chocolate milk, and biscuits with sprinkles. This is the Lord's day, and my heart is rejoicing in this new day.







Community Brew #3 - Thoughts on Rest

It is time yet again for Community Brew! So excited to create space for all your ladies to share your hearts and lives with one another. Most of you know this by now but if you are new, Madison and I are the hosts of this little monthly get together! 
Madison of The Wetherills Say I Do // Rachel of Oh Simple Thoughts 

Each month we have a co-host as well! Some months we post topics and others will be a free topic to talk about whatever has been on your heart. There is only one rule to what you post...this link up is a place for vulnerability. So whatever you write about, we hope that it helps us to get to know you better and for us all to grow in fellowship and our walk with the Lord.


This month was a free topic month so we are excited to read about what the Lord has been teaching you and doing in your hearts and lives. Before I  dive into my post here is our lovely co host for this month. Christin of Quirky Anthems. She is a super awesome gal and has a heart for the Gospel. She loves coffee as much as I do (which is big) and even as her own coffee business with her husband and a few others called Sweet Aroma Coffee (you should all check them out!). 

I'm Christin Eastman and I'm so excited to co-host with my sweet friends, Madison and Rachel! I started Sweet Aroma Coffee in October 2013 after I'd traveled around the world on an 11 month mission trip called The World Race. The brokenness I experienced in each country was unlike anything I'd ever encountered. During this time, the Lord planted a dream in my heart of starting a coffee company that would fund ministries who work with survivors of sex trafficking. Sweet Aroma Coffee raises awareness through social media and by partnering with folks who have a heart to see the captives set free. We share about our monthly coffee subscription at Sweetaromacoffee.org and we donate 36% of the gross profit to ministries working with sex trafficking victims in Kenya and The Philippines. I blog about life, coffee and missions at quirkyanthems.com and I'm so looking forward to hearing everyone's heart today! Thanks so much for having me!

So we are just sitting down and chatting now, and being really honest. So friend, honestly, August has kicked my little tail thus far. It has been a whirlwind from starting a new job, Ben having some big deadlines to meet at work, Piper having surgery, and I have been working a ton on a secret project that I hope to share soon. But I have felt like I have been barely able to keep up. 

Ask anyone that knows me and they will testify to this. I have taken more naps, responded to fewer text messages/emails, and hardly had time to read my favorite blogs...It has been crazy

So in light of all the crazy, I have been thinking about the idea of rest a lot. One thing the Lord has shown me is that rest goes much further beyond the boundaries of sleeping and laying in bed. Rest encompasses much more. I found myself just trying to take another nap, or go to bed earlier, but found I was still in need of rest. (I will speak on Ben's behalf and say he was feeling the same way). We were so tired, so empty, and so overwhelmed with the feeling of being behind. 

I kinda felt like I was watching myself from above, like I wasn't really myself and unable to really live into the moments in which I found myself daily. Does this make any sense?! I pray it does. 

So what is rest? And how have I begun to practice it?

Well I know what rest is not, or at least what it is not only. Like I said, it is not only sleep, and it is not only being still. It is stopping to thank the Lord for sunlight streaming in and making rainbows on the wall. It is saying a prayer as I begin to work on a long to do list for my secret project, it is slowing down, while still working efficiently. Sometimes it has even been saying no to some things like TV, Pinterest, Instagram, and blog reading so that I can say yes to fully listening and loving my husband at night when he gets home. 

Another things that rest is...it is God ordained. Sounds crazy huh? Well one thing our pastor has pointed out to Ben and I in the past few weeks (when we have been at the end of our ropes and ready to crumble) was that the Lord instituted patterns of rest for his people. He created the Sabbath day, the Passover feast, and other yearly, monthly and weekly times of rest. Times that everything stopped and the Lord's people rested. 

So if the Lord wanted his old testament people of Israel to practice this, why would we think it would not apply to us? We are called to rest. We rest so that we can work harder for the Lord during the week. We rest so that we can pour ourselves out more fully and intentionally. Without rest and being refilled how can we pour out? We rest so that we can love well and not selfishly. 


I can think of so many times when I came home from a sleepover party in elementary school, middle school and even in high school, and was just out of my mind tired. More than likely I had stayed up way too late with friends doing silly things like prank calling the boys in our class or playing truth or dare.My mom would always say the same thing when I would come home cranky, ill and tired..."You need sleep"...I tell this story because I think this is what happens to us in life when we do not rest. We turn into that cranky and delirious middle schooler that cannot love selflessly if they wanted to because they are so sleep deprived. 

So friends, I was so discouraged last week, and so worn down. But now I feel more relaxed and at rest because I am simply stopping during the day and resting in the Lord and all he has done for us. I am working hard but trying to make time to stop and set everything aside. 

How are you doing today? How is your heart? 

Big thanks to Nikki Mckenzie Photography for these lovely shots. They are a part of her Coffee Project. Check out more of her work here




Stories.

One thing that has been heavy on my mind is the power of storytelling. I have been thinking a lot about how stories shape us as humans, and how we are all drawn to a compelling story...regardless of whether we claim to be a believer of Jesus or not. Some of you may have seen the account @humansofny on Instagram. I follow them, and have been so intrigued by the concept behind the account and people's response to it. For those of you who do not follow the account, it is basically a guy that goes around New York City, and takes people's pictures, and shares their stories. There are people from all walks of life, ages, countries, and religions...all sharing stories. And you know what? This account has more followers than any other Instagram account I follow. They receive hundreds of comments on every picture they post...why? 


Well I think this speaks to something deep within us as humans...we desire to share our stories. We long to be validated, understood, and we long to be moved by something. We want our lives to mean something, and really count for something. We are captivated by knowing the stories of others, especially when they are exciting, or are where we want to be in life. Everything about life is shaped by stories, our social media accounts capture small stories to share with others, our relationships are full of conversations that revolve around stories, we lose ourselves in books, music, and movies that tell of fascinating stories...why do stories have so much power? 

I am not sure I can really answer that question, but what I do know...is that stories awaken something deeply seeded inside our souls. They bring meaning to life. 

I fell that this is why Jesus always used stories to teach people lessons and truths. He could have easily taught lessons in a straight forward way like many did in that way, and do now, but rather he chose to tell stories. And not just any stories, Jesus chose to take things that people could relate to, a wayward son, the sower and his seed...he chose tangible things and gave them meaning beyond themselves by telling stories. 

Now, these stories caused people to cock their heads in confusion. They made people think in ways that had not before...they moved people. They stirred something up within them. 

So as I have considered this @humansofny Instagram account I have been amazed at how obvious it is that humans long for their story to be told. Don't get me wrong, that account captures alot of human depravity, and a lot of people that are working hard for themselves...but beyond all that I just have seen people. People long to live into a story that matters. 



Following this account has opened my eyes to people. They are all around, they all have stories to tell, and stories that they are trying to live into...does this make sense? As our pastor would say, "Everyone is working towards their version of the good life." Stories capture this.

So, this may seem like a post with no meaning, or maybe it has caused you to think differently as it has me. Either way, I think it is undeniable that stories have power, and have a way of allowing a connection to happen with others. So as I move forward as a blogger, I want this to be a place that stories are celebrated. I want to strive to write about everyday moments and the stories that the Lord reveals to me through moments on my front porch, or around my dinner table, or sharing a cup of coffee on our couch. I want to celebrate the gift and power of storytelling, and work on this skill of telling stories in a compelling and captivating way, that moves people closer to Jesus. 


What do you think of storytelling? 

Simple Thoughts on Mornings

There are moments that I am struck with a craving to write. In a moment something captures my attention, and my thoughts begin to run wild in a million directions. I have found that through reading the book 1,000 Gifts by Ann Voskamp, I am beginning to pay attention to the littlest of moments in my day, and often these moments make me want to write.

So here I am, overwhelmed with the beauty of dancing sunlight pouring into our bedroom window, birds chirping outside, reminding of the provision of the Lord, and a puppy curled up on my toes keeping them toasty and warm...and I am in awe.



The Lord has sustained me yet again. He has seen fit for me to rise, to fill my lungs with air, to see my husband off to work...he has given me the gift of another morning. Another precious morning. 

A morning to pour myself some coffee, and breath deep. 

A morning to reflect on the beauty of heavy cream dancing its way gracefully though my morning brew, to have my breath taken away by how the light catches the beads of condensation forming on my glass of water. 

A morning to see the sun rise yet again, to be reminded of the constant unchanging character of our mighty Father. 

A morning to praise him, for he has sustained me. 

The slow of the morning, the refreshing realization that it is a fresh start, revives me yet again. This morning, I am encouraged. Not because I accomplished all I wanted yesterday, nor because I will today, but because I am surrounded by the majesty of Jesus Christ. I see it everywhere in my home. Yes my humble Victorian house, broken into oddly shaped apartments, speaks to the majesty of my Father. 

I see his creativity in the gorgeous grain of the hardwood floors, laid with care, and covered in paint spots never to be removed. 

I see the fruit of hard labor in the countless things my husband has work hard with his hands to create for our home. 

I see the beauty of new growth and life when I look on our porch and see fresh herbs thriving and little baby squash and tomatoes springing up. 

I see the most clearly at the dawn of a new day. I feel as though I am the most inspired first thing in the morning, and am able to see the Lord's beauty and character the most when sitting still in the midst of a new day. So this morning, stop, take a deep breath, and ask the Lord to give you eyes. Eyes to see him, in the smallest of things. You will be amazed at how deeply your affections are stirred when you begin to stand in awe of the Lord in the midst of the mundane everyday moments.



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Meet my sweet friend Madison. This girl was one of my first blog friends, and has become a true best friend to me. She has just started a killer series on how to start a blog, and has the best tips to share on an alternative way of shopping. She has a passion for photography and design, and her husband and pup which is why I think we get along so well! 


What inspires you?
Alright this may sound silly, but Pinterest! There is just so much out there and I love being able to find inspiration from designs or recipes that I wouldn't normally do on my own. I definitely have my own style as far as home decor, clothing, etc., goes but often I'm inspired by something I wouldn't have ever thought of and that usually comes from perusing Pinterest. 

What is in your coffee cup every morning?
A splash of milk and one Splenda! As the years have gone by I've added less and less sugary stuff to my drinks. I don't know that I'll ever drink straight up black coffee but I've definitely learned to love coffee for its natural taste. 

What is one thing you have learned this month?
Grace. I've learned that even though I may fail the Lord extends me grace freely! I've also learned that I'm not the only one failing at certain things, like my prayer life. I've been so encouraged that other ladies struggle in the areas that I struggle and that we are all wanting to grow together!