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    Let’s Celebrate! One Year of Marriage + The Things We’ve Learned Along the Way

    Videography by One Fifty Media House

    One year. Wow – what a year it has been. I can’t believe that a year ago last Sunday, we made our vows forever. We’ve learned a lot in the one year of marriage. I’ve been planning for weeks to share some of what I learned on here and post this as a sort of surprise for Rick. After spending the weekend celebrating our one year anniversary with him, I decided he needed to be in on the sharing too. Don’t worry. We already got out all the mushy, gushy words in cards and love letter, so we won’t bore you with all of that here. Now, on to things we’ve learned!

    Things We’ve Learned After Year One

    Written from Ashley’s perspective but includes Rick’s thoughts.

    Compromise goes way past TV shows and decorating styles. Sure, we compromise on TV and decorating styles. The compromise doesn’t stop there. It begins there. There’s so many little things that we’ve had to compromise on during the last year. Dairy Queen versus Thai Tea isn’t the hardest of decisions, but we’ve had to learn how to compromise on the big things. Compromise requires sacrifice from both people, even if it’s a seemingly small sacrifice in the grand scheme of things.

    “Two are better than one…” – Ecclesiastes 4:9-12. It’s been a rough year for me personally. I’ve allowed myself to fall into the trap of several lies. I’ve never understood this verse better than I do now. Rick has been by my side to encourage, support and let me know those lies are false. He has sat with me time and time again and reassured me that those aren’t true. They are not true of who God has made me to be or of my actions. I cannot imagine if I sat through this past season by myself. I’d be a much different person. I definitely would not be walking in God’s guidance. I needed that grounding and constant reminder that I am loved, valued and worthy.

    It’s not about romance, it’s about doing life together. This may be one of the things I am most thankful for. At the end of a rough day, I don’t want roses. I want someone to sit with me that I can relay all about my day – the joys and frustrations. I want someone that I can bounce off wacky ideas and serious theology. Yes, date nights and long weekends together are incredibly important. If those are the only time you’re connecting though, it’s not enough. You need to connect in another way. For us, that may be me sitting in the kitchen drinking a glass of wine while Rick is cooking. It’s Rick doing chores so I can pour myself into photography and blogging. It’s me letting him sleep until noon on Saturdays when I desperately want to play board games by 9am.

    Not every moment in marriage is pretty. I knew this going in but figured I’d add it to the list, because it has rung even more true than I could have imagined. You know what’s not pretty? Starting our marriage sick and ending our first year of marriage sick again. Maybe that’s just full circle? Either way, there’s been plenty of moments that haven’t been the prettiest. Some have been grosser than others. (Mucking out houses.) Some have been prettier than others. (Yay for big dinner date celebrations!)

    Don’t compare your marriage to others. This encompasses how easy things are, how hard things are, both the glamorous and the non-glamorous moments. I think we have the idea that when you get married that things will line up just like your friends or family appears. In reality, those marriages may already be set up and have taken years to take root and grow. Take your time. Let yourselves grow and thrive naturally.

    Not every fight is worth having. If we fought whenever we thought we were mad, we’d be fighting a lot more. We choose to fight when we need to, when it’s over something important and especially if it’s something that threatens our marriage. There’s no need to fight over who ate the last hummus. We’ve got a grocery store nearby. There will be more. We choose to fight over the tough and hard stuff that matters. This isn’t always the perfect formula, but we try to strive to be better at it each day.

    Apologies + Forgiveness are Hard. I stink at apologies. I always have. I’m probably even worse at forgiveness, especially when it comes to myself. This one is hard to talk about. I think I’m better at both of these today than when this marriage started. Along the way, I’ve learned a lot about grace though. Grace for Rick. Grace for me. Grace for us as a couple.

    You’ll learn a lot about yourself. I know I have. I’ve learned about things that I’m good at that I have never considered strengths of mine. You also see your own shortcomings as slightly more glaring than ever before. You have more accountability. There’s someone that sees every aspect of your life. You may be able to ignore the chair full of laundry that’s been there for a week already, but it’s hard to ignore the one that you’re accountable to when they sleep less than a foot away from you. There’s a different responsibility that comes with that accountability – one wrapped in loyalty and respect. I’ve learned to rely on Rick as a sounding board for reason, encouragement and support. I’ve learned that we truly do need one another.

    Day 365 is easier than Day 1. Life together gets easier. It’s simple. We learn each others’ idiosyncrasies. As we get to understand those quirks, we understand how to do daily life with each other, and we increase our capacity to fully love each other. It’s a lot easier to display my love for him now when I know him deeper and better than ever than when we left our wedding.

    Be intentional in everything. Intentional was my word of the year, so of course it’d find its way on here. It’s so true though. It’s easy to look back on this year and see the moments where we’ve been intentional and see the moments where we got “busy”. Being intentional doesn’t always look like a big moment. It’s the small moments of connecting throughout the day. We’re very intentional in different ways. Do things fall through the cracks? Yes, we’re human. It’s about picking up the very next piece when that happens and making sure it’s given a little extra care. I’d venture to say that being intentional in the mundane moments leads to a lot more glorious “big” moments as y’all have the foundation laid for that. Intentionality these days is playing a board game, taking a walk and making sure we’re on the same page with calendaring.

    Never stop telling your spouse how you feel. Not to be morbid, but death has been in the back of my mind for awhile. I want Rick to know without a doubt that if something happens to me, that I truly am deeply, madly in love with him. He is my best friend and the one I can count on for absolutely anything.

    Our Favorites From Year One

    Games: Skipbo // Ticket to Ride // Pandemic // Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime

    TV + Movies: Moana // Longmire // NCIS // Hocus Pocus // Great British Baking Show // Raising Hope (on repeat + still cracking up each time at the same moments) // Parks + Recreation // 30 Rock

    Podcasts: The Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey // Popcast

    Books: The Turquoise Table by Kristin Schell // A Fierce Love: One Woman’s Courageous Journey to Save Her Marriage by Shauna Shanks (We read both of those books together and had some really great discussions based off of them.) // Rick getting back into reading in general

    Food: Sushi Dates at Japaniero’s // Guac + Chips // Asia Cafe // Chicken Lime Tacos // Dumar’s // Zucchini // Local Table // Snow Monster // Anything I cooked for Rick // Korean Grill // Wine

    Miscellaneous: Reading in Hammocks // Our Wedding Memories // Our New Home + Trails // Road Trips + Travels (especially ATX, St. Augustine + Disney World) // Sleepovers with Andrea + Lori // Waco trips to visit Rick’s Family // Dinners with my Mom + Lori // General exploring // Pokemon at Oyster Creek Park // Breakfast with the Quiochos // Candles

     

    I totally feel like a new mom right now with those trendy boards that say all the stats about your one month old. On that note, we are not pregnant. I am a photographer that created a Pinterest maternity board the other day for a client session. (I’ve gotten several texts, so hopefully, that’ll clear it up for you. I get it. I have a bit of a tummy. I’m on a new medicine for my Chrons Disease that is causing weight gain.)

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    Photography by Awake Photography

    Kill the Spider by Carlos Whittaker: A Book Review

    I can probably name the amount of times that I’ve sat around talking to another Christian about spiritual warfare. I’m not talking about the “there is bad in this world, but Jesus will overcome” kind of chats. I’m talking about the nitty, gritty conversations where the Devil doesn’t look so neat and tidy, where the darkness is darker than one can ever imagine. Talking about how to combat it? Say a prayer. Do good things. Hope for the best.

    This response has always seemed to pale in comparison to the greatness of the God I serve. Really though, is there a “good” way to discuss spiritual warfare where it doesn’t seem like it should be relegated to October or set in a dark, moody, muted color palette like Stranger Things? If there is, Carlos Whittaker has discovered it. I think sometimes spiritual warfare is seen as something to do behind closed doors where no one can see the darkest of the darkest moments we have. Carlos is begging that we bring the light to that darkness.

    Setting up this whole idea of a spider in your life creating cobwebs and generally wreaking havoc, is an incredible tale that his dad told him. (I’m already on board with this because I love stories from older generations.) As I’m sitting here currently, I can’t decide to let you in on the tale or to tell you to go buy it and read it for yourself. It’s in the very first chapter or two. It’s also here on Carlos’ podcast in Episode 001. Actually, go listen to him interview his dad. It’s an incredible story, and I loved being able to hear his dad audibly tell it. Once you’ve heard it though, let the power of it sink deep into your soul. It’s a tiny tale with a huge impact.

    The Words That I Can’t Get Out Of My Head

    Carlos is now off on a grand adventure to kill the spider instead of brushing away the cobwebs of his life. Picture your own cobwebs. You know the ones I’m referencing. It’s the habits you confront quickly, and they dissipate only for you to rediscover them a few weeks down the line. I get it. I’m right there with you. Social media comparison, I’m looking at you. (On a slightly other note, instagram, please enable a feature where I can remain following someone but don’t have to see their ‘glamorous’ life on my feed.) Carlos defines the spider itself as “an agreement with a lie you believe.” Brush the cobweb away and let that sink in.

    There’s a few stories that I’m still digesting a few weeks after reading. There’s also a few quotes that have stood out. They’re the ones that I haven’t been able to shake no matter what I try. They’re the ones that when I dive back in, I’ll be digging into them and their influence in my life. I’ve listed them below. Hear these words straight from Carlos Whittaker himself:

    “What can you silence in your busy life to increase the decibel level of the voice of God?”

    “We will never kill our spiders with podcasts, seminars, conferences, conversations, leadership principles, devotional apps, Scripture tattoos, or killer Instagram images with motivational quotes on them. They are great and work for a moment—literally, one moment. But that stuff isn’t and wasn’t created to address the deeper needs. It won’t completely and totally change you from the inside out.”

    “Everybody has spiders. It’s just nobody does anything about it until they come out of hiding.” Wow.

    Write those down. Take them with you. Don’t just read and walk away. Let them influence your life.

    Raw. Honest. Truth.

    Those three words are the ones I can best describe my experience reading this. I felt like I was sitting at a close friends house as they told me with no bars held back about everything they’d been going through lately. It is refreshing. It is also heartbreaking. I saw myself all too much in Carlos’ words where I wish I hadn’t. His struggles with how he relates to God and wondering if he’s forgotten sound all too familiar. If I’m honest, it’s a little uncomfortable. It’s uncomfortable in a good, strive towards a better life lived in His fullness kind of way.

    Y’all, I am actively planning on rereading this already. I devoured it on my first read through and can’t wait to sit with it and dig deeper. I cannot express enough how much this book is a game-changer in spiritual warfare and actively living as a Christian instead of just brushing sin away like it’s now dealt with.

    I’ve started compiling a list of quotes that I love, but really, how does one compile one of the most comprehensive daily prayers that I’ve ever read into a list of quotes. It’s pages long, absolutely breathtakingly beautiful and a necessity in a starting place of my own prayer life. Carlos’ wife, Heather, wrote it for them and their family, but I’ll be revising it and tailoring it for my family and posting it on a wall somewhere for us to pray daily. It is hands down one of the most heartfelt, beautifully written, seeping with love prayers that I’ve ever laid eyes on.

    Seriously, I have all the love for this book and can’t wait to see the impact it has after its release on October 3. It’s my number 1 suggestion from my 2017 Fall Book list. In Carlos’ words, “Gaze at God. Glance at life.” Now, go preorder it, so you can get it next Tuesday!

    [Full Disclosure: I am a member of Carlos’ Launch Team for Kill The Spider: Getting Rid of What’s Really Holding You Back. I have been asked to provide my honest opinion regarding this book in exchange for a free digital copy.]

    20 Fall 2017 Books I’m Excited About

    Book lovers, get excited for Fall 2017 books! I’m incredibly excited about this collection of books because the options from this fall are just so good! There’s even some children’s books that I discovered and really, really want! I know Rick and I have a 5 year plan, but we may need to start putting a children’s library together because I am so in love with children’s books right now. Let’s go explore some books!

    Coming in September + Ready for Preorder (Or Just Out!)

    September 1Deeper Waters: Immersed in the Life-Changing Truth of God’s Word by Denise J. Hughes
    Turning to the Bible isn’t always easy. Where does one start? How do you read this anyway? Denise cuts through those questions as she demonstrates how to read the Bible with the expectation that God will meet you there. She teaches readers how to hear God in his word, see the connection of where our world meets his word, and actually even enjoy reading this “boring” book.

    September 5Come and Eat: A Celebration of Love and Grace Around the Everyday Table by Bri McKoy
    If you read and loved The Turquoise Table from my 2017 Summer Picks, you’ll love this book. Bri explores the conversations and connection that takes place around a dining room table and how to make it more meaningful for you and your people.

    September 12Single, Dating, Engaged, Married: Navigating Life and Love in the Modern Age by Ben Stuart
    Are you looking for a dating book with good and solid Biblical theology? This is it. Ben explores the 4 distinct stages of romance and life and what it should mean for us from a Biblical perspective in today’s culture. Looking through each of these stages, Ben explores what eternal things we should be pursuing at each point as we try to glorify God in each of these stages.

    September 12Braving the Wilderness: A Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone by Brene Brown
    Did you see this was written by THE Brene Brown? That’s practically enough said. I got to see her on her Houston stop of her book tour where she did an overview of her new book. It is packed with the research and goodness that one expects coming from Brene Brown. Having said that, Brene lovers pick this up soon!

    September 19The Dogist Puppies by Elias Weiss Friedman
    One word. Puppies! This is an amazing coffee table style book featuring a ton of puppy pictures that all dog lovers would absolutely adore.

    September 19Reading People: How Seeing The World Through the Lens of Personality Changes Everything by Anne Bogel
    I heard Anne discussing this on a podcast what feels like ages ago now. Personality tests always intrigue me whether it’s a Myers-Briggs or Which Disney Character Are You?. I’m Cinderella by the way. Anne gives practical insights as to how knowing and utilizing your test results will revolutionize life.

    Coming in October + Ready for Preorder

    October 3Kill the Spider: Getting Rid of What’s Really Holding You Back by Carlos Whittaker
    If I could only recommend one book that is life changing this year, it’d be this one. I’ve received an Advanced Readers Copy and will be telling y’all all about this book in a future blog post. Until then, preorder it because WOW. Carlos cuts away at the cobwebs we swipe and show us that that’s a temporary fix as we discover what spider is making those cobwebs. I finished it a week ago and can’t stop thinking about it and the implications it has for my own life.

    October 3Daring to Hope: Finding God’s Goodness in the Broken and the Beautiful by Katie Davis Majors
    You may remember Katie from her debut novel, Kisses from Katie, which is featured on my 2017 Reading List. She’s back this October as she grapples with the huge question of God’s love for us in troubling times. She invites us into the moments of questioning she has as she searches for answers and hope.

    October 3A Crazy, Holy Grace: The Healing Power of Pain and Memory by Frederick Buechner
    This collection of essays grapples with the hard topics of pain, grief and grace. It covers “such topics as the power of hidden secrets, loss of a dearly beloved, letting go, resurrection from the ruins, peace, and listening for the quiet voice of God. And he reveals that pain and sorrow can be a treasure—an amazing grace.”

    October 6A Bigger Table: Building Messy, Authentic, Hopeful Spiritual Community by John Pavlovitz
    Can we as a church live in the inclusiveness that Jesus called us to where we love everyone?John Pavlovitz explores this question of who should the church love when it comes to topics of LGBT inclusion, gender equality, racial tensions, and global concerns.

    October 17Thanksgiving in the Woods by Phyllis Alsdurf
    Thanksgiving is always a holiday that is laced with understated magic for me. It’s the magic of the collision of simplicity, faith and family. This gorgeous children’s book explores one family’s Thanksgiving traditions that they hold in the woods. Everything about that just seems so magical. Thanksgiving, you really deserve more books.

    October 17A World of Cookies for Santa: Follow Santa’s Tasty Trip Around the World by M.E. Furman
    I am fascinated by cultures which is why when I saw this children’s book, I knew instantly that I’d be getting it for my future kids. (Future = waaayyyyy down the line.) I absolutely love the travel adventure this story takes little ones on as they get bits and pieces of culture on a trip around the world with Santa. I love that it’s a little cookie cookbook too!

    October 24100 Days to Brave: Devotions for Unlocking Your Most Courageous Self by Annie F. Downs
    You may remember that I’m quite the Annie fan. Her words have definitely permeated my life in crazy ways. I can’t wait to sit with Annie in this devotional as we strive together to find our own bravery and strength in our lives for Christ. I can’t wait to get my hands on this!

    October 24The Fearless Baker: Simple Secrets for Baking Like a Pro by Erin Jeanne McDowell
    After savoring episodes of the Great British Baking Show on Netflix, the baking bug has bitten me again! Rick is always telling me that once you understand cooking at its roots, it’s so easy to customize dishes, change flavors and do all those things that take good food to amazing food. This cookbook can show me the food science so that I can understand baking at its roots. There’s a fun little video on the Amazon page to preorder this cookbook which features this quote: “When you understand the why, you don’t have to bake with fear.” This is definitely the cookbook I need to forge ahead into a life of fearless and delicious baking.

    October 31200 Women: Who Will Change the Way You See the World edited by Ruth Hobday, Geoff Blackwell, Sharon Gelman and Marianne Lassandro
    If you asked 5 questions to 200 women of different backgrounds, what would the results be? In this combination of essays and quotes of 200 women discuss some tough topics we get to know that answer. The interviews feature both individuals like Jane Goodall as well as those who aren’t known. I love that juxtaposition as we get to see humanity and womanhood at its most beautiful core.

    Coming in November + Ready for Preorder

    November 7A Birthday Party for Jesus by Susan Jones
    This is another children’s book that I can’t wait to add to our collection. Christmas gets lost in the mix. It’s no secret. We focus on gifts and not on Christ. In this sweet tale, a group of fun little animals throw a birthday party for Jesus as they celebrate the real meaning of Christmas.

    November 7In the Middle of the Mess: Strength for the Beautiful, Broken Life by Sheila Walsh
    Sheila takes us on a stroll through her own mess as she shows what spiritual disciplines have allowed her to see Christ through her struggles. She discusses her defenses and how she had to take them down along with the practical applications each of us can use to evaluate in the midst of our own messes.

    November 7 Bonfire: A Novel by Krysten Ritter
    I absolutely love two things: small towns and mysteries. In this small town mystery, a girl named Abby finds herself in quite a predicament as a little inquiry for work spirals into a full fledged mystery of the disappearance of a girl she knew a decade ago. Scandals and dirty secrets exposed!

    November 21A Simplified Life: Tactical Tools for Intentional Living by Emily Ley
    Who feels like they need a simpler life? ME! Emily Ley is the simplifier. I can’t get over how perfect this description is: “Emily’s strategies, systems, and methods for permanently clearing the clutter, organizing your priorities, and living intentionally in 10 key areas—from your home and meal planning, to style and finances, parenting, faith life, and moreEmily will show you how to truly make the most of your days with realistic, achievable, and tactical tools.” I’m so excited to dive in as I continue to intentionally simplify my own life.

    November 24Stranger No More: A Muslim Refugee’s Story of Harrowing Escape, Miraculous Rescue, and the Quiet all of Jesus by Annahita Parsan
    I can’t even begin to do the description of Annahita’s story here. In short, she fled her home country, endured a miraculous release from prison, came to know Christ and is now glorifying him in crazy ways. From that short description, I have so many questions. How do you just get out of prison? How did she discover Christ along the way? What is she doing now? I can’t wait to read this.

     

    Are you preordering any of these? What books are you looking forward to? Do you like seeing 20 books here or would you prefer that I highlight only 10 books when we get to Winter? Share your thoughts in the comments please!

     

    For the Love: A Book Review


    I finally finished For The Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standard by Jen Hatmaker. This whole “finishing the book moment” is something I feel like I should get a blue ribbon for or at least an award of that kind of caliber. It’s not that I finished it, and I can finally cross it off my 2017 Reading List. Over this summer, I realized that once I get close to the end of a book, I put it down. Y’all, I put it down with the intention of not picking it up again. It’s not that I’ve suddenly become disinterested but I absolutely hate goodbye endings for tv shows and books. In Jen’s favorite saying, ‘For the Love’ you’ve only had 3 chapters left since March. I recently mourned the end of Hart of Dixie though, and now I’m having to say goodbye to Jen? It’s just too much for my little reading-loving heart to take. (I get that she has a new book out. I can see that I have several chapters left of Seven to enjoy. Yet this problem remains!) On to reasons I believe y’all should be picking this up as your next read.

    Her Writing Style

    Give me a book or a podcast that sounds like one of my best friends with more wisdom and life insight from future seasons, and I am all ears (or eyes). I absolutely love that writing style. I think it’s because it doesn’t dance around subjects and is willing to pack a punch to the gut – in the best of ways of course. It’s like getting a letter from one of your best friends that doesn’t hold back. She’s included all the sweet and tender moments to the ridiculously invasive, the ‘my friend needs to know this stuff’ that is probably not meant to be shared for all the world to see and everything in between. I absolutely love it.

    Her Wit + Humor

    Y’all, she wrote an entire chapter of tweets like it was 1985-2001. What’s better than that? Jen is one of those authors who is able to tackle a topic like grace and impossible standards with humility and humor. She doesn’t just show us the beauty of grace but imparts knowledge like the difference between tights and leggings as pants. Spoiler alert: Tights as pants is NOT the answer. As a girl known for her wit, she has nailed it.

    When I first heard that she knocked off Jimmy Fallon’s Thank You Notes segment, I wasn’t sure what to think. (If you have no idea what that is, go search for Jimmy Fallon Thank You Notes on youtube. You’re welcome. Also, block off at least an hour to go down that rabbit hole.) I was very wary because my love of Jimmy Fallon is pretty deep, and I just didn’t want to see one of my favorite continual segments ruined. Jen did not disappoint. She wrote the kind of thank you notes that Jimmy Fallon hasn’t touched but that definitely pulls at my heartstrings with thank you notes to treadmills, Caillou, automatic flushing toilets to name a few. I think the best part of her thank you note chapters is the way she utilizes them as a buffer chapter between some heavy stuff that needs time to sit on your soul.

    Her Challenging Words

    Let’s talk about that heavy stuff that needs some time to sit on your soul. (This may be partly influenced by me listening to Interrupted by Jen Hatmaker on audiobook a few weeks ago.) I’m not going to be delving into theology here. There’s a place and time for that, and it’s just not right now.

    The very first chapter of my copy of this book has highlights and arrows, underlines and squiggles – that’s how I know this is going to be a good read from the very beginning. Jen wastes no time to start telling us to calm down, live in the season we are in and gives us permission to not “measure our performance against an invented standard and come up wanting, and it is destroying our joy. No matter how hard we work or excel in an area or two, it never feels like enough. Our primary defaults are exhaustion and guilt.” Hi! That’s so me. Throughout the book, Jen delves into some excerpts of Brene Brown’s research in her book, Daring Greatly. Those words cut to me. I’ll save that for an upcoming blog by itself though.

    The other challenging chapter for me was Jen’s call to love the church. She called out members, potentials, pastors, staff and so many more. The church is a broken mess of an institution, one that I have struggled with many a day. Jen’s words caused me to sit and ponder how we imperfect humans who are so very fallible in our own rights go about worshipping a perfect God let alone in a formal context with other believers. If I’m not grieving even a little bit how we can’t glorify God perfectly in our human gatherings of ‘church’, am I even involved in church? I’m talking about being involved in a very real and intentional way, not just the “I go there a couple times a year” church commitment that our society deems as passible.

    Like I said, I struggle with the church – how broken it is, yet how beautiful it is at the same time and how God has chosen it to display a glimpse of his glory. The moments where my faith has been least affected by the formal gathering of church, whether positively or negatively, have been moments when I’ve stepped away for whatever reason. I stepped away last year from a formal gathering of the church as my heart grieved and healed some tough situations. Stepping away from church doesn’t necessarily mean turning your back entirely. In my case, it meant stepping down, being intentional about my own relationship with God rather than serving. It meant sticking with my spiritual growth through studying his word, podcasts, reading, tough conversations, prayer and ultimately my own time spent with Jesus. Rather than catering to the needs of everyone around me, I asked for those brothers and sisters of mine who were intentionally walking alongside me to rally around me during this season so I didn’t get lost in the mix, so that I didn’t step away for good. For me, stepping down wasn’t turning my back on God. It was a much-needed reprieve and rest after an intense season of ministry. God called me to step down and step back for a season, a very difficult and weird season. This isn’t the case for everyone, but for me, I needed that time away for healing and restoration before I could serve in a formal gathering of believers again.

    Do I recommend this?

    In short, yes. I believe that this would make for a great book club read with wisdom sprinkled throughout bursts of humor. If you’re interested in reading it, feel free to purchase it here.

     

    The Weird Thing Annie Downs Taught Me About Bravery

    My rhythm of life was greatly interrupted last spring. My daily rhythm changed drastically as I sat out a few rounds against Chron’s Disease due to surgery. What I didn’t realize at the time is that it was also being deeply interrupted by something else. I spent a lot of time in various waiting rooms reading tales of bravery penned by Annie Downs in her book, Let’s All Be Brave. It’s weird. I thought in those moments that hearing these stories were to help me to get through surgery and recovery but they seeped far into my heart past those months.

    I wouldn’t say I’m a risk taker. The unknown and how everything will play out has always made me a bit anxious with possibilities. It makes being brave hard! When I started reading this book, I didn’t realize what being brave in my life would mean. I didn’t know the steps ahead that God would ask me to take in His name and in the name of courage itself.

    Unmarked

    I have long felt the desire to write about the words within these pages. Words of bravery beckoning for courage. Doing bravery any kind of justice is something I just I don’t feel I can adequately capture because I struggle with my own bravery. The path to finding my own bravery has been rocky. Some days look crazily more brave than other days.

    I’m a doodler. In meetings, in my personal reading, in making checklists for the day – I doodle. I underline, I highlight, I circle, I draw arrows and so much more. After urging my friends to read this book last January and finally finding a chance to have a book chat over Skype, It was a surprise to me when perusing the pages again that there wasn’t even a single pen mark.

    I picked the book back up again last week. Still no markings. I have very few books in my possession that are this devoid of pencil, pen and highlighter. In a way, I am so thankful for that. Last week, I read these words again and allowed them to cut into my heart and soul once again.

    Annie’s Words That Punched Me In The Gut

    “If you are brave, you are willing to walk the map that is yours, the one with twists and turns you’ve never expected, and you must be disciplined enough to stay on the narrow road under your feet. Step by step. Each step leads to the next, and before you know it, you are walking in a rhythm of courage.

    I never tied discipline to courage. I never saw the correlation. I guess I should have, since I lack in both. But in all matters – physical, mental and spiritual – I believe that to live a disciplined life leads to a brave life. We long  to be brave in the big moments, in the clutch times, in the times when our backs are up against a wall. But to get there? It’s the everyday. It’s the practice. It’s the steps. It’s the discipline.

    Let’s be real; that’s not the most fun answer you’ve ever heard. None of us enjoy discipline. Hebrews 12:11 puts it perfectly: ‘No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.’

    And in The Message? Boom. ‘At the time, discipline isn’t much fun. It always feels like it’s going against the grain. Later, of course, it pays off handsomely, for it’s the well trained who find themselves mature in their relationship with God.’

    It always feels like it’s going against the grain.
    Yet. It pays off handsomely.”
    Let’s All Be Brave by Annie Downs

    The Weird Connection + My Path to Brave

    I’ve always perceived discipline to be a continual rigorous act that requires patience and strength no matter what the discipline is for. Just like Annie, I never thought about discipline to be related to courage. Never in my wildest dreams. It just seems so weird. Yet, as I’ve started adding more bravery to my life, I’ve become more brave.

    I quit my job.
    I married my best friend.
    I began writing and blogging again.
    I picked up my camera and started shooting again.
    I started a Supper Club.
    With the support of some friends, we created an accountability group called the 7th.
    I started a new treatment for my Chron’s Disease.
    I confronted my fears.

    I became increasingly braver with every act. The bravery has opened my eyes to new ventures that I feel like I can say yes to and that I can feel confident about. I don’t know when I became braver. I don’t know when I first embraced courage and said, ‘Let’s travel this road together now’. What I can tell you is that as I’ve given myself the gift of grace to fail, I have become braver.

    I didn’t realize this until recently. I’ve struggled a lot with some of these things. When Rick and I were discussing one of them the other night, he turned to me and told me that I showed bravery in my decision. Bravery to follow God and to live true to myself. In that moment, a realization sunk in. I had never pictured it that way, but maybe, I am brave after all. If nothing else, I’ve got to be on the right path to bravery.

    I don’t know what you’re struggling with. I don’t know what giants you may be facing or what is lurking in the back of your mind today. What I do know is that my life is being changed through the brave path of discipline. The small disciplines of giving myself grace, allowing myself to fail and in saying both the courageous yeses and no’s, are making myself into a better person as each day goes on.

    Annie Downs later says, “Unforced rhythms of grace. Discipline as a rhythm. Could discipline look like grace and make me braver?” Yes Annie, I believe it can. I do believe it can.

    10 Summer 2017 Books I’m Excited About

    I absolutely loved reading during the summer when I was little. I loved being able to pick out any book I wanted to see what would happen. Looking through the Summer 2017 books that are coming out, there’s 10 that have stood out that I really want in my personal library or at least to read. I absolutely love the endless adventures and possibilities waiting for you with each book.

    Coming in June + Ready for Preorder (Or Just Out This Week!)

    June 6Praying with Eyes Wide Open: A Life-Changing Way to Talk with God by Kevin G. Harney and Sherry Harney
    Growing up, prayer was something that was defined to a set time – mealtime, bedtime, church time, etc. I love how the Harney’s are opening up prayer to permeate every aspect of life rather than just those moments that seem to be ‘prayer times’. I’m really excited to see how this book can take my prayer life to the next level.

    June 6The Turquoise Table: Finding Community and Connection in Your Own Front Yard by Kristin Schell
    I joined Jamie Ivey’s Book Club a few weeks ago and was ecstatic to see this was the first on our list to read. Focused around community and your own neighborhood, this is an easy read and may I say GORGEOUS book. I can’t wait for this to show up in my mailbox!

    June 20My Year in Paris: My Day-to-Day Adventures in the Most Romantic City in the World by Janis MacLeod
    When I lived in Costa Rica, I read an entire series on a life in Paris. Ever since that summer, I’ve been increasingly more interested in both baking and France. This day to day journey of a memoir is exactly what I want since my summer travels don’t include a trip to Paris. One day…

    June 30 – When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon
    What is summer without some summer romance? This unexpected novel quickly caught my attention. If you know me, you know I’m a fan of cultures around the world. I love reading about them and I love experiencing them. This novel combines that with a look at how two Indian-American’s look at arranged marriages as they navigate both their relationship as well as their relationships with their parents.

    Coming in July + Ready for Preorder

    July 1 – Exalting Jesus in Acts (A Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary) by Tony Merida
    It may be a little weird that I am adding a commentary to this list. Y’all, these commentaries are so cool. They’re one of my favorite additions to look at next to the scriptures. Acts is a book that I’ve longed to read for a while now. Since I’ve loved the other Christ-Centered Exposition Commentaries, I will definitely be using this one to pair with my reading of Acts. If you’re in any type of teaching the word of God, I’d highly recommend this series of commentaries.

    July 4Fearless Parenting: How to Raise Faithful Kids in a Secular Culture by George Barna and Jimmy Myers
    I am not a parent. I have spent a lot of hours working in youth ministry with teenagers though. Researcher George Barna’s has teamed up with counselor Jimmy Myers to create a book steaming with insights of what it looks like to raise faithful kids in today’s world. Even though I’m not a parent yet, I believe the insights of these two are worth reading for anyone who works with kids or students.

    July 4Doing Busy Better: by Enjoying God’s Gifts of Work and Rest by Glynnis Whitwer
    Busy. Overcommited. Exhausted. These three words often define me, and maybe you too.  Glynnis Whitwer breaks down our habits that we’ve built for ourselves and shows us how live our lives better as we work a new rhythm of rest into it.

    July 25Lucky in Love by Kasie West
    This romantic tale seems like a fun story for you to get lost in. Both the main characters work at the zoo which is one of my dream places to work so that makes me both excited and intrigued about this tale. How fun would it be to say that your coworker is a tiger? Okay, this may not be so much about the animals as it is a secret, a dramatic life change, two zoo co-workers and love. I’ll still love it anyway.

    Coming in August + Ready for Preorder

    August 1Steal Away Home: Charles Spurgeon and Thomas Johnson, Unlike Friends on the Passage to Freedom by Matt Carter + Aaron Ivey
    This tale unites the lives of Charles Spurgeon and Thomas Johnson as it shows us their individual lives as their journeys cross paths and they become friends. I’m not sure if it’s historical fiction or an accurate historical account. Either way, I do believe the juxtaposition of their tales will make for an interesting read.

    August 8Of Mess and Moxie: Wrangling Delight Out of this Wild and Glorious Life by Jen Hatmaker
    Jen has a way of utilizing her wit and insight to draw you closer to Christ. Her past books have made me reflect on many things that I’ve never really drawn a parallel with in my life with Christ. I’m very excited about this read, plus I love saying the word ‘moxie’.

    + Some Spring 2017 New Releases I’m Still Super Excited About

    Chasing Slow: Courage to Journey off the Beaten Path by Erin Loechner
    This call to slow down is meant for the busyness that we allow to invade our lives, but let’s face it, I doubt we left our busy tendencies behind when summer started.

    Love Lives Here by Maria Goff
    This is one of the few books that made it onto my 2017 Reading List. Maria Goff infuses her life and home with love. In this book, she has provided us insight on her secrets on how to do that in our own lives. It’s a must read for me after falling in love with her husband, Bob Goff’s book, Love Does.

    Never Unfriended: The Secret to Finding and Keeping Lasting Friendships by Lisa-Jo Baker
    Friendships can be so, so hard. I’ve heard a ton

    Sweeter Than Honey: A Coloring Book To Nourish The Soul by Lindsay Sherbondy
    L
    indsay Sherbondy has beautiful work – calligraphy, sayings and this coloring book is icing on the cake as she invites you to join her in the creation.

    At Home in the World: Reflections on Belonging While Wandering the Globe by Tsh Oxenreider
    I listened to another podcast the other day with this author and each time I get even more excited about this book, her travels and the amazing stories and revelations she had in her 9 months abroad. This one will give you wanderlust for sure.

    Lucky Few by Heather Avis
    I am in love with Heather’s story about how God took all her plans and wrecked them for his. She’s an adoptive mama of 3 kids, two of which have down syndrome. I follow Heather on instagram and absolutely love watching her journey.

    Hopefully this makes choosing your summer reading picks a bit easier. What’s on your summer reading list?

    Undaunted + How God Used These Words In My Life

    I’ve given myself a huge undertaking. With my desires for diving back into a life of reading, I’ve given myself 29 books to read this year. When I set out to make my 2017 Reading List, I didn’t venture to add so many books. It just happened. The sheer number of it, kind of scares me as it begs that I won’t be able to finish. In fact, to date, I’ve only read three of those in their entirety.

    When I saw that Christine Caine was starting a book club for those reading Undaunted: Daring to do what God calls you to do, I figured I’d sign up. It was on my list anyway. Y’all, this book wasn’t on my list. The author isn’t even on there with a different book that I planned to read this year. This has to be God’s timing. The words I have read this past week and over the weekend have cut deep into places that I know He spoke directly into using Christine’s words.

    The words ‘rallying cry’ are evident and were placed on my heart as a summation of her words. With every chapter, Christine pleas for our generation to step up and step outside of ourselves. For us to know who we are in Him and to throw our fears aside to follow Him. To live undaunted.

    Her Stories

    Australia has long been a fascinating place for me and more recently, Greece has captured my interest. It’s funny that Christine Caine, a Grecian girl who is from Sydney, Australia would write words that would land in my hands and even more so into my heart. She’s filled with wit, draws from personal moments from getting lost in a rainforest to the very moments God placed A21 on her heart in the most unlikely of places.

    Christine’s tales suck you in as she shows you how God’s hand has been evident in her life. Her gentle yet fierce words beckon the reader to look at where God has been evident in their own life and where their relationship with Him is currently. She speaks of the fears, disappointments, and unknowns she has grappled with and yet overcome. Her ability to overcome with God at her side invites and imagines for us to have the same in our lives.

    Undaunted. That’s a word that escapes me. It’s a word that I’m not sure if I’ve ever had roll off my tongue. I know what the feeling of being daunted is – full of fear, unknowns looming in the future, a general yucky atmosphere up ahead. What about undaunted though? Undaunted is a word brimming with courage, an unstoppable force as it faces challenges head on with the confidence and faith that God will help you overcome them.

    That’s the way I’d like to live. What about you? So often though, it’s a life we’re wishing for rather than the confidence we are living in.

    Her Use of Scripture

    Christine laces her words with scripture in a beautiful, captivating way that makes you want to read more, to read deeper. It’s a way that is uniquely her own. I read a lot of Christian Living books. While I absolutely adore this genre, sometimes I feel that God’s words are standalone next to the author’s own. They flow in and out, yet keep their words separate as they relate them back to the scriptures. As a fellow writer, it’s hard to not admire Christine’s gift for writing. Her use of bringing the scripture so vividly in front of her readers not just in a way to reference but in a way that it dances on the page in front of you and leaps into your heart. It’s like reading it for the very first time even if it’s the millionth.

    Words I Needed + Maybe You Do Too

    Rick and I decided to spend some time in our hammocks this weekend. We spent hours relaxing, reading and just resting in two different parks over the weekend. The most surprising this to me was God choosing that time to meet with me. I’m not sure if you’ve ever had intentional time with God in a hammock, but I’m now convinced there may be no other way. In a world where distractions are constant and loud, there’s something about a hammock that seems to block them all out.

    Christine Caine’s words are so God breathed, I want you to read them for yourself. These are words that hit my heart in the best of ways over this weekend:

    “If you allow those labels to loom larger in your heart and mind than the promises of God, they can fool you into missing God’s truth about who you are, into not pursuing the purpose God has had in mind for you from the beginning of time… You need to return to the truth of God’s Word that will last forever, not meditate on circumstances that will change and fade.”

     

    “If we allow other people to tell us what we are and are not qualified to do, we will limit what God wants to do with us.”

     

    “When you let fear run your life, you close yourself off from anything that might hurt or cost or make you uncomfortable – including opportunities to serve God and claim his promises.”

     

    “When Jesus asks, Do you love me? he is also saying: Then keep your eyes on me. Keep believing in what I have created you to do. Turn over to me your fear, and hold fast to faith in me. Replace that fear – fear that I did not give you – with the love, power, and sound mind that I have given you. Know that my presence is your antidote to fear.”

    Words for the Weary

    Lately in our home, we’ve been discussing work versus play. Mental health and self-care are frequent topics. This weekend our hammock time served to be a complete separation for us. After so much talk between us over the past week, I thought it was interesting that Christine discussed it. In the midst of a book calling us to live undaunted in our faith for ourselves and to reach others, she devotes time and words to slowing down, recharging and rest.

    We can get worn down by the needs in this world, and wearied by them, God knows. We need sleep, rest, restoration, recuperation. That’s why God gives us the end of a day, and he doesn’t begrudge us our rest. He doesn’t want us to come to the end of ourselves and be defeated and enslaved in a spiritual Auschwitz, tormented, thinking it is the work we do that sets us free, so that we have to get back up on the treadmill and do more, be more. No, he doesn’t want us to burn the candle at both ends so that we end up lethargic, fatigue, burned up, and burnt out. To do that is to walk into the lie that was wrought in iron over the arched entrance of Auschwitz – to be held captive by the idea that work sets us free. This is not what God meant when he said in Isaiah 1:12: “Why this frenzy of sacrifices?” (MSG).

     

    Working ourselves into a frenzy of tormenting others by working them to death is not freedom. It is enslavement. But we are not slaves; we are free. And we have been freed for a purpose: to share what we’ve been given. The Bible tells us, “he has shown you, oh man, what is good, and what does the Lord require of you, but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8 NKVJ). 

    It’s easy to work, work, work. Even now, in a season where I have slowed and am working on different projects than traditional ‘work’, I find myself working a lot. I research, I stay current, I do housework. (Although, I just realized that I started laundry several hours ago and now have wet clothes in the washer. Oops!) It’s tough to pause and separate from what we’re doing but it’s so very necessary.

    The Story That Stuck Out The Most

    I tend to overwork. In fact, the other night I literally had a dream where I was working to prove my worth to work. I fell in love with the story that Christine breaks down for us in It’s Not Business – It’s Personal.  She reframes a story from Luke – the man on the side of the road and the good Samaritan.

    Nowhere in Jesus’ story does it say that the priest or the Levite were bad people. But they were busy people, religious people. They were so consumed with keeping their schedules, appointments, and commitments that they ended up walking past someone they should have helped. The man lying on the side of the road was an interruption to their ministry, rather than the object of it. 

    These are words that having been in ministry, just kind of shakes me up. It begs me to wonder what could have happened if, “x program had happened”, if “x told her idea”, if “x really embraced God’s leading instead of brushing it off”, if “x truly cared and went out of their way”. The what-ifs don’t have to be what-ifs. So much of that is buried in busyness, personal agendas and fear.

    If you’re reading this, I pray that you don’t allow the interruptions to throw you off. I hope you choose to submit and embrace them. I know that I will be more consciously on the lookout for those God-given interruptions in my life. Moments where He has plans and a purpose greater than myself.

    Worth it?

    Oh my goodness, yes! Even though this wasn’t on my Reading List, I am so glad I worship a God that intervenes in the smallest of ways for my good. I know He set this book club in my path this past week. I needed to read these very words this weekend. This is a book that I would definitely recommend. In fact, I’m passing it off later this week to one of my best friends.

    I’d strongly urge you to read this, especially if you’re struggling with disappointments, past labels, knowing who you are in Christ and who you could be. Even if you’re not struggling with those very things, I recommend you read it. You can find Christine Caine’s Undaunted here. Order it today, her words are so worth it. You will not be disappointed. Especially, if God is leading you to hear these words!