Be Still and Know

This weekend I got away with a girlfriend to a cabin on the lake, and it was a refreshing time for my soul. We did some leisurely shopping and ate a lot of yummy, bad-for-us food. It was all wonderful, but my favorite part of the whole trip was the time we spent resting. We threw on sweatshirts and enjoyed a slow morning on the deck, sipping our coffee while nestled under a quilt. We marathon watched HGTV and colored in adult coloring books. We were intentional about not being busy, and we didn’t feel guilty about it.

It got me thinking about the value of resting in the midst of a chaotic, loud, busy world. Jesus created us to work. But he also created us to need rest. Not only does he allow us to rest; he encourages it.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

I know a lot of us struggle with the concept of rest because it can sometimes carry with it a certain amount of guilt. We get used to the busy schedules, traffic jams, ringing phones, and – if we are so blessed – noisy households. We are so conditioned to the busyness, we feel like we are wasting time or being lazy if we carve out some time for quiet.

Can I just remind you that it was God who created the Sabbath? He is Holy and perfect, and he himself rested on the seventh day after creating everything.

“By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing, so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.” (Genesis 2:2)

Resting refuels our soul. It makes us better parents, employees, spouses and friends. It extends a shortened fuse, recharges our enthusiasm, and allows us time to hear God’s voice.

Remember Mary and Martha? Martha thought she was doing right by staying busy in service to God, but Mary was the one who was praised for sitting at his feet. I think God knew we as a people would need lots of reminders that rest is not only okay, but it is very good!

“Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)

God wants more for us than constant motion, service, and completed tasks. He wants us to sit at his feet, hear his voice, and simply be still in his presence. It is a gift he has given to us as his dear children.

When is the last time you sat at His feet and let him refresh your soul? He is ready, waiting and well-equipped to lavish you with love and soothe the unrest that burdens your soul.

Breathe in his goodness. Be still and know.

>> Published on bravegirlcommunity.com <<


My Pre-K Classroom

I'm a little bit crazy about my classroom this year. The overall theme is "Art." We utilized lots of bright rainbow colors and paint chip cards. Here's a closer look at some of the details!

Our circle time bulletin board is bright and cheerful! This board will stay up all year, and we use it to discuss the calendar, weather, alphabet, colors, numbers and shapes. I'm crazy about the doubled border, and the bottom one that actually looks like paint chip cards. 

The twine lines with clothespins now displays art work done by the kids. The paintbrush was created by my co-teacher last year. She used big sheets of bulletin board paper. To me, the quote from Vincent Van Gogh is perfect for Pre-K. (And the fact that it came from an amazing artist carries out our art theme even further!)

Our writing center is my favorite area in our classroom. I found the red table on craigslist, and my husband cut the leg height down. Our art theme is carried over to this area with the small paint buckets that hold the dry erase markers.

We grabbed paint chip cards from Lowes and turned them into our cubby tags.

We also made our own job chart and utilized paint chip cards to write the kids' names on.

We are a month into this school year, and I can truly say it's already the best year I've ever had as a teacher. After 8 years working with 3-year-olds, I was ready for a change. There's nothing I don't love about teaching these older kids. And the fact that I get to share a classroom with such a good friend just tops everything off. 


Dream Big, You

When I was a kid, my brother and I would spend hours recording our favorite Disney shows to a blank VHS tape, then hooking a second VCR to the first one and recording what we called "over and over" repetitive clips of our favorite lines from the show.

We would also spend hours choreographing, styling, and filming ourselves lip syncing to our favorite songs. We wrote and filmed our own short films. We. Filmed. Everything.

Even as an adult, I couldn't stop with the videos. I discovered the Vine app and challenged myself to come up with funny 6-second creations.

God put particular care and detail into each and every one of us. He instilled within us unique interests, passions, and desires. Because of that, we enjoy different hobbies. I believe that the things we are drawn to are not there by accident. Their purpose is for us to be able to find ways to serve Him that bring us joy and fulfillment.

Today, I channel my love for videography by filming and editing videos for my church. By no means do I consider myself a professional, and I still have a lot to learn. But my passion for it fuels my desire to become more knowledgable, and with knowledge comes better material.

This quote greatly inspires me: "You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream."


Why is it so easy for us to tell little ones to dream big, yet we ourselves settle for filling our days with the mundane, required tasks of adulthood?

What do you dream of when you can't sleep at night? And what holds you back from chasing those dreams?

Do you dream of entertaining but immediately count yourself out because your house doesn't look like Joanna Gaines', it's really small, or you can't afford expensive dishes? (Preaching to the choir, here...) Make the best of what you have. If your table only seats four, invite three women over once a month for intentional conversation. (IF:Table conversation cards are a great place to start.) Scour thrift stores and yard sales to find mismatched dishes that reflect your style. Pick wildflowers from the side of the road and put them in a mason jar. Then brew some coffee, make a pie (or thaw a frozen Edwards pie--they're delicious), and invite your friends over.

Maybe you dream of owning your own shop, but you can't afford the start-up. Create a Facebook page, invite your friends to join, then post cute pictures of your handmade or repurposed items. You might be surprised how quickly word spreads about your creations.

Blog. Write a book. Sign up for that course. Start an exercise group out of your home. Pour into others over coffee. Turn trash into treasure, then sell it. Mentor. Feed the hungry. Take pictures. Adopt. Lead a Bible study. Bake. Build furniture. Train for a long run. Explore.
Do that thing your soul was made to love.


That passion you have is not there by accident. It is God-given, and you'll never find yourself in a sweeter spot than when you are living fully in the midst of His plan for you.

Chase after your passions. Dream big, You.

"And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ."
(Philippians 1:6)

(Published on bravegirlcommunity.com)


Embracing the Mess

"Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning."
Lamentations 3:23

With each new sunrise, we are given a fresh shot at this thing called life. Sometimes we wake up and hit the floor running, creative ideas spinning in our head. On these days, nothing can bring us down. We sing in the shower, wave to the neighbors, and hit all the green lights on the way to work. Other days are just plain hard. Painful circumstances that we feel the weight of can keep us burrowed under the covers and immobilized. But because we are adults, we often have obligations and schedules to keep, so we force ourselves to get up, put on a "happy" face, and keep putting one foot in front of the other until we can drop back into bed at the end of the day.

Pretending and going through the motions of life will always get the best of us eventually. At some point, we have to be real about the struggle we can't shake. We have to take a day off from pretending and allow ourselves to embrace the mess and face it head on.

A few days ago, my sister came over for a marathon viewing of Fixer Upper episodes and just to catch up. Due to my husband and I being in the middle of painting our kitchen cabinets, my house was in disarray. (We're talking Pyrex bowls and crock pots strewn everywhere from the living room ottoman to our bedroom end tables.) But quality sister time trumped the condition of my home, plus I knew she'd have McDonald's breakfast in tow, so I swung the front door open and welcomed her into my messy world. 

Over our breakfast sandwiches, I told her how overwhelmed I was feeling with everything around me being so out of place. Then, with Joanna Gaines' shiplap dialogue in the background, I got honest about all the burdens I was carrying: my messy house; all the half-finished projects looming over me; the beginning of a new school year that I as a teacher am preparing for; and, of course, that ever-present desire for a baby. Everything I had been keeping inside came unexpectedly spilling out like a flood.

Even still, I was trying to hold myself together and not lose it completely. Unfortunately, the straw that broke the camel's back came when I let my new puppy back in the house from being outside.  She ran inside covered in clumps of mud and grass, leaving a messy trail behind her. I picked up my puppy to clean her but immediately broke down crying. My sister took it upon herself to get my broom and sweep up the chunks of mud that littered my kitchen floor. She didn't complain or tell me to get it together; instead, when I apologized for being such depressing company, she walked up to me, wrapped her arms around me, and told me, "It's okay to have a messy day."

Her permission for me to not have it all together was exactly what my soul needed. But she also loved me enough to not leave me to drown in my own pity. Instead, she motivated me to get proactive about taking care of business and reclaiming my joy. We gathered up some of the excess clutter I had already bagged up to donate, and we loaded it in my car.

We also decided to treat ourselves to burgers for lunch because not only was it good for me to get out of the house for a little bit, but my sister knows eating out fills my proverbial love tank. (I bet you didn't know there was a sixth love language. And that it involves cholesterol.)

By the time we got out and about, I was feeling much less burdened. My sister's presence alone had played a part, but what resonated with me the most was her grace towards me when I was in a very messy place, both emotionally and physically. Her permission to embrace the mess, along with her companionship in the midst, made a world of difference to me.

So many of us are hurting and barely holding it together. There is so much healing to be found when the mask is removed and we acknowledge our struggles. I encourage you to find that safe person whom you trust and invite them into your mess. Find someone who will listen, encourage you with Biblical truth, and pray with you. Find someone who, after doing all these things, will encourage you to put your armor back on and fight for something better.

If you are not currently struggling, then ask yourself: To whom can I reach out, wrap my arms around, and give permission to have a messy day?

{Published on bravegirlcommunity.com}


When My Strength Runs Out

I don’t want to write this post. I don’t want to let the world know that I am struggling. I’m okay, but I am struggling. I’m joyful, but I’m sad inside. I’m numb, but I’m trying.
The past few years have been a roller coaster of emotions for my husband and I. And though I feel like a broken record talking about our infertility struggles, it’s where my heart is right now. And I’ve learned that being anything other than real gets pretty draining.
So, here’s the deal: In the past few years, I’ve struggled with sadness, bitterness, numbness, and depression. And because I so desperately want to glorify God through this battle with infertility, I subsequently struggle with shame that I have let myself hit such low points instead of perfectly, at all times, trusting my unknown future to a known God.
I got tired of being let down each month when pregnancy wasn’t achieved, so I tried to convince myself I might be better off if I didn’t care so much. In my efforts to become more apathetic about being a mom, unfortunately, other good, healthy emotions hit the road as well. The “protective” wall that surrounded my heart quickly became hardened and impenetrable. Not only did relationships suffer because of my lack of effort in maintaining them, but my home suffered. I could only muster up enough motivation to do the bare minimum. What that looked like for me was basically just doing the laundry so we would have clothes to wear. I also became good at putting on a facade of a clean house by straightening up but never actually cleaning. My dishwasher ran on schedule, but my floors never got mopped. The bathroom sink might have gotten cleaned, but maybe not the shower. Whatever I could muster up enough stamina to do for fifteen minutes every few days got done. Otherwise, my couch and I shared a lot of wasted, quality time together.
At this point you’re probably wondering why I’m putting all this out there. To be honest, I’m wondering the same thing myself. The only thing I can figure out is that my heart doesn’t want to fake it anymore. I’m done with facades, shame, and secrets. I believe it because I’ve experienced it: secrets lose power over you when you bring them to the light. I know I’m not the only person trying to act like I’ve got it all together on the outside while I’m dying on the inside.
So, in the spirit of being real, I’m going to share a snippet of one of my journal entries from September of last year:
I’m too scared to say it out loud and don’t want to add another burden to a busy world’s plate. But I think I’m depressed.
I lie on the couch, warm tears softly streaming down my cheeks, thoughts cascading through my mind of my dirty bathroom, unmade bed, half-completed projects, and dust-ridden furniture. My disdain for my laziness is strong, but I’m immobilized by a numbing, dull pain.
I’m tired. Annoyances have become heavy burdens that I feel in my chest. Simple tasks have become laborious exertions. 
I’m surrounded by people, but I’m all alone. I’m left behind. I’m not a mom.
Lord, I’m so tired. My soul yearns for you, but I can’t muster up a cry out to you, only a whisper of your name. I continue shoveling food into my ever-swelling face.
God, give me joy. Give me energy. Give me faith that moves mountains.
May I some day be brave enough to share these words with someone to help them.
Though I may be in a pit now, my God won’t leave me here.
Every morning, the sun rises on a new day. Every day is His. I am His.
So…are you guys still cool with knowing me, or did I take it too far? This is one of those awkward, I’ve-said-too-much-I’m-just-going-to-walk-backwards-out-of-the-room moments.
But in all seriousness, if you see me on the streets, I probably appear super joyful. That’s because I am. The joy of the Lord is truly my strength, and because he lives in me and I have a strong support system, most days are good.
I am no longer in the pits of depression; thankfully, the Lord carried me through that pretty swiftly. I do, however, still struggle to overcome the numbness. These days, I rejoice when I snot-face cry because that means I’m feeling something. I still entertain the idea of mopping my floors without ever actually getting it done, but Lord knows I’m gonna get there some day.
I have allowed hope to regain entry into my heart, even though that means disappointment could possibly follow on its heels. I’m learning that I can’t feel the good without feeling the bad, and after not feeling much of anything, I’m totally ok with strapping myself back into the roller coaster of emotions and just letting go. I know my God’s got me in the valleys just as much as he does on the peaks.
I take comfort in knowing God knew we would walk through dark days while on this earth, so he filled his word with many encouraging verses such as Romans 12:12, which says: “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” That is just one verse out of many that encourage patience through trial; standing firm; relentlessly trusting; and never growing weary.
To those who have been struggling like I have, God’s grace is big enough to cover the mess we’ve been swallowed up in. And when we get to the place where our strength runs out, His is there to carry us the rest of the way.
He is sovereign and perfect. May we all find rest and healing in his massive, loving arms.


Vacation in Orange Beach

June 10-17, 2016

Day One. Lots of driving. Twelve hours to be exact. Lots of snacking on grapes and gouda. Lunch at a jank Wendy's. Molly was a trooper. Made it to our condo and ordered pizza at an ungodly hour.

Day Two. Woke up to a beautiful view that we had been unable to appreciate upon arrival due to pitch black darkness. Went to Walmart for groceries and essentials. Did some swimming at the pool. Ate dinner at Cobalt, the restaurant within walking distance from our condo. While we waited on our table at Cobalt, we walked the boardwalk to the beach and searched for seashells.

Day Three. Started out rainy, so Emily and I got some good patio time in watching the storm pass. Then we all got to spend some time at the beach. The guys went fishing in the evening then brought back some Thai food for dinner. Emily and I stayed up late hanging out on the patio.

Day Four. It was a hot one. We went to the Gulf Shores zoo, where a dream of mine came true: I met a sloth. Two to be exact. Sid and Sylvia, both dead asleep the whole time. Then we ate lunch at Lambert's, and I got hit in the back of my head by a thrown roll. We went to the outlets after lunch, then the guys went fishing off the dock again in the evening. Pretty much every time they did that, Emily and I hung out on the patio after Molly went to bed.

Day Five. We all went to the pool together and hung out for a while until it started pouring down rain and storming. The guys cooked steaks and hamburgers, and we ate lunch at the condo. We hung out low key, mostly outside on the patio, until dinner at Cotton's.

Day Six. The guys went deep sea fishing the first part of the day, so Emily and I took Molly to the beach to look for seashells even though it was lightly raining when we left. We got caught in a torrential downpour while we were out and laughed hysterically as we got soaked to the bone. The rain finally let up, so we got a nice walk in before going back to the condo and taking showers. We got fixed up for family pictures, and after the guys got done with their post-fishing naps, we walked back to the beach for a quick cell-phone-do-it-yourself-humidity-hair photoshoot. For dinner, we used the red snapper Charlie had caught while deep sea fishing and made fish tacos. This was by far my favorite meal we ate all week. I actually made nachos out of mine with all the taco fixins.

Day Seven. The guys went golfing early, so Emily and I took Molly to the pool for one last shot at some sun. We played with her in the water and laid out for a while before taking her back to the condo for a nap. After the guys got back, we spent time together at the outlets, eating Mexican food at Cactus Cantina, then getting awesome homemade ice cream at Matt's. Wanting to soak in our last night of vacation, we all went to the beach to watch the sunset, fish, and hang out as individual couples/families.

Day Eight. Time to check out of paradise and head home. Had lunch in Yazoo, MS at a BBQ joint that lets their patrons write on their walls. We had to pull over somewhere around Pine Bluff, AR after dark because it was storming so bad, Leslie couldn't see to drive. Then we hit road construction around Little Rock that really slowed us down. It was 2 am when we got to Charlie and Emily's house, so Leslie and I spent the night there before returning home the next morning, retrieving the pug, and unpacking.

This was my first solid week-long vacation of any kind, so getting to spend it at the beach, at an amazing condo, with people I love made it such a special trip. It was the perfect mix of relaxing and fun. Can't wait to go back some day.


The King's Daughters {a poem}

We are Daughters of the King,
but doubt controls our life.
Consumed by problems of this world,
each day is full of strife.

More aware of others' thoughts 
than those of Him above,
we blend into this fallen world,
loving what they love.

We hate the number on the scale,
a battle we can't win.
Yet so afraid to tell a soul
we're starving to be thin.

We find our worth in the words of others
or in the arms of men.
We see ourselves as damaged, ruined;
our souls feel dark with sin.

Addictions fed in secrecy
have led to shame and guilt.
We're trapped inside a hollow shell
of the "perfect" life we've built.

The lies we've heard have become truth,
and we're tired of fighting back.
"Unworthy" has become our name,
defenseless to attacks.

These are the Daughters of the King,
the ones for whom He died.
The ones He aches for when they hurt,
the ones whose tears He's dried.

The ones He created so fearfully, wonderfully--
the jewels in His crown.
He craves us, sees us, chases us;
He never lets us down.

Already set free, yet walking in chains,
we're called for so much more.
The victory is ours to claim
when it's Him we're living for.

He calls us precious, prized and His,
He's spoken for our hearts.
He fights for us and pleads for us,
Forgiveness He imparts.

Lights of this world, He tells us to shine.
He made us to stand out.
He calls us brave and capable
to conquer fear and doubt.

He says, "Arise. Converse with me."
"With you I will abide."
You'll find in all things, looking back,
He never left your side.

Beloved in His eyes we are
and safe we'll always be.
Forever treasured, beautiful,
Accepted and redeemed.

And so it is well with our souls
when we can just believe,
and walk in truth of all He says
of our identity.

We are the Daughters of the King,
the ones no longer bound.
The ones to whom He's given hope,
a future, and a crown.

Published on bravegirlcommunity.com