Listening and Hearing…

Listening and Hearing…

Have you ever realized that there’s such a different between listening to something (or someone) and actually hearing it? If we’re not actively listening to what’s going on around us, everything will go in one ear and out the other, and we will never truly hear what was being communicated.

I find myself being guilty of not actively listening to people sometimes during conversations when I can easily be more focused on what I want to say rather than what they are telling me. Anyone else every find themselves in this place?

To fix this problem, I usually find it requires me to put down my phone, the vacuum cleaner, measuring cups, tv remote, or cup of coffee and putting aside my thoughts to hear what the person in front of me is saying. One of the greatest ways to make someone feel loved and valued is to show them that they are being heard.

Let me say that one more time, because it’s really hitting home for me…

One of the greatest ways to make someone feel loved and valued is to show them that they are being heard.

So much of our time is spent either listening to people or listening to music. Music is such a huge part of my day. I listen to music when I work out, when I’m cooking or cleaning, writing, driving, or just relaxing and enjoy quiet time. One of my favorite ways to listen to music is on Spotify. I love creating playlists for all different times of day, events and seasons.

I wanted to share one of my absolute favorite playlists that I am constantly listening to. It is a compilation of worship music that soothes my soul and reminds me to adjust my gaze away from the things in life seek to distract me from my purpose and goals. Here it is, have a listen! I love listening to this if I can get a quiet moment in the morning, or with a lit candle, journal and cup of coffee in the afternoon.

 

A New Season…

A New Season…

It’s that time of year… The temperatures start to drop, leaves start to change colors, and pumpkin spice everything invades every product we purchase! And I LOVE it! Fall is by far my favorite season, and I get filled with a giddy excitement feeling the season change from summer to fall.

There are a few things I love to do at the change of a season. I wanted to share a few things that help usher in new seasons and new times in the best ways…

1. Deep clean. Oh my goodness gracious… If you are anything like me, you cannot stand when your apartment/ house/ room is not pristinely cleaned and organized. I am completely OCD and I must have things designed and placed just so or else I literally cannot relax or enjoy my spaces. I know… I have a problem. It’s a disease really. Thank God I have a patient husband who helps me and also knows when to leave me alone and let me do my thang.

But in all seriousness I think there is something to be said for once every few months, taking time to do the cleaning tasks we just don’t get to on a weekly or even monthly basis. Here are my top two priorities on my never-ending cleaning list:

  • Cleaning underneath the bed, couches, end tables, dressers, or any other furniture that does not get moved. My skin literally crawls thinking about how much dust can collect underneath these pieces of furniture….. am I right? Also you never know what loose change you may find 🙂
  • Re-organizing the refrigerator and pantry. These are places in your home that can just become catch-all spots for forgotten food items that really are better purposed in the trash can. Anything that is expired, or that you opened and have not touched for at least a month… those things must go. They are taking up valuable real estate and we just can’t have that. Also, one great way to keep your pantry clean is by adding a few baskets and simple storage containers. This will keep it looking esthetically pleasing, but also group similar items together and make things easier to find. (I may share more specific tips on pantry organization another time!)

2. Tweak your workout routine. With the change of a season also comes a change in weather. So why not adjust your fitness plan to the weather! For fall I like to do a mix of both indoor and outdoor exercises. To me, there is nothing better than a gorgeous fall hike or a run in the cool crisp air to get your blood flowing and to also enjoy the beautiful nature around us. You can break our your favorite leggings and a light sweatshirt or long sleeve tee and you’re good to go. I also like to balance that with indoor crunches, squats, lunges, push-ups, etc. I find a balance of both is a really nice way to complete your fitness plan. Also this may be the time to start researching gyms or health clubs near you, that way when winter comes, you can keep your momentum and progress by joining a gym.

3. Buy a new candle. I know this may seem like a silly one, but buying a candle is one of my number one ways that I treat myself. I love candles, I love burning them when it’s just me or when I have an apartment full of people. They set the mood, create a beautiful ambience and add whatever scent you want your home to be filled with. And during the beginning of fall stores are simply teeming with the best fall scents. So get yourself a fall harvest, apple orchard, pumpkin donut candle and treat yo self!

Can I give you a hint? If you’re not already doing this then you are seriously missing out… you know the stores in the malls with the beautiful name brand candles that smell amazing and come in all different beautiful jars but cost upwards of $25 for a single candle? Well those same beautiful candles can also be found at HomeGoods for half that price! If HomeGoods is a place you have yet to experience then you need to go there. Right now. Don’t feel like traveling to the store today? That’s okay, they make it so very easy! Shop from the comfort of your own home! HomeGoods.com

4. Freshen up your closet. This means a few different things. You should be going through the entirety of your closet and pulling out the things you did not wear during the past season. If it is in your summer wardrobe and you did not wear it once this summer… you should donate it. Don’t hang onto the things you’re not wearing, again it is just taking up valuable real estate. Then once that step is done, it’s time to start packing away the shorts, tank tops and flip-flops, and making room for the sweaters, jeans and booties. Keep things organized and clutter free to help putting outfits together that much easier.

5. Change your phone/ computer backgrounds. This is also a small little things I love to do every season, and actually every month! Maydesigns.com makes it so incredibly easy with their monthly FREE tech backgrounds. They offer four fabulous wallpapers for your phone and your tablet/computer at the beginning of each month. I’m telling you… it’s just one of those things I look forward to each month and they are SO cute! Not to mention you can peruse their notebooks, planners, calendars, etc. that have the best prints and colors that you love!

6. Set new goals. This is one that takes some time and some soul-searching to complete. Ultimately you need to ask yourself, “Over these next few months, what are some things I want to accomplish and complete? Are there goals from the last season that I did not meet? If so, is it because those goals were unrealistic or because I did not work hard enough to tackle them?” Be honest with yourself, and recognize what it will take to complete the tasks you set before yourself. I can promise you this, nothing feels better than looking back over the past season and knowing you accomplished things you were working towards!

Well friends, I hope this list helps you add some fun and practicality into the new season we are walking into. Don’t forget to allow each day to be purposeful and to allow each season to teach you something.

What are some things you like to do at the beginning of new seasons?

All of the Questions, and None of the Answers…

All of the Questions, and None of the Answers…

Do you ever cringe internally when you’re approaching an upcoming conversation with someone because you know the questions they’re going to ask and you just don’t have the bright, shiny, polished answers? Yeah… that happens to me. These questions may come from distance acquaintances whom you barely know, or they may come from close family and friends. And the topics can range across all areas of life- family, relationships, marriage, kids, jobs, finances, if you can think of it… then add it to the list.

Sometimes I feel like I can answer a question with all of the positive aspects of the answer first, but then when it comes down to the not so positive things I kind of dance around the answer. I can kind of picture it like having a garden (which is a really ironic metaphor to come into my mind considering the fact that I despise gardening). If someone were to ask me “What’s growing in your garden?”, I would first of course point out my beautiful tulips, zinnias or lilies, but I am much less willing to admit all the weeds that can be found growing just below my beautiful buds.

So then I find myself wondering, well do I answer them truthfully and admit there might be some weeds in my garden? Or do I stick to only displaying my flowers? Here are a few questions I can ask myself to help me navigate these scenarios:

  1. Am I answering honestly? No matter what the question is, there is no reason for you not to give full honesty when answering someone’s question about your life. Whether it be about your job, relationship, family, friends or faith- let’s not allow ourselves to fall into the temptation to tell little white lies to make those weeds disappear. Just remember- honesty breeds vulnerability which ultimately breeds community and closeness in relationships. Maybe being honest with this person can grow your relationship.
  2. Does this individual need to know about certain details of my life? Another thing that helps me determine what I need to say is who I am speaking with. It’s OK to not feel totally comfortable sharing certain things with certain people- that’s completely up to your discretion. And if this is the case, in stead of getting caught up in our first scenario and feeling tempted to lie, I simply try to answer their question succinctly and move on to another topic. If it’s not something you don’t want to talk about, then there’s really no reason you should have to.
  3. Do I even have the words to answer their question? Sometimes the weeds are too overpowering, they’re too strong and so overbearing in your life. Sometimes the small act of a question being asked can send us into a complete tailspin where we completely loose sight of truth. This also has happened to me a time or two. So what do you do in those situations? When the words don’t come… when you honestly don’t even know what to say… just pray. Pray for the Lord to give you the words you do not have, and pray that He will carry you through this conversation with His grace and peace. Even a prayer in a split second can make the biggest difference.

 

Pray, trust, and don’t be afraid of people asking questions.

When it Looks Nothing Like You Pictured it to Be…

When it Looks Nothing Like You Pictured it to Be…

This has been such a vivid season for me recently. Sometimes we expect these wonderful showers of blessings to continually rain down on us when we feel like we are on top of the world, and then sometimes, the shower seems to slow down and life seems to become a little more…  normal.

We go from living from hi to hi and we get used to the thrills of new seasons and exciting opportunities. And then once all of that settles, you look around and realize you are in a new place that you never expected to be and you’re not quite sure how to find your purpose. Maybe you thought your life mural would be filled with blues and greens and organic shapes and then you look up and there’s lots of red and orange splattered across the canvas. Has this ever happened to you?

Honestly, I wish I had the answer to figuring out how to manage these uncertainties in life. I wish I had a 1, 2, 3 step-by-step list of ways to walk through these times. But all I can say is that when a part of your life looks nothing like you pictured it to be, keep reaching towards your goals and taking steps and pretty soon, one way or another, you will realize the mural of your life is that much richer.  No matter what colors, shapes, or brushstrokes appear on your canvas, know that they each tell a story and have shaped you into your own unique masterpiece.

So friends, have you ever felt this way? And if so, what did you do to keep moving and keep walking through your season?

Seek Something Stable…

Seek Something Stable…

There are certain seasons of life that bring more changes, uncertainties and unknowns than we ever would have expected. Have you ever walked through a stage such as this? Chances are you either have walked through this stage, are currently in this season or are about to walk into this season. Wherever you are on this spectrum- there is one thing that helps me keep my world from spinning out of control. And that is to seek something stable in your life. Search out one thing that has not changed amongst everything else in your life and focus on the constant nature it holds.

So what is the stability in your life? Is it a parent, sibling, a friend or a loved one? Maybe it could be something as simple as coming home to your apartment or house that you have created with love every single day… sometimes that is the most comforting thing to me. Maybe it is an activity, workout routine or class you find solace in. Whatever that person, place, or thing may be- seek it out daily in your life. Amongst constant change, confusion and lack of sameness, avidly pursue what you can rely on.

And as a bit of encouragement, let me remind you, the one thing that is truly constant, is the Lord. The only person in our lives who will remain unchanging, the only place we can go to seek genuine healing and comfort, is the Lord. Sometimes it may feel like God is the farthest away from where we are, but He desires to fill that space in your life, so are you allowing Him to?

When you need something stable… seek it with intentional persistence and allow it to carry you through the most difficult or challenging seasons of life.

“The Lord gives his people strength. The Lord blesses them with peace.” – Psalm 29:11

“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

Are You Pursuing Your Passions?

Are You Pursuing Your Passions?

Do you ever come across something and it brings you to a whole different place in your life? Maybe an object in your childhood bedroom or something packed away in a box in the attic or stuffed under your bed? And when you find this thing it transports you way down memory lane and you are reminded of a whole different side of yourself that has somehow remained under the bed or in the dusty corner of the attic along with that object? Well yeah… that happened to me the other day.

Since I’ve been married, it has taken a few trips from my parents house to get all my belongings into my new home. Deciding what to keep, donate and throw away proved more time consuming than I thought it would be because I realized just how much stuff I had kept- mostly from high school. Oy.

One specific item that really tugged at my heart was a poem that I had written my junior year of high school about my all time greatest passion at the time- running. I still love to run to this day, albeit a very different experience from when I was in pristine condition and going for an 8 mile run after school was nothin’ but a thang. Now I struggle to run more than a mile and a half because well… I don’t have a coach and a team to train with and keep me on my toes. I ran through college but towards my senior year it became more a way to blow off steam and destress from the day rather than a regimented workout routine.

When I do run, I still find such joy and fulfillment in it. I love the feeling of accomplishment and the endorphins that I get from a good run. And yet lately, when I contemplate going for a run I find that I am consistently talking myself out of it because I know some sort of insecurity will creep into my brain. Whether that be the way I look in my running clothes, or the fact that I can no longer run a mile in under 7 minutes, or even the fact that I have to run on city streets and neighborhoods instead of dirt trails or country roads (which are definitely my preferred roads to run on).

It is moments like this one I had today when I am reminded of the passion I have for running. Reading that poem I can see the honesty in the words I wrote, and I can feel a motivation rise up from inside me urging me to lace up my sneakers. THAT is passion. When mere words written years ago can still awaken a hunger in the deepest part of you- then you know with certainty that this is something the Lord has given you a passion for. So now my question is- are you pursing that? Are you allowing yourself to make space for that in your life?

I realized that the devil was absolutely making camp in this area of my life, because those doubts and hesitations that entered my mind every time I thought about going for a run (even as simple as that may be) were coming from him in an effort to keep me from something that would bring me joy and glorify God. (And yes- I believe that going for a run can glorify God because I am using the body he has given me, taking care of it, being a good steward of it and thanking Him for the blessing of having an able body to run with.) So yeah- those doubts were from Satan and unfortunately they came full circle because when I don’t keep my body in good shape, I feel disappointed when I look in the mirror and compare my present self to the way I know I look when I am running consistently. Then those thoughts weaken me mentally and make me feel more despair when I think about changing that because I know how far I have to come. So basically it is a whole big, messy, exhausting mental game the devil plays and wreaks havoc on the state of my heart.

Working through all of this in your mind and in your heart can be tiring, but to come to a conclusion and find solace in the answers brings so much peace. So take time to work through it in your heart- what passion are your not pursuing? And why?

Here a few questions to help you uncover this in your own life:

  1. What is a heart-held passion of mine that I have not been pursuing?
  2. What are the excuses I have been making to avoid or not face pursuing these passions?
  3. Am I afraid of pursuing this passion?
  4. What tactics is the devil using to keep me from focusing on this area in my life?
  5. What practical changes can I make to my daily life in order to make space for this passion?

If God has given it to you… USE IT! He has given each of us a specific and unique set of skills, and I’ll bet ya that many of those skills and talents can be used to build, grow, and work on that area of your life that has been sitting in the dusty corner. It’s time to start dusting things off my friends!

Let me know how it goes! 🙂

Hills and Valleys

Hills and Valleys

Do you believe that God is a God of the hills and the valleys?

Search your heart and try to answer that question honestly to yourself.

In my opinion, it’s much easier to proclaim that God is a God of the hills rather than the valleys. Hills are filled with light, there is a view to look out upon seeing how far you have come and everything you have accomplished. On the hill you are literally on top of the world and you feel that strength beneath your feet. How easily at these moments do songs of praises and rejoicing come from our lips with a sweet ease?

Yet when we find ourselves in valleys there is little to no light, we can only see how much more ground there is to cover and any progress that has been made is difficult to view. Feelings of overwhelming frustration, loneliness, and a loss of understanding flood our hearts. In these valleys- do I still proclaim that God is sovereign over every circumstance in my life?

I’ll be honest- I have been so convicted when I honestly ask myself this question. The past six months have been filled with such change and transition. And at times I feel as though I should be past the difficult days. Then I am reminded, it doesn’t matter what days come, what things I am struggling with, or even the frustrations I may feel- God is still good. He is still God. He is still sovereign. His ways are better than my ways and that is something I should always rejoice in.

Songs are a very powerful tool that I believe God uses to speak His truth to us. Here are some lyrics from two great songs regarding this topic that speak assurance and encouragement into my heart.

“Hill and Valleys” by Tauren Wells

On the mountains I will bow my life to the one who set me there //

In the valley I will lift my eyes to the one who sees me there //

When I’m standing on the mountain I didn’t get there on my own //

When I’m walking through the valley I know I am not alone //

 

“Not For A Moment (After All)” by Meredith Andrews

After all you are constant // After all you are only good //

After all you are sovereign // Not for a moment will you forsake me //

 

So when we are walking through the valleys let’s keep our eyes looking up, knowing that God will not keep us here forever. And through our journey of life through the hills and the valleys- know that God is God every day, in it all.