Magnolias & Mourning

A week ago today, I was sitting on my parents’ front porch making homemade wreathes made of magnolia leaves with my mom.

While the moment was a nice bit of cool weather craftiness, the heartache we were all feeling could not be ignored.

Saying goodbye to a loved one is never, ever easy.

I sat on the porch floor surrounded by magnolia branches, listening to the kids run around the yard. Each moment made us smile, but tears still inevitably stung behind our eyes.

Realizing life is short is never, ever easy.

I punched a hole through another leaf as I strung it on the metal hoop. Mom arranged another brown leaf to create a contrast against the bright green leaves, and we chatted.

Talking about loss is never, ever easy.

Four to six weeks left turned into almost three months. God showed up.

In the midst of the mourning, I have seen the faithfulness and amazing hand of God. Prayers that sometimes felt like they were hitting a glass ceiling were working in more powerful ways than I could have even asked or imagined.

Seeing God in the midst of pain is never, ever easy.

But while I strung together my wreath, and thought about everything that whirled around in my brain, I remembered that life was never meant to ever be easy, but we don’t have to do it alone.

Because although our family came from all points of the country to gather together to remember and cry and mourn, the key is that we were together. We didn’t have to do any of it alone. We didn’t have to be strong by ourselves because we were strong for each other.

Admitting that I’m not as strong as I think I am is never, ever easy.

But God is
always strong
always faithful
always holding us
always answering prayers.

And while I’m never, ever going to understand it all, God is always and forever going to be there, working when the never evers seem to take over.

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The Wild & Free I’ve Always Needed

She falls asleep on top of her covers, with books beside and below her.

The warm glow of her princess tent lights make even the most awake person cozy and ready to dream. The soft rhythm of her breathing is a sound I could listen to forever.

As I stare at her sweet sleeping face, surrounded by ginger waves of hair, my heart skips a beat and I think…

Blessed. I am truly blessed.

To be the mother of a daughter is something I dreamed of my entire life, and to know that my amazing Father knew that my heart needed her in my life is always a delight (even when we don’t see eye to eye because, well, she is her mother’s daughter).

And even though we have our moments, and she’s at the stage where she “picks out her own clothes,” and constantly says, “I do it myself,” there’s no other way I can imagine living this life with this beautiful little one.

My Aubrey Anne, you simply are the wild and free I’ve always needed in my life.

To Be Brave…

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To be brave…

is to follow without doubting

is to push passed the noise of the “I can’ts” and the “it’s too hard.”

To be brave…

is to cling to what is true and let go of the lies that keep grabbing on.

To be brave…

is to know that my timing is always off, but the rhythms of His ways move and flow precisely.

• • •

In April, we took a trip to Nashville, a trip that has become my annual Birthday celebration (no complaints here).

Last year was all about the Country Living Fair (which you can read more about here), but this year, was all about proclaiming a truth that God has been burning in my soul for over a year.

B E   B R A V E

Those two words have become part of my heartbeat. Because for years, although on the exterior I may have appeared to have it all together, I was (and still am) really just a hot mess. And it’s taken me a good almost 3 years to really come to grips with the fact that almost every choice I was making was somehow rooted in fear. Many decisions, big or little, always had fear dangling from them.

But thanks to our amazing God who surrounded me with so many different beautiful souls, and the ultimate truth in His Word, I am walking with my eyes looking at Him.

And He is constantly whispering His sweet song over me:

Wait patiently for the Lord. Be BRAVE and COURAGEOUS. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord. {Psalm 27:14}

And so now, the phrase Be Brave will always be before me, and I’ll wait patiently for Him, trusting that the arrows of His truth can pierce through the fear that tries to keep me down.

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A huge thank you to artist and story teller Chipper Harbin for his amazing skills on this.

Friday is for…

Fridays around here have a different pace.

They’re the beginning of our weekend. They are the day we try hard to turn our email off, to do something different, to take a deep breath.

We use it as a day for just us…which, I’ll be honest, I used to feel really guilty about. I used to think, “Am I a bad parent for having my kids at preschool/childcare when I’m sitting at home or traveling around town? Is it wrong that I’m sitting at our local diner eating pancakes with my husband and the kids aren’t with us?”

But then the more I thought about it, and honestly, prayed about it, I realized, having this day allows us to recharge. To spend time together, or with other friends, so that we can have that time to grow together. Because, let’s be honest, parenting is hard, exhausting, and the most beautiful mess ever! And if we don’t allow ourselves to take a deep breath, to take a little break from it all (which, yes, sometimes the only break we may get is just locking ourselves in the bathroom for 5 minutes to keep from going crazy), then I think we’re doing our children (and ourselves) a bit of an injustice.

Because, Fridays for me, are not a day to just pretend I’m not a parent or forget I have responsibilities.

No, Fridays for me are an opportunity to grow a little closer to the Lord because it causes me to take off those heavy burdens I’ve put on myself during the week.

Fridays for me are an opportunity to have a longer conversation with my husband, which grows our marriage.

Fridays for me are an opportunity to plan our Friday night pizza and movie family time.

Fridays for me are a day of rest, that God has commanded me to take so that I can be a better follower of Him, a better wife to my husband, a better mom to my children, and a better friend to those I care about…to ultimately continue to follow the calling He has for me so that I can be the woman He has designed me to be.

Because we were made to glorify Him and I believe that when we enjoy every moment He’s given us, that we bring Him glory.

So, here’s to Fridays…or Saturdays…or Mondays…or whatever day you have in your week that allows you to breathe a little deeper.

Creating Spaces

I am a sucker for well-designed spaces.

Seriously, I’m the crazy person, who when walking into a really great space, I’ll pull out my phone and say, “Oh! I HAVE to photograph this place!” (Yes, I will say photograph – with a ridiculous emphasis on “photo.” Don’t ask…).

Maybe it’s the artist inside me, maybe it’s because I grew up in a home where every room felt like it could be in Country Living Magazine, I don’t really know the reason, and I’m not sure I need to know it.

But what I do know, is that if I’m in a thought-out, well-executed space, I’m going to want to stay there for hours, and I’m probably going to need a large cup of coffee to go with it.

So last year, when I made some dramatic changes to my morning routine, I got this crazy idea that we needed a reading nook in our home. And thankfully, my hubby agreed with me, and thus the Pinterest search for the best reading nook inspiration began!

We scoured thousands of images, found little things here and there, all helping us decide on how we wanted the space to look.

Then, last April, we celebrated my 30th Birthday in Nashville, TN at the Country Living Fair, and, y’all, did we find some gems! Our main goal was to find a chair and a table for the nook. We searched, and searched, and toward the end of the Day 1, we found a the perfect metal type writer table. Now, at the time of purchase, it was a dark green that had no charm at all, but a couple coats of white spray paint would make all the difference.

The chair, on the other hand, took forever to find. We looked and looked and looked. I was convinced we weren’t going to find what we really wanted…and then…I saw it.It was green and blue, with wooden legs and armrests, and totally straight outta the 60s, but I knew it was THE ONE. I saw it from 100 yards away, yelled to Dustin, and my parents, “I’ve found it!” and then, proceeding to run, not walk, to the dealer who had it on display. It was perfect. Completely comfortable, upholstery in great condition, right in my budget, and to make the deal even sweeter, they let us talk ’em down a few more bucks.

So, fast-forward 10 months, after saving and planning, we have finally completed our new reading nook, and it is incredible! What used to be a dark wall with lots of shelves, lots of stuff (which I loved by the way because we were able to display so many great things), has now become a fresh breath of air in our living room.

And one of the things I really love about it, is how it’s a combination of old and new, refabbed stuff, and one-of-a-kind creations. No one in the world has a space like this in their home, and that just feels special. So, if you need me, I’ll be in that fabulous green chair, drinking coffee, diffusing some Young Living oils, and reading the latest SheReadsTruth Bible study. (yeah…I’m that girl…)

BEFORE

It’s the wall behind Dustin.

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AFTER

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P.S. Quick shout out to the incredibly talented A Little Design Company for the “Stay Awhile” print over the chair. So pumped to have a piece of their work in our home!

Sushi Snacks and Satisfaction

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Honestly, sometimes, the book of Ecclesiastes can be kind of depressing and overwhelming to me.

It’s the dance of “here is why life is horrible” and “here is how you can make life better.” There’s a lot of “this’s” and “that’s” that juxtapose together to make a book full of challenge and cut-to-the-chase wisdom. Solomon definitely doesn’t beat around the bush about anything.

Over the past few weeks my eyes have really been opened to the honesty of God’s word. Not that I ever doubted the truth that it holds, but I think I sometimes glazed over the brutal honesty that God shares through each writer and each moment.

And as we’ve been going through a very challenging series at Friendship Church, discovering how to Conquer 2016 and actually get to the root of many of the problems we want to attack at the beginning of each year, my eyes have really been opened to one major thing:

Am I satisfied in this life God has given me?

So, every week, I’ve been reading different verses that coincide with each week’s message, and there’s one particular passage that really caused me to dig deeper, read more context, and really dive in to what was being said.

Those who love money will never have enough. How meaningless to think that wealth brings true happiness. Ecclesiastes 5:10

Now, I’m not about to start talking finances or anything like that. (This goes so much deeper, and that was one of the main objectives during that part of the series.) What really got me on this is how Solomon just tells it like it is.

Love money? You’ll never have enough. Oh, and if you think all your riches will bring satisfaction in your life – wrongo!

And if you keep reading, it gets better. Everything you earn slips through your fingers…everyone leaves this world the way they came, naked and empty-handed.

Awesome.

However, there is much truth and challenge said in Solomon’s words. He’s warning us so that we invest in what is truly worth it.

Remember that juxtaposition I told you about? Here it is in Ecclesiastes 5:18-20:

It is good for people to eat, drink, and enjoy their work under the sun during the short life God has given them, and to accept their lot in life. And it is a good thing to receive wealth from God and the good health to enjoy it. To enjoy your work and accept your lot in life – this is indeed a gift from God. God keeps such people busy enjoying life that they take no time to brood over the past.

To enjoy your work and accept your lot in life – this is indeed a gift from God.

Wow. Anyone else convicted by that statement? What has been placed in front of me is truly a gift from God.

So, here’s the truth in all of this – try to gain wealth and riches and stuff and approval and anything else that attempts to fill that void of dissatisfaction or tries to feed that hunger for greed, and use that as your only drive and desire in life…yeah, life is gonna suck in the long-term. Sure, it’ll feel great in the moment, but when the high of getting the stuff wears off, you’ll find yourself hungry again. (Just like those sushi veggie rolls I just ate. The rice filled me up for a moment because it expanded in my tummy, but now I’m hungry again.)

The counter to this is this: Embrace what God has given you and enjoy this life (that he desires for us to enjoy by the way), and the fulfillment we’re looking for will naturally flow out of his blessings.

We’ll discover that we’re so busy being satisfied with what God has placed in our lives at that very moment, that we won’t have the time to think about what we could have in the past, present, or future.

Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. Philippians 4:11-13, emphasis mine

Satisfaction probably isn’t going to happen overnight. It will definitely have to be learned, but through Christ’s strength, contentment is possible.

The Thing About The Bathroom…

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I have a love/hate relationship with cleaning my bathroom.

That being said, since I try to be a positive person, I’ll start with why I love it…
I love cleaning it because it’s so nice to walk into a sparkling, good-smelling bathroom when I’m getting ready in the morning.
I hate cleaning it because I’m reminded just how disgusting we as human beings can be and how much “stuff” we shed when we’re in there.
I love cleaning it because it’s one of the smallest rooms in our house, so naturally it shouldn’t take too long to clean.
However, I hate cleaning it because once I start cleaning one area, every dirty nook and cranny rears it’s ugly head at me and says, “You might as well get the scrub brush, knee pads, and bleach because you’re in here for the long haul.”

Bleh.

Then I got to thinking about it (as I scrubbed and scrubbed the same 5 square inch area for 15 minutes)… Isn’t it funny how cleaning the bathroom is a lot like examining our hearts and minds through the truth of God’s Word?

We go into the bathroom to clean things up or out (…no need for explanation there), and we exit feeling relieved, cleaned up, and refreshed (Ok, I’m done with all of the bathroom analogies).

When we dive into the Word, we dive into it with the desire to learn more about Christ, to become more like Him, and to be transformed by the renewing of our minds.

But that doesn’t happen unless we’re willing to do a little scrubbing, or better yet, allow the Holy Spirit to do a little scrubbing in us.

Sometimes the scrubbing takes a bit of time. We get through one layer of dirt thinking we’re good to go, only to discover there was a hidden corner that we tried to cover up with the bath mat (aka pride). So we bunker down and scrub a little harder. And when it’s all cleaned up, we take a deep breath, thank God for the bruises on our knees, and walk away knowing that it was all worth it.

That fresh aroma is “a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God” (2 Corinthians 2:15). We have been washed clean from our guilt and purified from our sin (Psalm 51:2, paraphrased). When we are clean, we can “go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water” (Hebrews 10:22).

The scrubbing might hurt a bit. It might take a while to really break through the crud, but in the end, the outcome is far better than what we imagined, and the freedom that follows is worth celebrating.

So friends, let’s get on our knees, open up the Word, and let Jesus do a deep clean to our souls. Because the end product is worth the rough process.