Faith Over Fear

For a variety of reasons, I’ve been feeling a bit on edge this week. And by “a bit on edge” I actually mean “filled with anxiety and fear.” To top it off, I have had a yucky cold that has got me feeling lethargic and meh. Anyway, the reason I bring this up is because I felt so convicted last night when I read this quote on Instagram (the Holy Spirit can use Insta if He wants to, am I right?!):

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In the post, Gretchen wrote out a prayer that simply says, “God, make my faith deeper than my fears.” I have spent the majority of this week letting fear get the best of me instead of believing God when He says that He is working everything together for my good and His glory (Romans 8:28). Maybe you, like me, are sitting here on a random Friday afternoon in December, needing the reminder that God’s love for us is so much bigger than our anxieties.

“If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and He knows everything.” -1 John 3:20

Lord, let our faith be bigger than our fear. Amen.

 

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Josh’s Graduation

Josh is now officially a physical therapist- woohoooo! I am so proud of that guy. On Friday after work we hopped in the car and drove to the Bingham Inn, a bed and breakfast where Josh’s parents had graciously given us a free night. It was flurrying outside and inside felt so warm and cozy, especially with a fireplace going in our room. We went to a graduation party that night which was fun, then came back to the inn and slept hard. Waking up on Saturday to a fire and snow everywhere, PLUS feeling rested, was just about the best.

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In the morning we went downstairs to the dining room area and they had set out the most delicious breakfast for us! Can every morning be like this, please?!

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Later we got together with Josh’s family for a bit, and then headed to his graduation ceremony at Elon! It continued to snow which made everything feel extra wintery and fun.

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The ceremony was pretty quick, and then we had to jet out of there because Josh and some of his cousins + brother were going to the Hornets/Lakers game in Charlotte. While they were at the game, I hung out with my grandparents and then Josh and I spent the night there. They are moving to Pittsburgh in a few weeks so this was my last time staying in their Charlotte house, which I love so much. It was sad to leave knowing that I won’t be able to see them as often now!

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I hope everyone had a fun + restful weekend and is ready to enjoy the week ahead… only two weeks until Christmas!

 

Eating with Guilt vs Gladness

I am feeling extra thankful this season because I’ve been reflecting on how different the holidays are for me now. Back in my college days, holidays were nothing more than a time of heightened anxiety around food, calories, and exercise. It sapped the joy right out of every single event, as you can probably imagine.

The past several years haven’t been perfect, but I have found so much freedom from a lot of that anxiety since following Jesus and doing plenty of heart and soul work. The holidays to me now feel exciting, and I look forward to eating delicious meals and enjoying time with people I love. It is pretty much a 180 degree change from spending the holidays focusing on only myself and scrutinizing every morsel of food consumed and, subsequently, every mile logged to “work it off.” NO THANKS.

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Via

These verses inspire me so much, and if you are currently struggling in your relationship with food, I hope they can encourage you as well:

“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” -Acts 2:42-47

What an amazing picture of the unity and gladness that food can bring! These words remind me that it is so worth it to fight back against the lies that tell us we are only valuable and lovable if we take up less space. You do not have to control every bite that passes your lips. You do not have to exercise to “earn” dessert. You are allowed to enjoy the holidays (and every day!) exactly as you are right this very second.

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[Rebekah Senter Photography]
This season, let’s give ourselves permission to find joy in rest, time with loved ones, delicious meals, rejuvenating strolls outside, or whatever else will help us sink into the moment and pay attention to the gifts in front of us. (Hint: these gifts have nothing to do with the size of your jeans or number of calories on your plate.)

Let’s eat with glad and sincere hearts, praising God, and enjoying the presence of the people around us.

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Via

Hilton Head 2017

Happy Monday, friends! It’s back to the grind for me this week. I love my job, but a week away was exactly what this tired soul needed. It felt really freeing to have so many consecutive days without a schedule or to-do list.

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Hilton Head has a special place in my heart not only because I’ve been visiting every year since I was born, but also because Josh and I honeymooned there! During this year’s trip we stayed in Shipyard with my dad, his girlfriend Jamie, and her adorable grandson, Brently. I could not get enough of snuggling his sweet little self! Baby fever going strong over here!

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I mean come on.

Our vacation was full of all the good stuff- staying in PJs all morning, walking and biking along miles of beautiful trails, sunshine, tasty food, laughing, and just being together. So so thankful. Ok I think I’m done rambling about how much I love unstructured vacation time… here are some photos!

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Visiting Lawton Stables

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Green smoothies + Jenga at The Smoothie Company

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Vacation breakfasts are the best breakfasts

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Lunch at Java Burrito

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Also, in unrelated news, this is the first year I am doing an Advent devotional and I’m pretty excited about it. I found an excellent free one here at Gentle Leading– I’m not sure if you can still sign up to get them delivered to your inbox, but if not it looks like she is posting them on the site every day. Here’s to a joyful and expectant beginning of this Advent season!

Loving Lately [#16]

Happy December! I hope everyone is having an excellent week. Josh and I had a really fun and restful time in Hilton Head. Today we are helping some neighbors move, and then going to a sleepover at our friends’ house. Never too old for sleepovers! I’ll be back Monday with a vacation recap, but for now, I’ll leave you with some recent things I’ve been enjoying:

1. Pumpkin Spice Burt’s Bees chapstick. My sweet sister-in-law gave this to me back in the fall, but I say pumpkin season never ends. I use this magical stuff on the daily!

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2. Trader Joe’s green goddess dressing.
TJ’s recently came out with three new salad dressings and of course I want to try all of them, but in a serious act of self-discipline I am limiting myself (and my budget) to one at a time. I have been putting this stuff on everything- salads, quinoa/rice bowls, meat, eggs, you name it. It’s very fresh and herby, which I love.

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Extremely random but delicious lunch salad topped with green goddess 🙂

3. Noonday Collection. I am so in love with this company! They employ people in impoverished areas all over the world to make beautiful jewelry/accessories, pay them fair wages, and empower them to provide for themselves and their families. Not to mention that their products are straight up gorgeous. My mom sent me a pair of Noonday earrings for my birthday and I absolutely love them. If you are looking for some Christmas gifts, this would be a great company to support!

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4. Ginger chews. Disclaimer: you have to reallyyy like ginger to enjoy these babies. They are super gingery and kind of spicy-sweet! Very addicting. We got these from Vitamin Shoppe for like $2, but I think Trader Joe’s also sells their own brand which I’m sure is similar and just as tasty.

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5. You Are Free by Rebekah Lyons. This book!!! Believe it or not, the content is just as beautiful as the cover. Rebekah boldly and unapologetically proclaims the truth about freedom in Christ, and I cannot get enough of it.

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Tell me something that you’ve been enjoying these days!

Birthday + Thanksgiving Recap

It has been such a fun week of celebration around here! Working in a hospital, holiday days off can be scarce so I was grateful to have Thanksgiving day off. I hope everyone enjoyed the time with their friends and fam!

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On Monday night, Josh surprised me by taking me to Guasaca for dinner where two of my best friends and their husbands were waiting to eat with us for an early birthday celebration! It made me feel so thankful to be here in Raleigh around people we love. That is something I really try not to take for granted.

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On Tuesday (my actual birthday) I stayed at work to help out with a volunteer event. Every year WakeMed does a Thanksgiving dinner for the patients, and so Josh and I decided to help out with it. I’m not going to lie- initially I wasn’t super pumped about being at work all day on my birthday. But I asked God to give me joy in serving and He totally did! So it ended up being a really great day.

On Wednesday, Josh and I went on a short hike at Umstead after I got home from work. One thing I love about where we live is that we are about a 5 minute drive from miles of gorgeous trails! I am amazed every single fall at how beautiful the leaves look. That evening Josh worked and I relaxed, did laundry (which actually feels kind of relaxing to me!) and got started on some Thanksgiving recipes. This year I made a side salad and an apple crisp, and Josh made beer bread.

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Thursday was, of course, Thanksgiving! Josh’s parents live about 45 minutes from us, so we headed there for the afternoon to eat and spend time together. His family is a lot of fun and I always enjoy my time with them. In the spirit of authenticity, I will say that despite having a great Thanksgiving day, I did feel that strange feeling of longing/sadness that I mentioned here. I’m curious if anyone else feels this on holidays?!

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No big plans today other than work and hopefully some chill time! Black Friday shopping intimidates me, despite the fact that I love a good deal. I think the overwhelming-ness of the crowds outweighs my desire to save money. 😉

This year I am determined not to get myself in a tizzy trying to curate all of these “perfect” holiday moments and instead just soak up each day as it comes. (Side note: my friend Alex wrote an excellent blog post about this here if you want to check it out!) My holiday time off from work is next week, and Josh and I will be spending a few days in Hilton Head with my dad. I’ll be back here in a week or so with a recap! Hope everyone enjoys the beginning of this holiday season!

28 Things

In honor of my 28th birthday tomorrow (!!!), I decided to make a list of 28 things in my life that I am currently grateful for- big or small. This also coincides perfectly with Thanksgiving, which is one of my very favorite holidays. Let’s goooo!

1. Being married to Josh

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2. Helping patients who have had strokes, brain injuries, etc.

3. Listening to podcasts on my way to work

4. Free coffee at our apartment complex

5. The Raleigh and Durham farmers markets

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6. Going to friends’ weddings

7. Coconut errythang

8. Living ~30 minutes away from two of my best friends and my sister

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9. My new favorite Nike sweatpants

10. Eucalyptus in a vase on our kitchen table

11. The “Incredibull” from Happy + Hale

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12. Writing on this blog

13. Passing a Trader Joe’s on my way home from work

14. Getting Josh hooked on Grey’s Anatomy

15. Rollerblading

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16. Living near a public library

17. Our first batch of home-brewed kombucha

18. $5 burger night at Bar Louie

19. Hiking at Umstead Park

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20. Penpals

21. Inspirational people on Instagram

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22. Sunday night small group

23. Season 2 of Stranger Things

24. Serving in the church nursery aka holding chubby kiddos

25. Yoga videos on YouTube

26. Crockpot dinners on repeat

27. Saturday morning boot camp

28. Plants on the patio

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Have a lovely Thanksgiving week, everyone! Sing some praises and eat some turkey!

Nurturing Joy

Recently, I attended a continuing education course on traumatic brain injuries. We heard from several speakers at the hospital where I work, and one of them was a case manager. Something she said really struck me. She said that she has seen so many patients and their families feel almost guilty for laughing or being happy during such a sad and difficult time, and what she always reminds them is that this is exactly the time they need to encourage and nurture joy. How beautiful is that?

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Sometimes when I read the news or hear stories about what others are going through or even deal with my own personal struggles, I am tempted to despair. It seems that the default mode is discouragement, cynicism, fear. What if, instead, I sought to nurture joy? This is not at all to negate someone’s experience of hardship. Trust me- I am all about a good cry session, and I think we should acknowledge and feel our emotions instead of pretending they don’t exist. And yet- don’t we all have a little room to encourage joy in our lives and in the lives of others? Doesn’t it seem like these are the days when our world needs an extra dose of it?

There are so many practical ways to incorporate this in our day-to-day lives. I don’t think it needs to be through huge grand gestures, although those can certainly be fun. Simple things like bringing someone flowers, sending a thoughtful letter, or throwing a party just because are all ways that we can nurture joy in our lives and give ourselves permission to enjoy this crazy ride. (As seen in these photos, another way I love to encourage joy in my life: dancing!)

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It can be so easy to succumb to despair, but I like to think that we have a choice. Instead of sinking into the pit of discouragement in our times of difficulty, maybe we can choose to inject little moments of joy here and there. Joy can coexist with sadness, and not only that, I believe it can lift the veil of darkness and remind us of all that is good and true in the world.

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[All photos courtesy of Kimberly Coccagnia]

Camping Weekend

This weekend, Josh and I went camping with our small group and it was… cold. 😉 I tried to keep my whimpering to a minimum and we enjoyed staying up and chatting at the campsite, roasting hot dogs, making s’mores, and watching random things burn in the fire. It was fun but I have to say, if I ever go camping again it will need to be at least 30 degrees warmer!

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I read these words from Dallas Willard over the weekend and thought they would be a good Monday morning reminder:

“I am one in whom Christ delights and dwells. I live in the strong and unshakable kingdom of God.”

Every so often (and by that I mean like all the time) I just need a reminder of who God says I am. Amen?

Have a great week everyone!

Showing Up

The majority of this week was chilly and overcast here in Raleigh, which either has a positive, calming effect on my mood (it’s so cozy!) or somewhat of a negative, depressing one. I definitely experienced a bit of both this week. On the one hand, I loved bundling up and clutching warm drinks and looking at the lovely orange leaves against gray skies. On the other hand, I felt a little down. Like I was longing for something but couldn’t put my finger on exactly what it was.

When I experience these feelings of melancholy, I am tempted to just throw in the towel. I need a new job, a new church, a new location. “Let’s move!” I told my husband more than once this week as I scrolled obsessively through Zillow, looking at homes that we can by no means afford.

Then comes the discontentment. There is obviously something wrong with my life if I feel this way, right? I need something better or different or more interesting, right?

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[Source]

It’s a comforting illusion to tell ourselves that something different will be better and will make us feel perfectly safe and loved and happy 100% of the time. What is more difficult, for me at least, is to keep putting one foot in front of the other and showing up to my actual life, not the one I wish I had. Sometimes it feels hard for me to wake up every single morning with the agenda of simply being faithful to the work God has called me to do- which, coincidentally, looks a lot like it did yesterday, and the day before that.

I think there is something beautiful that happens when we show up to our lives, fully present, ready to engage and build relationships and do the hard thing. When God calls me to make a change, I hope I am listening well enough to hear Him and to respond in obedience. But for now, I think He is telling my soul to calm down and sink into this beautiful season He has given me. There are opportunities for gratitude and love and joy at every turn, and I want to pay attention to those moments instead of being distracted by how I wish things were.


So I’m asking God to give me the courage to show up, and I’m trusting that He will be faithful to supply the grace I need.