Hello, 2018!

Happy new year, friends!

2017 was such a year of growth and transition for me and Josh. I accepted a full-time position at WakeMed; we started a small group, took a few fun trips, celebrated our first wedding anniversary, and Josh graduated from Elon’s Doctorate of Physical Therapy program. Overall I feel like we have settled into Raleigh and are forming a great community here. I am ending the year feeling bittersweet, as I’m sure many of us are. I am hugely grateful for this year, while at the same time mourning the loss of certain unmet expectations. But! I know that God is nothing if not faithful, and so I am entering 2018 with a sense of expectancy and excitement.

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Sunrise from this weekend

While I absolutely love writing on this blog, I have decided to take a little break from it for now. Lately I’ve felt the pull to simplicity, and I want to experience a bit of life with just the essentials. I’m looking forward to stepping away from the computer, away from social media, away from incessant, people-pleasing “yeses,” and just enjoying what remains. I’m not sure if that makes any sense, but right now it feels like the right thing to do!

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I hope everyone has a wonderful start to 2018, and I will see you back here soon!

 

 

 

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O Holy Night

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Via

Merry Christmas, everyone! I absolutely love this song, O Holy Night, and wanted to share an excerpt of the lyrics. I hope everyone is having a lovely day with friends and family, but if not, take heart! Jesus has come near to us.

“O holy night, the stars are brightly shining
It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth
Long lay the world in sin and error pining
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth
A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn…”

Hot Chocolate

Do you guys call it hot chocolate or hot cocoa? Either way, it’s delicious. I got this recipe idea from my girl Naptime Kitchen. Hope you enjoy!

Hot Chocolate for 2:

-3 medjool dates
-3-4 tablespoons cocoa powder
-2 cups milk
-dash of cinnamon

Whiz everything up in a blender until smooth, then pour into two mugs and microwave until hot. Best enjoyed by a fire and/or Christmas tree!

The Messy Middle

If anyone else is feeling like they are sitting right in the tension of the “messy middle,” then I hope these words from Leeana Tankersley bring you some comfort and hope today:

“Advent reminds us that we are not alone. We never have been. God came to us. And no matter the Messy Middle we are in now, we are not alone. God is here with us. During this first week of advent, we are to reflect on hope.

“Hope is the patient and trustful willingness to live without closure, without resolution, and still be content and even happy because our Satisfaction is now at another level, and our Source is beyond ourselves.” -Richard Rohr

So then hope is our patient and trustful willingness to live in the Messy Middles with assurance that our lives are held by Something far greater than us. In that way, Advent is always, Rohr says. Isn’t that a beautiful line, a beautiful concept. We are always waiting. And we are always held, met, comforted.”

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.

 

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!