Farewell, 2018!

It’s the end of the year and there is all sorts of buzz happening around words of the year, planning new goals, and figuring out what the new year could look like. I’m not a stranger to any of this. I actually DELIGHT in it. The time spent at the end of a year reflecting for me has oftentimes presented itself like a well that I keep dipping into to gain more insight, knowledge, and reflection from the year before to catapult me to the year ahead.

As 2018 closes, I’m not that sad about it. Some years I’ve wrestled with a new page being turned, but this year, a new year sounds like freedom.

At the end of every year, I count the fruit. This is just a simple act of going back through my photos, my journals, and my calendar to count up the “fruit” or ways that I saw God move in the year or blessings that we saw. And as I did that this year, there were so many, but there were also whole months where I had to search really hard for some goodness.

We started 2018 awake. I was ready for restoration of the immense anxiety that I’d been enduring for over a year. I was really blessed to get somewhat of a relief from anxiety for about six months of this year which was HUGE. In the beginning of the year, I spent tons of time with friends, with our student ministries kiddos, celebrating Ryan’s birthday, celebrating our anniversary, and then vacationing! We visited Nashville and North Carolina and loved our time together! Now that my anxiety wasn’t so intense, we were able to travel without tons of fear- which made it SO enjoyable!

In the spring, I continued working on goals- like starting a small group in our home! My friend, Megan, said yes to joining me and we started our first small group of women from the Fox Valley! I attended a Beth Moore conference with my mom that got cancelled partway through due to a couple feet of snow that we got. I watched Ryan teach in big church for the first time and was so thankful to the Lord for using Ryan’s gifts well! In May, I was chosen as a blog post writer for Noonday Collection and finished my first year at Foster Charter School!

So why am I ready for the New Year? Probably and absolutely because the months that we experienced in “summer” felt like a deep winter. We were really hurt by some decisions made that didn’t feel fair. Our faith was tested as we were asked to “wait” on more than one thing. Quite honestly, if it wasn’t for the Lord’s grace, I may have wanted to give up on having faith in any situation. Ryan traveled a lot and I missed him terribly. I went looking through my summer pictures and there were some really great pictures, but almost all of those happy and exciting moments had some aspect of hard in them. Whether it was the conversation on the way to get there where I shared how I was feeling or whether it was in the tears that were cried before or after. I struggled with being a good wife. I was exhausted, drained, ….faithless.

And those feelings, friends, they haven’t completely subsided, but we’ve learned a lot. My anxiety came back- but I had tools (thank goodness for great counseling!). I was alone, a lot. But I felt brave in that. We asked the Lord deeper questions to deal with our deep hurts and felt like we got real peace and answers. And amidst all of the trying things, I qualified for a Noonday Collection Artisan trip in 2019! I found a great dance studio to go to that has literally been a saving grace to me most days. We spent time with family and prayed over friendships. Although many of the things we “wanted” in 2018 maybe didn’t happen, so many greater things did happen. Maybe they weren’t what we expected- or we didn’t get to cross off certain goals from last year, but we experienced goodness. 2018 was a year of disappointment in many ways, but maybe that’s why 2019 feels so freeing.

 

My word for 2019: expectant. We are expecting things to move and change and grow- and I can’t wait! Join me in the next few weeks as I share the goals I’m setting forward for next year. Goals on moving from disappointment to expectant. 2019, we’re ready.

Happy 2nd Anxiety-versary to Me

It’s been two whole years. Two whole years I wish never existed on my worst days. Two hard years of growing. Two magnificent years of learning to be gracious to myself. Two stinking years– and still begging for full healing.

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This girl above. She existed two years ago. She was full of life- or so she thought. Resilient. Beautiful. Strong.

Until one November night after I went up to my room, while I was living at home before Ryan and I got married, and I remember briefly, my heartbeat dropping, then racing, then feeling like I couldn’t stand because the dizziness and the pain was too much. So I let it pass and went downstairs to ask my mom if I could crawl in by her because I thought I just had an “almost fainting” moment. She graciously agreed. I thought, “huh, what a weird thing”. What I didn’t know is that that “almost fainting” would be my reality for the next…hmm..nine months. For the entire month of December I fought loads of anxiety- mostly induced from compassion fatigue, or secondhand trauma, and some of the own pieces of my story too near to me to fully expose. And then, one day in December it happened again- another “scariest moment ever” in my small twenty-four-year-old heart, when I blacked out at Target. I lost all my bearings, knelt in an aisle, sobbed, and waited for someone to help me to my feet and then get to my vehicle. And Christmas came and it was probably my worst day, yet. Sobbing through church service so afraid I was going to blackout or actually lose all consciousness..like forever. The next month would lead to night terrors- breaking out in a complete body sweat, shaking uncontrollably until I’d have to go to the bathroom or lose my bowels. Now, I know you may be thinking, “sounds  like you were living with a lot of anxiety”. But I had no common ground to think that all of this hardship was really just anxiety. I was meeting with my doctor, finding counselors, and needing to take a mental health day almost once a week. On February 4th, after three months of battling these horrible nights of sleep, horrible demons of stress and fear, I got married to my dream guy! It should’ve been the most amazing day of my life- and in many ways, it was, but what I can also remember, are the breathless sobs and the many times throughout the night where I’d check my pulse to make sure I was breathing. Friends, this was a tough battle, but can I share something with you?

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In the summer following our wedding (2017), I felt like I couldn’t take anymore. I was anxious. I had quit my job and gotten hired at a new school (sometimes I joke that Foster saved my life!). The thing that changed everything for me? I consulted my doctor. She recommended an option I was completely afraid of. My mind and heart were broken, “I shouldn’t need M*********. I’m a woman of faith. I love Jesus. I feel like He has good plans for me.” But I did it anyways. I did the thing I was most afraid of and followed it with nine months of intensive counseling where I was reminded of how resilient I was, how steadfast I was for healing, and how marveled I was at who I could become and what could happen if I really got help and healed.

I am now two years into my journey. An anxiety label. A panic disorder label. A PTSD label. And can I tell you what? I’ve outlived it all. I’m not completely done with it, but I’m on the other side of the worst days of my life. I share this not to weigh you down with my journey of anxiety, but to share with you who I am, where I came from, and the things I think I can teach you about where to go. Are you ready?

The Five Best Anxiety Tips…Almost Nobody Told Me.

  1. Everyone will ask you if you’re praying enough. You are. Trust me. There’s no meter for “enough” prayer. There are going to be days where you can’t pray and that’s my first point- community. Saturate yourself with community. Drench your days and nights with people praying for you. Ask them specifically, “Will you pray for my healing on Tuesdays?” or “Will you pray for me to sleep well?” All the answers won’t always happen when you need them to, but my faith has taught me that I can believe God with expectancy.
  2. You will have to make changes in order to change. I had to stop being the Energizer Bunny and start saying goodbye to the million commitments that were placed in front of me. Sometimes that looks like taking a mental health day when I find myself in that familiar spot of constantly trying to catch my breath. Sometimes it looks like cancelling plans, even if I know the person on the other end will be devastated.
  3. Rest. Sleep like your life depends on it- because it does. When you don’t get enough sleep, you don’t think wholly or fully. You’re more on edge. You lose patience quicker. Rest. I remember napping almost every night after school because I couldn’t even comprehend how exhausted I was from being anxious and thinking anxious thoughts all day.
  4. Be vulnerable- as vulnerable as you can. I would tell my husband almost every day, “I’m worried I’m going to die. I’m worried I’m not going to make it.” I wasn’t thinking of self-harming myself, but I was certainly thinking something deeper had to be wrong. Nothing was. Nothing deeper. I was anxious. My thoughts were consuming me. Telling Ryan this was wonderful because he could say things back to me that confirmed TRUTH.
  5. Be gracious with yourself. And then a little more gracious. When I had to change so much of who I was, I remember feeling horrible. Feeling like I was letting everyone down. I may have been letting some people DOWN, but I was rising UP. Praise the Lord! ❤ I started setting firm boundaries- things I could and couldn’t do. And guess what? I look back now and am so thankful.
  6. (This is for my friend’s of faith in God.) Trust Him! Trust that He cares for you. That He wants you. That He longs for your healing. Because HE DOES. He delights in your being. He sees every anxious thought you have and I believe He feels them for us. Trust Him, dear friend, trust Him.

Who am I now? I’m brave. I’m fierce. I’m resilient. I’m a boundary setter.

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I still have anxiety, but anxiety does NOT have me. I rest in the fullness that God is NOT finished with my story, yet. And that gives me all the Hope I need for tomorrow and the next day and the day after that. If you have questions revolving around my anxiousness, I’d love to answer them for you- over coffee or on the telephone! ❤

With love,

Kendra

His Promises Are True

**I know some of you who read this aren’t coming from a faith background or don’t believe in God. This is simply my interpretation of the happenings in my life. My hope is that you celebrate how unique our lives are- and give thanks to whoever or whatever you may believe in.**

Over the last few weeks, a lot has been happening in my heart. Some good- some bad- some wholesome- and some hurtful. I’m learning and growing a ton in this season- emotionally, spiritually, as a wife, as a friend, as a daughter, and as a teacher. Whenever I get to a place in life where I wonder if God has remembered me, I trace back to His fingerprints so evidently placed in my life. And today, I felt a soft nudge at my heart to share His goodness and promises to me with the blogging world.

Octobers used to feel painful to me. As the summer faded away and fall snuck in, my anxiety always grew. It would be a new school year and things would be crazy busy. Life would hit fast forward and my soul would long to hit pause. But I’m going to invite you into some October things that have happened. In October of 2014, I felt a heartache like you wouldn’t believe. My grandma, also known as a dear, dear friend to me, was sick with cancer. I was transitioning to living at home again- away from most of my friends. With all the changes came a longing for companionship. Not to mention, I was becoming a real life picture of 27 Dresses- I was always the bridesmaid never the bride and people were even saying things about it. I was watching my friends fall in love and I wanted the same thing. Yep, I was twenty-two- years-old, but I still was eager. I attended a wedding on October 4th, 2014, my friend Molly’s, and remember leaving it feeling full of sadness and loneliness. Her wedding was beautiful and she’d let me into her relationship in such a safe, big, caring sister way. I was so thankful. I had such a fun time at her wedding and almost came up with excuses not to come, but I dragged and willed myself to go. On the way home, I sobbed. I was lonely. I was aching for friendships, but more importantly a relationship- maybe even just a guy to notice me. Just a year or two before I had my heart broken after a three year relationship and I remember pleading in my prayers, “Okay, God, now I’m healed so send someone.”. On October 6th, 2014, I wrote in my journal out of desperation from the Saturday before. I wrote “My heart feels heavy today and my tummy longs to know if marriage is something you have for me.” I wrote later on in that entry, “I long from a man who is kind, protective of my heart, hard-working, joyful, selfless, but most of all God- fearing and loving.”

The very next week, I was invited to another wedding. On October 11th, 2014, I was invited to my friend Mollie’s wedding (yes, a different Molly/Mollie).  I remember on the way home from that wedding, I pulled over on the side of the road and cried. In that moment, I felt as though I’d never find anybody to walk through life with. I remember gasping through tears and asking God to send “something”. Two days later, same as the last wedding, I finally got time to journal. On October 13th, 2014 I wrote, “God, I come to you today with a heart that is wildly aching for your plans to be revealed. My heart is overwhelmed by fear, sadness, shame, and worry. I pray that you would hold my heart close to you.” And later “Thank you for protecting my heart, for loving my heart, and for giving me this super sensitive heart.”

I walked through a LOT in 2014- mostly wicked, wild emotions, but also tons of growth. In 2015 I accepted my first teaching job, started a journey with Noonday Collection and celebrated so many exciting things. In October of 2015, I also went on a date that changed my life for the good.

On October 4th, 2015 (exactly one year after being at Molly’s wedding), I got a call from a Washington state area code phone number. I listened to the voicemail a few hours after getting the phone call thinking it could be a telemarketer- nope. It was the new youth director at our church, Ryan. I was stunned, but I said okay and when he asked when I could meet, I replied, “Next Sunday.” Next Sunday landed exactly on October 11th, 2015 (exactly one year after being at Mollie’s wedding- you know the one where I pulled over on the side of the road crying after). Now if you’re thinking there’s a pattern- you’re totally right. Maybe these dates are “coincidental” to you. But to me, they are so much more.

And today, on a day when I’m desperate to remember God’s promises to me, I’m able to see these dates and these memories and remember just how important my life is to God. I get to get a front row seat to His faithfulness by using two painful days to be transformed into two really sweet days- two of the sweetest life changing days I’ve ever experienced. Those days lead to me meeting my now husband and I’m so grateful. Whenever I’m feeling low, feeling left out, feeling unimportant- I re-read these journals and I fixate on these days and I feel full of love from a big, big God. And on October 11th of 2015, I wrote, “Our first date rocked!” and later on “Ryan is doing all things sweet and right and it’s confusing. Help me to savor these moments and help me to live directly in this moment.” And boy have I believed so many of our dates after that to absolutely “rock” and Ryan still does many “sweet things” and it still gets “confusing”.

I pray this encourages you in whatever way you need to be encouraged. Thanks for reading our story- thanks for loving us.

Happy three years ago you called anniversary. Happy three years ago we went on a first date anniversary. And cheers to a lifetime of love!

Back to School- My Golden Year

It’s my fourth year teaching and I’ll be teaching fourth grade, so I called it a golden year. I’m not sure if that’s a real thing, but I’m saying so.

At the beginning of every school year, I feel myself overflowing with excitement to love a new group of students, but also some anxiousness about the year that is ahead. There are so many things that could go wrong, but so many things that could go right. There are new families to meet, new parents to please, new growth to be made in students, and after you do all that, don’t forget all of the committee duties and that you actually might have a family at home and friendships that need you, too. I never want to say that other professions aren’t difficult, but I definitely feel like teaching is a nine month sprint with a few rest periods like in February. As a new school year approaches, I find myself setting some boundaries and some goals. I share this to be a voice for other teachers, to help them think through their own boundaries and goals, and to also encourage myself.

Last year I started a really sweet rhythm of doing laundry just one day a week. Yes, I know, it sounds crazy, right? But it filled me. I was no longer running around like a wicked woman because I knew that Friday night or Sunday was laundry day and that those piles could keep growing in my home so long as I knew I had my one day set aside to do laundry. This mindset helps me as a Type A personality and keeps me grounded on the important things.

Another good rhythm I leaned into as a teacher was taking a few minutes every day to write down some things I was grateful for. I cannot wait to start my gratitude journal this year at school. Whether you’re a teacher or working in another profession, taking a few minutes during the hustle of each day to be mindful can be so helpful. Also, studies have shown that shifting to gratitude helps us to plow over anxiousness.

Before you leave each day after school, get things ready for the next day. Try to have your piles laid out so that you can feel freedom to have slower mornings and not come into school filled with anxiety about getting ready for the day ahead. This took me three years to gain this rhythm, but I’m so thankful for it now. I also learned during my student teaching days to stay late on Thursdays to finish lesson planning so that you can leave on Friday right away if you choose. I’m still learning this rhythm, and still trying to figure this out for myself. It may not be this year, but I hope at some point in my life, to be able to curate a schedule with my husband that allows for this.

One way I made sure to connect with friends and family was to plan a “friend date” each week. Now, as a mom, that might be just once a month for you, but in my current family state, just a married woman, I had capacity to get with a friend once a week. I made sure to invest in friendships the best that I could during the school year. Sometimes that looks like me taking a few minutes of my lunch break to text three people to let them know I’m thinking of them. Staying connected to people who care about you and love you will help you to feel championed and supported to be the best you that you can be in your career.

My husband and I also have tried and failed and tried again to set up a rhythm of rest. We often times will choose a twelve to sixteen hour block of time that we maybe just stay home and try to take a break from work by doing things that are restful. This is definitely going to be my number one goal this year! In our faith, we believe in taking a Sabbath, but really stink at it. We believe the Lord rested so we should take his modeling and rest one day each week, as well. This year we’ll focus on the things we can do for fun on these days instead of the things we feel we shouldn’t do- like work, balancing checkbooks, cleaning, etc. Whatever your faith, know that taking time to refuel and recharge isn’t selfish- but is necessary.

The last rhythm I want to share could be viewed as selfish, but I think it’s okay to love on ourselves a bit. One day each week I make sure to stop for coffee before school (sometimes it’s more than one day..) because it’s something I enjoy and it’s a way I can tangibly gift myself something that says, “I care for myself and I see the work I’ve done. Delight yourself in this treat!”. I also make sure to check in with friends and family to ask that I’m staying the course and doing the things I love even in the busy hustle of the school year. For me that looks like working my side job, Noonday Collection, and sharing with women around the state about my love for women across the globe.

Teachers, it’s two more sleeps away for a big chunk of us before the hustle and bustle of the school year begins. I cannot explain to you the amount of thoughts and prayers I’ve had towards this year. The joy and excitement is so sweet, but the anxiousness and stress lingers closely behind. We have each other and we have people on our teams. Lets be teachers who reach out to one another and check on one another’s boundaries and goals.

Parents, we’re ready. We’re ready to love your kids. We’re ready to teach them and grow them and communicate well with you! We cannot wait to grow in relationship with you and your families! Please be gracious to us as we snap back into schedule.

Phew, I’d wanted to share these words for a while. They aren’t unheard of or completely different, but they’re a great way for us to have a few new ideas of ways to keep ourselves held accountable to during the school year, teachers.

Let’s do this thing!

Fearfully + Wonderfully or Something..

If you’ve been a Christian for any amount of time or even if you haven’t, you may have heard this verse from the book of Psalms, chapter 139 quoted: “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” In this and surrounding verses in this chapter David is acknowledging that we are made beautiful because our Creator is beautiful (not the opposite way). And y’all, I believe this verse almost half of the time, until I’m standing face to face with my cellulite and thunder thighs in a swim suit.

I remember seeing a picture of myself from Wisconsin Dells when I was younger going on a ride with my dad. To me that picture was of joy- simplistic, child-like joy- until I checked in the middle and saw something sneaky show up. My stomach. Exploding. From my swimsuit. Everywhere. I remember thinking I would sneak every picture of that which was printed and shred it. I hated my stomach.

It was only my middle school years where I decided to start dabbling in diets. Weight Watchers to faked “fullness” to even at one point punching myself in the stomach to make it go away. Through high school, I sort of yo-yo-ed through seasons of up and down weight loss and gain depending on what sport I was or wasn’t in. In college, I pretended to like the gym and eating well. I’d practice being a “gym girl” only to realize I just wanted to be home reading books. Then after college, I started running and ran a half marathon and actually really loved it. But life changes and our hearts do, too.

Over the past year, I’ve been so inflicted with heartache when I’ve noticed women who are “good at working out”. I’ve wanted to be “good” at it, but y’all, I’m just not. And I am so thankful for these women who are modeling beautiful bodies so wholesomely cared for by a wonderful workout regimen. I’m so envious, too, but mostly thankful.

So this summer came and I knew I had missed out on the opportunity to grow a “summer body” and I was scared. I was scared when going to the beach with my friends that I’d be the “fat” one. Worried that I would be the one who stuck out- literally- with my stomach rolls. But friends, here’s what actually happened:

  • I went to the beach. ALOT. Still going often.
  • I wore a two piece tankini swimsuit.
  • Nobody stared at me long enough for me to notice.
  • Nobody called me “fat”, at least not to my face.
  • I yearned for more hours at the beach and loved prancing in my swimsuit.
  • I started to love how pale my skin was and continued to care for it by wearing sunscreen every beach trip. ( I still get the occasional spray tan 😉 )
  • I stopped thinking about my stubborn belly fat and started dancing in the grace of my Creator!

 

I never thought I’d post a picture of myself on the internet in my bathing suit, but I have something to share with you. I think David was onto something in Psalm 139 when he points all beauty and wonder to God. Here’s how I know and believe this to be true. I’m still a 150 pound woman, still learning to love the skin I’m in, still annoyed that I don’t love working out, and still madly in love with learning how to love myself more. God looks on me with delight and with love- and I’m sure He does the same for you. Your body isn’t just something that gets to lose and gain weight, that gets to be trim or flabby. Your body is made to love insanely well and to laugh often. Your body is made to run if you want, but to also just stretch if that feels good, too. The Creator loves you and I’m not saying that you’re going to instantly love yourself because this was and still is a process for me. All I’m saying is that, I never looked at my friend and wished they didn’t have belly fat. I never looked to my friend and was disgusted over the size of their arms or their thighs. And if I’m not looking at my friends and doing that, then the Creator of the Universe- with so much on His plate- is certainly not looking at me like that and if He isn’t looking at me wishing I had less belly fat, then I should stop looking at myself like that, as well.

Praying for you this summer, dear girl. That you can dance in the grace and freedom of the body you were given with all of its marks, rolls, and toned areas!

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Shopping Ethically- Part 1

Ethical: /adjective/- relating to moral principles or the branch of knowledge dealing with these.

Fair Trade: /noun/- trade in which fair prices are paid to producers in developing countries.

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For the last few years, I have been working as a Noonday Collection ambassador. I often get asked questions about the work I’m doing as an ambassador and why I’ve chosen this. I’ve decided to break this blog series into three posts- first, to tell you a little bit about ethical + fair trade practices, second to tell you about my job with Noonday Collection, and the third to tell you how you can get involved. All photos used in these posts either belong to Noonday Collection or were taken by the amazing Emily Megan Photography.

A few years ago, I was invited to my first Noonday Collection trunk show and upon being at the show, I got to listen to many stories of women and men who were coming out of poverty because of the work of Noonday Collection ambassadors creating marketplaces and selling their products. Before I decided I could be all in, I needed to do a little bit of my own research.

Before this encounter with Noonday Collection, I had no idea that there were people being treated unfairly for the things I was buying. (Yes, I was extremely small-brained, but I didn’t understand.) Often, because of the quickness and way of the world, we compromise how we treat workers by paying them cheap labor costs and allow them to work in poor work conditions. But we shouldn’t. We should be concerned about growing a diverse world where people are supported in their jobs, given safe working conditions, and are cared for by their employers. Many, mainly women, clothing workers who create clothing move to an unfamiliar place, to get an income that won’t even cover a quarter of  the bills that they have to pay, will work in unsafe work conditions, and sometimes even risk being beaten by their employers, just to have a job. Would you work a job where this was the case? I would think that we wouldn’t, but these women, most in other countries are desperate to make an income.

As we explore fair trade fashion together, I just want to educate you. I want you to walk away wondering who is on the other end of your purchases and what they are getting out of it- income? abuse? heartache? illness? As we continue to venture through this series together, I’ll be praying specifically that we can become women who are thinking of the women, men, and sometimes even children making the items we buy. If you’re curious about how to start shopping more ethically and through fair trade fashion, continue following along on this blog page!

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Twenty-five: Year of Growth.

I have no idea how to look back on my twenty-fifth year of life without absolutely losing it. Twenty-five was challenging, but oh, so sweet. I mostly write this post for me- to look back on, to reflect, to challenge myself- but I’ve included some of YOU in this post and there may be some encouragement, so just come along, y’all.

Over the past year, I feel like I have been grown and stretched. I’ve learned so much. I’ve been blessed in so many magnificent ways. And here are just a few key things I’ve come away with:

The Lord hears our prayers. 

I could go into tons of detail, but it would take all evening. But lets just say, I left twenty-four a completely broken woman- anxious, broken, deeply discouraged. I didn’t know if I could teach anymore, if I could advocate for justice, or if I could even keep going. I was exhausted from my worrying and anxieties and most days all I could mutter was “Please God” and “No, Lord, say it isn’t so.” But the Lord and counseling and friendship and community has healed me. And I believe it’s in large part to the power and weightiness of using our prayers to communicate to an all sufficient God our every need. Seriously, y’all, prayer. Try it. This leads me to my next learning…

Counseling isn’t just for suicidal people. 

I’m serious. I bobbed in and out of counseling in different seasons of my life, but when I left counseling in March of this year and traded in my weekly sessions for a check-in session schedule, I looked at my counselor and said, “I think you saved my life”. Counseling is for everyone- for the anxious, for the depressed, for the woman with an absent father, for the man struggling with his identity, for the abused daughter, for the neglected brother. Counseling is for anyone who is struggling. When we share what’s on our hearts and ask someone else to help us process the load, lighten the load, and help us through, we’re taking some of the weight off of ourselves and allowing our wounded, vulnerable hearts to hear from someone else’s soul. And it’s so amazing. I could write a whole blog about the benefits of counseling.

People will hurt you, but they will also save you.

It’s true. This year my husband and I felt the sting from some people we really love and really care for. We felt the sting of rejection and we felt the pain of the feeling of not good enough. But you know what else we felt this year? Cherished. Chosen. Joyful. Hopeful. Cared For. We have cried with people we love (okay, mainly me) and have laughed with complete strangers. And it has all been sweet in some way. I think we can become really hard and bitter towards people, but I’m going to tell you- please don’t. Believe that the people God has surrounded you with are there for a reason to care for you, to love you, and to sometimes grow you- even if it hurts a bit.

Marriage can be tough, but it can also be beautiful beyond words. 

We are still newlyweds. We are a year and a half into marriage and we are still pursuing each other, still learning each other, still hurting each other, and still loving each other (after 8 am and before 9 pm). Marriage has grown me in ways I never imagined- like in selflessness and courage. We have had our fair share of disagreements and even more laughter, lingering hugs, and memorable pillow talk. At the end of the day, I wouldn’t hold hands with any other man and there’s no one else whose arms feel quite like home. My advice? Invest in your marriage. Date your spouse. Serve them with everything you can.

Life’s too short to work a job you don’t love. 

This year I worked a job at Foster Elementary School. I’m convinced Foster school is the most amazing school on this side of eternity. The teachers are the very best- filled with love and joy for their students, their jobs, and each other. I feel deeply loved and cared for every day I come into school and I am so reminded that life is too short to work a job that you don’t completely love. In my twenties, I’ve talked to so many of my friends who are unsettled in their jobs, hate the feeling of needing to climb the ladder to find significance, and are groggy from the daily mundane. This year was the most amazing teaching year ever and I know it’s because I was committed to working a job I loved. I encourage you to find what sets your heart ablaze and to do just that.

Friendship and community is God’s design for His people.

In my twenty-fifth year, I started a Bible study in my home when I was desiring Christian community. The Lord reconnected me to friends who I hadn’t talked to in years. I was able to invest in and be invested in by so many beautiful women. Friendship and living in community is something we should all be doing. Focusing our time on serving others and spending time with those who mean the most. Join a book club. Try a league. Invite your neighbors over. Whatever you have to do to create community, do that thing, because when you do, it’s so beautiful and sweet.

Sometimes the person who needs grace the most is the person looking back in the mirror.

This last point feels ugliest. What if I told you that my birthday this year was the most insignificant birthday to-date? Or what if I told you that I cried a good few times on the day I turned twenty-six? I need grace, friend, and so do you. We weren’t created to be perfect or to hold ourselves to unattainable standards. We were created to be loved and to love others. So if you’re having a bad day or nothing seems to be going right, look in the mirror and tell that beautiful person on the other side how much they matter and how much you love them. Tell them that today is a new day and you’re going to be amazing. You can do it, friends.

Year twenty-five was so eventful- yet so disappointing at times. Yet, I found great peace in my faith and was able to persevere.

So long, twenty-five! Hello, twenty-six, I can’t wait to see where we go!

 

“I’ll Just Miss You”

The amount of tears I’ve shed the last four days is somewhat ridiculous, I’ll admit. For me though, tears are nothing new. They don’t warrant themselves only on sad days, but instead, show up most days for the small things and big things. You see, for the last few weeks, I’ve been prepping myself for Tuesday, June 5th. Why? Ryan was getting on a plane and headed back to Washington for a week. For the last three days, I’ve been prepping myself with mighty tears and a few extra snuggles on the sofa because I knew that Tuesday was coming so quick. So why write a blog post about twenty piles of teardrops and a husband who is gone away? I pondered in my head today, “does any of this matter?”, “will anybody even care?”, and “I’m such a wimp.”. (Mostly that last thought encompassed my thoughts, but I had to share.

As we would lay by each other and snuggle the last few days, I kept saying to my husband, Ryan, “I’ll just miss you”. Nothing fancy. Just four words with a foreshadow to some heavy emotion. Now I’ll admit, the thought of Ryan leaving was hard for a few reasons. Aside from truly missing him, I was/am also anxious about being home alone for so long, although I have so many sweet people in my life who’ve gobbled me up in their arms and have said, “I’m sorry.” (Shout out to my co-workers, Stacy + Ashley!) or offered to stay with me or have me sleepover. But really, at the end of every conversation, it always went back to “I’ll just miss you.” And man, it’s been like not even a full day and I do miss you! (Miss you so much that I had to pull into the Kohl’s parking lot for a good twenty minute cry.)

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I share this because I feel like this is the message I have for you- I wouldn’t miss this man of mine if we didn’t have SO much invested in each other. The only real way to cultivate a marriage fully is to be fully in love and I truly feel that this is a gift. Through this, I feel like the Lord has placed on my heart some specific truths for those in marriages and also those who are longing for marriage.

First, and foremost, your relationship with your spouse should be your most important human relationship (if you’re a Christian, we believe our relationship with the Lord comes first, and then with each other). Then your relationship with everyone else should come. If you are placing your children or something else in your life above your spouse, chances are that you aren’t really cultivating that relationship with your spouse. There have been seasons of our relationship where I have put the craziness of being busy above the sweetness of an intimate relationship with my husband. I’ve been convicted and have had to ask him for forgiveness in this. Your spouse should come first in human relationships.

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Second, because we’ve put the Lord first we can love each other better. The Lord is our foundation- our vision of a perfect love that can never be truly replicated. But because of this, we can model our relationship after the love we’ve been shown. This looks like us intentionally praying for each other and asking God how to serve each other most. It’s not always easy, but it’s so worth it.

Next, if you’re in a relationship, I beg you to find out how your spouse feels most loved. My husband loves being hugged and loved on. Snuggles are his love language (next to coffee) and he feels connected most to me when I ask him questions about his day, about life, and about his dreams. I feel most loved when someone tucks me in and when someone offers to do jobs for me. My husband knows this and so he’s often taking out the garbage, unloading the dishwasher, and setting timers for ten minutes every night so that I’m tucked in and cared for each night (I might miss this the most the next seven nights).

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My last few words of advice for my friends in marriage, just delight in each other. Whatever it means to you, delight in each other. My husband and I spend so much of our time laughing together. He will sometimes read me books when I’m headed to bed. He writes me letters for the small things- like when I got chosen as a blogger for Noonday. I try to cook his favorite family tradition recipes on holidays. I listen to his words and then try to do the thing that makes him feel most loved.

Now if you’ve read this far and you’re single, or longing for a sweet marriage, I have to say- I think all of these things can be applied above. If you’re in a not-so-sweet marriage, I challenge you to try some of these things. Watch the movie Fireproof. Ask your partner how you can love them well. Ask them what will help them to feel most loved. If you’re single, try this in your closest friendships. See how you can love those people better. I challenge you.

For those of you longing for marriage or just for a better season of marriage, we’ve been praying for you. If you have a specific prayer, please share with us as you feel led. We love praying for those people in our lives who are longing. I know what we have is special, but it isn’t beyond reach. This is the love we long for all of our friends to experience.

To my sweet husband, I’ll miss your side of the bed being warm. I’ll miss your huge hugs. I’ll miss your thoughtfulness. I’ll miss you laying on the couch playing video games or watching Netflix. I’ll miss you making fun of essential oils. I’ll miss folding your clothes (I know a bunch will come home needing to be folded). I’ll miss your sweaty socks scattered in the living room. I’ll miss your beard hairs in the sink. But mainly, for the next seven nights, I’ll just miss you.

 

“I vow to help you love life, to always hold you with tenderness, to have the patience that love demands, to speak when words are needed, and to share the silence when they are not, to agree to disagree about red velvet cake, to live within the warmth of your heart, and always call it home.”

 

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Summer Reading 2018

As the weather gets nicer and the days get longer, there is nothing I love more than captivating the spare moments of summer with delightful books. Every year, I set a stack of books in the corner of my office area to satisfy my hungry soul for someone else’s words. This year I decided to share that list and actually make you a sweet little printable list that you can take with you to your local Barnes and Noble (okay, or Amazon) to snag some books, as well, for a summer filled with reading.

Since this blog is a place for all people regardless of their faith, I’ve just denoted books with a little ** if it is a book that will lend it’s interest most to a person of faith. Some of the books that I’ll highlight on this post have already been read by me, and some are books I can’t wait to dive into. Also, there’s a sweet little insert on the list from my husband and also a section on the printable specifically for teachers. Let’s dive in!

Shauna Niequist books- all of them. Every summer I try to re-read at least two of Shauna’s five books she’s put out. Her books are titled Cold Tangerines, Bittersweet, Bread and Wine, Savor (a devotional) and Present Over Perfect. They all are fantastic. So much so that even your husband will lean into her words and even chuckle a little bit. If you’re feeling frantic, wanting to captivate your life more, or just needing a friend who gets it, you have to open up one of Shauna’s books. I remember reading Cold Tangerines for the first time (I’ve read it six times since then..) and craving more of her words. Although she is a Christian woman, I wouldn’t say that her books are just for those of us who are Christians. She will have you wanting to delight in your family more, spend a few more hours in your kitchen preparing food for those you love, and will give you a crash course in hospitality. Her books are delightful in the kind of way where you want to eat them up. And that’s typically just what I do. I highly recommend Shauna’s books and hope you’ll choose one to put on your must read list this summer.

Girl, Wash Your Face- Rachel Hollis. I started following Rachel on Instagram a few years ago because I loved that she was building a business and doing it with beautiful style. What I gained from her though after following her for a few years was a hundred belly laughs from her laugh out loud personality and a greater glimpse into the life of an adoptive parent. Rachel does it all with such grace and poise, but if you read Girl, Wash Your Face, you’ll find that Rachel’s life is anything but poised and that she hasn’t gotten to where she is without a few dozen falls along the way. It’s comforting and so resonating with my heart. This book will take you through the lessons Rachel has learned along the way from single woman, to broken hearted, to falling in love, to parenting, and to being your own cheerleader.

Braving the Wilderness- Brene Brown. Brene Brown has been a favorite author of mine for a long time. She’s real to the core and calls the shots just like they should be called- without holding back her emotions. In this book, she outlines the path to true belonging only occurring when you truly are you. Some of her chapters in this book have the best titles such as: “People are Hard to Hate Close Up. Move In.” and “Speak Truth to Bullshit. Be Civil.”. Now, I’m not a swearing woman very often, but this chapter was so great and this whole book has left me breathless and thankful for some more tools in my belt on how to persist in my daily life with the courage to be myself. If you’re looking for a kick in the shorts to stop hiding who you truly are, Brene has you and this book will be perfect for those campfire nights with your favorite drink in hand.

**Love that Lasts- Jefferson and Alyssa Bethke. This book is a great marriage book for couples wanting to pursue each other in a way that models the Lord’s great love for us. This book is told in such a way that helps us to see marriage in a different light than that of what our culture traps us into believing is best for marriage. A year and a half into marriage and I’m learning more about myself each day. I’m wanting to love my husband more, pursue him better, and make sure that our conflicts don’t overtake the joy in our marriage. This book is helping me to focus on my relationship with the Lord so I can be the best wife to my husband.

*Everybody Always- Bob Goff. This is my husband’s vote! Guys can read this and enjoy it all the same. I gave this a half-Christian book asterisk- not because I don’t think Bob loves Jesus, but because I truly believe this book could be a shift for anyone. Ryan used to read me this book before bed every once in a while and it was the perfect way to fall asleep. Bob and his wife, Sweet Maria, have made it their goal that everybody always feels loved and cherished. They are Christians, but if you aren’t, you may still enjoy their genuine love and joy for the human race and you may delight in the way they have such voice in their storytelling.

Imperfect Courage- Jessica Honegger. Disclaimer- this book isn’t out till August, but I know I’m going to love it and I know I’m going to want you to read it and here’s why. Jessica Honegger is one of the co-founders for Noonday Collection, the socially responsible accessory company I get to be an ambassador for. Jessica speaks often in our group of Ambassadors about shame and how to stop believing the lies. Seriously, if you’re a woman, you’ve felt lies, right? Jessica is going to help us smash those lies and call their bluff…in August. I’ll be hanging on waiting, and you can be, too.

Seriously, y’all. I could read books all the live long day. I’m a book junkie. That’s why I hope you find this short list fun and my hope is that you’ll take the long list to the book store with you. If you do, can you come back here and let me know so we can rejoice in the books we’re sharing together.

Happy Summer Reading, friends! Download your Summer Reading Book List here: 2018 Book List. 🙂

So Long, Third Grade!

It’s a Monday night- the Monday night after my personal day from school. If you didn’t know, or you aren’t a teacher, typically teachers get one or two personal days to use each year. These are to be used however we want and it’s so fun to choose that ONE day in hopes that it’ll be absolutely perfect. My day was amazing- spent with friends, family, and now writing- it just doesn’t get much better.

I’ve been praying for words for a few weeks. Just anything to fuel my heart. I’ve started six blog posts in May and this will be the only one that gets finished (so far)- and I think it’s because this is a message for all of us.

I’ve been seeing so many Facebook posts about parents who are sick of the school year- ready for packed schedules of little league games and babysitters and keeping kids occupied by the pool all summer long. Although that is all so fun, it isn’t every childs reality. And this is the part where the tears are cued.

If you hear a teacher describe a student in their class, you’ll probably hear the word “adorable” or “so sweet” even if they’re difficult or hard or running us out of energy. I’m still in this honeymoon phase of teaching where I love it so much that I leave every day feeling thankful beyond words and completely exhausted.

As I’ve watched the numbers dwindle over the past few weeks and as we’ve endured another school shooting, God has been speaking to my heart about the job that I and other teachers have in this season. You see, now with twelve and a half days left to go until summer break, I’m excited and devastated all in the same. I’ve been pondering if I’ve loved each dirty recess face enough. Wondered if I’ve been patient enough and gracious enough for each and every little heart that’s occupied a seat in my classroom this year. Every year feels different, but this year has felt especially sweet. And if you are a teacher, you know this to be true.

This year, twenty-seven squishy, big hearted kiddos have sat in my classroom, and have been taught by me, and my co-teacher, who I’m certain should receive a “Teacher of the Year” award. We have laughed abundantly, we have cried over a student who left mid-year, and rejoiced when we got a new student. But we have loved big. Love has been our anthem in third grade with a side of empathy and compassion. As exhausted as I am, I’m devastated to see this year go. Sad to watch some of my students leave our class or our school. Saddened that I may have made an impact, but maybe I didn’t some days and maybe those days are important to them, too. So with twelve days left of the year, here’s what I’ve got:

Parents, you are amazing. I know you’re exhausted and everything from packing lunches to the carpool line feels like the Hunger Games, but hang in there. Stick with us. Breathe deep and kiss your kiddo a bajillion times just because you can. Help us out by double checking dates on the calendar and looking through that folder or agenda for just eleven more evenings.

Teachers, you are amazing. You have given so much this year. You are hardly making it to Thursday and Friday feels like it’ll never come, but you’re doing the thing. The hard thing, the sweet thing, the glorious thing- and your rewards are so much more than a few days off this summer. I’m proud to be one of us. Proud to be making a difference in the world. Lets pray big, bold prayers for our kiddos for the next twelve days. Prayers that they stay safe, that they don’t lose their sh** every other second, and prayers that your love is enough to get them through the summer into a next year. Your job is so important and I want to squeeze each one of you, bring you Starbucks, and tell you that YOU CAN DO THIS. It feels impossible and you feel exhausted- but these kids are counting on you.

Students, you are amazing. You are the reason we’re doing what we’re doing. The reason we’re loving abundantly. We want you and care for you and can’t wait to crazy love you all next year!

As for me, I’m still devastated. Still longing for a few more laughs, a few more good morning hugs, and a lot more memories. This year has been my favorite. I’ve had incredible students and amazing families and have worked with the best staff. And luckily for me, I’m taking a big bundle of them with me to fourth grade next year- Lord-willing. But if this hasn’t been your year, then this last part is for you:

To the teacher who really just can’t this year: (now I’m crying). I was you. I was on the edge of nothing and everything all in the same breath. You can do this, brave human. You have to finish as strong as you can. These kids may not have a champion in their life, but it’s you. They wake up, walk to school, check-in late, etc. so that they can see YOU! I have some super amazing friends in my life who are struggling this year- and I know some of you will read this. You’re doing great. You are doing everything you can and then some, so lets finish this out together and meet at Melting Pot for Ladies Night in two weeks (now you know who I’m talking to 😉 )!

With love and prayers! ❤