Becoming More.

So this past weekend I attended the trip of a lifetime.

And mind you, I get around. (Hey now! Shame on you…I was talking about traveling!)

I’ve watched the sun set over the Rocky Mountains and have stood in awe on the edge of the Grand Canyon just trying to take it all in. I have hiked the Great Wall of China and have scaled a waterfall by a hot air balloon in upstate New York. I’ve white water rafted in the Smoky Mountains and have touched the Florida sky from the comfort of a fairly tattered parasail harness.

While these adventures have undeniably engraved their way into my fondest memories of my life so far, there was just something so different about this trip that set it apart from all the others.

It was here — at a simple two day leadership training retreat in small town Oklahoma amidst 45 other powerful women in a perfect stranger’s living room (who were all hyped up on gluten-free oreo truffles and chocolate covered strawberries and maybe a little tipsy on champagne) — that I learned to become more.

I will be completely transparent here. When I first learned I had earned this trip along with some of my dearest friends for our success in our recent small business through an amazing health and wellness company called Arbonne, I was ecstatic of course because I had heard other consultants raving about how life-changing this weekend would be, but I was also a wee bit nervous. To be enclosed in a small space with 45 women who I didn’t know very well all talking about our feelings and struggles we have faced in not only our businesses but also our personal lives??

Holy toledo. That’s A LOTTTTTTT of estrogen. I mean, are there even enough Kleenexes in the world for this?

I knew I was definitely packing a bag and jumping in the car and going, but I really didn’t know what to expect beyond that.

When we first arrived after a long 3 ½ hour commute, I opened the door to National Vice President Miranda Burcham’s house and my jaw immediately hit the floor. Aside from the fact that her home looked worthy enough to be showcased in some HGTV magazine and that I was pretty certain my little house could fit in her dining room alone, all I could really focus on is that there were people EVERYWHERE, which made my anxiety plummet through her vaulted ceiling roof.

How nice. I don’t know anyone here…and I’m definitely underdressed…

Oh look! Someone I recognize! I’ve seen her at trainings before….her name is, wait…is it Karen? Beth? Louise? Crap!…she’s walking over to me and I can’t remember her name…

Okay, so we established two things in the entire five seconds I’ve been here….her name is definitely Pam and I’m an idiot…

Okay, so now I find my name tag and put it on? I don’t see my name…did they forget about me? I did earn this trip, right? What if I’m not supposed to be here? Oh God, did I accidentally crash a high class retreat?

Whew! There’s my name tag. I’m not crazy. Now to find a seat because we’re starting in five minutes…except there are no more seats. It’s fine, I will sit on the floor.

In front of everyone which is sort of awkward…

Wait….icebreakers? Go around the room and introduce yourself and tell something interesting??? These people are talking about being arrested for something hilarious and how they have fed the homeless in Haiti and all I can think about is that I have a one-eared cat named Albert…which is super weird. I can’t do this…

Ooohhh…I spy a platter of chocolate covered strawberries…now, I can definitely do THAT…

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So to summarize here, I’m basically a professional when it comes to anxiety and social awkwardness. But once the first session started, I immediately started to feel a shift I had never felt before.

Now, please note that if I were to write about every little thing I experienced in those two days, you would not be reading a simple little blog in the spare five or ten minutes you have set aside right now. Truthfully, I would have to write a book for you to read — no, more like a series of novels — to get it all out.

And let’s be real. Neither one of us probably have the time for that.

But what I will do is share some of my biggest takeaways that went from being simple tips and tricks to kickstart my Arbonne business to evolving into much deeper life lessons and convictions.

I’m no psychic, but my guess is like me some of you probably struggle with similar battles in your careers, relationships, friendships, spiritual life, or maybe even in your heart and mind and could also use these tidbits of wisdom to help you overcome them.

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1 – There is power in the comeback.

I can’t even begin to explain the impact of all the stories that were shared, right there in Miranda’s living room. Stories about unimaginable loss of loved ones. Stories about promoting to a certain level in the company and then losing it all and having to restart from square one. Stories about people who have been hurt by the people who should have cared for them the most. Stories about spouses leaving spouses to be single parents in the worst possible time when everything else came crashing down.

Stories about comebacks.

Listening to these women pour their hearts out to a complete stranger like me about how they were forced to rise above when life got hard was such a wake up call that reminded me of my own story, and I began to think about it even deeper.

So many people know that I have just recently launched my Arbonne business on the side of teaching and photography. They know that I LOVE LOVE LOVE every second of it and probably even think I’ve gone a little crazy with it, because I literally live and breathe it in my everyday life and it’s become almost all I talk about anymore. But what most people don’t know is why I started this business in the first place.

 

About four months ago I was the lowest of lows I had ever been and was seriously ready to end it all. I felt like crap all the time. I wasn’t sleeping. I wasn’t eating…and when I did it was the worst possible food that obviously wasn’t serving my body the way I needed it to in order to survive a busy hectic day. I was solely running on strong coffee and gas station energy drinks. I couldn’t even wrap my head around having kids because I was so overstimulated with everything else around me going on. I wasn’t happy in my career. I was a grouch to my students then came home even more unpleasant. I shut people out…especially my husband who was my biggest supporter through it all. I was bitter towards the people who hurt me severely in my past and let it over-consume me. And I felt guilty about all of it. I remember laying in bed at night praying to God for some opportunity to come my way that would help me understand my purpose in this world. “God, what am I supposed to do? I am NOT happy and there has to be more than being a punching bag to my own life. What do YOU want from me?”

Two days later my friend Erika messaged me about Arbonne, explaining how she had a life changing opportunity she wanted to share with me because she knew I would be amazing at it.

And I am thoroughly convinced if she never did, I don’t know that I would be writing these words you’re reading right now.

Erika had NO idea how desperate I was for any opportunity at all to get out of the rut I felt I was sinking in. She had no idea I desperately needed this business — not for the delicious protein shakes or the amazing mascara — but for survival.

I came face to face with the reality that if I wanted something in my life to change, I would have to be the one to move and change it myself. Even if it wasn’t easy. Even if I had always had bad experiences with direct sales and vowed I would never become one of those people. I was definitely scared to try it, but was even more terrified of what would happen if I never even took the chance. So, with every fear and hesitation and millionth excuse anyone could possibly think of for reasons NOT TO DO the business, I chose to TO DO it for one reason.

I had to make a comeback.

So here I am, four months later, re-writing my story through an incredible business that I almost said no to. And boy, am I so glad I put faith over fear! Believe me when I say my life is changing because of the positive people I am constantly surrounded by, the focus I have to set and conquer goals, and the vision I now have to do more and trust God’s calling on my life. I am not 100% out of the darkness and there are days when the devil tries to sneak in and claim victory over my weakness. But I am on the right path to a new, better me inside and out and know where I am going.

And that, my friends, is liberating.

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2 – Are you playing to win, or playing not to lose?

If you ever want someone to call you out on your crap, tell you there are no excuses, and order you put your big girl panties on and basically “suck it up buttercup”, I highly recommend listening to Linda Parker who is an executive national vice president in the company. (Which, by the way, you can access her calls on YouTube or soundcloud!)

Whoa, buddy….talk about a powerhouse leader!

I sat at her feet for two straight hours just taking everything she said in and didn’t even care that my buttcheeks were so numb and I had to pee half an hour ago…because she was just THAT. GOOD.

The biggest statement I remember most from her coaching was “Are you playing to win, or playing not to lose?”

Holy crap, Batman. That’s deep.

How many of us play it safe in our life because it’s easier? How many of us talk ourselves out of overachieving just to do the bare minimum because, well, that’s good enough? How many of us whine and rant to our friends and family and make excuses for when something is too hard instead of taking a step back, figuring out what going wrong, and finding a solution? How many of us get to a certain goal and then decide we’ve gone as far as we can, so we stop setting bigger, more complex goals that really require us to get out of our comfort zone?

Well, I’ll raise my hand if no one else will….

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What a call to action to knock it off, pick ourselves up when we stumble, and press on to greater heights! The truth is this world can’t afford for us to play small. To put this into personal perspective, if Erika had never reached out to me — basically a stranger she knew very little about — who knows where would be?

Or if I would even still be here at all.

Dramatic? Maybe. But true? Absolutely. So how dare I sit on the side lines and play small when there are so many more people out there who need this incredible opportunity that I have at my fingertips, just like I so desperately needed it four months ago without even realizing it.

It’s time to stop making excuses and start making an impact.

3 – Make up a story that serves YOU.

One of the exercises we were coached to do is write down three facts or things that have happened in our lives. We then had to write down the stories that we have told ourselves based on those facts.

It wasn’t pretty.

For example:

Fact – My real dad left me when I was 3 years old.

Story – There must be something wrong with me. I’m wasn’t good enough to make him stay.

 

Fact – I didn’t make the varsity volleyball team in high school.

Story – I suck at sports.I should have never tried out. What a humiliation!

 

Fact – I didn’t reach the goals I had set last month in my business.

Story – I’m bad at being a consultant and don’t know if I have what it takes to do this.

Whoa. Talk about Negative Nancy, right???

Funny how after you write the things you constantly think about and tell yourself down on paper and read them aloud how they make you stop and think about how personal you’ve been taking everything your whole life. I realized how I have been playing the victim instead of the victor all along in every situation where life threw me a curveball. No wonder I am generally not a confident person! How can I be when all I tell myself is how much I’m unworthy?

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So after this epiphany, we then had a major heart to heart about how these stories were obviously not fixing anything and not serving us the way that they should. Bad things happen. Annoying things happen. That’s life. We can’t change that.

But what we can change is the stories we come up with when these things do happen.

Sooo….time for a divine intervention! We then took our old stories and rewrote them into positive stories that actually served us. The results were crazy eye opening!

Fact – My real dad left me when I was 3 years old.

NEW Story – I will be a better parent because of this. I can also be a testimony to my students who have had a parent who walked out in their life. I could even open my heart and home to adoption or fostering someday and be the loving, involved parent that my real dad never was to a child in need.

 

Fact – I didn’t make the varsity volleyball team in high school.

Story – Sports may not be my thing, but at least I can say I tried! Time to find something else I’m good at.

 

Fact – I didn’t reach the goals I had set last month in my business.

Story – Every business builder has struggles, and I’m not the only one! November is a new month. I know what didn’t work last month and how I can fix it to be more successful this month. Time to get to work!

Better, right? What an easy way to change your perspective. ** See ya, Negative Nancy!

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4 – Don’t be a dreamer, be a vision caster.

One of the things my team’s national vice president Lisa Dooley challenged us to do in our businesses and lives is to not just have a dream for what could happen, but cast a vision of exactly what that moment would look like when we reach the goals we have set our hearts on.

Because if you really think about it, a dream is just a wish or fantasy, but a vision is more of a reality.

I got to thinking how this applies to my business. One of my biggest goals is to become a regional vice president by the time I am 25 years old. Before last weekend, this was really only a figment of my imagination. I could only dream of getting a paycheck that would not only replace my income but also my husband’s income and allow us more choice to start blessing others in bigger ways we can’t do with our current paychecks — but I wasn’t actually envisioning it getting deposited into our checking account. I could only dream of driving that white Mercedes Benz that the company rewards you with when you promote to a vice president — but I wasn’t actually “smelling the leather”. I could only dream about having the finances, time freedom, and conviction to travel the world and sponsor missions trips or build homes in third world countries — but I wasn’t actually visualizing myself standing on the beaches of Haiti with a team of soul-on-fire consultants working alongside me because I led them there.

I always thought it would be freaking awesome, but in my heart it didn’t really seem like a possibility because I was only thinking about these things occasionally when I would drift off into La La Land. I wasn’t actually painting the picture of what that moment would look like. Feel like. Smell like. Even taste like. And if I wasn’t painting the picture, I definitely wasn’t painting myself in it. No wonder it seemed so surreal and not possible!

So again, my goal is to become a regional vice president. But it’s no longer just a dream. It’s a vision. My vision.

It is October 1, 2018 and I am a REGIONAL vice president!! Life is good today. It smells and tastes like pancakes and bacon, because I am actually HOME with my family making breakfast before Kurtis goes off to work. We have just finished remodeling our dream home and I just unpacked the LAST box — and there a white Mercedes parked in the garage. Over breakfast, we are talking about our new goals and are even considering sponsoring money to our church for a missions trip to Australia. My birthday is in 18 more days and I will be blowing out my candles in Jamaica with my husband and our 5 month old baby with other families in the business on the Arbonne Incentive Trip. I have also recently promoted 4 new district managers and 2 new area managers. One is in qualification for region! Next comes nation!

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So, yeah. Wasn’t kidding when I said last weekend was the trip of a lifetime!

It’s so crazy to think of how much my perspectives have changed since joining this business and how it’s impacting so many other areas in my life. I mean, I almost have to laugh.

I used to think direct sales people were annoying. Thank goodness not all of them are like that and some actually have a vision to change their lives….and then this world.

I used to think that to be successful in this business you had to know a lot of people and be a good talker. Thank goodness you just have to be is passionate about helping others and willing to build new relationships!

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I used to think you had to win every challenge, incentive trip, and promotion out there to make it to the top. Thank goodness all you have to do is have grit and determination to stick around when it gets hard!

I used to think you had to know everything about everything in order to have credibility. Thank goodness all you have to know is how to ask or where to go for help until you figure it out!

I used to think that stress was just a normal part of being an adult and that would never really change. Thank goodness it doesn’t have to be that way, if you are willing to get up and change it yourself!

And to think all this came from a simple two day conference in Oklahoma with 45 women I didn’t know, which really all stemmed from a decision four months ago to take a chance on something I was completely terrified to do.

I will tell you all a million times over that the reason I do this business is not about being part of some pyramid get-rich-quick scheme and conning others into jumping on my bandwagon. It’s not about having my skin looking flawless and my nutrition on point. It’s not about my stats on my dashboard website or the number of sign-ups I got last month. It’s not about making bookoos of money and having my name and face in the latest Arbonne catalog. It’s honestly not even really about me at all.

It’s about paying it forward and becoming more for this world that is desperately waiting for me to change it.

And I can’t wait to see who all will rise up to the challenge and join me in this life-changing endeavor.

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“Thank You, God, For Blessing This Farm.”

So the past two weeks, I’ve cried.

A lottttt.

And I am definitely an ugly crier. Especially when surrounded by the heartbreak of others.

Depressing camera footage televising miles of embers, ashes, and smoke where some of the most beautiful rangelands and pastures once painted the Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, and Colorado skylines. Gut wrenching photos of dead cattle and horses mangled up in the remnants of barbed wire fences as they tried to flee the flames. Tear jerking interviews and biographies of farmers who have lost it all…some including their lives. The small remainder of a world that literally went black in a matter of seconds and forever changed the lives of everyone who once called it “home.” Inspiring testimonies of the ones watching on the other side of the television screen who immediately jumped up to lend a hand in some way, whether it be through semi-loads of food and clothing, trailers loaded down with hay, gift cards for T-posts and barbed wire, or simply heartfelt thoughts and prayers. And – in the midst of all the disaster – false “animal abuse” bull crap from terrorizing groups like PETA and HSUS who have been sharpening their pitchforks only to stab farmers in the back and kick them some more while they are already down when they have to put down another animal.

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An animal that can’t physically breathe due to excessive smoke inhalation.

An animal that is unrecognizable because its manes, tails, and hides are literally singed to what’s left of their skin.

An animal that can’t see, smell, or hear because its eyes and nose and ears are now part of the ashes scattered on the ground.

An animal that can’t walk because their hooves have completely burned off to nothing but bone.

An animal that lost its mom to the flames just moments after its birth.

An animal that is lying there, suffering in writhing pain and torment, as Hell burns with raging fury all around it.

An animal over which a farmer sinks his head into his palms in tears, despair, and guilt because he could not rescue it in time.

An animal that hasn’t died…yet.

If you are still clueless while reading this, I advise you take some time to research the catastrophic wildfires that have been running rampant out west these past few weeks. I assure you that if you have any sympathy at all, you will not walk away from all of the devastation unchanged – regardless if you farm or even know the difference between a heifer and a steer or not.

Absolutely. Heartbreaking.

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As I sit here watching the news and scrolling through all the Facebook articles about this disaster, I can’t help but think…what if it were us?

The mere thought of this leaves me plastered with goosebumps and tears stinging in my eyes.

My husband and I are both 23. We are just starting out, trying to build a farm from the ground up together as newlyweds in Cross Timbers, Missouri. We have considered this home since we married three years ago. Our operation may not look like much to some (as any farm couple knows how hard it is to get going in the first place let alone keep making a living on it) but we take pride in our rusty tractors, weedy fields, patched up fences, and small herd of non-registered angus crossbreeds. Farming is something that flows through my husband’s veins and stems as the result of a childhood dream to carry on the family tradition of farmers’ tans, sweaty ball caps, stained T-shirts, calloused hands, and manure-caked boots. It’s also something that I have learned to love and value alongside him – oftentimes from the comfort of the back rack of a four-wheeler during a spring rain to tag new calves that have just hit the ground, the fender of a no-cab tractor weaving through the windrows during hay season, or the bouncy buddy seat of a combine during another fescue seed harvest in the June heat.

We love it – all of it.

And if the day were to ever come where all of a sudden all of the dreams we have built together on this land were to suddenly unravel and completely disintegrate before  our eyes…we would both go down in flames with it.

To us, there is no more beautiful place on earth that we could possibly imagine spending the rest of our days together raising kids and chickens, watching sunsets, catching crappie in the pond, hunting trophy bucks off our back porch, and watching new calves frolic in the fields.

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So today I am simply being thankful. For life. For our farm. For happy, healthy cows we get to watch graze out our front window. For green grass in the summer and full hay lots and grain bins in the winter. For old barns that are still intact and that abandoned grain silo covered in vines. For broke-down machinery that can be fixed with a quick jump start, tack weld, or a shot of WD-40. For mended, crooked fences that outline and embrace these fields that we get to call ours. For the old farmhouse we will one day fill with love, laughter,  memories, and all-things Fixer Upper inspired. For blue skies, sunshine, and bright stars that blanket overhead of it all. For another day to watch my husband’s eyes light up as he heads out the door to check on his cows or fix the baler – and one more chance to fall into his arms at the end of the day when he returns, alive and safe.

For this place we call home.

So thank you, God, for blessing this farm. Remind us to never, ever take it for granted. Wrap your arms around all these families who have lost it all – and comfort those dealing with the unimaginable loss of their loved ones who gave it all to fight the flames for their animals.

And guide all of us on the sidelines as we band together and try in every way we can to help them reclaim and rebuild their dreams up out of the ashes, one by one.

 

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The Silence.

I love noise.

Music cranked. People talking and laughing. Fixer Upper turned all the way up on my T.V. Piano hymns on a Sunday morning. Rain falling on a tin roof. Wind blowing through trees. Crickets singing on a river bank at dusk. Cows mooing when it’s time to move the electric fence. And of course, my all-time favorite sound ever…the grumble of my coffee pot in the morning.

Oh yes, Folgers in my cup all the way.

But to be completely honest…these past few weeks have been odd. Unusual.

Quiet.

Even when I’m surrounded by 26 obnoxious high school students, blasting 90’s pop Pandora on my hour commute home, or listening to my husband snore so loud to the point I’m convinced there’s a bulldozer in my bed, I still feel this strange quietness creeping in all around me like a slow and steady fog.

It’s the perfect concoction of fear topped with a pinch of anxiety wrapped up in desperation and served with a side of loneliness. There’s probably a much fancier name for this out there, but I refer to it as The Silence.

And the crazier thing is when all the noise in my life stops for even just a split second and I pause long enough to dust off the Bible and lift my hands to God in prayer about all the impossible decisions I’m facing, the bills that keep multiplying, the unimaginable hardships I keep watching my loved ones go through, the growing to-do list I can never seem to get ahead of, and how overwhelmed I feel about it all…The Silence grows even louder and I don’t know what to think, do, feel, or even say.

Kind of makes it hard to write a successful blog, ya know? #WritersBlockLevel1000

I hate silence. Partially because I don’t have kids yet so I take it for granted, partially because it creeps me out and makes me feel like a serial killer is gonna pop out from behind my shower curtain any second, but mostly because it forces me to do something I’m not very good at doing in life. Being mindful. Being present.

Being still.

And I most certainly don’t like it when during the most desperate times of my life – when I need God’s guidance the most – it’s all that I seem to get in return.

Ah, He sure loves to test our patience, doesn’t He?

But here’s the thing I’m finally learning to realize. The Silence never lasts forever. Eventually the story unfolds and life goes on, even when it seems impossible. At some point, all the things we stress and obsess about seem to work themselves out in time.

But we have to respect that it’s only in His time and not our own.

And if we just listen to The Silence He often sends us when we demand a right-now answer…with all of our heart…with all of our mind…and giving Him all of our unceasing faith…we begin to see the bigger picture. And suddenly, all the impossible times don’t seem so impossible anymore.

Now don’t get me wrong. I know how it is. It’s so much easier to cram our lives with so much noise to distract us and drown out the stillness we sometimes so desperately need more than anything else in that given moment. It’s hard to feel the pain if you just keep moving, right?

But friends, we need to pause. We need to be still. We need to reflect. We need to ask for help – no, pray for help. And be consistent in patiently waiting for it.

We need The Silence.

And who knows…it just might become the most beautiful sound we’ve ever heard.

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> Less Than. <

Let’s backtrack to about third grade, here.

It was math time. My teacher was explaining inequalities on the whiteboard. You know – the greater than, less than, equal too stuff. The “alligator eats the bigger number and points to the little number” analogy. (To this day sometimes I swear I still have to think real hard about which way to face that arrow, but that’s neither here nor there…)

The problem wasn’t that I didn’t understand what she was teaching me. It wasn’t even that I failed the quiz. I actually did really well with this, especially with a little bit of practice. I even got one of those scented smiley face stickers on my guided practice homework for doing a good job! The problem was that I took that simple third grade math lesson and applied it to my entire life, exactly in all the ways that you’re not supposed to.

I started comparing myself to others around me, to the point where I felt like the smaller number the alligator was picking on.

The Less Than.

And you know what? Between you and me, I still sometimes catch myself doing it to this day.

But I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that I’m not the only one who looks at my reflection through the Mirror of Comparative Oppression. We all do it sometimes, even if we don’t realize it. But some of us can take it a little too far to the point where it consumes our minds and completely diminishes or even destroys our self-image and confidence.

And I hear you, it’s rough. Especially when we see That Girl. You know, the one who has that really cute Michael Kors designer handbag we eyeball every time we walk by that store in the mall, tan and toned legs, better hair, less acne, no love handles, and a zillion and one friends. Or how about That Guy, who has a convertible in his three-car garage, an 8 pack, runs five miles a day, and can bench press 220 at the gym. The “Old Me” in that pre-motherhood photo that reminds us we will never again have that much energy or be able to wear our favorite pair of jeans anymore. That co-worker who always gets the promotions and awards while we’re left on the sidelines unnoticed. That friend who is married, has four beautiful kids, and travels the world while we’re sitting alone and single and barren in the dark, talking to our five cats on a Friday night. Or that person who always seems to spew all things rainbows, butterflies, and confetti when sometimes all we feel is depression, loneliness, and guilt creeping in.

Some people call it jealousy. Some people call it insecurity. But I call it forgetfulness.

Because friend, when did we forget who we are and who we belong to?

I also call it blindness.

Because friend, we have no idea how those people we constantly compare and contrast ourselves with got to where they are, nor the struggles they had to face to get there.

And I also call it nonsense.

Because friend, we HAVE to STOP DOING IT.

One of my favorite passages of scripture to reference when I am feeling this way is Ephesians 2:19-22.

“Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of His household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets with Christ Jesus Himself as the chief cornerstone. In Him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in Him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit.”

What a perfect proclamation that we don’t have to second guess ourselves, be better than someone else, or put pressure on ourselves to be something more than what we are because in His eyes we are exactly what He designed us to be – His! He assures us that if we trust Him enough to build our self-image through His eyes instead of our own, we will feel Him dwelling in our hearts and know that we are so, so loved and way more than enough.

So the next time you feel unloved, unimportant, or insecure and want to start comparing yourself to That Girl and That Guy and pointing that alligator sign away from you, remember to whom you belong.

Because you are so much more to Him than a Less Than.

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Yes, God.

My favorite thing to do is to go where I’ve never been.

There is nothing more liberating to me than packing a bag, hanging a map, throwing a dart, jumping on a plane or driving cross-country, and seeing how the adventure of it all unfolds. (Peace out, reality.)

Okay, so maybe I don’t really throw a dart and am perhaps a little too reliant on Mapquest rather than totally “winging it”, but the point is – I LOVE LOVE LOVE traveling to new places. It’s absolutely exhilarating – experiencing once-in a lifetime opportunities that I can’t otherwise experience in Smalltown, USA  Missouri. Like parasailing the Gulf of Mexico. White water rafting in the Smoky Mountains. Scaling a waterfall by hot air balloon. Standing on a lighthouse balcony at sunset. Getting lost in the New York City metro. Hiking the Great Wall of China. Camping and horseback riding in the Rockies. Every single journey is always so different and unforgettable! Not to mention all the great local dive-ins I get to eat at and all the picturesque scenery I capture with my Nikon. And I love experiencing it all with the accompaniment of friends, family, or especially my husband – who’s bucket list just so happens to also include traveling all 50 states together in our married life! (#ourkindofrelationshipgoals)

But here’s the  crazy thing. The contradiction. The paradox, or whatever you call it. For someone who is supposedly so wanderlust and adventurous, I often find myself at the awkward crossroads between self-doubt and insecurity when the Man Upstairs is convicting me to do something out of my comfort zone that follows His will for my life.

Anyone else relate?

It’s a terrifying thing when God asks us to trust fully in Him and follow wherever He wants to lead us. We fear the unknown because we’re not the ones navigating the GPS, driving the car, booking the flights and hotels, or deciding where to take the next pit stop and eat dinner. We don’t know how or where our journey will unfold and we stress about it every mile we tread and every state line we cross along the way because we are too caught up in pursuing what WE want…rather than listening to what HE COMMANDS.

So, here’s what we have to do.

We have to stop doubting. Stop fearing. Stop trying to plan every little detail out. Stop trying to find an alternate route when God challenges us to get off the beaten path and off-road it a little. And instead start trusting Him to be our personal tour guide. I believe they call this having faith.

You see, He’s already mapped it all out. He knows all the places to go and sights to see. He knows exactly when and where we will reach our final destination. He even knows all the roadblocks, detours, and traffic jams we will have to face before we get there. But, He is always in control. Of it all. And all we have to learn to do is say “Yes, God.”

And then kick back, relax, and enjoy the beautiful ride.

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Loving the Storm.

Raise your hand if you remember the big ice storm in ‘07. Now raise your hand if you actually kind of enjoyed it.

Am I the only one with my hand still in the air?

Here’s the thing. Those two and a half weeks were rough, I’ll give you that. I mean, I was in seventh grade at the time and didn’t know there was a whole other world out there that existed without Hannah Montana, a CD player, microwaved popcorn, MySpace, and my hair straightener.

If I close my eyes real hard I can still picture, hear, and feel everything. The icicles. The yard that looked as if it was plastered and painted with white-out. The bitter cold. The way my breath clouded up and floated away to the sky forever. The slow droning of the occasional car that was brave enough to trek the icy side roads and 65 Highway. The darkness, except for a mere flame from that apple-cinnamon candle from Dollar General that helped us navigate our way around the house and lit the way for the longest Monopoly game ever played in history, to my knowledge. The ticking of the propane heater. The awful smell of baby wipes that we had to use for “sponge baths” because there was no running water. The snap, crackle, and pop of the maple tree in the front yard as its once-beautiful branches came crashing down to the frozen earth.

It was an experience like none other, for sure. The Ultimate Primitive Challenge, 2007 Edition. 

But as strange as it sounds, those were some of the most memorable days I’ve had so far in this life. For two and a half weeks straight I lived a life that was spent conversing face to face with my family, my friend, and her family that stayed with us instead of talking on the phone. Of playing board games and card games instead of updating my Facebook status. Of building a virtual campground with blanket tents in our living room instead of watching the Disney Channel. Of cooking every meal on a tiny open flame propane grill instead of a microwave. Of using the front porch as a refrigerator. Of shaving my legs and brushing my teeth with the leftovers of a half empty water bottle and surprisingly being totally okay with it. (And missing school all those days was a nice side bonus, as well).

The point is, that was hands-down the worst storm I’ve ever experienced in my lifetime – yet it turned out to yield one of the greatest blessings, memories, and life-lessons.

And I wonder – as I’m sitting here writing this blog ten years later at the kitchen table looking out the window as another ice storm is brewing – if God is trying to teach me something even deeper about “loving the storm”.

Friend, I don’t know what struggles and storms you are battling in your own life, and I can assure you that I have had plenty of my own. (That’s a blog for another time). But I do know this – if you truly, truly listen and adjust your perspective a little, you will find grace and wisdom to get you through it. You will find blessings. You will find strength and peace. You will find creativity. You will find beauty.

You will find appreciation for the things that really matter most and learn what it means to simplify.

So don’t be afraid. Don’t stress. Don’t ask God why this is happening to you or throw your hands up in despair. Just have faith. Listen. Trust Him. Be brave.

And learn to love the storm.

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