www.bekawatts.com

Friends, it’s that time of year again. The time that comes almost as reliably as the change of the seasons: the change of the blog address.

Only this time, it’s forever.

Or at least until I get married and change my name.

So, almost forever.

It’s plain and simple: www.bekawatts.com

Here’s the story: I have trouble keeping up with one blog, let alone a handful of blogs, a photography website, and a portfolio page. Besides being a lot to manage it’s just confusing for people who are trying to find me on the world wide web. So to solve those problems and allow myself some room for growth in the future, I decided to create a permanent home on the internet.

And I LOVE it!!! I can’t wait for you to go check it out!

Here are the pages you’ll find over there:

blogger : The same blog (Beka Stays) with a new name (A Beautiful Home)

writer : A writing portfolio

photographer : An I’m-indecisive-so-I-hope-you-have-time-to-look-at-200-pictures-or-so photography portfolio

creative : A list of other creative places where you can find me

food enthusiast : A short romance novel about food and a list of favorite recipes

football fanatic : A new blog about the basics of football for normal girls (!!!)

faith-filled risk-taking life-lover : An About page that reads like a Life Thesis

let’s talk : A contact form to get the conversation started.

Those of you who are subscribing by RSS feeds are pretty good at this by now, but you’ll need to exercise your skills once again to include the new RSS feeds over at bekawatts.com. You’ll have an option of TWO feeds (!!!), because of the brand new football blog.

You guys are so wonderful. Thanks for following me as I traipse around the internet. I promise this is the last time around the bend!

See you over at the new site!

halfway flasback : june

I loved this picture and this lesson and this post. A prefect way to wrap up June’s Making Things Happen series!

Here is the crux of Making Things Happen, at least for me:

You have to be willing to let go of what you want to make happen.

Case in point:

A few weeks ago I was sitting in my apartment, working furiously on blogging and emailing and job searching and to-do listing. I had a pile of projects to get done before the night was over and I was bound and determined to finish them. Friday Night Lights was on in the background and I was perfectly content to productively wile the evening away.

I looked up from my laptop and noticed that the sunset was casting gorgeous colors on the bathroom shower tile. I had an internal debate about whether or not to Instagram the scene (“It’s so pretty!” “Really, no one wants to see your shower.” “But the colors!” “But seriously…it’s a shower.”) and decided in the end to snap a quick picture and post it:

Done! Pretty! Back to the to-do list!

But I couldn’t help but look outside at the sunset…wondering what it really looked like…not just what it looked like reflecting off of bathroom tile. I’d look out the window and then get back to work. And then repeat. And then repeat. There was this nagging feeling that I should do what’s most important: value the real beauty, not the productivity.

I knew I wanted to go see the sunset. But I did not want to go see the sunset, for a laundry list of reasons. Namely:

  • I did not want to leave my apartment (hello, have you seen Tim Riggins?!)
  • I did not want to leave my parking space and have to find a new one
  • I did not want to stop progress
  • I did not want to take pictures and have to edit them after
  • I did not want to make the effort

In the end…the sunset won. At the last possible moment I ran out of my apartment, out to the car, and drove up to Cobb’s Hill to see this:

A gorgeous sunset over a city I love and a memory I’ll have forever.

I was so glad I made the effort.

So to review, what I wanted for myself was this:

What God wanted for me was this:

Clearly, we have a winner.

When I get stuck inside of my own plans, I get left with only what I can do for myself. What’s easy, what’s comfortable, what’s right in front of me. That night, all I wanted was to check things off of my to-do list. I was content with a shower stall sunset.

But when I respond to what’s tugging at my heart, to the things that God gently guides me to, I get so much more. SO much more! Things I never could have dreamed on my own. I’ve always loved the verse from Ephesians that reminds us that God is capable of doing “immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.” It’s so true.

It’s important to do the hard work to make things happen – to have a plan, to take action steps, to look fear in the face, to have big dreams. But I think it’s most important to allow plenty of room for God to make things happen for us – immeasurably more than all we could ask or imagine.

 

halfway flashback : may

Oh, May! So good, so challenging, so essential for growth. This post was the epitome of May.

Sometimes, you roll with the punches.

Sometimes, you just get punched.

Over the past few weeks the ratio has not favored rolling. And because humans are built to avoid taking punches, I’ve tried to make things better on my own by showing myself some grace.

I tend to be really good at doing that. Gold medal grace-giver, right here. And in a variety of ways, too! They include:

  • having frozen yogurt for dinner
  • skipping workouts in favor of sitting in the sunshine reading magazines
  • having pie with a side of cookies for dinner
  • watching an indeterminable amount of NFL Network
  • watching an indeterminable amount of Friday Night Lights
  • not washing dishes
  • not doing laundry
  • have we talked about pie?

[ last night's dinner-and-distraction grace session ]

I really believe that sometimes it’s advantageous to skip a workout and rest. Sometimes it’s healthy to not even consider the presence of vegetables on a dinner plate. Sometimes it’s nice to zone out for a few hours and imagine your life as Tami Taylor.

As per all of the above, I’m a big advocate for giving yourself some grace from time to time (especially when it comes in a pay-per-ounce self-serve cup). But…

Oh, is there ever a but!

Sometimes Most times when I give myself grace what I’m really doing is giving myself an excuse to be less than my best.

It’s so true.

There is a time and a place for grace. But consistently responding to life’s problems by taking the easy way out is kind of like trying to heal a burn with band-aids. They might cushion the wound for awhile. But it won’t improve without proper care. A burn requires real medication.

Self-discipline, though not as enjoyable as grace, is real medication.

Because when you’re getting punched, standing up and fighting back is ALWAYS better than backing down.

Fighting back with self-discipline on the hard days – working out when it’s the last thing I want to do, swapping quinoa for cookies, muscling through a to-do list on my computer instead of sitting motionless in front of my computer – it makes the hard days feel so much more victorious. It put a W in a column that would have been all L’s otherwise. It’s worth every ounce of stingy effort. Fighting back with a response that doesn’t just feel good to me but actually is good for me is an action that is so much more in my favor in the long run.

It’s an action that will make me better. In all ways.

Yesterday was a hard day. I did not fight back. I flew my white flag high and proud (clearly: see above). And some days are like that, as much as I wish they weren’t. But even though I was pay-per-ounce soft-serve girl yesterday, today I am praying for the resolve to be this girl:

She is clothed with strength and dignity,
and she laughs without fear of the future.
When she speaks, her words are wise,
and she gives instructions with kindness.
She carefully watches everything in her household
and suffers nothing from laziness.

[ Proverbs 31:25-27 ]

And to live this way:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

[ Hebrews 12:1-3 ]

If you need a beneficial break, take it and don’t look back! Soak up all the grace you can so that you are ready to fight the good fight again tomorrow!

But if you can marshal some reserves of strength and keep pressing on today, if you can show yourself some personal tough love knowing that you are really giving yourself a gift in the process, if you can fix your eyes on Jesus and trust that He works all things together for the good of those who love Him,

all the better.

halfway flashback : april

The birthday blog! A fitting favorite for April.

First things first…when it comes to nights that are not ideal to leave your cell phone at work, the night before your birthday is probably pretty close to the top. Sorry, world. But I’ll be back soon!

This concludes this morning’s Public Service Announcements. In other news…

On Sunday night I went to bed late. (You’re probably thinking that this post is really riveting so far, but trust me, it gets better!) The kind of late when you hope you go straight to sleep in .05 seconds so you’ll get as much sleep as possible to make up for your decision to stay up into the early hours of tomorrow.

But I couldn’t get comfortable. Oddly, because it’s only mid-April in Antarctica Rochester, I was too warm. I wanted to crack a window for some fresh air but there were a variety of reasons not to. Street noise was a big one. The proximity of my face to the fire escape was a big one too, seeing as how it’s the place where all the good drunken ramblings and domestic disputes take place (thank you, city living) and I didn’t want an inebriated stranger crawling through my window to snuggle with me in the middle of the night.

The lull of fresh air, though – air that was reportedly not freezing – it was just too much to take after 6 months of frozen air! So I pulled the blinds, pushed back the curtains, and opened the window to backfiring buses, HBO-style feuding, and…

the most welcome gust of cool night air I’ve ever felt.

I was in awe. The gentle breeze, the warm lights from distant windows, the beauty of angles and architecture. All of which I had the chance to experience solely because I decided to open a window. I opened it despite of the perceived inconveniences. And I received SO MUCH MORE in return.

I went to sleep that night feeling so grateful for life. For the scene right before my eyes. For falling asleep in a bed, under a roof, with clothes on my body and food in my stomach, employed by a variety of gracious employers, loved by two parents whom I love, surrounded by wonderful friends whom I don’t deserve, overwhelmed by the Lord’s constant presence, mercies, and unfailing love.

I slept better than I’ve slept in weeks. And I woke up to this:

It made me so aware of the abundance of blessings I too often take for granted – or worse – choose to complain about. It made me so aware of the Lord’s great love and of my great ingratitude.

Today I get to start a new year. (If anyone knows how I’ve already arrived at 26…please feel free to fill me in.) Today I get to set the pace for the 365 days that are to follow. With that in mind, this year I’d like to:

  • be fiercely, relentlessly grateful for every second of my beautiful life and the nouns that make it so meaningful
  • stay humbled by God’s moment-by-moment love, grace, and provision and to share that same love, grace, and provision with everyone I encounter
  • open windows of all kinds, without hesitation, every chance I get

What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else?

Romans 8:31-32

[Thank you, Lord, for LIFE!]

halfway flashback : march

Still in love with Southern Weddings, still love this post!

Has there been any change in my life so seismic as the shift from wedding-hater to wedding-lover?

Other than my new fondness for oatmeal…nope, I don’t think there has been any alteration quite as drastic.

For reasons vast and wide, I used to cringe at the thought of weddings – whether attending, photographing, planning – the whole shebang. I could think of 8,000 things I’d rather do. Possibly 80,000.

Whether it was my heart changing substantially over the past few years or attending/being in/photographing/assisting on more weddings than I can count (literally…I only know it’s more than 50), something got to me.

I am officially that girl who wants to talk about the diversity and usefulness of burlap as it pertains to reception decor.

Stranger things have not happened.

The apex of this affection for wedded bliss? Southern Weddings Magazine.

OH, Southern Weddings Magazine!

I stumbled upon iloveswmag.com last year when I was entrenched in the search for a photography internship. I was looking for a list of photographers in the south (because every year around this time I decide I want to move to the south) and found that information and SO MUCH MORE on the Southern Weddings blog. Luckily this happened on a day with a free schedule. I literally sat at my computer for the next few hours and poured over pages and pages of blog archives, profiles of Southern Weddings employees, Lara Casey’s website, and the Making Things Happen website.

I would wholeheartedly recommend that you do the same.

Here’s a brief history of this amazing publication (from Lara Casey’s Sit a Spell With Me section):

“I always wanted a place to showcase what fired me up. This all started when we launched the Southern Weddings daily blog in 2007. It was a place for me to share what I loved in weddings, what was inspiring me and to show Southern brides that there was more to telling their unique love story than tulle and stuffed chicken. The blog caught on like wildfire, and people got so excited about a modern look at weddings in the South. The print magazine was born out of the incredible feedback from the blog. I am so grateful for the work we do because our job is to tell these authentic love stories. I love my “work.”  We’re not corporate or owned by some big publishing house.  We do the layout, write the editorial, organize the advertising – and everything else – ourselves.  We are self-published, which is a rarity nowadays.  We’re really, really small.  We never want to grow to the point where we can’t give personal attention to what matters most.  We are really grateful for that.”

It took me about 5 seconds to decide that I wanted to support this endeavor and needed to order both of the back issues that were currently available – those being Volume II and Volume III since sadly (and not surprisingly), Volume I had completely sold out (Volume III has since acquired the same status).

When it arrived at my doorstep I couldn’t believe my eyes.

There, tucked inside the front cover of the most beautiful magazine I had ever seen (seriously – no exaggeration – and you all know how deep and wide my magazine obsession runs) was a postcard. A thank you postcard. A HAND WRITTEN THANK YOU POSTCARD!!!

Seriously.

I was too overjoyed to take pictures that day…and too busy savoring each and every page…but I had the presence of mind to photograph a few of the contents of Volume IV when it arrived. Let’s chat about it, shall we?

This is what makes Southern Weddings Magazine my favorite magazine of all time (corresponding to the pictures above):

  1. The aforementioned hand-written postcard. Can you even believe it?
  2. The sheer beauty – and heft – of the perfectly packaged magazine
  3. The design quality of the layout. Each page is packed with unique details and eye-catching colors.
  4. The southern sayings randomly dispersed throughout the magazine (!!!!!!)
  5. The personal factor of having the editors comments displayed by different features; the fact that the magazine is so BEAUTIFUL, so professional, and yet so personal is by far my favorite aspect.
  6. The attention to detail. From the first page to the back cover, every inch of the magazine is soaked in Southern charm.
  7. The fact that this 250+ page magazine, filled to the brim with more breathtaking imagery, ideas, and love than I can describe in a blog post, is only $5.95. ($5.95!!!)

As for the Volume pictured above, these were my favorite selections:

features:

beautiful biscuits

paper, cotton, flour

the mason jar

mini southern desserts

real weddings (but you’ll have to buy V4 to see them all!):

katie + max (color!)

ginny + todd (elegant and understated!)

annie + jimmy (beautifully country!)

paige + adam (rustic!)

And…as if all of this weren’t enough…you can also view free digital editions of Volumes I, II, and III online. That means you get to peruse the sold out Volumes! For FREE!

Clear your schedules.

Southern Weddings, thanks for being so wonderful. You’re not just a good thing, you are an amazingly wonderful thing that makes me over-the-top giddy. Keep up the phenomenal work!

halfway flashback : february

Baking, friends, and food photography. Does it get any better? Love this post!

I think this post is going to be my valentine this year. I love it that much.

My love for whoopie pies knows no bounds. It’s almost as intense as my love for shoo fly pie. But just almost.

Also, why is Pennsylvania fond of naming non-pie desserts as pie? Whoopie pies? Basically hand-held cake. Shoo fly pie? Basically cake with frosting on the bottom. Dear PA, perhaps we need to have a cake vs. pie tutorial. I’ll be happy to provide examples. And help sample.

But that’s neither here nor there. The important thing is that Valentine’s baking + Saturday morning + a wonderful friend  =

A pretty perfect day.

These bright red beauties came from a recipe recently featured on Annie’s Eats. As always, she did not disappoint.

Also not disappointing: a free e-book! If you are feeling a bit unprepared for your big Valentine’s date tonight (as in: you have no idea what you’ll be doing 8 hours from now) check out my friend Carrie’s free e-book 101 Cheap Dates. It’s sure to give you the inspiration you need for planning tonight’s festivities (and 100 other exciting date nights, too)!

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!

halfway flashback : january

I wrote this post in January and I think it might be one of my favorites from my whole time as a blogger so far. The phrase has stuck with me, too. It’s still written on one of my living room chalkboards!

(Someone call Hallmark. That title sounds like it was born to be a Made For TV movie. That should stop me from continuing this post…but it won’t. Here we go!)

For the life of me, I can’t remember where I found/heard this quote, and every search I’ve tried in an effort to find it again has come up empty. But recently, in an article or interview or something related to having good posture, the interviewee said this,

“You should try to walk like an exclamation point, not a question mark.”

She was referring to not hunching over, as per the curved top of a question mark, but what she said is bound to stick with me for a long time. For me, she was speaking to an issue much deeper than standing up straight. She drove an arrow straight through my Achilles heel.

I do walk like a question mark. Because I think like a question mark.

Sometimes it’s inconsequential. As in,

“Did I just trip? Over air? Again?”

Yes. Yes you did.

But most of the time they’re more pointed questions. As in,

“Am I doing this right?”

“Do they like me?”

“Are my dreams unrealistic?”

“Am I good enough?”

Confidence is definitely not my strong point. There is nothing I’m more confident about than my lack of confidence. I don’t just question certain aspects of my existence, I generally feel as though I am altogether questionable. As a person of steadfast faith in God, with a laundry-list of scriptures that refute having a questionable worth, and a pile of tangible evidence to the contrary…one would assume this should be a non-issue.

And yet (and it’s a big AND YET…) it is. I’ve been plagued by crippling self-doubt for as long as I can remember. I’d give you examples ranging from elementary school to the present day but they all end in me being…wait for it…crippled by self-doubt, so they’re fairly anticlimactic. Suffice it to say: I’ve gone more than a few rounds with insecurity.

And I’ve prayed, OH LORD, I’ve prayed, that it would just be taken away and given a makeover. That in a half-hour TLC special my lack of confidence would be shampooed, blown dry, and transformed into radiant self esteem. But it doesn’t seem to work that way. At the the of the day I’m still completely unsure of myself, no matter how much I try to will or wish it away.

This year, instead of pleading to win the battle, I’ve just given God the daily wars. I’ve started praying that somehow, God would use all of these unfounded doubts for his glory. I still hope that at the end of the journey I’ll emerge with a Christ-centered confidence that cannot be shaken. In the meantime, I’ll be happy to simply be faithful in this era of life. The one in which I trip over my words and flat surfaces on a daily basis.

But I’m also going to make a concerted effort to be an exclamation point, not a question mark. Not just to stand a little taller (which is a bonus regardless for someone who hovers just over 5 feet), but to really LIVE like an exclamation point (!). To turn, “Will this work?” into, “This will work!” To stop thinking, “Can I do this?” and start thinking, “I can do this!”

(Please note that this line of thinking also lends itself to other endeavors. To wit: “Should I have that brownie?” becomes, “I should have that brownie!” I’m already loving this new psyche.)

But seriously, I’m really going to focus on changing my punctuation. Because even if it’s hard to wholeheartedly believe it at first, I’d rather live with enthusiasm than with doubt. Doubt only sees the fear of what might be impossible. Enthusiasm sees the joy of what can be possible. Isn’t that the preferable option?

I don’t think there is a better current example of this theory than Tim Tebow. By the media’s standards, he has no reason to be confident. Even by football standards, his confidence had to waver a bit after homeboy put up a completion percentage and total QBR in the twenties during the Broncos regular season finale. He had to have had some doubts about his abilities.

Didn’t he?

No one gave him even the slightest chance against the Steelers in last night’s wildcard game. It wouldn’t just have been easy, it would have been normal for him to think, “We backed into the playoffs. We’re playing the defending AFC Champions. We’ve been clobbered by three weeks of crucial injuries and crushing defeats. Maybe I can’t do this. What if it’s really impossible?”

He definitely could have gone that route. Been the question mark. And no one would have blamed him for it. But did he?

Well, HECK no! If this isn’t the personification of an exclamation point, then I’m not sure what is:

title

[ photo : denver post ]

What did he have to say after the win?

We just kept believing.

Apparently so. And look at what has happened so far as a result! And who’s to say how much further they can go!

And how different would everything be if there was even the smallest margin left for question marks instead of exclamation points?

We’ve each been given a unique purpose. World famous professional athlete or unknown local blogger  – the status makes no difference. Our job isn’t to doubt or question our purpose, but to get excited about it! I feel like I’ve been given something visual and something verbal. But I’ll never make a difference with those abilities if I continue to ask, “God, can you really use me?” instead of proclaiming, boldly, “God, you can really use me!”

If I ever decide to tattoo a verse to my forehead (and it’d be great if you all wouldn’t let me do that), this would be a good candidate:

For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.

[II Timothy 1:7]

Amen.

Go forth, and be ye excited? excited!

(Update: being an exclamation point pays off. Thanks to the wonderful people at Tebow’s Eye Black, an insightful blog about all things Tim Tebow, you can now read this post on their blog as well. Thanks, Tebow’s Eye Black!)

beka stays : june recap (and a blogging vacation)

faithful : how weird is this…I didn’t write a faithful post in June! But this Making Things Happen Monday post definitely counts, and I loved it!

relational : did I blog in June? No relational post either…but this one from my weekend at home fits in that category…Go Mom, Go!

hungry : unsurprisingly, there are no shortage of posts to choose from in this section. But my favorite? Man Pleasin’ Chicken.

athletic : P90x!

creative : sunset city, no contest

compassionate : love, love, love the birthday project

intelligent : annnnd…I can’t seem to finish a book these days. I’ll be mailing my English degree back to Roberts tomorrow. But this month…I’m really hoping to finish Living on the Edge and read Love Does by Bob Goff.

in Rochester : sticky lips! finally!

out of Rochester : it was home sweet home this month! no big trips to report.

real : not sitting on the cactus

favorite good thing : fire and backflips and joy

favorite post : probably making things happen monday : the final lesson

People…we are halfway through 2012! Can you believe it?!

In order to keep things rolling smoothly here for the rest of the year, I’m going to take a week off of blogging to rest and reevaluate. In the meantime, I’ll be reposting my favorite posts from each month so far this year. A little blast from the (recent) past for ya.

Hope you guys have a GREAT week! Happy July!

inspired : 7.1.12

This week didn’t offer lots of free time for inspiration. So instead of giving you a long list of links to peruse, today I just want you to check out these two sermons from Chip Ingram of Living on the Edge. Don’t worry about the title – you don’t have to be bored or have the blues to listen. I’m definitely not bored and am feeling very unblue these days, but these two messages wrecked me in the best way. They ask tough questions about where our priorities lie and what true worship really means. It’s an essential reality check, and chock full of inspiration!

Overcoming Boredom and the Blues : Part I

Overcoming Boredom and the Blues : Part II