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.

 

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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!