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.

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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!]

good things : fire and backflips and joy

Things that are literally setting my heart on fire this morning:

this breakfast

this photostream

this website

this song

this band

these pins

this conviction

Bursting at the seams. There have been squeals of pure joy and happy dancing involved.

(If you need me, I’ll be running out some of this enthusiasm in laps around the neighborhood for awhile so I don’t blow a fuse. Oh my word.)

(OH MY WORD!)

making things happen monday : jars

If you take anything away from these Making Things Happen Monday posts, you might want to take it from this week’s post. These changes are so easy, but so effective!

I don’t even remember how this idea came about, but right after I came home from MTH I made these two sets of jars.

Set #1: Distraction Jars

I often find myself on internet rabbit trails that stem from not being able to make a decision. I don’t know how to finish a blog post so I find myself on Amazon looking for new water bottles. I don’t know which email to answer first so, clearly, that means I should watch a clip from SNL on Hulu. Don’t want to pick a time to schedule a meeting? No problem! I have 87 unread items in Google Reader to keep me busy until I finally decide on a time and place.

Distractions are the yeast that spoils the whole batch of dough.

If ALL of the time I wasted putting off simple decisions were compiled…I don’t even know where I’d start with all of the free time I’d have. I’d probably go straight to Pinterest to look around for a few hours because I couldn’t begin to decide how to use it all.

In an effort to curtail this bad habit I cleaned out two candle holders and put them on my desk. I put a handful of clear stones in one and left the other empty. Now, when I’m sitting at my desk working on something and find myself drifting off into a distraction of any kind, I take a stone from the full jar and put it into the empty jar.

There’s no point system. There’s no reward for a day with no stones in the empty jar. I don’t believe that the earth will open up and swallow me whole if all of the stones from the full jar move over to the empty jar in the course of one evening. I’m not trying to bring back the good old days of 1st grade marble jars.

But what happens is that I’m forced to physically stop mid-distraction and refocus. I realize that I’m just avoiding making a decision. I ask why I’m avoiding the decision. Then…I MAKE A DECISION.

Because seriously…I’ve wasted too much time and energy being chronically indecisive.

And then at the end of every day, I reset the jars so that one is full and one is empty so I have a fresh start for the next day.

This system really works for me. Try it out and see what you think!

Set #2: Truths and Lies

As someone who has a naturally overactive mind and who lives alone, I think I think a lot of thoughts. A LOT of thoughts. And while some of them turn into great blog posts and others into riveting emails and non-riveting Word documents, most of them are just fluff. And a good percentage of that fluff is toxic.

Fears and doubts and insecurities. In short: lies.

So I cleaned out two mason jars and put them on an accessible shelf. One for lies, and one for truth. Whenever a thought enters my mind that is a bold-faced lie, I write it down and put it in the LIE jar.

But whenever I read a verse that strikes a chord or receive encouragement from a friend or hear a song that lifts me up, I write that down and put it in the TRUTH jar.

At the end of the week, I trash what is in the LIE jar. Dramatically. There is crumpling and tearing to pieces involved.

The slips of paper inside the TRUTH jar, I keep.

Sure, it’s a little laborious. Perhaps it’s a little over the top. But there is something powerful about writing things down. The lies look ridiculous on paper. They lose all their power. The truth shines!

When I’m faithful about keeping up with both of these systems, my days go much, much better.

ALSO!

Still want to sign up for the mini Challenge? There’s still time!!! You have until the end of June to participate by doing the following:

1. Comment here or on ANY Making Things Happen Monday Post to let me know that you are doing The Challenge.

2. DO The Challenge! It’s a 10 Step process that will set you up for success in every area of life.

3.  During The Challenge, you will receive email encouragement from me and a nice surprise in the mail when you successfully complete all 10 Steps (and you will successfully complete all 10 Steps!).

4. One lucky duck will win a prize package, announced at the completion of The Challenge.

You can do it! You’ll love it! Your life will be different and better! You’ll get a lifetime supply of frozen yogurt!*

*Which is only true if you’re me and you eat enough frozen yogurt to make it seem like a lifetime supply anyway. But the other stuff? Totally true! So get started!

making things happen monday : the challenge

Dear friends,

You need to start here.

And then you need to do this.

No, really. You need to DO THIS!!!

“This” is The Challenge. Some of you old timers will remember when I did it last year. For those of you who are unfamiliar with The Challenge, it is basically a take-no-prisoners guide to freeing you from what holds you back and setting you up for success in life and business. I honestly can’t say enough about how effective of a resource this is. It was such a help to me during the summer of crazy last year when I was working more than I was sleeping/eating/living, but now having gone through it again in preparation for attending Making Things Happen I feel much more familiar with the course work and able to put it into practice.

SO…in the next few weeks on Making Things Happen Monday we’ll be talking about how I’ve been implementing the Challenge into my real life, specifically:

1. Why I put 30 pieces of scrapbook paper on my bedroom walls and why I’ve been rearranging every room in my apartment.

3. Why I don’t eat in front of screens anymore. (Of the electronic variety. I have no ill will attached to screen doors or windows.)

4. Why I have a new use for four mason jars.

5. Why I decided to only have two arms instead of three, the extra being the one that holds my cell phone.

And so much more!

Even though I did The Challenge last year and did it again before Making Things Happen I know that I could definitely benefit from doing it again. So I’m diving in for a third round to really soak it up!

And I’m looking for a few brave people to come with me.

People…I want this for you!!! I so desperately want you to experience how much of a difference adhering these principles to your life will make!

And because I really, really want this for you: I’m going to give you a present if you do it.

That’s also called a bribe.

But it still counts as a present because I really want to give it to you.

Here’s the deal: ANYONE who completes The Challenge over the course of the next 5 weeks will receive some good old-fashioned personalized encouragement/congratulations in the mail from me. And one person will win a Fabulous Prize Package. Just like The Price is Right! But your estimated value in cash and prizes will not be Showcase Showdown worthy. But feel free to jump up and down anyway!

Here’s how to enter:

1. Comment on a Making Things Happen Monday post from now until June 18th saying that you are participating in The Challenge.

2. You will receive an email in return to cheer you on!!!

3. Comment again on a Making Things Happen Monday post when you complete all ten steps of The Challenge, and include a note about what Action Steps you are taking to Make Things Happen/implement The Challenge into your daily life.

4. Everyone who completes The Challenge will receive a congratulations packet in the mail AND be entered to receive a Fabulous Prize Package!!! The prize and it’s winner will be announced on the following Monday after The Challenge is complete, June 25th.

Got it? If no – contact me with any questions. If yes – get moving!!!

staying faithful [nc series] : making things happen 2012

So, let’s talk about the real reason I went to North Carolina. The greenery was beautiful, the food was plentiful, and the tea and friendships sweet…but attending Making Things Happen was the culmination of a host of long-hoped-for dreams. It was so much more than I ever imagined it could be. Kind of like the first time I went to Disney world…as a wide-eyed 20 year old…and fell head-over-heels in love with something I knew I would love but couldn’t fully anticipate just how overwhelmingly I would love it. Or like visiting the holy land, Lambeau Field, during the road trip. Clearly, I knew this was going to be good. But I didn’t think I would lose complete control of my tear ducts for hours on end.

Making Things Happen was a similarly expectation-exceeding (and tear-duct-draining) experience. Meeting mentors I’ve only previously known on my computer screen, getting to know the other thirty wonderful women in attendance, harnessing the power of speaking tiny dreams and big fears and tiny fears and big dreams into existence just by saying them out loud…it was just more. So much more than I had hoped for.

Far be it from me not to launch into a long and drawn out monologue about every detail of this experience…but I’m actually not going to launch into a long and drawn out monologue about every detail of this experience. Mostly because my Making Things Happen experience is still happening. What started in that conference room continued on the drive home and has been growing ever since. So talking about my Making Things Happen experience right now would be like talking about the gorgeous flowers in my flourishing garden beds when I’ve only just tilled the ground and planted the seeds. Aside from a lot of hard work and a lot of grace-filled weather, there isn’t anything to really talk about yet. It needs time to grow.

Even though it’s not quite time to delve into the personal side of Making Things Happen, one thing I do want to talk about are the practical lessons I learned and have been implementing from the workshop. Where one series ends, another begins! Over the next few posts next week we’ll be talking about the every day ways in which MTH is changing my workflow, efficiency, mindset…even my furniture arrangement!

But for right now, I’ll just close with these verses from Romans 8, which are changing my life.

Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation—but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.

[…]

What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died —more than that, who was raised to life —is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.

staying creative [nc series] : GARDENS!

[This post is basically for my dad, who loves nothing more than when I take pictures of flowers. Happy Belated Birthday, Dad! Hope you like these!]

I am a passionate person by nature. Like…really passionate. I rejoice over mango butter in my oatmeal and cry during every. single. episode. of Extreme Home Makeover. I let out audible squeals walking through my neighborhood, seeing all of the beautiful old houses and flourishing gardens. And don’t even talk to me about the Packers…

So, I think in an act of self-preservation, my brain slows down to half-power when in the presence of something over-the-top exciting. Otherwise, I’d blow a fuse from sheer enthusiasm. Does this happen to anyone else? I can literally feel a shift in emotion…it’s like a computer going into sleep mode. Example #1: When I discovered lover.ly (full post to follow…but OH MY WORD) I literally had to walk away from my computer…I couldn’t even begin to explore the website!…I was so overwhelmed with excitement. And then I went from this: !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! to this: […]. Because my brain, it knows. The boiling point is near.

(The men in white coats should be here any second now.)

Example #2: My ENTIRE TRIP to North Carolina. I’m not even kidding.

It started when I put my hand out the window as I was crossing the border from Virginia to North Carolina and it did not return to me frostbitten. The air! It was warm! I was so excited!!!

SO EXCITED!!!

And for the next 4 days…I would have continued to be out of my mind excited about life, and therefore, out of my mind, if I didn’t experience everything on half-power.

Which bring me to the Sarah P. Duke Gardens. There are few things I love more than the beauty of God’s creation. And then photographing said creation. And then walking around in tranquility with almost no one else around. And then not wearing 18 layers because it’s actually warm outside.

So I’m really glad I took these pictures because without them, the whole Gardens experience would have been somewhat of a blur. Here’s what I saw, apparently:

And ditto for the gardens along the Bolin Creek Trail…the roses! So stunning!

Clearly, I need to go back to North Carolina and experience all of this at full-power.

Or, you know, not be crazy and experience things the first time around.

But let’s be real here.

staying real : i’m back!

People, oh people, please let me tell you just a few quick things:

1 – I’m home from North Carolina (!!!!!!!!) with a full heart and a full stomach. Any of you following me on Instagram know that this is truer than true.

2 – Also, I quality tested Chick-fil-A’s offerings just to make sure everything is still good.

3 – It is.

4 – I’d like to welcome the Yellow Outline of Death back to my dash. Check Engine Light…it’s not been nearly long enough. Air Conditioning…I didn’t use you too often, but I appreciated your contributions to my comfort while you lasted. Odd sounds coming from under the hood…feel free to pipe down anytime.

5a – Will someone hire me to break cars? Because really, I’m a pro.

5b – The Difference Between New York and North Carolina, Part I: I was standing at my car in the hotel parking lot, looking at the engine, hoping an answer would materialize before me, for all of 60 seconds before TWO kind people came over and offered to help. Thank you, sweet southern charm.

6 – It was 81 degrees in Rochester yesterday! That’s over 50 degrees above freezing! I think the south came home with me.

7 – This might be my favorite Instagram photo from the trip:

And I enjoyed every minute sitting outside of my hotel room on my laptop…soaking up every last bit of sunshine!

8 – The April recap is coming! A full Making Things Happen recap(s) is coming! 8,000 pictures of everything I ate/saw/did over the past 4 days are coming!

Until then, may all of your weekends be lovely and all of your chicken be southern fried.

Amen.

staying real : i’m going to MTH 2012…tomorrow morning

SO…

this is going to be short and anticlimactic because I need to go to bed soon because I am driving to Chapel Hill, North Carolina at 5am tomorrow morning because even though I didn’t get the full scholarship to Making Things Happen I decided to go anyways and I haven’t blogged about it at all or really talked about it at all even though I’ve known for the past 3 weeks that I’m attending because I’m nothing if not a champion avoider of a variety of emotions and I am scared out of my mind to go to a workshop in which we discuss dreams and life goals because the things that I’ve been making happen recently include forgetting to shower on a publicly acceptable basis and finishing the entire series of Gilmore Girls for the I-don’t-know-how-manyeth-time-because-I’ve-honestly-lost-count and that’s not really a ringing endorsement for lofty ambitions so I couldn’t bring myself to think about going to MTH which explains why I couldn’t write a sappy blog post about how much it means to me to go to MTH and how excited I am which explains the subsequent absence of all chocolate substances that were once in my pantry.

Whew.

And since I still can’t talk about it in a way that is not a paragraph long run-on sentence…that’s all I’ve got. However, I do have three short thoughts to offer in exchange:

1. This has nothing to do with anything, but I feel compelled to tell you all that I thought today was knife sharpening day at Williams Sonoma. So I put my favorite knife into an over mitt which I then put in my purse because how else do you transport a large chopping knife but in an oven mitt inside your purse and went off to the mall hoping and praying that I didn’t get a) pulled over for any reason and searched or b) set off a security alarm inside the mall and searched. But I took comfort in knowing that there is safety in numbers so at least my fellow culinary store patrons would come to my defense if I were hauled off to prison for oddly concealing odd weapons.

Imagine my surprise when I arrive at Williams Sonoma and it is NOT knife sharpening day after all. It’s just a regular day. So now I’m not walking around with a large knife in an oven mitt in my purse to have it honed to perfection by the kind employees at Williams Sonoma. I’m actually just walking around the mall with a large knife in an oven mitt in my purse.

Between the hair dresser and Wegmans this has really been a banner week for me. I think my days of being allowed out in public are numbered.

2. You guys all pack food when you are going on a road trip, right? Like a dozen granola bars and microwavable oatmeal and squeeze packs of peanut butter and trail mix and a variety of tea bags and chocolate milkshake mix and three packs of gum and bananas? And package it all up in old oatmeal canisters so that it’s separated by meal times? Right?

3. You guys all contact your favorite blogger who you’ve never met in person or had a conversation with before and ask them if, oh hey, maybe you could descend upon their lives while in their general geographic area next week? Right?

I think this entire post can be labeled under “new low.”

In other news, I’ll be posting through saved drafts this week…and then I’ll be back with an actual recap that is longer than one sentence but shorter than War and Peace next week.

I hope.

Have a GREAT week, everyone!

(And if those of you who pray could pray for my safety/sanity as I travel, I’d surely appreciate it. And if you could also pray for healing since I JUST realized that Chick-fil-A will be closed tomorrow because it’s Sunday therefore thwarting my plans for an imminent reunion and breaking my waffle-fry-lovin’ heart…that would be great too. )

staying real : oh, the chicken.

(Late night last night + early morning this morning = no time to blog today. But look what was lurking in my drafts folder! Another embarrassing story showcasing my inability to function like a normal human in public! I’ve got an endless supply, really. Enjoy…and Happy Tuesday!)

This weekend I experienced my first ever bout with abandoned groceries. Which is actually surprising, seeing as how I’m really good at forgetting things. As I was leaving the store with my reusable bag I noticed that I didn’t see a separate plastic bag for the chicken anywhere. I figured the 15 year old behind the register shoved it to the bottom of the reusable bag. I had some choice mental words for him and my flattened chicken.

But alas, when I arrived at home and unpacked my bag, there was no chicken to be found, flattened or otherwise.

There was, however, plenty of crow. My apologies, Register Boy.

So back to Wegmans I went, receipt in hand, already wondering how in the world I’m going to prove that “Yes, I paid for this chicken, and no, it’s not actually at home in my crockpot at this moment.”

But Wegmans…oh, Wegmans…they were so cool. As cool as the cucumbers in their produce stands. And they were Antarctica compared to me. Because I needed to explain my situation in (too much) detail to the poor guy working at the customer service desk before he finally interrupted me to say, “Ma’am…it’s ok. Really. Happens all the time. You can go get another package of chicken.”

Then, for reasons known only unto me, I felt compelled to leave the peanut butter I had just purchased during Trip #2 behind the customer service counter as collateral. I don’t know why. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

It did not seem like a good idea when I returned to the customer service desk after obtaining my replacement chicken to find a new person behind the counter (Other Guy, if you fled the scene while anticipating my return, I wouldn’t blame you) and tried to explain why I taking both a pound of chicken and a jar peanut butter for no apparent reason other than a very long, enthusiastic, exhausting story.

But at least I came home with the chicken this time.

Even though my dignity is still somewhere behind the customer service desk.