April 16, 2015

Social Media + Jesus.

"You know us in secret and You know all our secret places.  What we do to benefit Your Kingdom will not be lost if it is not seen by others, for You see and You reward according to Your grace and mercy.  Strengthen us to do good works, visibly or invisibly, always in Your name."
-G.K. Chesterson

I feel as though I have seen more articles and had more conversations around the topic of Christians on social media over the last few months than ever before.  One blog post in particular caught my attention recently, at a time when I had already been intentionally thinking and praying about my standing as a Christian with all of these social platforms, and it really helped affirm quite a few of my thoughts.

Social media is just an interesting concept in general.  It's a platform that gives everyone a voice and place to share their opinions and feelings, which can be a good thing, though that's not always the case.  If we're honest, having access to such tools as Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, I think we can agree that most people work really hard to put forth a highlight reel of sorts: the good, the exciting, the adventurous.  But what about the hard, the boring, and the mundane?  I mean, how many selfies have you seen of a no-makeup face taken at 6am?  Not so much.  No, we take care to purposefully choose what we want others to see of our lives - plus we add a filter or two - and, in turn, we see only what others want to show us of theirs. which leads to quite a distorted reality... a reality that we end up comparing our everyday lives to.  And I think that we all play into this game in one way or another, through comparison or blatant self-promotion with ourselves, and through judgment, gossip, or questioning the motives of others.  This is quite the rabbit hole, because with a lot of comparison can easily come feelings of discontent, inadequacy, jealousy, and judgement.  And farther down the rabbit hole we go.

I get it, I really do, and because of that I feel compelled to a place of confession with y'all.  For me, and particularly with my Instagram account, I want you to know there are some mornings that I really do drink black coffee and a well lit table with my Bible and journal open, and then there are mornings that I don't.  Sometimes, yes, I really do snap a picture; sometimes I don't.  There are also moments when I sense God download wisdom to me through time spent with Him or a conversation with a friend, and sometimes I feel led to share it on instagram, or on this blog, or both.

And yet I know that God sees every moment, whether it is documented for others to see or not.  I struggle with and pray about these social platforms often, because I want to be as authentic as possible with my friends and followers.  Above everything else, I want Jesus to be ultimately seen and glorified above myself.  And shouldn't that be the aim of every aspect of our lives: for God to get the glory?  That has always been my personal goal in both my inner and outer life, so it only makes sense for that to be true of the social platforms that He has has given me.

My prayer with all of this social media business is that we would rest knowing that, whether or not something is tweeted or posted, God is actively looking at what 140 words or a well edited picture can never truly capture: our hearts.  And that's way more important than how many people like (or don't like) a picture on Instagram, anyway.

For further Scripture reading, please check out: Psalm 91, 1 Samuel 6:7, Jeremiah 17:10

April 7, 2015

Travel: New Orleans.

My trip to New Orleans last weekend was everything I wanted it to be and more.  It was my first legitimate vacation in almost two years, so it was definitely good to my soul.  My roomie (Kat) and I decided to make a roadtrip out of it, so we left Nashville at an ungodly hour on Thursday morning with a bomb playlist, a bag of dark chocolate and larabars to snack on, and a car-full of excitement.  Eight hours later we arrived in NOLA, and y'all, it became one of my favorite cities real quick.  There is just so much life in that place, with all of the music, food, people, and yes, crazy.  I loved every ounce of it.  I got to eat authentic Cajun and Creole dishes, experience the insanity that is Bourbon Street, explore the French Quarter and Garden District, and I even got to take a little break from the city to explore Oak Alley Plantation, which was one of the most beautiful places I've ever been.  I also ate beignets on beignets on beignets... #noregrets.  Kat and I had a really great time and loved (almost) everything we got to experience in the 3 short days we were there.  I already can't wait to go back!  In between all of the photos to follow are some of my recommendations and tips if you ever get the chance to visit New Orleans:

  • Bourbon Street -- fun, fun, and crazy.  Many people I talked to made this area out to be terrible, but I actually really enjoyed it.  Located in the heart of the French Quarter.  Our hotel was only 2 blocks off of Bourbon, so we walked through it at least once a day.  With that, I will say that Bourbon is better to explore on a weekday and earlier in the evening.  Be warned: the later it gets, the more uncomfortable it gets (think catcalling, less clothing, and more pungent smells).  
    • Pat O'Briens -- a tourist hot-spot, but if you're going to get a Hurricane this is the place to go.  Warning: these drinks are strong.
    • Music Legends Park -- jazz music. beignets. what more could I want in life? 

  • French Quarter -- tourist central, but for good reason.  There are so many fun shops, restaurants, art crawls, and street performers.  If you're planning on eating in this area on the weekend, definitely make a reservation.  Also located here were some of my favorite spots:
    • Cafe Beignet -- home to my absolute favorite beignets! 
    • Carousel Bar -- every bit as cool as it sounds: it's a bar that is also a rotating carousel. What.
    • Jackson Square -- great park to picnic, read, and people watch.
    • Cafe Du Monde -- you kind of have to hit this spot, but there are crazy long lines during the day, so I went at 9pm when there was no line.
    • Spitfire Espresso -- living in Nashville has turned me into a #coffeesnob
    • Cafe Amelie -- go here for the most serene outdoor-garden eating experience. You will feel miles away from Bourbon Street even though you're just a few blocks up.
    • Sylvain -- swanky local spot.  We only found out about this place when we got on a pedicab with no destination in mind, and our driver brought us here.  It's a classy little hole in the wall restaurant, and while we sat at the bar, the food looked and smelled amazing.  We were told that celebrities are often spotted here, and we actually ended up sitting next to actress Malin Ackerman. #awesome

  • Frenchmen Street -- where the locals go.  Kat's trainer is from NOLA, so he recommended that we head north of the French Quarter to this sweet little nook of New Orleans.  We made the 15+ block walk around dusk to grab dinner in that area, but note that there are some sketchier spots along the way.  Here we stumbled into the Frenchmen Art Market, a quirky outdoor market with treasures and trinkets sold by locals.  Also:
    • El Gato Negro -- super yummy mexican food!
    • Snug Harbor Jazz Bistro -- this place came highly recommended by a close friend, and while I wasn't able to check it out on this trip, I definitely plan to next time!

  • Oak Alley Plantation -- like something out of a dream.  Truly one of the most beautiful and ethereal places I've ever seen, and well worth the 55 minute drive from NOLA.  This old sugar plantation right off of the Mississippi River is surrounded by southern oak trees that were planted in the 1700's, the most stunning of which line the walkway up to the front of the house.  Take the house tour, grab a mint julep, and stroll around the grounds as long as you please.

  • Garden District -- a must.  This area of NOLA is so, so cute, offering lots of fun shops and restaurant options.  It is quiet, charming, and a great place to walk around and admire the beautiful houses, trees, and even the cemeteries.  Kind of creepy, but they are seriously beautiful. Haha.
    • Sucre -- macarons and chocolate, need I say more?
    • Commander's Palace -- go here for some bananas foster, whose birthplace is New Orleans.
    • St. Charles Avenue -- stunning in every way.  Take a ride on the streetcar if you can!

So yes, New Orleans was magical and I totally fell in love with it.  And yes, there is definitely some darkness in that city with all of its voodoo and whatnot, but I prayed before and during that trip that God would give us opportunities to be a light and be vessels of His love.  Even with all of the amazing things we saw and did (and ate) while in NOLA, the best part by far was being asked, "Why are you girls so happy and joyful?"  Jesus, y'all.  He is just so good.

I hope you all get the chance to visit this vibrant city at some point.  I know I'll be back again!

April 1, 2015

April Goals.

Happy April, friends!  I am truly just so elated that Spring has arrived... all I can seem to think about it being outside with a book and some iced coffee just enjoying the warm sunshine.  Can anyone else relate?  I got to be outside a lot this past weekend while I was vacationing in New Orleans (hope you were following along on instagram for all of those pictures) and it was divine.  March was great, but I am so ready for this new month, which is feeling more and more like a much needed fresh start. #praisehands

Here were my goals last month:
  • Box 2-3 nights per week, for real this time (#fail)
  • Read Wild Goose Chase, Unstoppable, Let Me Be a Woman (not my best month for reading)
  • Make my morning devo/prayer time a real priority -- and at least 45 minutes (great intentions...)
  • Cook a real deal, delicious dinner (chicken fried rice, anyone?)
  • Have a girl's night with my two favorite teenagers // #mentoring
  • Stick to my budget
  • Put 100% of my tax return toward my car loan
  • Keep on keeping on by memorizing Philippians 1:12-30 (so far I've only made it through v.18)
  • Vacation in New Orleans (such a sweet time... post with photos to come soon!)

If there's something I've learned about goal setting, it's that we can have all of the intention in the world to get stuff done, but if we don't write it down, it often won't happen.  Where I work, we are encouraged to make long- and short-term goals at the beginning of each year, and reassess them throughout the year as priorities and seasons may change.  One of the tools that we are given is a list of characteristics that make a goal more achievable:

5 Characteristics of a Goal:

It is specific
It is measurable
It must be your own
It has a time limit
It should be in writing

So with that in mind, here are some of my my April goals:
  • Go boxing at least 2x per week on Mon, Wed, or Thurs nights
  • Read Unstoppable, Let Me Be a Woman, The Mingling of Souls
  • Wake up daily around 5am to give firstfruit of my day to God in prayer and Bible study
    • Finish up the She Reads Truth Lent study pack on Easter
    • Begin studying Philippians on my own using Jen Wilkin's 5P process
  • Earn $350+ extra income to go toward my debt 
  • Memorize the rest of Philippians 1, v.19-30, try to start 2:1-11
  • Enjoy a quick trip to Portland, OR for a sweet friend's wedding (next weekend!)
  • Order new art supplies for some fun projects and gifts
  • Blogs to write and publish:
    • New Orleans recap
    • Body image/self-confidence post
    • Social media post

I am really liking this list for April.  It feels a little more achievable, so I am hoping to add on some other things along the way (like maybe some more books). #wishfulthinking

What are some of your goals for the month of April?

March 24, 2015

Springtime + Calvary.

Happy Spring, friends.  I am seriously so happy that winter is finally over and everything is beginning to turn green again... it's a little silly  how much the weather really do affect my mood and attitude.  Winter is fun for a bit, but then it's just cold and dark and all I want to do is snuggle up with a blanket and a glass of wine and not see anyone #introvertedmuch.  But then Spring comes along, with its sunshine and warmer temps, which puts a serious pep in my step and all I want to do is walk around with a basket full of fresh-baked cookies and meet all of my neighbors.  I see you, vitamin D, and I appreciate you. Okay, springtime tangent over.

As I have been working through the current She Reads Truth Lent study, I have been oh-so reminded of my fragility as a sinful human.  It is just too easy for me to choose _____ (insert idol of choice) over the Lord, and that realization really breaks my heart.  The other day, I came across this prayer and - no joke - I'm pretty sure I cried through the entire thing.  It reminded me that I am not alone in my desire to purge my life of idolatry sin, which continues to include scraped knees from falling short, and that all joy and redemption and completeness is found only at the Cross. Thank you, Jesus. And springtime and Calvary have something important in common: fresh starts and new beginnings.
So I wanted to share that prayer here, with you, because each time I read it I find it sweet to my soul and refreshing to my spirit, and I pray it does the same for you.

Heavenly Father,

Thou hast led me singing to the cross where I fling down all my burdens and see them vanish,

where my mountains of guilt are leveled to a plain, where my sins disappear,

though they are the greatest that exist, and are more in number than the grains of fine sand;

For there is power in the blood of Calvary to destroy sins more than can be counted
even by one from the choir of heaven.

Thou hast given me a hill-side spring that washed clear and white,
and I go as a sinner to its waters, bathing without hindrance in its crystal streams.

At the cross there is free forgiveness for the poor and meek ones,
and ample blessings that last for ever;
The blood of the Lamb is a great river of infinite grace
with never any diminishing of its fullness as thirsty ones without number drink of it.

O Lord, for ever will thy forgiveness live that was gained on the mount of blood;
In the midst of a world of pain it is a subject for praise in every place,
a song on earth, an anthem in heaven, its love and virtue knowing no end.

I have a longing for the world above where multitudes sing the great song,
for my soul was never created to love the dust of earth.

Though here my spiritual state is frail and poor, I shall go on singing Calvary's anthem.
May I always know that a clean heart full of goodness is more beautiful than the lily,
that only a a clean heart can sing by night and by day,
that such a heart is mine when I abide at Calvary.

"Calvary's Anthem", The Valley of Vision