Tuesday, July 28, 2015

An Inspired Season | Celebrate Today

How's everyone doing today?! It's Tuesday so I'm already in a better mood than I was yesterday. Monday's are a struggle, especially in the morning, am I right? 

This is week two of Annie and I am SO proud of my kiddos for all their hard work. They have two weeks to memorize and rehearse an hour-long cut of the show, and I threw them into choreography and blocking last week at full speed. In my usual get-up-and-go directing mode we accidentally got everything done by Thursday. What?! Friday morning rolled around, and my musical director glanced at me with a "well what now?" kind of look. Don't worry, a grin was attached and there is plenty still to do!

While we're wrapping up Annie by the end of the week, we are also wrapping up An Inspired Season, at least in its organized fashion. I plan to use the hashtag #aninspiredseason to continue to document my days, and to remind myself to truly savor this time and live inspired. Now onto today's topic.

Tuesday, July 28th. What's one thing you can do this week to celebrate your season? Set the intention (on Instagram or Facebook) and then do it! Write about the experience.

I love this prompt because it is challenging us to take ACTION. I've been working on my PowerSheets for the next six months of the year and my word is ACTIVE. I want to actively pursue Jesus, actively savor this season, get active about my physical health, and take active steps towards my dreams TODAY.

This week, my action plan is simple. The Word in and words out. 

I miss writing. I used to write fiction all the time, and even little "inspirational posts" on Myspace (hey-oh, talk about ages ago) which eventually turned into this blog here. I have big dreams for books, devotionals, and resources to encourage women to soak up and settle roots deep into their season, so this week I want to start that plan.

It start's by saturating my day in scripture, getting into the Word before camp every morning. And it ends with putting words onto paper, into a word document, SOMETHING. The Word in and words out. I want to take the "everyday, ordinary life... and place it before God as an offering." I fully believe He's given me the drive to write and will give the words to do it, so I want to dive in head first. Wish me luck and prayers would be appreciated.

How are you going to get ACTIVE this week about celebrating your season? 
What dreams is God wanting to ACTIVATE in your life today? Ask Him and see :)

Monday, July 27, 2015

#Collaboreads | Where'd you Go, Bernadette

It's time for #collaboreads once again! I'm not sure how I'll swing it when school starts, but I'm determined to keep up with Rachel and Amber's #Collaboreads link-up for as long as I can. After sharing about Very Good Lives last month, I could not wait to get my hands on a book for the next topic. I was happily surprised when I read what it was and found FOUR volumes that fit the criteria in the pile I had from the library. July's topic was: 

 A Book With Someone's Name in the Title

I actually had a hard time narrowing down which one to share for Collaboreads (my options included Emma, Sarah's Key, Lizzy & Jane) but after starting Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple I was sold! 
Seattle, suspense, and sarcasm galore? Done deal!

I had seen this book floating around for a while, and it had so many holds on it at the library that I highly doubted it would come my way. Then, voila! I got the notification and scurried down the street to pick it up. Now for the review. 

In summary, Bernadette Fox is an unusual gal doing her best to manage her life in less-than-sunny Seattle after an unnamed disaster sent her family running off from California to the Pacific Northwest. She is not exactly a fan of people, and she has gone so far as to hire a virtual assistant in India to take care of the most basic every-day tasks (like dinner reservations and ordering take-out). When a run-in (or run-over) in the parking lot of her daughter's prep school triggers a mudslide of unfortunate events, Bernadette takes off and hilarity, tragedy, and chaos ensue. 

RIVETING. What part of the book could you NOT get enough of?
  • Can my answer be THE ENTIRE THING?! I tore through it in two or three days, devouring it with gusto. The style, the sass, the story, it kept me hanging on from page 1!
  • To be honest, my favorite part was probably reading it while in Seattle. I recognized so many of the places, struggles, and stereotypes (which are spot on, by the way) and cracked up each time! Seattle will forever hold a piece of my heart, and I get the feeling this book will, too.

ELEMENTS. How did you relate to/care for the characters? What's your thought on the plot line and twists and turns?
  • Oh, Bernadette. As much as she cracked me up and confused me, I totally related. I could NOT have predicted how the story would go, and I'm usually pretty good about guessing ahead of time --the number of Harry Potter predictions I got right would surprise you ;) 
  • Another fun fact is the structure of the book. Any narration is given by her daughter, Bee, and the rest is a timeline in the form of e-mail exchanges from a wide assortment of characters and newspaper articles (plus a few other things that tickled my fancy, but I won't give those away!). Bee is charming and heartwarming, a sharp-as-a-tack middle schooler you root for from the beginning. I loved getting to know her along with Bernadette and the rest of the motley crew. 
  • My recommendation for reading: enjoy the surprises! And while you might judge a book by it's cover (because lets face it, I totally do) keep your mind open for unexpected possibilities!

ASSOCIATE. What other books are like this one? If none, did it remind you of a particular TV or movie with it's themes and characters? Does it serendipitous-ly line-up with things going on in your life or the news right now?
  • I can't say that I've read many books like this one. I recently read Lunch in Paris which is just as easily readable and unique in its structure, including recipes from the scenes author Elizabeth Bard describes. 
  • With as many books as I have read, especially in the last year, you'd think I'd have more on my list of similar recommendations, but I'm coming up blank! I do belie it's quite unlike anything I've picked up before. 
  • It does serendipitously line up with being in Seattle for the summer, so that's fun. And the next book I picked up, one of the Collaboreads contenders Lizzy & Jane, is ALSO set in the Emerald City. How odd right? 

DESIGN. You know you judged this book by the cover. What did you think of it? How did it relate to the contents of the novel? And the font and layout of the pages?

  • How could Where'd You Go, Bernadette NOT catch my eye?! This pop of teal always stood out, and I have to say I've been on the hunt for a pair of similar sunglasses since first spotting the book. Not sure I could pull them off, but I'd certainly try them on ;) I love the design/aesthetic, and it suits the book quite well in my opinion! 
  • The font was readable, nothing out of the ordinary, and the only formatting that requires an extra look is when it transitions from Bee's first person narrative to the e-mails, articles, and so on. Everything is labeled clearly, and you're able to quickly pick up on the point of view no matter how often or quickly it changes. 

STARS. How many out of five do you give this book? Would you recommend this book to a friend?

  • 5/5 stars, hands down! If I could buy this book for all of you, I would! It's a fun summer read, perfect for a long flight, road trip, or a day at the beach. But I warn you, reading before-bed might mean an all-nighter to find out just where on earth DID Bernadette go! ;)

Mr. Thomas and Me

There you have it! Now go out, grab a good book, and tell me all about it :)

Thursday, July 23, 2015

An Inspired Season | Gals Celebrating Well

An Inspired Season is all about finding encouragement and vision for right where you are, digging deep into your days and allowing what's around you to shine into the dark and hard places. Today's topic is close to my heart because I am SO inspired by the goodness that has been put into the world by a handful of people, and I cannot wait to share them with you!

Thursday, July 23: Who are others you admire that are living/celebrating a similar season well? What resources/books/posts have encouraged you? Keeping this to one post is going to be tough ;)

Natalie + Wholeheartedly

If you don't know Natalie, you should. I met this sweet Louisiana gal through Instagram, and what a blessing she has been to this season! She released a devotional called Wholeheartedly that is all about embracing singleness with, you guessed it, your whole heart and BOY did this meet me right where I'm at! I love following Natalie's blog and Instagram because she exudes so much joy, paired with a determination to seek the Lord in all things and share His gospel boldly. This girl, y'all. I get to hug her neck at the Influence Conference in September and I am positively ELATED!

Her devotional, Wholeheartedly, is saturated with scripture and thoughtful reflections, great prompts/questions to get you thinking, and even space in the back for big dreams + a bucket list. Natalie thought of everything! I cannot recommend it enough. I went through it with a group of gals online earlier this year, and I plan to walk back through it in the fall. You don't want to miss it.

Katie + An Inspired Life

If you can't tell, I'm a big fan of Miss Katie. I followed her blog for ages, and was delighted when we connected last year for a giveaway of her e-book. The rest as they say was history. Katie radiates light and is soaked to the bone in God's love, so naturally it can't help but bubble out of her. Though she be but little she is fierce, and her friendship + encouragement have been a healing balm for my heart this spring. I love how passionate she is about living creatively and seeking Jesus in the here and now, even wen the here and now is a hard place to be.

She's got one of the coolest jobs (greeting card creator, how fun?!) and one of the purest hearts. Her e-book, An Inspired Life, was absolutely inspiration for this series, and I cannot recommend it enough. I have LOVED collaborating with her on An Inspired Season, and she's a gem of a friend I know I'll have for years to come.  

PS. I don't know what fits her more perfectly in my mind than the bottom left picture of her twirling in pink polkadots. That's the kind of joy she exudes and inspires other to do so, too!

Hannah + More Love Letters

The words this woman writes are pure gold and sweet, sweet honey for my soul. Hannah is the heart behind More Love Letters, the movement of, first, leaving anonymous love letters around the world and, second, bombarding strangers in need of encouragement with hundreds of letters from strangers. I'd seen her work and writing floating around Tumblr for a while before I spotted If You Find This Letter at Barnes & Noble last spring, but never did I imagine how much I would come to look up to this young woman!

One, isn't her handwriting fun? Two, if you take a few seconds to read what she writes I know you'll find yourself encouraged and emboldened in a heartbeat! Her monday morning e-mails are the pep talk I need to punch fear in the face and take on my week, and to remember to do it with grace and love and an eye for beauty in the unexpected places. Three, I want to be her best friend. And you will too. Get her book, ASAP, and watch her Ted Talk HERE. She'll knock your socks off with love and laughs, I can guarantee it.

Tracy + Single Girl Scrapbook

I could scroll through Tracy's blog + Insta feed all day long. And I may have... once or twice... or ten times. I stumbled upon Tracy shortly after starting back into Project Life last year and I LOVE her aesthetic! She has a great eye for design, snaps gorgeous selfies (*see above), and her dog is too cute to boot. I really admire how she celebrates the everyday moments as well as her adventures (she loves NYC and Disney, so I knew we were soul sisters) through Project Life. 

Pops of gold and pink had me from the start, and even taking a peek back at her layouts for this feature has me itching/eager to get back to my craft stash and get going on my 2015 album.  Just because I'm not a mom-tog or newlywed blogger that doesn't mean my days aren't worth documenting! If you were wondering how to get started or for just what Project Life can offer, be sure to give Tracy a look!

All photos are credited to these gals' instagrams! Check out the links below their pics for sources!

Okay, I could go on and on forever, so today I'll stick with the four gals above. I still plan to share my favorite resources (books, articles, verses) sometimes soon.  I have to say this entire series is making me so inspired for the future of Brave Love and what I want to share about! Get ready for more of these kinds of posts in the future.

Who has been encouraging you lately? Anyone celebrating a similar season well?

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

An Inspired Season | Recent Adventures

In case you didn't notice, all was quiet on the blog-front last week. Last Thursday I turned the ripe-old age of twenty-four (woohoo!) and my week was beautifully brimming with birthday shenanigans, from Lifegroup bonfires to multiple Minions movie dates and more. I spent Saturday working away at Starbucks, then Sunday we adventured downtown to Bite of Seattle --a HUGE food festival where the fried mac and cheese was divine-- followed by an evening performance of Wicked.

While all of these adventures were taking priority, Brave Love sat quiet for two days of the An Inspired Season challenge. I shared on my Instagram my verse for this season (Psalm 16) and a look back at the last year, hitting 10 of the highlights, both of which will find their way here to the blog oh so soon.

Today's promote for An Inspired Season is "Write about one of the best adventures you've had so far this season." There have truly been SO MANY, so how about the most recent?

Two weekends ago, I had the opportunity to adventure around Mt. Rainier with a sweet Seattle friend. Stef is what I'd call "insta famous" and a stellar photographer, plus a gem of a gal with a heart as big as Texas and a laugh that's contagious. I've always been jealous of the adventures she shares at @stef_krach, gallivanting all over the Pacific Northwest and hosting Instameets with Socality. To be honest, earlier that week I had prayed for a surprise summer adventure, and I'd have to say this was it!

We rocked out to Disney music and Sam Smith on the drive there, plus Stef caught the whole thing on Snapchat: stopping at Whole Foods for some amazing pizza, belting it out in the car, scenic drives with movie scores in the background, and trying to rendezvous with the crew on a packed Saturday in Paradise. No literally it's called Paradise, and that day it was! Cloudy, 70 degrees, with gorgeous fog on the lake... simply stunning!

Stef and another pair of Instagrammers, Spencer and Kyle, were invited by Roadtrippers.com to shoot and zip around in the Fiat 500x Crossover, and I got to tag along! I loved getting to watch them behind the scenes, and this crew was hilarious to boot.  Plus the car was so spiffy, perfect for adventuring around the mountain all day. My job was mostly stopping traffic; you know, just protecting those grammers and their gear ;)

Isn't Stef gorgeous? So thankful for this gal and getting to spend the day with her!
Mt. Rainier was hiding behind the clouds, but the mountain peeked out for a bit, and so did blue skies!
Spencer and Kyle are hilarious. Catching them mid-shot was my specialty, and I loved learning from them.
Another action shot. Classic Instagram post headed your way. And LOOK AT THAT FOG.
What a car! Really, I'm a fan! It looked so sleek and was so fun to zip around in.
And of course a selfie while waiting and watching the photogs at work. 

The beauty of this season can be found in the room for spontaneity and the uniqueness of the adventures to be had out here in Seattle! I only have three weeks left in town and I plan to soak them up. Shakespeare in the park and whale watching are on the agenda for next weekend, and I want to spend as much time with these friends as possible before heading back to school.

What about YOU? What adventures have you taken this summer?

Monday, July 13, 2015

The Contentment Challenge 2015

Thinking about money matters makes me dizzy. In fact, I frequently want to dig a hole in the sand and bury my head in it until Kingdom come. I think I actually do this when I refuse to look at my bank account during the week... oops. Speaking of the Kingdom, I've been super convicted lately about my poor spending habits and the stockpile of unnecessary stuff I have accumulated over the years. 

In March, I purged my closet, pulling out 50+ items that either found their way to Goodwill or sold in an Instagram auction. If I wasn't spending the summer across the country I'd be tearing through my apartment again. However, I can make a difference starting this summer, and in an effort to both save for the upcoming year and to tackle these bad habits, I'm launching into The Contentment Challenge before I do any more damage. For real this time.

Back in 2013, I stumbled upon Nancy Ray and "The Contentment Challenge." Within minutes of reading her blog I jumped on board and Instagramed the key verse, planning to follow along. 

Yeah, well, that plan flopped to the ground in the speed that I hopped on the bandwagon. I had good intentions, but no followthrough. Welcome to one of the biggest struggles in my life.

The idea has been dancing around in my head in the months since its introduction, but I have never acted upon it. I kept saying, "Once I blog about it, then I'll do it..." I tried that too, and I still failed miserably.

Yikes! Sounds like a heart that is hardly content, and one that finds its satisfaction in stuff rather than a Savior. Can I hide in a hole now? No? Hm... how about in a pile of more things? Still no... okay. Let's do this.

The Contentment Challenge: July 13 - October 13, 2015
We will give up shopping for clothes, accessories, household decor, and "stuff" for the next three months, to focus our hearts and minds on the root of true contentment. We will actively pursue fulfilling activities that will replace our addiction to material things.

The Guidelines (from Nancy Ray's blog, slightly edited for my personal challenge):
  • For the next few days, your homework is to do the following: prepare your heart, organize your closet, and make any necessary purchases that you might need during these months.
    • I've had a few days to think about this and have made the final Target run. No more knick-knacks or trinkets, unnecessary sweet treats, and no more books or clothes. I had intentions of starting this on July 1st, but after organizing my receipts last night I am horrified at the spending and determined to start right TODAY. My birthday is in a few days, but that money has already been spent, so I have no need to go meandering around Anthropologie or the mall (I did that this weekend...). 
    • When school picks up, I'm expecting a few expenditures, but I am doing my best to set that money aside ahead of time. I plan to keep busy teaching camps this summer, and I launch right into a show when I get back to Oklahoma. Hopefully this means no time for window shopping-turned-real-shopping. Plus, this time last year I was moving into an unfurnished apartment; this August I'll return to one packed to the brim and ready to go!
  • Choose 1-3 inspiring books to read during this time
    • All the books, y'all. I'm reading all the books. I have several books coming in the mail to review, but at the top of my list to read are For the Love and Seven by Jen Hatmaker, It's Simply Tuesday by Emily P. Freeman, and I'll continue through Prayers for the Dreamer and the Doer by The Well Studio.
  • Gifts are okay! If someone gives you a new dress or a piece of decor during that time, receive it graciously! If you need to buy someone else a gift, by all means do so. The point is not to be rude, but to learn more of ourselves and the Lord.
    • This is not a plug for gifts, but an allowance for honoring others even if it includes spending. Gifts are in my love languages, but I am a firm believe that a note of encouragement --whether it arrives at a moment of deep need or just as a surprise-- goes a long way. I do have a few family members and friends whose birthdays are just around the corner, but this will remain a time to be prayerful and get creative. 
  • Necessities are okay! If you drop and break your phone, please get a new one. If you lose your glasses, buy a new pair. Just don't start justifying new purchases for items that you already have.
    • There is absolutely a difference between a need and a want, and I am eager to learn. In some places, saying "no" is a piece of cake. But in others... let's just say I don't watch a lot of TV because commercials and advertisements get to me. Needs as in basic toiletries, replacing a pair of tights, and food are allowed, but I am limiting my fast food to only when out with friends. And friends, let's do something other than eat out or go to Starbucks! This city is full of ways to get active. A jog around the lake, trip to the park, I'm up for just about anything ;)
    • I'm also hoping to kick some unhealthy eating habits and find a way to get active during this challenge, replacing the shopping and junk eating with walking and jogging. I do not need to buy another dress, pair of jeans, skirt, etc. until I reach my first goal anyway.
  • You must actively pursue something -anything- that replaces your tendency to buy stuff. Begin thinking about something you love or a hobby you've always wanted to do, and make preparations to actually do it.
    • I got a Fitbit Flex for my birthday and plan to put it to work starting TODAY! I plan to walk the lake near where I'm staying, as well as get back to the gym at school when August rolls around. Monday nights also mean dance class which I have SO missed! 

Okay, here we go. I'll write more on this as we go along. 
Have you ever tried such a challenge? If so, how did it go? 
Any suggestions?! I'd love to know!