Monday, March 2, 2015

Making March Happen

The shortest month of the year has come and gone, and March is now upon us! The first page for March in my Val Marie Paper Prayer Journal calls it "A Month of Rebirth." February may have had only twenty-eight days, but each was full to the brim in my book. From completing These Shining Lives to every thinkable school assignment being due in one week, last month will not soon be forgotten.

Perhaps the most memorable treat happened over the weekend. I thought I would zip down to visit my parents for a few days and got on the road at noon on Friday. We had seen snow flurries in the forecast but thought little of it. It wasn't until my usual drive time of four and a half hours did not even get me to the Oklahoma-Texas border that I realized how poor of a decision I had made. I have never experienced a snow storm like this. Yes, I know to you Northerners this was nothing, but this southern gal and every other car on the road with her did not know how to handle it!

I saw a dozen cars off the sides of the road, one upside down with an ambulance at its side and I watched as another struggled to maintain control before veering off to my left. It was terrifying. My parents, bless their hearts, kept in touch along the way until I reached my breaking point. I found the first exit with food and lodging and pulled off to wait. Mom and Dad then insisted I cease the trip and wait out the weather there. One quick phone call later and I had a room at a hotel just off the interstate. 

At first I was frustrated nearly to tears. I berated myself for ignoring the weather and insisting on the drive, then for causing my parents to worry so and put me up at a hotel at the halfway point. This was NOT how I had envisioned my weekend. But then, I remembered something. 

Just that morning I had wished for a weekend away, thinking to myself "Wouldn't it be nice to spend a few days alone? No homework, no rehearsal, just reading, writing, and reflecting away from it all?" Well, thanks to the snowstorm I was getting that weekend retreat. God works in mysterious ways, does he not? Talk about a silver lining! And lucky for me I always overpack, so my bag was full of reading materials and journals to keep me company.

With the weekend to myself in a small Oklahoma town covered in ice and snow, there was plenty of time to read, rest, and reflect. I snuggled into clean sheets, ordered myself a pizza, finished a book in a matter of hours, and watched The Theory of Everything while steering clear of social media for two days. The latter was much harder than I thought it would be, but it made the weekend so much more peaceful.

I used Saturday evening to reflect on last month, filling out my PowerSheets and reviewing the goals I had set. Some of them were checked off with ease! Others... not so much.

February Goals:

1. Introduce + co-host #heartoftheWord study on Ephesians. This was certainly a learning process! We launched it, this is true, and when I dove into the book and reflected with these dear friends, it was so encouraging. But February was a busy month for all of us, so Heart of the Word is being reassessed to find better success in the future.
2. Perform These Shining Lives with my whole heart. Yes! Y'all, I cannot believe These Shining Lives is a thing of the past. February brought tech week with long rehearsals adding the lights and sound, then three performances. My parents, sister, and theatre big came into town for it, and their support meant the world to me. Yours, too! Read more about the process HERE
3. Finalize spring break plans. Done, done, and done. In two short weeks I will do one of my favorite things: travel all by my lonesome across the country and back. I am spending the first half of my break with one of The Three Musketeers (the nickname for me and my two best friends from college), Hannah, in Las Vegas. On my way back I will spend a few glorious days in Denver with another best friend, Micah, who I have not seen since graduation. I cannot wait! 
4. Get rid of the excess/donate a few boxes. The process was started but not complete. I have several boxes of donations that need to be dropped off at Goodwill. I simply did not make the time. I will also be participating in an Instagram sale/auction for some of my nicer clothes later this month. I'll keep you posted for where to find the Anthro goods ;)
5. Start the contentment challenge. Errrrr... I tried. Sort of. Starting afresh this month.
6. Read 3 booksI am happy to say this one was nearly completed! I had been listening to the audiobook version of Make It Happen and completed that last week (9 hours of Lara Casey speaking vision over my heart? Yes please!), and I read The Fringe Hours during my surprise retreat this weekend. SO GOOD! I did not finish a third, but I started Longbourn, Every Bitter Thing is Sweet, and the physical copy of Make It Happen, so hopefully I can cross those off in March.
7. Prep weekday meals at home. Yes and no here. I did not eat out as much as I did previously and made a conscious effort to prep more at home, and I plan to do the same this next month.
8. Complete January's project life pages. I started, that counts right? February kept me busier than expected, even after my show closed, so I'm looking forward to catching up on PL soon.

Reflecting on goals unfinished is hard, especially seeing all the unchecked spaces on my monthly tending list. But it's about progress not perfection right? Every unchecked box is a space for grace, an opportunity to show compassion for myself and make improvements in the future. Now onto the beautiful month of March.

March Goals:

1. Attend Hope Spoken. Ah! This conference has been highly anticipated for almost a year! I remember reading about it when I was in Seattle, jumping for joy when my mom gifted me a ticket last spring (I had been awake all night oh-so-sick and it nursed my tired heart quiet well), and started counting down the days. I'm rooming with a friend from Baylor (and we're looking for one or two gals to add to our room if you need a spot). I cannot wait for this!
2. Visit Hannah + Micah for spring break. My spring breaks in college were spent on mission trips in a town near the Texas-Mexico border, and while I am sad not to be attending Awaken this year, I am thrilled to see these ladies near and dear to my heart! Distance has separated us since graduation but that will soon be remedied. Plus, traveling by myself brings me so much joy! Long layovers at the airport? Perfect for people watching and reading if you ask me. Bring it on!
3. Read 3 books. I actually have this ridiculous goal of reading 100 books this year + not buying any new ones, so I should probably expand this list. I want to finish Every Bitter Thing is Sweet, Longbourn, and Make it Happen, but I will probably toss Seven, The Circle Maker, and Z in my carry on for all my trips (so that makes it....6 this month?).
4. Follow the She Reads Truth Lent study. I began this study last week and am already a few days behind, but opening this app instead of Instagram early in the morning has already been refreshing. I'm hoping to get caught up this week. Join me?
5. Get caught up on Project Life. I started the 2015 album last month and I want to knock January and February out before the end of March. I'm a bit of a perfectionist, so the idea of taking time to get good at scrapbooking again is a little daunting, but I'm willing to make it happen.
6. Visit a community group. I miss living in community. So much. My hope is to visit at least one Bible study/community group this month, looking for Christ-followers my age. Wish me luck.
7. Purge my closet/insta sale. I started clearing out the excess last month, but I admit that the pile of clean clothes and shoes in front of my closet has kept me from doing much more. A few blogger friends and I are hosting an Instagram auction/sale of some of our clothes later this month, so I want to get those prepped asap.
8. Finish the wall collage behind my TV. That wall has been driving me crazy lately. I picked up a pad of prints from Me & My Big Ideas at Hobby Lobby last week using a 40% off coupon, and I plan to washi tape the collage on the wall until I can get my hands on frames. It may be a one-at-a-time attempt so I can use these coupons over and over again.
9. The Contentment Challenge. I really stink at this. My self-control when it comes to shopping is SO BAD. This may end up on my goals list every month this year, and that's okay because it helps a little more each time. It will be difficult with a vacation and conference in the middle of the month, but if I'm careful with my spending elsewhere then I'll have more leeway on those days. 

What are you planning to make happen this month? Do we share any of the same goals? 
If so, let's encourage each other along the way! Life is better together, right?

PS. I changed my Instagram handle last week. I am now @baileyjrobert! I hated letting go of my middle name, but I wanted consistency between my Instagram and Twitter accounts (and @baileyjeanrobert was ONE LETTER too long for Twitter... BAH!). Anywho, find me at @baileyjrobert HERE and HERE to follow along for glimpses of my goal progress and daily adventures. 

Monday, February 23, 2015

Diary of a Theatre Gal | These Shining Lives

Theatre is a world unlike any other. I got a glimpse of this in high school, a daily dose in college, and for the past six weeks I've been drinking this truth from a fire hydrant. Back in October, I put my BFA in Theatre Performance to good use and auditioned for a show called These Shining Lives. Much to my surprise and delight I was cast in the lead role of Catherine Wolfe Donohue, a young wife and mother who gets her first full time job at the Radium Dial Company where her life is forever changed.

The thrill of this role was getting to tell the story of the real women who left their mark on history. They paved the way for company regulations and who spoke out against the big businesses that threw away their workers for the product they made, getting away with it for far too long. When these woman contracted radium poisoning, they fought back, and they fought to the death. Catherine won her case after a 7 year law suit and died three weeks later.

The terror of this role came in two pieces: 
1) carrying a show on my shoulders, acting as both narrator and character with only a five minute break off stage
2) cutting off my beloved long hair in favor of a 1920's bob (very Louise Brooks/Thoroughly Modern Millie-esque)

The first was challenging yet so rewarding, an emotional and mental journey for sure! And the second still surprises me when I walk past a mirror. You can call me Velma or Edna Mode if you'd like ;)

[Photo credit: Mary Mackin]

This is the largest role I have had to date, and one of my favorite plays I've ever worked on. I stage managed it during undergrad and tossed the script into the "to direct" pile, my mind full of expectations and ideas for a future production. Little did I know I would step into Catherine's shoes three years later on the performance side instead of behind the scenes. Having had a director's mindset brought its own set of challenges to the process. I had to let go of my view in favor of someone else's, bringing what I had to the table and accepting it when my director had a different take. 

Catherine goes on a rather emotional and physical journey throughout the show. When we first meet her, she introduces us to her world from the outside, from the other side. "This isn't a fairytale, though it starts like one," she says. "It's not a tragedy, though it ends like one," she adds quickly. It's an uphill battle, a learning process, and told oh so poetically. 

She begins as a bright-eyed and hopeful nineteen-year-old off to her first day of work, then must find her place in a gaggle of girls who have worked at the factory for years, watching her family adjust to this new phenomenon of the working mother. A few years later, things begin to go sour. The dust from the paint she works with is no longer a light shimmer that lingers on her fingernails and dresses, but her skin glows from within. Aches and pains settle in, and the company doctor won't tell her what's wrong. She and the other girls are fired from the company when they all become ill, and they must choose to suffer quietly or go down swinging. After losing a bet, Catherine must decide, and it's off to court they go. 

During one rehearsal, I commented that I avoid conflict at all cost. I don't have the guts to stand up like Catherine did; she calls out her boss for the truth behind the matter and presses on even when her health leaves her bedridden and under scrutiny from her hometown and the media. She has such a conviction, a determination, to fight for what's right no matter the cost. That's something I wish I had more of. 

At the end of the play, spoiler alert, we see her again as we did in the beginning. After all is said and done, after her life has faded away, we see Catherine on the other side. Her first words? "There is a God..." She goes on to speak of miracles and angels and her perspective on all that has happened. With a laugh she says, "I think lucky me that I still believe in it all, after all of this." Oh man. What truth! What hope! After all the pain and suffering and injustice she faced, leaving this world well before her time, she still believed. She still hoped. She fought for something greater than herself.

I want to be that kind of woman. I want to stand in front of my Creator at the end of my days and say that I believed and I served with everything I had. I want to tell meaningful stories. I want to encourage others as they journey through their own. I want to act justly, walk humbly, and love mercy. I want to leave an impact, even if my name never hits the papers. And I thank These Shining Lives for reminding me of that.

It always surprises me what I learn about myself and my heart when making theatre. Journeying through love and loss in someone else's life reveals the places where I am building walls or nurturing old hurts or planting new dreams in my own. So as hard and overwhelming and emotionally exhausting I might be at the end of the day, I know the passion for this kind of storytelling and art-making is from the Lord. I can't wait to see what's up next.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Scripture Study Resources

A few weeks ago I stumbled on a hashtag called #instagramatemyblog. I laughed out loud and swiftly realized sometimes it's true. It can be far easier to share my heart with a couple of taps and a snapshot on my way to class than it is to perch at my desk and punch out a blog post. So today I'm announcing my effort to take it back. And with it is a round up of what I've been sharing on Insta that seems to have had the most response and questions.

I'm a creature of habit and my devotional time is no different. In truth, I've been trying to relax my grip on the way I spend time with God during the week, being willing to spend time in scripture alone and allowing myself to rest and listen. Even so, there are certain go-to's that I love and like to have nearby. Below are some of my favorite and most-used resources for diving into the Word.  

1. A journal with blank pages. I have been through eighteen journals in the past five years, so I know my way around a stationery store and what kind works for me. Blank pages are a beautiful thing. Without a guide I don't always write in straight lines, and a book with a grid works, too, but I prefer ones with crisp white full sheets so I can doodle and draw and write in all of the margins and corners in whatever direction I want to. 

My favorite journals come from Anthropologie, and I picked up a few of the same kind to get me through the year. I've run into the problem one too many times where I fall in love with a journal and they are sold out before I can get another. Rifle Paper Co. has another assortment that I've used and always recommend.

2. Deeper Into the Word. These two books were a $5 find at Mardel several years ago, and they've added a great deal of insight into my reading. It's refreshing to take key words or topics from my scripture and find explanations of the original words used and cross references. There is an Old Testament and New Testament book with 100 words a piece. I've found the Kindle versions on Amazon here and here, but no hard copies online.

3. Adoration Prompts. Sara Hagerty, the author of Every Bitter Thing is Sweet, shares adoration prompts on her blog. Each is rooted in scripture and shares a truth about God to meditate on, pray through, and write about. You'll find the explanation HERE and printables HERE. January was my first month to walk through some of them and it won't be the last. I'm also excited to read through Sara's book later this year. Book club, anyone? ;)

Everyone dives into scripture in a different way. I hit the highlights all to often, relying on verses that spoke to me years ago, and the adoration prompts brought new light to familiar passages, and even revealed new ones I'd been glossing over. 

4. Writing Through the Margins. Making notes in my Bible is not a new habit, but I had seen this book floating around Instagram for a while and it sparked my interest. Lisa Hickman writes about making note of God's presence and whisper in the margins of our life, seeing the in-between spaces as intentional places of connection and conversation. What a perspective shift! 

While I have my color-coded highlighters and sticky tabs, I want to dive into scripture with fresh eyes every time. Sometimes the notes I've made in days gone by remind me of a truth I need to know or a time where God has answered prayer. Whatever your system is, if you're looking for a refresher or you want to start journaling in your Bible, I'd say start here.

5. Semikolon Sticky Tabs. I have a thing for school supplies. And when I say thing I actually mean an obsession, hoarding problem, and I'm drawn to them like a magnet. I picked these tabs up several years ago and made a little code in the front of my Bible. Each color has a different topic making for easy navigating. Verses about finding your identity in Christ, going through hard times, the definition of grace, etc. Semikolon makes several tiny folders of tabs and sticky notes easy to toss into a purse or keep tucked into the Bible itself. 

What are some of your favorite resources? I'd love to know!

Don't forget: In February we are studying the book of Ephesians through Heart of the Word! Read more about it HERE and check out the hashtags on Instagram #heartoftheWord and #heartofEphesians to see who is joining in! Tomorrow (Thursday, February 12) we will be linking up with Rachel of Rachel Rewritten to see what everyone's been learning so far. I can't wait!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Week One | Heart of Ephesians

How's your week going, friends? Heart of the Word launched on Monday and I am already so encouraged by this book and your hearts for Scripture. I wanted to take a moment to remind us that the goal of this is not to get 1,000 pictures on the hashtag or take the prettiest snap of your devotional time. It's to get in the Word. Soak in the love letter written to YOU and to me, and to see our days changed for the better by it. A new perspective in the morning or even on my lunch break is sometimes the refresher I didn't know I needed.

This is a month where I could use some extra encouragement. January was tough, and I shared a bit about it in my last few posts. Battling overwhelm and exhaustion, trying to enjoy life as it comes, Ephesians came at such a sweet time. What a reminder of God's goodness and presence.

I use a set of sticky tabs in my Bible to note similar passages, verses about grace, identity, community, trials, adoption, etc. A bright red flag for adoption sits on the first page of Ephesians. In recent years I have met and now look up to many families who choose to adopt, and it appears to be a hot topic within the church community as well.  Why? Because God authored the concept and lived it out with you and me.

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us for adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will."
Ephesians 1:3-5, NJKV

I don't know about you, but I don't always feel chosen. Picking teams in recess was a nightmare for me, auditioning can still be frightening, and sitting at home on a Saturday night doesn't always feel peachy keen. We have a desire in us to feel known and wanted and thought of, and when the texts don't come it's easy to question if we are. 

Now read that verse again.

You and I were chosen before the world was created
You and I are wanted by the Creator of the universe
You and I are blessed and loved and known.

So no matter if next weekend means a candlelit dinner for two or a night with Netflix and takeout for one, you can sit secure in Jesus. He loves you. He knows you. He calls you by name. And He's ready and willing to speak. Dive into Ephesians for more of this truth. Soak yourself in it. I know I need to.

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Don't forget! Today we're linking up with Rachel at OUR YELLOW DOOR!
And there's still time to sign up for the Monday Morning #heartoftheWord e-mail list: HERE.
Continue to share with us online through #heartoftheWord and #heartofEphesians!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Making February Happen

One of my new favorite sayings is by Lara Casey: "There is nothing magical about January 1st." I've been using Lara's PowerSheets for over a year to help in my goal setting process and this year I've adopted her way of thinking. My January 1st is February 1st. This is my first list of monthly goals of 2015 and I look forward to seeing the progress not perfection.

Above is a glimpse into my blog calendar for this month (and my new favorite candle from Anthropologie!) and I have to say I am especially excited for the weekly link up with #heartofEphesians. Read more about it in yesterday's post.

February Goals:

1. Introduce + co-host #heartoftheWord study on Ephesians. We launched #heartoftheWord yesterday, and I'm already learning SO much from this study. Won't you join us?
2. Perform These Shining Lives with my whole heart. My show opens one week from Thursday. I'm excited to share our story with an audience and see our hard work come to life. 
3. Finalize spring break plans. I have a few ideas up my sleeve but I want to nail down the specifics before February comes to an end. I can't wait for a few days off and the chance to see dear friends.
4. Get rid of the excess/donate a few boxes. I started the process of sorting through my closet and boxes, and my trunk is full of items to go, but I want to make another pass through to simplify.
5. Start the contentment challenge. I have attempted Nancy Ray's contentment challenge a couple of times, but my lack of self control has always won over. I want to curb my spending and replace my habits with something productive and positive. 
6. Read 3 books. I have a large pile of books piled in my living room to read this year, and this month I have Longbourn, Making Things Happen, and Seven on the top of my list. 
7. Prep weekday meals at home. I've done the grocery shopping for this month already and have made it a goal to prep and pack lunches Monday through Friday. Eating out is to be saved for special occasions and weekends. 
8. Complete January's project life pages. Scrapbooking has been a hobby of mine since middle school; hopefully I'll find a few spare hours this month to dive in.

I keep my tending list in the kitchen where I can see these goals daily, as well as my weekly and daily check points. Drinking more water, spending time in the Word, and getting active are top priority, as well as taking time to rest and refresh. I am starting to make more time for self care, something I put aside far too often.

February is the start of a meaningful year lived on purpose.
I choose joy. I choose peace. I choose to take the small steps toward my big dreams.
Let's make it happen, y'all.