Thursday, January 22, 2015

Dear Twenty-Something | The Letter Link-Up

Dear Twenty-Something,

Numbers are a funny thing, aren't they? When you were little, counting to ten seemed like a huge feat, then in no time you're boasting that you can count to infinity if you wanted to (or was that just me?). In kindergarten we celebrated the 100th day of school by bringing 100 of something to share with the class.. pixie sticks were my choice, in case you were wondering. You try to reconcile why in 1st grade you're six-years-old and wonder what it will be like to be in 12th grade and the ripe old age of eighteen (or seventeen for us young ones). I counted down the days to Christmas and my birthday with great anticipation, and numbered the turns I was supposed to do in ballet class. We measured in numbers

Somewhere in there we start marking firsts and lasts, and tallying everything in-between. First boyfriends, last performances, first kisses, last seconds of the game. Grade point averages, the number of minutes it takes to get from Journalism to English, how many times your picture was in the yearbook. Our worth attached to these numbers. We sent numbers and transcripts to colleges hoping for an acceptance letter (or five). The tuition numbers climbed with each school you considered, and points on your ACT's and SAT's dictated the number of scholarships that would or wouldn't come in. We were measured in numbers.

When we got to college... it was much the same. How many hours we were taking, how many lines we had in what play, how many guys gave us roses at serenade, and how many weeks were left in the semester. Graduation loomed in the distance and everything appeared to be piling up, all of the numbers included, only for them to go skittering to the ground after you walked the stage.

So why am I writing to you twenty-somethings, myself included, about numbers? Because that label in itself is JUST A NUMBER and I think it's easy to forget sometimes. 

This decade baffles, excites, and frustrates me. I'm certain I'm not the only one. Turning twenty was startling. The safety net of "-teen" at the end of my age disappeared. I was twenty. I was growing up. I was on the other side of adolescence and naiveté and the acceptable age to be carefree. The expectations fell on my shoulders (most of them from myself) as though I had accidentally walked onstage during the middle of a circus act, replacing the strongest man on earth. And I felt like everyone was watching. 

I know I have so much left to learn at the ripe-young-age of twenty-three, but what I'm learning right now is that twenty-something is just a number, and I can take it or leave it. For me, taking it is a burden I don't want. There are hundreds of articles out there about "The Twenty-Something's Guide to...." or "10 Things Every Twenty-Something Should Do/Know/See/Be Before Their 30's".  I don't know if I can read another one of them for quite a while. And I don't want this to be one of those. But I know I need to get some of these words on paper --or screen-- before they eat my heart alive.

On my last birthday, yes twenty-three, I joked that Taylor Swift had twenty-four hours to write me a song telling me how I should feel, because otherwise I'd be completely lost. Well, six months later (almost to the day) I'm still twenty-three and doing just fine without her (but let's be honest, 1989 is my jam!).  The past year she had described twenty-two as an age of being "happy, free, confused, and lonely at the same time" acknowledging that it's both miserable and magical. I'd have to say that felt about right, and it didn't change all that much when I turned twenty-three. Sometimes I feel happy. Others I feel confused. At times I feel all of these and more simultaneously. And that's perfectly okay.

So, Twenty-Somethings, let this letter serve as a break in your day and a quiet reminder that it's okay to feel it all. It's okay not to have it figured out, and it's okay to have your ten-year plan. It's okay to make the bucket list, and it's okay to live with spontenaity. It's a decade for discovery, trial, error, success, failure, dreams, comfort zones, and courageous efforts. It's YOUR time. No matter what my twenty-three looks like or what TSwift's twenty-two appeared to be, being a twenty-something is what you make it. 

It's okay to have your Christmas tree up in January. It's okay to make ten mistakes before getting that project, announcement, post, or relationship right. It's okay to take thirty minutes for yourself during the day to relax. It's okay to lay the same heart hurt at God's feet twelve times, asking for healing and grace. It's okay to count down the days until your nearest vacation. And it's okay to throw the numbers out altogether. They don't define you or this season. You define it. 

I need this reminder as much as anyone, and I hope it left you with a little encouragement. To be honest, I found this quote floating around Tumblr yesterday (yes, I'm twenty-three and still have a Tumblr, thank you) and it spoke right into the heart of what I was struggling to put into words:

"What I really mean to say is that I hope you aren’t held back because of a number. And that you don’t rush into things because it feels like time is slipping by. I hope you do what’s right for you. Hold on. Slow down. And breathe in. Your age is your age. But more importantly, your life is your life. Don’t change your journey so that it matches someone else’s. We need to walk different paths so the whole world can be explored. Revel in the differences. And enjoy where you are."

Enjoy where you are. Breathe in, breath out. Let this release you.
Let this refresh youSavor your season.  Let's do it together, shall we?


The Letter Link-up | Mr. Thomas & Me

Linking up with Amber @ Mr. Thomas and Me.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

42. Meet Blog Friends in Real Life

It's two weeks into 2015 and I'm already crossing items off my 101 Goals in 1001 Days list! One of my favorite goals was #42, to meet blog friends in real life three times. I had lunch with Victoria last spring, met up with Liz + Abi for coffee in Tulsa a few months ago, and this weekend I got to hug two more sweet friends I met through the blogosphere. The internet is a funny place, my friends.

Rachel and Nicole are two sweet souls who knew each other from college and both offered to meet me in Wichita for lunch on Saturday. We have been looking forward to this rendezvous for weeks! After a little confusion over the location of said lunch (we arrived at an Italian cafe expecting Mexican food.. my bad, y'all), we spent the next two hours laughing and swapping stories, swooning over Anthropologie candles, sharing our hearts about the church and today's society, proving once again that the Lord works in mysterious ways to bring us just the people we need at just the right time.

I left lunch feeling so full --not only of the delicious spaghetti bolognese-- and refreshed after a meeting of kindred spirits. I thought my heart might burst! This is certainly not the last time I'll get to cozy up across the table from these two. Nicole is going to be one of my roommates for The Influence Conference next fall and Rachel will be there, too! There are so many sweet faces I've met through my computer screen that I cannot wait to connect with first at Hope Spoken in March then at Influence in September. 

As most of you know, I've been in a series of transitions over the past two years that keeps my community moving. Or should I say it keeps me moving from one community to another. I graduated from Baylor University in May of 2013 and flew across the country three weeks later to put roots down in Seattle, Washington. 

GO HAWKS, by the way! Had to throw that out there ;) 

After a year in the Pacific Northwest with some of the most incredible people I've ever met, I packed my bags and flew back down south to go to graduate school, leaving my new community behind. 

While everything else has been settling down and uprooting soon thereafter, the blogging and Instagram community have been two of the most life-giving places. These women have hearts as wide as the Texas sky and love the Lord so much, providing the encouragement and accountability I have needed as my local community continues to change. Never have I been more convinced that the Lord is using the internet to further His kingdom and tend to His people's hearts. 

Now I know there is plenty of negativity and competition out there, heartbreak pouring out of webpage after webpage. There is so much hate, but there is so much love to be found, too

That's what I hope you find here. 
Love, encouragement, acceptance, and friendship. 

Send me an e-mail, say hello, and if you're close let's grab coffee. We pour our hearts into our computers and blog posts, and I am pleased to say the real people I've met that live on the other side of those screens are ready and willing to connect on deep heart levels. Some of the most genuine friendships have sparked over a quick Facebook IM. Let's give it a go, shall we?

Friday, January 16, 2015

Friday Likes, Volume I

Every Friday on Instagram I share a snap of some of the photo's I've liked throughout the week and call it #fridaylikes. As I scroll each day, I see glimpses from inspiring and creative ladies, dear friends near and far, as well as many a gal determined to spread the love of Jesus in these square snippets of life. Today I'm sharing the blog version, some of the things I've stumbled upon in recent weeks and just can't get enough of. Are you excited? I know I am.

ONE. My January Project Life kit from Studio Calico came in the mail this week! One of my 2015 goals is to keep an album going this year and to go back to finish 2014. I've subscribed to the monthly kit for almost a year and it certainly curbs my desire to run to the craft store for new goodies. They're coming out with a 9x12 album soon which I can't wait to try, and I'm sure I fill in my 6x8 albums for last year with ease. Be on the look out for more Project Life posts in the near future!

TWO. This couple did a mash up of my two favorite songs on Taylor Swift's new album, and I've been listening to it on repeat. "Blank Space" + "Style" = SO. GOOD.  Give it a listen or ten and tell me what you think!

THREE. This post called 5 Things to Consider Before Posting Online by the author of Keep It Shut. In a world where words are flung too quickly and hurt quite deeply on the internet, this was a much needed perspective shift and reminder.

FOUR. I found this video floating on Twitter earlier this week and it made my night! Maroon 5 crashed a bunch of weddings to make this music video of their song "Sugar" and it is perfection. I wasn't a huge fan back in the day, but Adam Levine has slowly won me over. Also, have you seen Begin Again? He stars opposite Keira Knightley's, and the movie has quickly become one of my favorites.

FIVE. Last night I saw the OSU Theatre Council's production of Gruesome Playground Injuries and loved it! I have seen the show once before, back at Baylor, and was drawn to the story of best friends Doug and Kayleen and their journey through hurts and healing, jumping back and forth between encounters throughout their life. This production was raw and real and spoke so many things to me. And part of me loved taking a seat and watching the lights in the very theatre I'll be performing in this time next month. Ahh!

SIX. Lastly, several spectacular ladies and I are starting to fine-tune a Bible study we'll be launching next month and I cannot wait to give you the details! We just selected a name, a hashtag, and are finishing the structure very soon. Learning about the Lord from ladies I've met over the internet has been such a blessing, and I cannot wait to venture deeper into scripture with you all in the coming months. Stay tuned!

What about you? What are you liking or loving this week?

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

2015 Words of the Year: BRAVE

Believe it or not, my second "word of the year" surprised me. This is the second year in a row I thought "grace" would make it's mark, but it seems something else was up the Lord's sleeve for 2015. BRAVE is one of those words I wouldn't have used to describe myself. I thought it meant someone who was daring, adventurous, confident, and honestly lacking in some of the common sense I have all too much of. I'm calculated. I'm a planner. I like order and rules and structure and safety. Brave? Pssh. yeah right.

Wait a second. I thought the blog was called Brave Love? 

Oops. I can't quite hide from that one, now can I? ;) Early in 2014, I attended a women's gathering in Seattle called, you guessed it, Brave Love. Never have I connected with a room full of gals, most of whom I hadn't met before, in such a powerful way. Hearts were opened and Jesus was moving among us, teaching us what it meant to embrace our own unique femininity and to stand secure in our identity as WOMEN created by God for a purpose. Brave love is the expression of that. It is choosing to celebrate other women and choosing to go the extra mile to see the Kingdom come.  I wrote more HERE about the two words now printed across this blog, but even then I had no idea just how much they'd mean to me.

BRAVE soon started appearing everywhere. It was written in encouragement notes from friends, put into songs that I quickly listened to on repeat, and used to describe the transitions I was making even when I felt the furthest thing from it. The idea of being brave scares me, and that's part of the reason I'm excited to explore it this year. Being brave means trusting God in EVERYTHING. Being brave means being willing to take and make the uncomfortable step to bigger and better things. Being brave means abandoning comfort in favor of the call God has put on my life. Being brave sounds HARD. Being brave sounds out of my reach. But I'm already learning that being brave is a process, and grace abounds. 

Ah, grace. That word finds its way in anyway. One of the verses hanging in my heart last fall had it at the center:

"My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."
2 Corinthians 12:9

The beauty of being brave is that it can hinge on HIS power and not my own. Those places I am afraid to trust, He's there. Those unknowns, He's carrying them in the palm of His hand. There is grace for today and grace for tomorrow. Being brave isn't something you learn in a day. It's a process. And I'm sure 2015 will be full of opportunities to give it a try. 

So BRAVE it is, and BRAVE I hope to be. I read a quote on Pinterest yesterday that said "You're not a mess; you're brave for trying." That's what He asks of us. Obedience. He doesn't ask for success or outcomes or a certain number of goals met or salvations seen. He asks that we follow His lead. My verse of the year encapsulates this word, and that idea, in a way I desperately needed to hear.

"Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong. 
Let all that you do be done with love."
1 Corinthians 16:13-14

Can you spot it? Come on, I know you can. BRAVE + LOVE. I want them to be at the heart of what I do this year and how I respond to what the Lord throws at me.

I want to be brave enough to keep my door open to whoever may walk into my life.
I want to be brave enough to embrace my own skin and own my place on stage. 
I want to be brave enough to share with others what the Lord's doing in my life.
I want to be brave enough to color outside the lines and make a creative mess.
I want to be brave enough to live simply, give generously, and love deeply.
I want to be brave enough to try new things (foods, places, and hobbies).
I want to be brave enough to dance to my own beat and sing out loud.
I want to be brave enough to fully embrace my season of life.
I want to be brave enough to wear bright colors. 
I want to be brave enough to try and fail.
I want to be brave enough to try again.

What about YOU, friends? What's on your list for 2015? What does it mean to YOU to be brave?

Monday, January 12, 2015

Apartment Sweet Apartment

I love living by myself. Not in the I hated every roommate I ever had kind of way --because it's totally untrue!-- but in the it feels SO good to have a place of my own sort of vibe. In college I went pot-luck for a roommate and it was, well, interesting. I had a new room and a new roommate each semester, and when my sophomore year rolled around I was positively elated to live with my best friend Claire. Our living room was pink and black, packed with Disney movies, and we had two sewing stations for all of our Sing costume making... well, her costume making. Sewing is not my forte.

We lived together for two years, then my senior year I moved to "The C Side" with five girls from my lifegroup. Yes, there were six of us. Our living room was large and open, the dining room wall covered in blue prints, and I had my own room and bathroom. I loved being able to decorate and host, and always having someone to come home to was refreshing. My scenario in Seattle wasn't all too different. I lived with four other girls in a house near Green Lake, fondly titled "The Blue Door," and again I had my own room. This time however I drew the short straw --literally-- and had a nook in the basement with no closet and a door to the backyard. But it served its purpose and I retreated to my "hobbit hole" frequently.

When it came time to move to graduate school, I knew that I didn't want to live with a stranger, and to have a roommate that would be the only way to go about it. Once I found out what the school was offering me in scholarships, tuition wavers, and a stipend, I made the decision to put most of it toward a nice one-bedroom apartment near campus. It has been worth every penny! 

My schedule swings to extremes: frequent late nights at the library, early mornings at the office, afternoons bouncing from class to the gym to the shop to rehearsal, with the occasional lazy day to sleep late or sneak a nap in the in-between. I wanted to have a space I could retreat to, decorate as I liked, and near enough to campus not to buy a parking pass. Mom went on the hunt while I was in interviews and voila! We found the perfect one.

Over the past six months, I've been sharing my apartment decorating progress through my #apartmentglimpses hashtag on Instagram. I get so many questions about the decor so I wanted to share the sources here, too. The living room is where everything happens. More often than not my bedroom door is closed to hide the atrocity mess, and I camp out on the couch to watch Netflix, tackle homework and grading, or perch at the kitchen counter to eat and blog. Much of my furniture was sold or donated when I graduated from Baylor, since none of it would fit in my car for the move to Seattle, so most of the pieces were repurposed, found on sale, or from family members.

Couches: Craigslist (dream come true!)
Polkadot Pillows: Anthropologie
Orange Pillows: Tuesday Morning
Deer Pillow: Anthropologie
Baylor Sign: Christmas gift from my sister!
Orchid: TJMaxx
Steamer Trunk/End Table: Formerly my grandmother's.
Travel Prints (large): 2015 Calendar by Rifle Paper Co.
Travel Prints (small): Notecards by Rifle Paper Co.
Picture Frames: Clearance at Michael's last spring.

As you can see, the books are piling up on the right. I have one bookcase and many, many piles. For now, the stacks will have to do. I have books in the bedroom, books under the antique buffet my TV sits on, books on the shelves in the kitchen. They're EVERYWHERE. If anyone's donating a bookshelf, send it my way ;) I have also hung a large picture frame with an 8x10 print on the wall to the right of the travel collage. The frame was also bought on clearance at Michael's last year (I cleaned out 3 locations around Seattle, and they were only $6-$8 a piece!), and the print is from Lindsay Letters.

I bought this mirror on clearance at Hobby Lobby in November after seeing --and loving-- many similar ones showing up in the homes of some of my favorite Instagrammers. This little apartment of mine could use all the help it can get, and mirrors instantly help to make a room feel larger. I hung it on the far wall near the window, and here you can see the set up of my kitchen. This was when I frantically cleaned the place because my apartment was being used as a show room for prospective students, so do forgive the mess on the counter and the Christmas trees atop the cabinets. It's a work in progress. 

While I wish I could have a dining table to fix up fancy place settings, I am well aware my season doesn't exactly allow for that (or need it, if I'm honest). If I have people over, we're happy to lounge on the couch and use the barstools (from Walmart) for TV trays. Last night a friend and I made dinner --well, he made it and I watched-- and sat at the counter working on lines for the play while we ate. My apartment serves its purpose quite well, so I'm not one to complain.

As far as my bedroom goes, until the end of the semester it was only used for sleeping and dressing. My bed was rarely made --sorry, Mom-- which was perfectly fine by me because once I slipped out of the covers I didn't use the space until I slipped back under them. My bedding was a birthday gift three years ago and the dresser was the best impulse buy I've ever made. I spotted it for a whopping $25 dollars at a Goodwill, snatched off the tag and paid for it in a flash, only to remember I drive a VW beetle and there was no way I could get it home. 

My chalkboard went straight into storage when I moved to Seattle, and the last thing written on it were encouragements from my friends from my graduation party. I can't quite make myself erase them yet. I don't have a desk chair which is probably why I rarely use the space for homework, but I'm hoping to keep it cleaner this semester and make better use of all the storage space. And, since I know you'll ask, more sources are below.

Bedding: Anthropologie
Green Throw: PB Teen
Desk + Hutch: Pottery Barn
Dresser: Goodwill
Chalkboard: Junque in the Trunk
Orange Pillow: Tuesday Morning
Rabbit Vase: Anthropologie

Lastly, this is another clearance item (oh how I love a good sale + coupon!) from Hobby Lobby. It was wobbly and slightly crooked, which was why it was so cheap, but a few command strips put it up in my bathroom just fine. That's the other kicker. I can't nail anything into the wall so everything must be put up with command strips. I try to steer clear of anything too heavy --the mirror is the only exception-- but thankfully command strips come in a variety of packs and weight limits. This little guy was perfect for getting my earrings out of their bags and on display. I only wear a handful but I know as soon as I purge a few pairs I'll go looking for them.

I also have my scripture memory cards from Holly Holt on display, keeping the "GRACE NOT PERFECTION" mantra where I will see it often. I'll share more apartment glimpses in the weeks to come, maybe even a few DIY's, but for now this should tide you over. I'm on a shopping freeze for the next few months, hoping to use what I already have to put the finishing touches on this place. When I do shop I hit the clearance sections, but that money needs to be saved for some exciting adventures on the horizon.

What about you? How have you spiffied up your home/dorm/apartment? Any fun finds or DIY's I should know about?