A Hug from God


Have you ever wished you could hug God? I have. Many times. In moments of sadness and joy, I have felt my heart swelling AND tightening, somehow at the same time, still too small to hold all of my feelings. But I never really realized that a hug was what I wanted until March 10, 2022.

I was driving home from the gym after teaching my dance fitness class, and I wasn’t really thinking about anything in particular. Out of nowhere, I was overcome with thankfulness for how God has walked with me and chased me down and protected me over the last few years. I felt God’s presence in the car with me – that’s the only way I can say it. I know from His Word that He is always with me, but I felt His nearness in a new way that night. It felt like He was standing behind me, arms around my shoulders, His chin resting on top of my head, and all I wanted to do was turn around and throw my arms around Him. Tears sprang to my eyes and my breath caught in my throat. I slowly reached my left hand up and put it on my right shoulder, half-expecting to actually feel His arm underneath.

I’m a visual person, and I have had a handful of experiences like this with God throughout my life. Let’s dub them ‘visually tangible.’ I hesitate to call them visions because that word sounds more mystical and ‘woo-woo’ than I want it to, and I don’t believe I have the spiritual gift of prophecy. But to explain it in basic terms, it’s as if I have images or videos playing in my head. Think of it almost like a movie montage. I’m not watching anything happening physically in front of me, and I’m not being transported to another place mentally. It’s just like I’m experiencing a really powerful memory. (But sometimes I see things that haven’t actually happened yet.)

Total transparency – I laughed nervously to myself as I typed that last sentence. Please don’t write me off just yet.

ANYWAY. I was having this moment with God in my car, and I was suddenly struck by other similar moments when I recognized God interacting with me on a human level. For example, I remembered that horrible day in 2020 when I found out that one of my best friends and I had both miscarried our third baby on the same day. I was sitting cross-legged on my bed, my head in my hands, grieving and trying to pray but at a complete loss for words, when an image of God with me flashed into my mind. In this picture, He was sitting across from me on the bed, also cross-legged, forehead pressed against my forehead, His big hands on either side of my face. Just sitting there with me, grieving with me. It still gets me choked up just thinking about it.

These moments are spiritual monuments for me, figurative piles of stones to remind me of the faithfulness of God when I am tempted to forget. And boy, have I needed them. In the last year, my heart has broken over and over. I have felt the ache of intense loneliness. The ache of others moving on with their lives and settling comfortably into new seasons, while I feel stuck in the same place I’ve been for years. The ache of watching dear friends and family suffer the consequences of poor decisions. The ache of friendships changing. The ache of knowing that Daniel and I will never be those two young, dumb kids again. The ache of unfairness. The ache of what should have been, but isn’t.

I’ve needed a lot of God hugs.

And you know what? I’ve gotten them.

Every year, I create a new note on my phone to keep track of special memories. I started doing this in 2020 when I needed a reminder that there were still good things happening in the world and in my life. This year, I added a section called “Moments I savored” to capture specific moments that I was keenly aware of savoring, since ‘Savor’ is my word for the year. Moments like…

The first little snow flurry in January.
Laying on the couch with Daniel, our adopted stray cat sleeping between us.
A quiet night at home, fire in the fireplace, reading a good book.
My heart racing as hid in the shadows, waiting to film Cory and Vic’s engagement.
Scream-singing “Take Me Home Tonight” in the car on the way home from Sherman.
Baylor Briggs falling asleep on me.
Breakfast with the Throners on the day of John and Amanda’s wedding.
Walking in the woods.
Boat rides on Lake Texoma, wind in my hair, drink in my hand, Daniel’s arm around me.
Reading at Opera House Coffee and watching the August rain we desperately needed.
Sitting on the back porch of an Airbnb, listening to the world wake up.

THESE are my God hugs.

Whether we feel Him with us or not, God NEVER leaves us, and our knowledge of that truth should lead us to thankfulness. His unfailing love is a constant comfort (Psalm 119:76). When we learn to cultivate an attitude of thankfulness, despite the fact that ‘bad’ things keep happening to us, we start to recognize good gifts from God more quickly. Good things don’t have to be big. And the biggest surprise of all is that sometimes, ‘bad’ things are actually good things in disguise.

My Social Media Fast Recap

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Hello, friends!! It’s been a little while, but I promise I have a good reason.

After completing the 40-day sugar fast earlier this year and having such a great experience, I knew I didn’t want my improved discipline and stronger desire to spend time with God to end! So I did the most logical thing: I kept fasting. And this time, it was from social media. Keep reading to see how those 40 days went…


Day 1: Okay, so here’s what I’ve given up: Facebook and FB Messenger, Instagram, Snapchat, and 95% of Pinterest. (I can still use recipes I’ve already pinned, but I’m not mindlessly scrolling.) Today, on my first day of the fast, I conducted an experiment. I wanted to test myself, just to see how many times I would normally check those apps, particularly Facebook and Instagram. I kept tally marks for every time I caught myself looking at my phone for that reason, and guess how many times I did it in one day? 24 TIMES. I didn’t even have a good reason! 99% of the time, it was a combination of muscle memory and boredom. I’ve conditioned myself to open those apps every time I’m waiting for something, like the elevator or standing in the grocery check-out line. Truthfully, I think that number was smaller than it should have been, because I wasn’t picking up my phone as much since I knew I couldn’t open those apps. Regardless, even if I only spent 5 minutes in those apps each time I wanted to open them, that adds up to a minimum of TWO HOURS spent on social media per day. Ouch.

Day 2: The chapter of the book I’m reading during this fast said the following today: “The temptation to take your eyes off of Christ and His buoying Word will be constant. Loneliness may even threaten to capsize you, but what a joy it will be to step out of your boat and follow Him in this countercultural, faith-building, water-walking way!” I’ve already realized something about our use of social media as humans. We medicate and distract ourselves with social media because it’s NUMBING. With all those other voices in our heads, we aren’t forced to confront the silence and deal with our own deeply buried issues.

Day 5: Ugh………well. I did something. Initially, I didn’t give up watching TV by myself because I rationalized it as ‘not social media.’ But after four days of feeling convicted, I finally listened to God’s prompting and surrendered that habit for the remainder of my fast. I am not excited. But I am doing it.

Day 7: It struck me today how perfectly my word of the year – SAVOR – fits with this season of fasting. This fast in particular presented itself at an opportune time, what with Daniel being in school and me feeling a pull to quiet the noise in my heart. There have already been multiple sweet, tiny moments I would have missed out on if I had been on my phone like I normally am, like reading with my cat Chess sleeping on me, having good conversations with Daniel in the car, and talking with friends more.

Day 9: All I can say is WOW. I had the most pure God moment in my car on my way home from the gym. I have already started a separate blog post about this experience, but all I can say for now is that I have never felt so so seen by the Lord. I wished I could physically hug Him. I have noticed my desire to spend time with God is so much stronger, and it’s no coincidence that this change happened at the same time I put down all the noise and started picking up His Word more often.

Day 11: I was sitting in the living room, prepping for Cory’s proposal to Victoria, getting the flower petals ready and listening to instrumental music, and a slow, tender, nostalgic song started playing. Before it was even halfway through, I knew I had to make sure that song was playing when they walked in the door. I was suddenly filled with emotion over how special that moment would be, and how prepping for it wouldn’t have been the same if I was watching TV instead of listening to music. And that moment WAS so special. I got the honor of capturing the whole thing on video. However, after the ring was on the finger and the champagne was poured, I had the strangest thought: “I won’t be able to ‘like’ their social media posts…!” But immediately after thinking that, I had a second thought: “Why do I care?? Why should I be sad? I was there! I literally watched it happen. Who cares that I can’t see it on a social media platform!”

Day 15: Today, I asked myself, “What am I actually using social media for?” Is it really about connection? Or is it because I want to create a certain perception about myself? What a gift it is to realize that (1) I don’t owe anybody anything on social media, and (2) I don’t need to be reachable via social media all the time. While some messages are time-sensitive, most of them aren’t. And I would much rather spend time connecting with people in person than in a virtual world.

Day 18: I miss TV. I reeeeeeally miss TV. I miss it more than social media. This is why God wanted me to give it up. *sigh*

Day 21: I had to pray a lot today. This day was already set aside for fasting and praying over a friend, but I had to pray for myself at least 50% of the time. I prayed that God would help me want to want to obey Him, because today, I really don’t. I want to do whatever I want and not have to pay the consequences. Even though I’ve given up social media and watching TV alone, I’m not being disciplined in other ways….(It’s food. Why is it always food??). And I know God is after my whole heart, not just one area of weakness at a time. The goal was not to surrender one idol and immediately replace it with something else. This is just a “HARUMPHHH” of a day.

Day 23: Matthew 5:29-30 convicted me. I’ve always read this verse in relation to sin and bad things that were always bad to begin with, but the truth is even good things can become bad if we misuse them. It’s better to completely cut something off/out rather than to indulge it and let it consume you. We are fools to think we can control ourselves without God’s help. If something tempts us even a little bit, maybe it’s better to just stay away from it completely.

Day 29: Meh….I’m kind of over this. I’m doing fine without social media, but I still really miss TV and games on my phone. (Oh yeah – I gave those up too.) I’m not getting as much out of this fast as I did the sugar fast. At least that’s how I feel today. Maybe I’ll feel differently tomorrow.

Day 33: Daniel left for Boston today and I REALLY want to watch TV. I’m thinking about breaking that part of my fast early. This is going to be a long week.

Day 39: I absolutely SHOCKED myself this week. Every day, I woke up and thought, “I didn’t watch TV yesterday. And I’m fine. I could do that again today.” And I have!! I’ve been listening to lots of podcasts instead and stuck to my original conviction to give up binge-watching TV alone. This week has been long and busy. I can’t wait to see Daniel tomorrow!!

Day 40: I SURVIVED!!! Since I opened my first social media account in 2006, I’m pretty sure this is the longest I’ve ever gone without opening any of those apps. I’m really proud of myself.

Day 41: It’s the craziest thing – I’m allowed to get on social media now but I honestly don’t really want to. I spent about 30-45 minutes going through all of my missed notifications on Facebook, Instagram, etc., and at the end of that time, I didn’t feel happier. I felt scattered and overstimulated. I watched some funny videos and saw some life updates from friends, but as I scrolled, I thought, “How did I spend hours doing this before?? I’ve only been here for 20 minutes and I’m already tired of it all.” The more I think through the last 40 days, I realize that I learned more than I thought I did. I didn’t really miss social media. And I felt convicted about how much time I devote to noise: things that are empty and a waste of time.


Biggest lessons learned:

  • WHY was I posting? WHY was I scrolling so much? Before I started the fast, I don’t think I would have said, “I’m trying to fill a void”….but I’m pretty sure that’s what I was doing.
  • I realized during the fast that I was less distracted when I read God’s Word. I didn’t know how cluttered my mind was before, and it’s no wonder I had such a hard time paying attention to what I was reading. Now, I’m not mentally ‘full’ from consuming social media and TV all day, so when I open God’s Word, I’m ready to read and listen and process. Consuming that is so much better than the other things I was consuming. My desire for the Word is stronger than ever. I changed my pattern and made my Bible app the first one I open in the morning instead of Facebook and Instagram. Keeping my social media apps off of my home screen and turning the notifications off, even though I didn’t have many turned on to begin with, was also a gamechanger.
  • In one of her chapters, Wendy said, “We’ve all turned to things to quench the ache and kill the pain, to tell us we’re worthy, or to meet some other deep need. Except they never do, which is why we keep cramming more in. We’re always hungry but never satisfied.” I wish I had the words to describe to you how fulfilling a relationship with God is. Nothing and no one else satisfies like He does.
  • Want me to get really personal? You totally do. I know you do. I’ll tell you what I have made god instead of God. I’ll confess my own little-g gods to you, and I encourage you to consider what yours are so you can surrender them to the Big G, the OG, the God of Gods and King of Kings, the only true God who loves us at our worst and sacrificed everything to make us part of His family. Ready?
    • Social media.
    • Snacking.
    • A drink.
    • TV.
    • Filling the silence.
    • Sugar.
    • Attention and verbal affirmation from others.
    • Games on my phone.
    • Eating out.
    • Trying desperately to be perfect and worthy of respect.

GOD. IS. BETTER. We are wasting too much time trying to make ourselves happy with other things. They won’t work. God is who we’ve been looking for all this time. Let’s chase after Him from now on, yeah? ♥

If you want to know more about the 40-day social media fast, click here.

2022 Goals + Word for the Year

Five years ago, I unintentionally started my own New Year’s tradition. Instead of creating resolutions that would be too easily forgotten or too quickly broken (like giving up fast food completely, or the all-too-vague ‘work out more’), I made a list of a few measurable, realistic goals: a list that I could come back to a year later to reflect on and see how I grew. And the idea kind of stuck with me! So here I am, for the sixth year in a row, thankful for God’s faithfulness in an unexpectedly wonderful year and turning a hopeful eye toward the new year ahead.

MY 2021 GOALS WERE:

  • Take a class with Daniel and learn something new together.
    Just wasn’t the best year to make this happen – Daniel was incredibly busy juggling school, work, rental properties, new investments, and elder responsibilities at the church. Hopefully we can make this happen once he graduates with his Executive Master’s degree in May.
  • Finally go skydiving!
    I FINALLY DID IT!! A group of us from church tried to go last year and it was too windy, so we got vouchers to come back another time. And one random Friday in September 2021, we made a spontaneous decision to go the next day. And it was AWESOME – the falling out of the plane was the coolest part, the adrenaline rush was unreal! I would 100% do it again. Still can’t believe I finally checked this off of my bucket list.
  • Go a full month without eating out.
    Literally what was I thinking?? There was no way this was going to happen. Major facepalm.
  • Host a backyard dinner party this summer.
    Dara’s “Thirty South” country club-themed 30th birthday party was SO MUCH FUN. We had a crawfish boil, live music, croquet, and everybody dressed up! It was in the front yard instead of the back, but who cares?
  • Take a “just the two of us” trip.
    During Daniel’s break from school in August, we spent an extended weekend at the super cute Caroline cabin in Broken Bow, and it was so lovely! We hadn’t gone on a trip to celebrate being together since our Alaskan cruise in 2017.
  • Make at least 20 of the 37,000 recipes I have pinned on Pinterest.
    SO CLOSE! I’m still calling this a win, because I’m 98% sure I made at least one other new thing and just forgot to document it.
  • Start recording my prayer requests.
    If you’ve never heard of Val Marie Paper, go check out her prayer journals right now!
  • Learn how to make my own pasta.
    Still on my to-do list. I kept delaying because I really want that KitchenAid pasta attachment…
  • Host another “Favorite Things” party.
    Ran out of time, but I really want to do this again!
  • Try something different with my hair.
    I had virgin hair for almost 31 years, but I finally decided to put bleach in it for the first time! Nothing major – just really subtle honey blonde at the bottom. I wanted something I didn’t have to maintain, and I love how it turned out.

• 2022 •

Complete the 40-day sugar fast.

Spend time writing at least once a week.

Start tracking the number of ‘wears’ for my wardrobe items.

Make a difficult recipe.

Start learning the basics of another language.

Do some professional/personal development for work.

Go to at least five live performances (concert, comedy show, Broadway play, etc.).

Finish our living room refresh.

Make a calendar to keep track of family and friends’ birthdays.

Pick up a new hobby.

Take a class with Daniel and learn something new together.

Read the Dune book series.


As I reflected on the last couple of years, I started to wonder what my word for 2022 would be. Until this year, I always seemed to discover my word in December, before the new year even began. But as 2021 came to a close, I felt uninspired. My mind was strangely blank. I didn’t want to force anything, so I just decided to take a break from the whole “Word For the Year” thing. Little did I know that God had three pieces of inspiration waiting for me on Instagram within the first few days of 2022. First, I felt convicted by Ruth Chou Simons’s post about worship before service and being deeply rooted. Second, I pondered Phenomenal’s post about how TODAY is a special occasion. And third, I read Joanna Gaines’s “Have a fun!” post about slowing down and playing more.

Thanks to that nudge from the Lord, my word for 2022 is:

S A V O R .

I want to wear the good perfume without waiting for a special occasion. I want to notice the small, seemingly inconsequential things, the simple joys, and not put so much pressure on everything to be a bucket list item. I want to enjoy the Lord more than His gifts. I want to savor delicious meals without guilt, and good books, and rainy days, and spontaneous movie nights, and how my body feels after a good workout. I want to savor even the hard, uncomfortable things as opportunities for growth and deeper trust in Christ.

If you want to keep up with my progress this year, click here!

What is one of your goals for this year? Tell me in the comments!

Coming Back Home

I’m writing a blog post for the first time since January of this year, and I don’t even know where to start. It’s a strange feeling: wanting to say everything and nothing at the same time, feeling anxious pressure to sum up all the moments I haven’t shared here. Should I even try? Is anyone even out there, still interested in what I have to say after all this time?

2020 kicked my butt. You could remove the COVID-19 pandemic completely and it was still one of the worst years of my life. I experienced failure after failure in virtually every area of my life, and I breathed a literal sigh of relief when we toasted at midnight on New Year’s Eve, running a tender finger over my scars and tending to a few healing wounds. 2020 hurt. But I knew the Lord was going to do something new. How, oh how, could I have known how many new things He would do?

Things as simple as experimenting with HelloFresh and learning to enjoy cooking with new ingredients I would never have tried otherwise.

The pure joy we felt at my brother’s wedding.

Putting bleach in my hair.

A snowstorm.

A Tesla.

A new job.

More new babies than I can count.

Sunday night family dinners.

Dancing with abandon.

Getting paid to do what I love.

Lake days.

Watching two of my best friends fall in love.

Watching Daniel fall in love with a cat.

Heirloom family recipes.

Skydiving.

Becoming a dance fitness instructor.

Teaching a Bible class.

Winning my workplace chili cookoff (which included two entries by executive chefs).

Experiencing the Pioneer Woman Mercantile, South Padre Island, Punta Cana, and IKEA for the first time.

I’m overwhelmed by the good in 2021.

Earlier in the fall, I had gotten into a really good workout routine, and before we started traveling this month, I was actually doing something active for at least 30 minutes every day. (If you don’t know much about me up to this point, just know that this is a HUGE accomplishment.) In the last two weeks, the only times I’ve worked out were when I had to, when I taught the dance fitness class I temporarily took over for a friend. I’ve gained some holiday and vacation weight, and honestly, I don’t really feel guilty about it. I’ve established some disciplines that I’ll get back into easily after our New Year’s hoorah. But I had a revelatory moment after teaching class on Monday night.

It had been a week since I did anything active, and even though I didn’t really want to go to the gym that day, I had to. Because I was the teacher. It was a great night of dance, and endorphins were clearly pumping, because as I pulled out of the wellness center parking lot, an uncontrollable smile came across my face. I felt a rush of joy at the person I had become: someone who allowed pain and loss to mold her into someone stronger, someone who was willing to twerk and bounce and slay fearlessly in front of a mirror without a second thought. “There you are,” I thought to myself. “I found you.”

Have I done everything I wanted to do this year? No way. Have I failed people and derailed plans and bailed on dreams? 1000%. I’m supposed to be a writer, guys, and this is the first blog post I’ve written in almost a year. But now is not the time to focus on all the things I didn’t do. Now is the time to celebrate that I’ve come back home. 2020 was the year of being torn down in order to be rebuilt, and 2021 was the year of rising from the ashes. I am unafraid of whatever the Lord has planned for 2022, whether it be flying or falling on my face again, because I trust Him. He is the one who makes me brave. He is the one walking me home. He has been just as faithful to me in the lowest valleys as He is on the highest mountaintops.


Excerpts from A Liturgy for the Death of a Dream,” from Every Moment Holy

Oh Christ, in whom the final fulfillment of all hope is held secure,

I bring to you now the weathered fragments of my former dreams, the broken pieces of my expectations, the rent patches of hopes worn thin, the shards of some shattered image of life as I once thought it would be.

…You are the sovereign of my sorrow. You apprehend a wider sweep with wiser eyes than mine. My history bears the fingerprints of grace. You were always faithful, though I could not always trace quick evidence of your presence in my pain, yet did you remain at work, lurking in the wings, sifting all my splinterings for bright embers that might be breathed into more eternal dreams.

Let me remain tender now, to how you would teach me. My disappointments reveal so much about my own agenda for my life, and the ways I quietly demand that it should play out: free of conflict, free of pain, free of want.

My dreams are all so small.

Let me be tutored by this new disappointment. Let me listen to its holy whisper, that I might release at last these lesser dreams. That I might embrace the better dreams you dream for me, and for your people, and for your kingdom, and for your creation. …Teach me to hope, O Lord, always and only in you.

40 By 40

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Today, I turn 30.

Wow.

I can’t believe the 90’s were 30 years ago. I’m nowhere close to being old, but dang if that doesn’t make me feel ancient!

If you’ve been following my blog for awhile, you’re probably familiar with my “30 by 30” list. When I wrote it on my 26th birthday in 2016, I had no clue how the next few years would unfold. There were items on the list that I wasn’t sure would even happen, but they did! But there were also items on the list that I was 100% confident would happen, but they didn’t. Regardless, that list is a prized possession now. I memorialized some of the most fun moments in the last four years of my 20’s, and I can go re-read the list anytime I want and experience that joy all over again!

It just felt right to continue this tradition into my 30’s, so…here we go!!


40 THINGS TO DO BEFORE MY 40TH BIRTHDAY.

1. Find a form of exercise that I truly ENJOY and do it habitually.
Like yoga! I’m a big fan of Yoga With Adriene.

2. Start and maintain a car replacement fund.
My Acura has treated me well, but she’s slowing down…

3. Keep some higher-maintenance plants alive.
A fiddle leaf fig tree and some perennials on the front porch are at the top of my list.

4. Take a class with Daniel.
Something fun, like massage, dancing, or cooking!

assorted fruit and can lot

5. Start planning meals monthly instead of weekly.
My mom is #GOALS for this one – such an organizational inspiration. I’m pretty sure she had her comprehensive shopping list created in Excel before the internet existed.

6. Give away something really expensive, anonymously.
Ideas: pool money with friends to buy a car for a single mom in need, buy a plane ticket for a friend to go on a mission trip, or get really nice Christmas gifts for kids who wouldn’t get any otherwise.

7. See one of my favorite bands live in concert.
Even though music plays such a huge role in my personal life, I’ve weirdly never been a big concert person. But I feel like I need to make this happen at least once in my life.

8. Master the basics of another language.
I took approximately four years of Spanish between high school and college, and it’s embarrassing how little of it I remember.

boats on water near buildings

9. Spend a minimum of two weeks traveling in Europe.
Between the jet lag and the expensive plane tickets, I want to get my money’s worth.

10. Take a sister trip with Robyn.
Harry Potter World????? LET’S GOOOOOO

11. Make at least three recipes from every cookbook I own.
I mean…what’s the point in owning them if I never even use them?

12. Identify mentors in my life, and make time to meet with and learn from them.
The older I get, the more I crave this. I have so much to learn!

13. Set up a home office space.
I’m gonna need somewhere to plan all of those events, right? ;)

14. Send more birthday cards, thank-you cards, and just-because cards.
Snail mail is a lost art. And I’m bringin’ it back.

15. Read at least 30 new books.
Easily one of my favorite things to complete last time! Considering the fact that I had ten done in two years for 30 By 30 (and I wasn’t really trying very hard), I’m pretty sure I’ve got this one in the bag.

DIY: Food Passport for road trips!

16. Make a food passport and fill it with “stamps.”
I came across this idea on Pinterest a long time ago, and it looks so fun! Even though our town is small and we’ve lived here for almost 8 years, there are still restaurants we’ve never visited. (However, for those of you who are locals, I can confidently say that Taste Island will never…ever…EVER make the list of places to try.)

17. Unplug as often as possible. Schedule weekly device-free time and stick to it.
One of my favorite things about our last friendscation cruise was the fact that we were totally unplugged. The only thing I did with my phone for an entire week was take pictures, and it was BLISS.

18. Go sky-diving.
I’ve wanted to do this my whole life, and 2020 is my year to make it happen!!

19. Make my own pasta.
Doesn’t this just seem like the most adult-y thing to do?

20. Spend intentional time nurturing the marriages around me.
Come on, I had to give myself a softball. :) I’m super passionate about marriage ministry, so this one won’t be hard.

21. Pay it forward at least once a month.
I’m already working on a mental list of ideas, like paying for the person ahead of me in the drive-through, leaving a roll of quarters at my work vending machine, etc. But I would love your suggestions too!

22. Make peace with my body’s ‘flaws.’
I read this quote the other day and fell in love with it:
“And I said to my body softly, ‘I want to be your friend.’ It took a long breath and replied, ‘I have been waiting my whole life for this.'” –Nayyirah Waheed

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23. Celebrate 10 years and 15 years of marriage.
Hard to believe we’re more than halfway to both of those anniversaries!

24. Take another friendscation.
ALREADY. SO. READY. TO. RAGE.

25. Do something risqué.
Liiiiiike take boudoir photos or go skinny-dipping. (Sorry Mom)

26. Come up with a system to keep track of when food goes bad and stop throwing away so much freaking produce.
So annoying. I can’t be the only one who’s bad at this.

26. Break out of my comfort zone and do adventurous things just because I can.
Geocaching, karaoke, trying more unique foods, picking up a new hobby, flying first class, taking a different class at the gym…I have plenty of ideas!

person reading book

28. Read at least one book out loud with Daniel every year.
We started doing this on long car trips a few years ago, and it’s enjoyable for both of us because Daniel is an auditory learner and I love to read aloud.

29. Save up for something expensive.
A new car? A home renovation? A crazy vacation? We’ll see!

30. Do some real landscaping in our front yard.
I’m envisioning more plants on the porch, solar lighting along the sidewalk, and maybe a tree or two.

31. Spend one year doing a “month without:” a month without Netflix, fried food, biting my nails, dessert, etc.
My friend Victoria inspired this one, although she actually gives up one thing every year for the entire year, and I’m not sure if I’m that hardcore…

person holding calendar at January

32. Make a calendar for all family/friend birthdays.
I have pretty much all of them on my phone, but I want an actual paper calendar or something so I can look at them all together and keep track of how many birthday cards I need to buy each month.

33. Host a beauty swap or clothing swap party.
I’ve done a clothing swap before, but never a beauty swap. Can’t wait to do this one!

34. Start recording my prayer requests.
I want to remember the days that I start praying about something and the days that God answers those prayers. Even if His answer is ‘no.’

35. Write letters to the 10 most influential people who have impacted my life.
Why do we wait until someone’s funeral to say the best things about them? I’m not waiting any longer. I never want someone I love to wonder how I really felt about them.

36. Play the piano every single week.
When Daniel and I got married, my dad gifted us a beautiful Kawai, and I am ashamed to tell you how often I actually play it. I want to get back to my roots and do that gift justice.

37. Remodel our downstairs bathroom.
That shower, y’all….it needs some help. Good thing I’ve got some contractors in the family!

38. Sponsor a child, and maybe even go meet him or her.
We can’t help every needy child. But maybe we can change the world for a few of them. ♥

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39. Invest in quality skincare and use it consistently.
Gah, I sound like such a grown-up.

40. Host a backyard dinner party, with multiple courses and everything.
This was one of my goals for the year in 2019, and I wasn’t able to make it happen between all of the weddings, parties, showers, and traveling. So I’m trying again!

*Bonus: Each year, visit a new place I’ve never been before. On my wishlist:
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
The Grand Canyon
Lake Moraine and Lake Louise in Banff, Canada
Switzerland
Redwood National Park

To see my original post about why I decided to do “30 By 30,” click here!

20 Things I Learned In My 20’s

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1. Aside from following Jesus, choosing who to marry was the most important decision I have ever made and will ever make. To my unmarried friends, I cannot emphasize this enough: CHOOSE WISELY, because that one choice will impact your entire future, literally.

2. Social media will enslave you if you let it. It’s subtle, but crippling. Don’t spend your whole life in front of a screen comparing your valleys to everyone else’s mountain tops. Every single person on earth, including the person you’re envying right now, is insecure and awkward and unsure and self-conscious about something.

3. Don’t be high-maintenance about everything, but it’s okay to figure out what’s worth being a little *boujee* about. For me, a few of those things are hair products, professional photography, and bedding (especially mattresses). Speaking of bedding, here’s another lesson I’ve learned – going to bed is freaking awesome. Can I cash in on all those naps I refused as a kid??

4. It’s okay to not know what you want to do with your life. It’s okay to change your mind a bunch of times. It’s okay to like 37 different things and have no clue how they all connect. Annnnd it’s okay to know exactly what you want to do and actually do it. All of those things are completely normal. You. are. normal.

5. Taking care of yourself becomes more difficult and more important as you get older. This is especially hard for parents and people-pleasers, because it feels selfish, but the truth is that if you spend all your energy pouring out and never allow yourself to be poured into, you will wear out. Count on it. It’s cliche but true that “You can’t pour from an empty cup.” So go take a hot bath. Play with a dog. Get coffee with a spiritually encouraging friend. Turn your phone off for a few hours. Spend one-on-one time with Jesus, because you will always need more of that. Taking care of yourself doesn’t have to be expensive or over-indulgent, but give yourself permission to intentionally rest and recharge sometimes without feeling guilty about it.

6. Community is absolutely vital. Find people who will walk shoulder-to-shoulder with you through the good, the bad, and the really bad, and cherish them. Tell them often that you love them, look for ways to serve them, and let them take care of you when you’re the one who needs help.

7. Break-and-bake cookies will never be as good as homemade ones. Stop being lazy and just buy some baking soda already.

8. Some stuff matters a lot less than you think it does, and some stuff matters a lot more than you think it does. For example: I always wanted to marry a guy who could sing. It was actually a deal-breaker for a really long time. But when I met Daniel, that *thing* that I had held up on a pedestal for so many years just wasn’t as important anymore. I would much rather keep him for all of his other qualities – his wit, integrity, discernment – than trade him out for a guy with a great voice. On the other hand, certain things about him have proven to be a lot more valuable than I expected. When I was writing down my list of qualifications for a husband as a boy-crazy tween, I never once considered asking God for a guy who was financially savvy. But that’s exactly what I got, and I cannot put into words how grateful I am for that undeserved gift from the Lord. Long story short? Some qualities are secondary (musical ability). Some are primary (wisdom). Know the difference, and don’t settle.

9. Call your parents more often. And your grandparents. Write them letters, even! They’ll love it, and no matter how much you do it, someday you’ll wish you had done it more.

10. Every New Year’s Eve, you’ll swear time can’t possibly go any faster than it already is. But it will keep happening, again and again. Every single year will go by faster than the one before it, faster than you can possibly imagine. So be present in each one. Don’t spend all your time waiting for the next thing. Just be, right where you are.

11. Money matters. It shouldn’t be the most important thing in your life, but it also shouldn’t be something you treat carelessly. If you spend spend spend without really thinking about where it’s all going, STOP. If your long-term plan doesn’t go any further than randomly tossing money into a savings account, STOP. Don’t be a slave to money, now or later. Make your money work for you. Ask God to make you a good steward, get some wise financial advice, give to your church and community with a generous heart, save up a little for an emergency, and then put the rest to work (rental properties, retirement accounts, etc.).

12. As much as I hate this fact…you can’t eat whatever you want and refuse to exercise without consequences. You may not notice those consequences until 5 years or 55 years go by, but you will pay the price eventually.

13. You HAVE to stop worrying so much about what other people think. Seriously. Sometimes, it does matter. But a lot of the time, it doesn’t. And half of the time, they probably aren’t even thinking about you anyway.

14. Go get a piece of paper and a pen. Got them? Good. I want you to write down your plan for your life, as many details as you want. All done? Perfect. Now crumple up that paper and throw it away. (Sorry if you actually took the time to write stuff down.) But seriously, so few things in life go the way we actually plan. And thank God for that. Because if my life had gone how I had planned, I would have gone to OU instead of OBU, which means I wouldn’t have met the guy in my J-term math class who told me I should work at Falls Creek. Those three summers on the ropes course ended up being one of the biggest spiritual turning points of my life. If life had gone how I’d planned, I would have married one of the hundreds of “good guys” from OBU and probably become a youth pastor’s wife, since that was my dream in high school. But instead, God introduced me to a finance major from another college in The-Middle-of-Nowhere (aka Durant, aka D-OK, aka The Shady 5-80) who has taught me more about myself, love, forgiveness, sarcasm, and nerd board games than anyone else I have ever met. And if life had gone how I’d planned, years of unexplained infertility would not have been part of my journey to parenthood. But if I hadn’t experienced that pain and loss, I would never have understood the power of fierce, healing, all-consuming love from God, our families, and our best friends the way I do now. God works ALL THINGS together for the GOOD of those who love Him and are called according to His purposes for them (Romans 8:28). I believe it because I’m living it.

15. Trying to change someone is a major waste of time. God is the only one who can cause genuine change in a person’s heart. Praying for them is much more effective, not to mention freeing.

16. Directly related to #15, an even harder lesson to learn is that sometimes, you are actually the one who needs to change. Contrary to what you might think, you aren’t right about everything.

17. Traveling is AWESOME. Go as many places as possible, as often as possible. You CAN afford it if you prioritize it and make decisions accordingly. But be prepared – there will always be at least one thing that doesn’t go as smoothly as you planned. Sometimes flights get changed, traffic makes you late, and stuff costs more than you thought it would…but it’s okay. Plan as much as you can, accept the things you have no control over with grace, and thank God for allowing you to travel as often as you do.

18. High heels are overrated. Do I wear them? Yes. Do I regret it 11 out of 10 times? Yes. Do I still continue wearing them? Also yes. (What? I’m a work in progress, people.)

19. You don’t have to have an eating disorder to have an unhealthy relationship with your body. Self-obsession and self-loathing are both forms of idolatry, and God did not create you for that nonsense.

20. Change is inevitable. And I still hate it. I think it’s instinct, human nature, to resist change internally, even if we try to appear flexible on the outside. Friendships evolve, some fading and some strengthening. Our bodies age. Our preferences change. We can’t fight the fact that things just don’t stay the same forever. But honestly…thank goodness. Can you imagine what life would be like if we never moved on from being a baby? Or from being a teenager?? I wouldn’t want to live in that world. Adulthood doesn’t necessarily mean liking all the changes that take place in your life. It’s just learning to accept them as gifts of love from the God who wrote your entire life story before you were even born. We can’t see the big picture, but He can. In seasons of good change and not so good, God is trustworthy, and He only gives good gifts. ♥

Hats off to my 20’s, the best decade of my life so far, and here’s hoping that my 30’s will be even better!

What I Know For Sure.

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Let’s start this off strong.

I don’t know a lot.

In fact, I feel like the older I get, the less I actually know. Does anybody else feel this way?? It’s like my brain is pulling a Benjamin Button. In every new life stage, I’m both the smartest and the dumbest that I’ve ever been.

But there are four things I know for sure:

  1. I’m not ‘enough.’
  2. Life is a series of waiting rooms, metaphorical and literal.
  3. The ‘hustle’ culture is overrated and damaging.
  4. I literally don’t know what I would do without God.
  5. I’m bad at math.

One of my goals for the year is to take a break from TV at least one day per week, and take a break from all social media platforms at least one day per month. Yesterday was my day off of social media, and I was shocked to discover how many times my fingers mindlessly wandered and opened those apps throughout the day. Of course, as soon as I did it, I would snap out of it and close the app. But still, I reflexively tapped those apps probably 20 times, and for no other reason than that I was bored. I wanted to know what was happening in the social world that day. I didn’t want to miss something ~iMpoRtAnt~ and be left out or left behind.

Adulthood is hard. I’ve talked a lot about that in various posts, but it bears repeating, especially because of the savage mischief-maker that is social media. Don’t get me wrong, it has its perks; after all, you’re probably reading this post right now because of some form of social media. And yet in spite of all the new connections it may spark, we’re lonelier and emptier than ever. I’m convinced that no generation has been more aware of all the things we don’t have. We are bombarded daily with hundreds of things that we’re supposed to know, be, have, and do. And a lot of us actually manage to keep up, or at least look like we’re keeping up. Sort of. But behind all of our photos and memories and virtual transparency (because it’s cool to be *real* now), we’re all still secretly terrified that it’s not enough. We don’t know enough, and we’re not doing enough.

Worst of all, though, is the fear that we ourselves are not enough.

And you know what? I think that fear is justified.

Because deep down, we already know that we aren’t enough.

We can’t create, curate, fabricate, or initiate enough beauty, humor, authenticity, popularity, or overall goodness to overcome the fact that

W E .  A R E .  N O T .  E N O U G H .

We will never be funny enough, pretty enough, smart enough, athletic enough, or good enough when the measuring stick is our own self-perception or the rest of the world’s standards. Telling ourselves we’re enough in the mirror or slapping the phrase on a t-shirt does little more than bury our fear underneath a mountain of self-focus and self-help. Ultimately, our merit and abilities won’t get us very far if the focus is on what WE can do, because at one point or another, we will inevitably fail. Our skills are limited. Our energy will run out. We can’t fix other people’s problems. We can’t even fix our own.

Guess what, though?

“Being enough” was never our job.

Jesus is enough for us.

He is strong enough, smart enough, worthy enough, perfect enough. We are made whole only through a relationship with Him, and until we surrender to Him completely, we will never be able to relieve the taunting, lingering ache of “not enough.” If Jesus was enough to satisfy the debt of every human being’s sin, once and for all, then He is enough for our day-to-day. And when we bravely and humbly tear down our altars to ourselves and lay our pride at His feet, we learn that our strength to do literally everything comes from Him. We discover that the absolute best place to be is NOT behind the wheel.

The truth is, I’m not in control. I want to be. But I’m not. And that is so counterculture. We are conditioned from an early age to believe – genuinely believe – that we have control over the outcomes in our lives. We are told that if we do A + B, we WILL get C. Our DIY #bossbabe world screams “You can do anything!!” and encourages us to hustle hustle hustle to get what we want, and we buy into the lie that if we work hard enough and believe hard enough and pray hard enough…we can make God do whatever we want Him to do.

That’s what we’re really saying.

It’s ugly, isn’t it?

We want so much to believe that we know what’s best, and that if God would just get on board, then everything would be golden.

But that’s not how it is.

The Bible says that God’s ways are higher than ours (Isaiah 55:8-9), and His sovereign Will always plays out exactly the way He planned from the very beginning (Proverbs 19:21). But we have hope, because He loves us (Ephesians 2:4-5) and everything He does is for our good (Romans 8:28). In the face of that kind of love, we can let go of the burden of trying to be enough for others, ourselves, and even God Himself. We can release our desperate desires to be famous for something; our need to be liked, respected, or envied; our unrealistic expectations; our selfish aspirations. We can be free, truly, and live a life marked by real joy and real peace.

It sounds contradictory, I know – giving up your autonomy and yet also being free. But it’s real. The most freedom I’ve ever felt in my life has come when I stop trying to control everything, surrender to God through prayer, and remind myself that not only is He big enough to handle my wants and my needs, but He is also worthy of my trust because He has a perfect track record and has never, ever failed to do what is best. If He thinks I need something, He’ll give it to me. If He thinks I don’t need something, He won’t give it to me. And even though I may not like it or understand it at the time, I will still choose to believe that He is right and He is worth following. After all, I don’t really have any right to hold anything back from a Person who gave up everything for me, who died so that I could live. I owe that Person everything, I think. ♥

20 Questions for 2019

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What was the best thing that happened this year?
Oh wow. I thought 2018 was good, but 2019 has been killer!! The three things that shine brightest in my mind are: (1) Robyn and Amanda’s weddings, (2) Planning my first wedding, and (3) Going on our second friendscation cruise but with wayyyy more people this time around and it was THE BEST WEEK!

What was the most challenging thing that happened this year?
Saying goodbye to our old community group. It was healthy and thriving, and we were asked to help combine two other existing groups and foster a new environment of unity, trust, and affection for each other, just like we had with our first group. I had a really hard time with it at first, even though I knew it’s what we were supposed to do. But God worked things together so beautifully, and now I look forward to Tuesday nights every single week. I love them all so much!

Who were your most valuable friendships with?
My Lakepoint people. Directly related to my last answer, I have been astounded by how quickly I’ve bonded with people within our community. There are people in our previous group and even our current group that I saw at church every Sunday but never had much of a friendship with, and now I can’t imagine going a single week without seeing them. My heart literally hurts when we are apart for a long time.

What are some new skills that you learned?
I tried aerial yoga for the first time, and I got a lot more confident with normal yoga! I also planned my first wedding as a paid event coordinator, and it was freaking unreal!!

Pick three words to describe this year.
Honestly? I want to keep my words from last year: Fun, restoring, & enlightening.

What was your biggest personal change from January to December?
I’m finally starting to care about my health. I still don’t really enjoy working out or eating right, but I had a pretty big mental breakthrough when I did Keto again before our cruise, and I am determined to keep that healthy mindset alive in 2020.

What was the best book you read this year?
Passion and Purity by Elisabeth Elliot or The Mystery of Marriage by Mike Mason. Both offer invaluable insight about God and marriage for anyone, whether married or single.

What did you do to serve others this year?
Too many things to name at Lakepoint. I also volunteered downtown as a Durant Main Street Influencer, and I did Meals on Wheels with some coworkers.

Name a couple of positive memory-making experiences from 2019.
In addition to everything I mentioned in the first question…Durant was a finalist in the Small Business Revolution competition, we spent a weekend in Dallas with the Burnses, Ezra James was born, we traveled to D.C. to see the Burkes, we spent our anniversary weekend with the Wesberrys, and Craft Pies Pizza Co. opened downtown!

What 2019 accomplishments are you most proud of?
This might sound stupid, but between huge projects at work, planning Nicole’s wedding, and preparing to leave for the cruise the day after said wedding, September and October were two of the longest months of my life, haha! My mind is still blown every time I try to figure out how I got so much done the week before the wedding.

What are some things you’ve learned to accept this year?
Two big things! First, a lot of things I freak out about really aren’t that big of a deal, and I just need to get over myself. And second, marriage doesn’t look anything like what you see in the movies. Even 7½ years in, I still catch myself expecting Daniel to read my mind and say all the right things at just the right time, but I feel like I’m ending 2019 in a more realistic, patient, forgiving place than where I started.

In what ways did you grow spiritually?
For the first time in my life, I spent time in the Word EVERY SINGLE DAY this year. It has truly become part of my daily routine, and I can’t go to bed without doing it. I’ve also gotten a lot better at praying for Daniel every day and reflexively surrendering my thoughts to the Lord.

What did you gain in 2019? What did you lose?
Gained = new friendships through our new community group, and a general sense of “okay-ness” with who I am. I’m finding a happy medium between pride and self-loathing.
Lost = weight! lol

Name a difficult situation you overcame.
Truthfully, each one that came to mind is a little too personal to blog, and even more truthfully, I don’t really feel like I’ve overcome most of them – I’m still in the midst of a couple of messes. But as the year comes to an end, I can confidently say that life is still good, my faith family is a taste of Heaven, and I trust God completely with my future.

What is something you want to do better in 2020?
I want to be less self-centered as a wife, coworker, family member, and friend. And I want to plan more parties and weddings!

What was the best thing you did with your time this year?
Host people in our home. Nothing else compares to fun nights with people I love in my favorite place to be. ♥

What was the single biggest time-waster in your life this year?
Games on my phone. *I know, I’m a child*

What are you most grateful for in 2019?
If it’s not obvious already, Lakepoint Community Church, and everything that has come along with it.

What do you want to leave behind in 2019?
Hurt feelings, awkward conversations, impatience, and laziness.

Who do you want to be in 2020?
Emotionally strong. Brave. Fun. Whole.

Maybe 2019 was an amazing year and all your dreams came true! (And if so, just shut up and enjoy being a Disney princess.) Or maybe this year completely sucked, and you’ve been ready for 2020 since June. Either way, we can’t successfully walk into the future without making peace with our past, whether it was good or bad. I can’t think of a better way to close the book on 2019. Feel free to join in and answer them for yourself!

Robyn’s Wedding Shenanigans

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2019 was the year of  LOVE, LOVE, LOVE. After my sister-in-law Amanda’s wedding in March, I immediately started gearing up for the next one – this time, for my sister Robyn and her beau Travis! (Okay, let’s be honest…I started planning Robyn’s wedding shenanigans the day after she got engaged.)

Her bachelorette party was easily one of my favorites I’ve ever hosted! We ate dinner first at The Hall’s Pizza Kitchen, and then walked next door to do an escape room. One of my favorite things about that night was giving Robyn a temporary tattoo of Travis’s face!

After the escape room, we retreated to an Airbnb and enjoyed Princess Diaries-themed snacks. The next morning, after brunch at a place called Hatch, we went to an aerial yoga class, and it was a BLAST!

A few weeks before the wedding, my parents’ church hosted a wedding shower for them, and I got to spend some sweet time with my mom and grandmas.

Her rehearsal was lovely too, and we got to eat at The Pizza Factory for the rehearsal dinner, where the ranch dressing is so good you seriously contemplate drinking it. (Also, can you tell we like pizza…?)

Her wedding day was the absolute dreamiest – gorgeous venue, chill bride, sweet vendors, all kinds of family and friends…ahh!! It was the best day!

I’m convinced that one of the best things about going to weddings as an adult is getting to see people you haven’t seen in years. Robyn’s wedding was basically just a huge reunion, and I loved it. ♥

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Image may contain: Robyn Haynes and Travis Haynes, people smiling, wedding and outdoor

I love you five-ever, Robyn and Travis! So happy we’re family!

Amanda’s Wedding Festivities

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Remember when I shared that BOTH of my sisters got engaged in the same weekend?? Their weddings were both this year, one in March and one in June! I’m definitely playing catch-up here, but I am so excited to finally share some photos with you all.

The first wedding of the year was for my sister-in-law, Amanda, and her guy, Ryan, and I hosted a travel-themed wedding shower for them through our church.

I also had the honor of throwing her bridal shower based off of “The Office” at my house, and it was such a riot!! I’ve never had so much fun blowing balloons up halfway, haha!

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Amanda’s maid of honor, Alesha, did a fabulous job planning her bachelorette party too! We went to dinner at this super cute (and delicious) place in Dallas called Ida Claire, did an escape room, spent the night at an Airbnb, and went to Six Flags for opening weekend!

Her wedding day was pure craziness, especially when the cold front rolled in as the girls were taking pictures. But the ceremony was the sweetest, the reception was a blast, and she looked SO beautiful!!

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Congratulations again, Ryan and Amanda! Love you guys so much! ♥