Life Lessons + Books · Uncategorized

Belonging

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Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air, are heading home again. Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, the world offers itself to your imagination, calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting – over and over announcing your place in the family of things. – Wild Geese by Mary Oliver

In April I went on retreat with some of the girls from my small group. In a challenging season, I was eager desperate to get away from the chaos. My pastor always says that “a change in pace plus a change in place equals a change in perspective.” I really needed a new perspective. While excited to travel with the girls, I was anxious. Exactly how much togetherness time would there be? This introvert needed to know! My friend and small group leader both reassured me that there would be plenty of opportunities for alone time. YES!

Y’all, the weekend was amazing. The retreat home where we stayed was beautiful. No detail was overlooked, from the room themes down to the linens. There were designated quiet spaces, a plethora of books inviting us to journey through their pages, and an observatory. Friends, there was even a Narnia closet that led to a rooftop perch looking out onto the property. Space and hospitality matter to me, and from the moment I walked in my spirit was at peace. I am so grateful that over the weekend, I was able to find rest, connect with nature, and bond with the girls.

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On Sunday, we sang songs, read scriptures, and took communion. As my friend passed us the bread she whispered, “The body of Christ, broken for you.” Something about the words she spoke, heard countless times, resonated with me in a new way.

On this day, it really resonated with me that Christ’s body was not just broken.

It was broken for ME, for Stacy.

So that I could walk more closely with him and others.

As I looked around the room, I was struck with a sense of greater belonging. Here with these girls, I was accepted and appreciated for who I was {Click to tweet}. I struggle with rejection, and until that moment I didn’t realize how much I was waiting for a moment of rejection, which never came.

When I first joined the group, I was still healing from some relational wounds. I was hesitant to connect with others, especially in a group setting. But I felt the Lord nudging me to say yes. Ironically, a book study drew me in – Jesus knew that was all it took!

A book started it all, but it led to something greater. Spending time around the table and doing life with this group of girls allowed God to make me vulnerable enough, and pull me close enough to whisper my name and say Stacy, you are accepted. You belong. You are not alone on this journey {Click to tweet}. I went seeking answers to my chaos; instead God gave me an even greater gift.

Friends, I hope this encourages you and that you hear the truth in these words for yourself.

The body of Christ, broken, for you.

Here’s to friendships, retreats, and a deep sense of belonging.

Devotions by Mary Oliver

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This week’s book recommendation is a poetry book called Devotions, by Mary Oliver. This poetry anthology is comprised of poems written by Mary Oliver over the years. I discovered her work several years ago when a dear friend share the poem, “Wild Geese” with me. Even now it is such an encouraging message for me, for all of us. That we belong. We have a place and life is calling out to us to discover more of it.

I discovered Devotions at the retreat house, and it was the perfect read for my weekend away. While I have not completed the entire book of Devotions, I recommend this book to you. I hope the words speak to your heart.

What has helped you on your journey for belonging? Are you still searching? Leave a comment below.

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Seasons Change

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Spring is {finally} here and summer is just around the corner. Insert praise hands emoji here. Read to the end for some exciting news about the blog!

I have missed sharing my stories and reflections with you. I’ve let the chaos and stress of life keep me away. Lately, Jesus is nudging me back to writing. Whispering that I was made to do this. This is my space, and if my voice is silent, there is no replacement. So I am excited to be back with you, sharing my crazy stories and encouraging words with you.

Anyone who knows me irl (in real life) could tell you how much I enjoy stories. Interesting stories just seem to find me, even when I am not looking for them. Sometimes I really wish they wouldn’t LOL!

I get a kick out of telling stories about people I meet and the circumstances we find ourselves in. I try to provide as much detail as possible, so much so that my listeners are almost in the story with me, roaring with laughter by the end of the telling.

I love the power of stories to connect us to each other.

I feel the same way about books. In middle school, I discovered that books can make you laugh, cry, and think. Books make the world come alive. By the time I’ve finished a great book, the characters are friends that I have come to love.

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That look on your face when you just finished a really good book! Or is it just me?

I am always reading at least three books at once, content to find a cozy corner of the world to snuggle up in with a really good read. A bit socially awkward, I admit, I once ignored a room full of people at a party to go explore the bookcase. Thankfully, a more socially adjusted person reminded me to be present with those around me.

But I always feel that pull. Is it clear yet that my love of storytelling knows no bounds?

Just as books can make us feel joy, sadness, and make us think, I am also a firm believer in the ability of books to facilitate healing. That has been my experience over the past few years. Just the right book at just the right time made it’s way into my hands by divine providence. A gift from a friend, Little Library find, or a book that was already in my possession, kept safe for the appropriate time.

Those books were a balm to my open wounds of fear of the unknown, dealing with change/loss, letting go of striving for perfection,…you name it. I remember finishing one book in less than 48 hours. The author’s words and the work of the Holy Spirit within me made it just what I needed.

Now, I find myself dispensing book recommendations the way some doctors dispense pain medications. Bibliotherapy, if you will. As much as I love sharing my stories with others, I enjoy sharing book recommendations just as much.

Which is why I am excited to share that my blog, like the season, is making a shift. For each blog post, I will will share a reflection or story from life paired with a great book recommendation. Each book that I post is one that I have read from cover-to-cover (with the exception of some poetry anthologies). These are books that challenged me to grow and helped me through the hard times. My prayer and heart’s desire and that these books will also bring healing to your hearts, wherever you are on the journey.

Here’s to new seasons, return to writing, and really good books.

Will you join me?

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Overcoming Fear

Faith is Risky Business
Faith is Risky Business

Hi friends!

It feels like ages since I’ve written in this space. How I have missed sharing about life lessons and fun adventures, and I look forward to sharing more in 2018. For now, please join me over at God-Sized Dreams as we continue to read “You’re Made for a God-Sized Dream” by Holley Gerth. My blog today talks about facing fears pertaining to your  dreams (chapter 5, Overcoming Fears). I hope you’ll join me at http://www.godsizeddreams.com. Leave a comment to let me know you stopped by!

Blessings,

Stacy

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5 Practical Tips to Realizing Your Dream

You said YES to the dream God placed in your heart. You might ask, “Now what?” It can be scary to take the first step, so here are 5 practical tips to achieving your dream.

Pray

Pray without ceasing. – 1 Thessalonians 5:17 ESV

First, seeking God’s voice through prayer has to be at the center of your dream journey. God is the source of creativity, vision, and everything that is good, including the dream He placed in your heart. 

Friend, when God made us in His image, He included that same creativity. We can be creative and dream big dreams because His spirit is within us. Have a conversation and brainstorm with God about where to start first. God didn’t give you this dream to send you off alone. Invite Him into the process by asking what He thinks!

As I began my dream, there were days when I felt crystal clear about my focus, but I noticed there were times when I felt confused. When those times came, I pressed in, prayed again, and sure enough God would open my eyes and remind me of the goal. Press in at every stage.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

I’m over at God-sized Dreams today.

Please click here to continue reading at God-sized Dreams!

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Whole30 Recap with Photos & Recipes

Happy Saturday, friends! I’m officially three weeks post-Whole30, and I have a lot to share with you, from overall experiences to crazy dreams and even recipes I think you’ll love!

Overall Experience

My initial concern with doing Whole30 was that I would not be able to complete it, or that I would feel so deprived during it that basically I would end up rolling around in carbs a week later.

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Yup kinda like that. But surprisingly enough, I made it through without the carb fest. YAY ME! I My overall experience with Whole30 was fantastic. Here are several observations about my experience. Survival tactics, if you will.

I was thinking about food and planning for food all the time. This is because I had to prep everything to make sure I excluded the non-compliant items from my meals. Even on my longest days, I was roasting veggies at 11 pm – otherwise I might be without food for the next few days.

Without working a plan, I would not survive. It helps if you have a plan in advance. So I planned meals for the week in advance, grocery shopping days (Fridays after work), and cooking days (Saturdays, Sundays, and during the week if needed).

I had to change where I shopped and it was difficult to find some foods that were Whole30 compliant. No shade to Safeway or Harris Teeter, but there were items that I could only find at Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods (i.e. sugar free salad dressing, Coconut Aminos, etc.). Although further away from home, many items are cheaper at Trader Joe’s (um, hello eggs for 99 cents a dozen!); however even at TJ’s and Whole Foods I had to scrutinize labels for added ingredients. Meanwhile, I saw online that somewhere out there is Whole30 approved Salami. Well my quest ended empty handed so I determined that to be a lie…still salty about that one.

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I could play it safe, or I could enjoy my food and this experience. Who wants to eat roasted chicken and veggies every day for 30 days? Not this girl. In the past, I have done the Daniel Fast and not really planned my meals. The result? I was miserable, underfed, and frustrated by the time the fast ended. I wanted this program to be successful and result in lasting changes, so I followed @Whole30, @Whole30recipes, and others on Instagram for exciting recipes. I was very pleased, and found several recipes that will become staples in my meal planning. This proved to me that food could be healthy and fun too!

My cravings didn’t go away. Whoever told that lie, shame on you! Truthfully, I know that everyone’s body is different, so maybe this is true for some. While my “wanting” sugary items did not subside, I did not give into the urge to eat that doughnut. My goal and my commitment were stronger than my urge for the contraband items. Instead of eating a cookie, I had a piece of fruit, or a Larabar (made with 100% fruit).

I was fuller longer. This is a definite win. This is not a weight loss plan, and I didn’t weigh myself before starting; however, I noticed that my paints fit much looser by the end of the 30 days. WIN WIN!

I dreamed a dream of time gone by… Not really. But I did have two (not one but two) dreams about mayonnaise. In the first dream, I realized I was about to purchase mayo made from chickpeas (and chickpeas are off limits in Whole30 LOL). In the second dream, I dreamt that I was spreading mayo onto bread and realized it was not Whole30 approved mayo (um, neither is the bread!). I never had any conscious cravings for mayonnaise, but my subconscious made sure to remind that I was missing something. So weird! And stressful and funny all at the same time!

I think the Whole30 life is for me! While I have transitioned, I have noticed some foods no longer serve me well, so I plan to eliminate those. I plan to continue checking food labels and resuming Whole30 for a longer period of time, with hopes to see even more results!

Some of the meals I prepared for Whole30

Breakfast

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Lunch/Dinner

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Whole30 Snacks and Beverages* 

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*During my Whole30, plantain chips, kale chips, and other pre-made chips were removed from the approved list, due to their becoming “food without breaks.” Also the plantain chips say roasted but in fact they are fried!

Recipes

As promised, here are a few of my fave Whole30 recipes! For more, check out @whole30recipes on Instagram!

Sweet & Sticky Wings

Baked Lemon Herb Tilapia

Apple Cider Braised Chicken & Collards

Basic Bolognese Sauce with Spaghetti Squash

 If you’ve tried Whole30, I’d love to hear how it went for you! Please share in the comments!

 

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A Few of My Favorite Things: March

I love connecting people with resources to improve their lives. I’ve discovered some new favorites that inspire me, keep me organized, grow my faith, and are just plan fun. There’s so many that I couldn’t post them all at once, so periodically I will share cool new finds here. My #hope is that you too might find a new favorite!

NPR’S HOW I BUILT THIS PODCAST

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As a lover of all things podcast, I learned about HIBT from one of my besties who also enjoys a great podcast. One listen and I was hooked! In one week’s time, I listened to seven interviews with Guy Raz. So far I’ve learned about the creation of Instagram, Airbnb, Radio One, Honest Tea, Atari & Chuck E. Cheese’s (both created by the same person) and more!

Guy Raz is an amazing storyteller/developer. I love how he gets the interviewees to open up about their idea development, funding, life philosophies and how they handled the curveballs when things didn’t go as planned. The well-timed music brings you into the story with them.

A good failure is good for your soul. There’s nothing worse than feeling like you are invincible and really cool and entitled…The cure? Getting out of your comfort zone. – Nolan Bushnell, Founder of Atari and Chuck E. Cheese’s

If you are an entrepreneur who is in the process of building something, this podcast is for you. It shares the ups and downs of how entrepreneurs and business leaders who seem “larger than life” got their start in building their empires. If they can do it, so can we!

Whether you’re a podcast beginner or connoisseur, I recommend you give How I Built This a try. #trypod  You can subscribe to How I Built this using the Podcast app on your smartphone, or here.

TOOLS OF TITANS by Tim Ferris

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Photo Credit: Goodreads

Tim Ferris of The Tim Ferris Show, compiled this book of golden nuggets from the interviews he conducted on his show. Tools of Titans is divided into three sections: healthy, wealthy, and wise, with additional non-interview sections written by Tim.

I read that making your bed everyday begins a chain reaction of success for your day, and that you return to that at the end of the day. Since then, I have made my bed daily for the past three months, and it truly does make a difference in the starting and ending of my day. Hooray for that small but powerful changes!

I am still processing Paulo Coelho’s advice to “throw away the notebook and let the essential things remain.” Say what?! I am the Queen of Notetaking! However, I take notes now, I ask myself what’s most important to remember – and maybe that’s the essence behind Mr. Coelho’s advice.

If you aren’t a super fitness buff, the healthy section might throw you for a loop, as a lot of the advice seems to be advance level. Don’t let that stop you from reading this gem! It doesn’t have to be read the same way as a traditional book. I like to select interviews at random, then check off the completed chapters on the table of contents. Feel free to skip around at your pleasure – consider it a buffet of wisdom.

On a final note, this collection of interviews is massive, and therefore is not commuter friendly. I recommend this being an at-home read, which works for me. To learn more about Tools of Titans and where to buy it, please visit https://toolsoftitans.com/.

THE DAILY GRACE CO. BIBLE STUDY: HIS LOVE NEVER FAILS (HOSEA)

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God put it on my heart to study the book of Hosea, and I’m enjoying The Daily Grace Company’s study. Each week’s section begins with a full page scripture for memorization. Each day of the study shares a correlating scripture about God’s goodness and redeeming love.

There is a written devotional that correlates with each chapter of Hosea, and sometimes the chapter is broken down over multiple days for deeper study. A section for journaling thoughts and prayers is included. The verses of Hosea are written out, so make sure you have your Bible!

It is mind-blowing to read about God’s steadfast, unfailing love for His people, even when we reject Him and put others in His place. It is a beautiful story of God’s pursuit of us. The pages bring to the surface God’s emotions about his faithless people, but it also reveals love, #hope and redemption as God calls our hearts back to Him, the True Lover of our souls.

Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her. And there I will give her her vineyards and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth, as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt. – Hosea 2:14-15, ESV

If you are in a season where you need refreshing or just a reminder of God’s goodness, mercy, and unfailing love, I recommend reading Hosea and this study. Find His Love Never Fails and other great Bible resources here.

Thanks for stopping by and stay tuned for the next My Favorite Things post! If you check out any of these resources, please share your thoughts in the comments. I’d love to hear from you!

Feature photo credit: CreateHER Stock

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Observing Lent

This year for Lent I will do the Whole30 Plan with a group of friends. What’s funny is that when I came across Whole30 at the beginning of the year, I saw all of the “restrictions” and said oh no, this is not for me. There’s no way I can give up “all the things.” Well as usual when I say I am not doing something, God simply says, “Oh really?  Well, we will see about that.”

I love God’s sense of humor.

Except when it involves me giving up carbs and all forms of sugar.

Fast forward a few weeks later, and I found myself at brunch with some friends, one of whom had just completed her third Whole30 and said she felt great. Everyone was curious about it so we asked her tons of questions about her process and any changes she noticed before and after. We were all so intrigued.

Friends, I should have known that Papa was up to something.

But I was too busy enjoying my Star of Africa tea (ahem, with honey, not allowed on Whole30) and my amazing Greek dish (with feta cheese, also not allowed on Whole30) to notice what was happening.

I am sure you can guess what happened next. Somewhere in the midst of conversation we all decided that we would do the Whole30 together beginning March 6 (after our girl’s birthday of course, no one is giving up sugar and dairy on their birthday!).

I said yes…with excitement. What had happened to me? Where was my resolve that I would not give up all the things? Friends, it is probably floating in the Jamaican waters along with my resolve to not go snorkeling with my mission team…which I ended up doing haha! You can read about that experience here. So much for my resolve.

 

Photos courtesy of whole30.com

But truthfully I was excited. I was excited to try a new challenge for Lent, and knowing that I wasn’t alone made me more excited for the journey. Life was truly meant to be done in community. I found resources to help me with meal planning, along with It Starts with Food, the book that explains the science behind the Whole30 plan. And thanks to Instagram, I’ve found some recipes that are Whole30 compliant. YAY!

Part of tackling the scary things is equipping yourself with resources and support. I’ve since shared my plan with three other friends and now they are on board too! From March 6 – April 6 I commit to a Whole30 eating plan, as well as sustaining my fitness plan (currently at the end of a 21 day fitness challenge woot woot!).

I asked myself what do I hope to learn, and how do I hope to grow through this process? As I sacrifice these things, I want to grow in intimacy with Christ. Grower closer to God is always the desire regardless of what I am fasting. I anticipate that God will give me new eyes to see the abundance of good, healthy choices I have instead of focusing on what I think I am missing. I anticipate noticing changes in the way my body runs based on the “fuel” that I give it. It’s my hope that I will also make some long term changes for the better after this process is done. These are just a few things I am praying will happen as I am on this journey.

I look forward to sharing snippets of the journey here with you.

So in a few days, I must bid my new favorite bagel place and beloved cups of honey-laced tea adieu. Excited about how I will learn, grow, and be challenged to leave my comfort zone. And thanking God that I can still have BACON.

Do you have a special way of honoring the Lenten season?

How can you incorporate community this season?