Book Club · Book Review · Devotional · faith · Life Lessons + Books · Uncategorized

Whispers of Rest Book Club

In my last blog post, I shared with you about Whispers of Rest, a 40 day devotional that encourages resting in God’s presence as well as taking care of your soul.

I am excited to share that the author Bonnie Gray is hosting an online book club to read through the devotional together, beginning May 11, 2020. I love that Bonnie is walking us through a season of growing closer to God during this time of worldwide pandemic. She is so passionate about us finding rest, finding joy, and taking good care of our souls.

For more information about the Whispers of Rest Book Club, check out her introductory video. You can also visit www.whispersofrest.com.

Bonus: As of yesterday, Whispers of Rest eBook is only $1.99 at amazon.com! I am not sure how long this reduced price will last, but it’s a great deal if you are interested in reading the book!

For more information on Bonnie Gray’s writings, you can visit her on Instagram.

Let me know if you decide to read along with us! I’ve got my book, and I am ready!

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Book Review · Devotional · faith · Life Lessons + Books · poetry · Uncategorized

Hustle or Rest?

For the past couple of weeks, I have seen conflicting messages on social media about how we should spend our time during COVID-19. People are telling us to “seize the day,” and become better, faster, stronger, and happier during this current season. Basically, do ALL the things; and if we don’t do ALL thing things then maybe we never really wanted to do them after all. Others are encouraging us to slow down. They remind us that we aren’t meant to hustle all the time; we should take this time rest and savor. Basically, stop trying to fill every single hour with something. I can see the value of both perspectives. I have made a mental list of ways I can make this prolonged time at home more useful. Organize that closet, clean out my pantry, etc. Other times, I want to take part in the world’s slowing down. Read a book, or put my hands to work on a puzzle or craft, with a generous mug of tea or glass of wine. Spend more time in prayer and reflection. To allow myself to rest and just BE. To enjoy living life.

So, which is it?

Which is the best course of action for us to leave our time of quarantine less frazzled than when we came into it? Do we take advantage of the flexible schedule and hustle, or do we linger and allow ourselves to feel the shift and process all that it means?

Friend, I think the answer is to do whatever feels right in your heart for you to do.

Tune out the shouting voices of the world and listen for the still small voice to guide you. 

If you feel a quickening in your spirit that NOW is the time to move towards fulfilling your purpose, then seize the opportunity. Work hard, but set boundaries to include things you love to do. If you have been feeling frayed around the edges for much too long, then now is the time for you to rest guilt free, friend. Allow yourself to breathe, allow yourself to be loved by God, trusting in His love in all seasons.

Truthfully, regardless of whether or not you find this to be a hustle season or a rest season, moving the needle towards more balance is a healthy goal. (Keep in mind that balance does not mean a perfect schedule.) The LAST thing that any of us needs during a global pandemic is to have a massive guilt trip about productivity. Friends, let’s not put any more pressure on ourselves than we would if there wasn’t a stay at home order. This has nothing to do with laziness, but it does point us to Sabbath.

I listen to the BEMA Podcast hosted by Marty Solomon and Brent Billings, and it examines the Bible within historical and cultural contexts. I love the definition of Sabbath presented in one of the earliest episodes: “we rest, we play, no work, God loves us.” They reminds listeners that God loves us regardless of circumstances, accomplishments, or even an ordered life. I love this. How often do we think that God’s love for us is based upon what we do or how much we accomplish? How wonderful to be reminded of the truth that we are loved simply for being His beloved.

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Today you and I have a choice:

We can stop,

Be still and breathe.

Rest with Jesus and hear him whisper,

Be beloved, not busy. Come away with me. Today. – Day Three, Whispers of Rest by Bonnie Gray

This week’s encouraging read is Whispers of Rest: 40 Days of God’s Love to Revitalize Your Soul, by Bonnie Gray.  Whether you are in a quiet season due to stay at home orders or continuing to work, this devotional will invite you on a journey of resting in God’s presence without agenda. Beautifully written, Whispers of Rest walks us through forty days of unhurried experience in becoming the beloved of Christ. This devotion is unique in that each day is composed of a scripture and passage reading, reflection questions to apply the Word to your life, and a prayer. Bonnie also includes Soul Care Tips that invite rest and increase joy. I especially love the prompts to enjoy nature and art. It was nice to read that looking at photographs of happy memories can increase our joy in the present. Although I’d already read this book a while back, I recently decided to pick it up again for a second read. I can’t wait to slow down and receive spiritual, emotional, and physical rest.

So go forth and dream, if that’s what your heart is calling you to do. Whatever you choose, choose to rest in God, knowing that we are His beloved, regardless of our output or accomplishments during this time.

You are loved.

 

Book Review · faith · Life Lessons + Books · Transition/Change · Uncategorized · Year in Review

Home is Where the Heart Is

Hello, world! I’m back! Did you miss me?!

I certainly missed being here with you. I am excited to return to my corner of the world where I can share my stories, good reads, and encouragement. So grab your cup of tea (or coffee!) and join me for an update.

The past year and a half has been a whirlwind, to say the least. The last time I wrote was shortly after relocating back to Memphis, and I was reflecting over the past year. Relocating proved to be a bittersweet and, at times, challenging experience. Four months in, I was adjusting to a new job, crashing temporarily on my mom’s couch, and acclimating to a new city culture (Regardless of what people say, DC may be south of the Mason-Dixon line, but it certainly ain’t the South!). The safety net of my community of fourteen years, and my beloved church family were behind me. I went from a place where I was loved and known to a place where I’d need to build new relationships from scratch, aside from family and a couple of friends.

For those first few months, all I could think about was what I’d lost, what I’d left behind. I’d start looking for a favorite book, or an engraved spoon, some trinket that held sentimental value to me. A book that I just knew I would never give away was not there. I would frantically search the boxes for it again. Then, I’d remember. I’d given it to a good friend, donated it to goodwill, or, simply forgotten to pack it and left it behind in the furnished apartment. It may sound silly, crying over an object as small as a spoon or a book. But when you have left everything behind, sometimes it is the little things that bring comfort and make a place feel like home.

The grief of loss was so heavy on me that I could not fully celebrate the new beginning I was being given. Make no mistake – I love my family dearly, and I am so happy to be closer to them. I can actually attend my nephew’s special school events, and be here for all the family fun. One of the best times this year was celebrating my mom’s birthday and retirement. SO thankful that I could be here for this day, one that I have prayed for many times!

I knew this move was God’s plan based on how everything worked out so quickly (talk about a testimony!). In talking with friends and mentors, I was encouraged to stop going through the motions of life, to put my heart into Memphis. And so I have. They said that these things take time, and so they did. What they say is true: home is where the heart is, and my heart is in Memphis. The grief of lost things has subsided, friendships are being rekindled and new ones forming. I am active in my new church home, and life is moving forward. I am excited and expectant for what the future holds. Now, I realize that sometimes for even deeper healing and growth, we have to go back to where our story begins. Even if that means walking into the unexpected – which leads to my book recommendation of the week.

 

Unexpected

Unexpected: Leave Fear Behind, Move Forward in Faith, Embrace the Adventure by Christine Caine is a book about dealing with life as it comes, especially when something happens that we didn’t see coming. We can all relate to this right now. I read this book with Propel Book Club last year, and it was so encouraging. In light of our current unexpected times, it felt only right to recommend this book to you too.  Christine Caine covers multiple facets of the unexpected, such as when the unexpected brings fear, disappoints, requires risk, or interrupts. Armed with scripture, she walks us through how we can handle unexpected situations and emerge stronger. In the chapter “When the Unexpected Brings Fear,” Caine writes, “perhaps in the days in which we live, we can confound people by responding in faith instead of fear, by letting our lights shine so bright that they dispel all the darkness around us.”  Friends, now is the time for us to let our lights shine and push back the darkness.

Wherever you are on your journey, regardless of your current situation, I pray that you are able to face this unexpected season with faith, courage, and boldness, and that you come out stronger on the other side. May God grant you peace, give you hope for the future, and restore all that has been lost. On the difficult days, just remember: these things take time. This too shall pass.

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#OneWord365 · Uncategorized · Year in Review

Finding the Joy {in Pictures}

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Joy. That was my #oneword365 for 2018. I sat in the bathtub on New Year’s Eve trying to remember what it was.

I’ve been choosing one word to guide my year since 2014, and not once had I reached year’s end without being able to recall which word I had chosen that year.

Gosh. Where had I gotten off track?

I remember choosing the word and not really telling more than a couple of friends. I chose a one year devotional about how to find joy everyday. Maybe somewhere deep down I felt like it was doomed from the start. Unhappy with my current season, things seemed to get worse instead of better. Where would I find joy?

One prompt of the journal was to interview others on what joy meant to them. I asked my person, and she said joy, to her, meant “deep seated happiness.” I didn’t understand what she meant, and I didn’t ask.

I never made it past the three or four month mark in the devotional.

Fast forward several months later, less than two hours before the New Year, I struggled to process whether or not “deep seated happiness” had shown up in my year. At that moment I remembered something from one of my favorite devotionals, Whispers of Rest by Bonnie Gray. She mentioned that looking at pictures from the past has been shown to lift one’s mood. I thought if I reviewed my pictures from the past year I could get a sense of where the joy may have shown up in 2018.

So I picked up my phone, and as I (carefully) reclined in the hot water, I scrolled as far back as I could go in 2018 in pictures.

As I looked at all my pictures – at all of the life I lived these past 12 months – I saw it.

 

Not always a loud and in your face joy. But I found joy in the little (and sometimes big) moments of my life that I shared with those around me. Many of them were not even public or publicized events, but I felt the joy just reflecting on the moments that I captured.

I remembered the bittersweet and painful moments too. Those were not absent by far in 2018. By mid year my stress and anxiety had reached an all time high, and I cried out to God wondering where the answers were to all my questions.

Even still, I found the joy of the Lord, present and active in my life. Waiting for me to acknowledge it.

I found it while celebrating with and being celebrated by my beloved community over coffees, dinners, and bonfires. In framily reunions that spanned airports, states, and continents.

I also saw evidence of joy in the random moments on the stoop talking with my neighbors, and playing with their dogs, and later in sharing my neighboring story with others in my church.

I welcomed joy with open arms when my niece (who we thought was a nephew – SURPRISE!) was born, and when I finally got to meet her in Ghana!

 

Even in saying goodbye to a home I’ve loved for 18 years, there was joy to be found – the joy of a season well lived and well loved.

And finally, I found that joy has also been part of my journey as I rediscover my hometown, my family, and myself.

When I found the joy this New Year’s Eve, I cried. I thanked God for joy. Even when it isn’t apparent and we have to search it out. Everyday life moments are filled to the brim with joy – if we open ourselves to it.

2018 taught me to take the leap and build wings on the way down. 2019, I look forward to catching the wind and flying high.

Cheers to a new year, with new opportunities to search out the joy. I hope you find it too, friend. Just keep looking.

 

Book Review · Life Lessons + Books · Love & Relationships · poetry · Uncategorized

Review: HIM by Pierre Alex Jeanty

HIM

Today is a much anticipated day! If you’ve been following me on Instagram over the past several weeks, you’ll know how excited I’ve been to share my review of HIM – Pierre Alex Jeanty’s newest non-fiction poetry book that releases tomorrow. (I received a free copy of the book to review for the release).

Pierre writes about his journey through manhood and relationships. In his own words, Jeanty wants to “inspire men to become better, and to be a voice of hope to women who have lost faith in good men.” In a world that degrades women, he speaks words of life, value, and appreciation that go far beyond the physical. Where society works overtime to present men in a one-dimensional light, Jeanty’s writing adds flesh to the bare bones that the world would have us believe about men. Through sharing his journey, he opens the door for us to see a multi-faceted view of men – one filed with great depth, richness, and breathtaking vulnerability.

HIM is not as different from HER as the mirror of society paints it for their eyes to see… – Pierre Alex Jeanty, HIM click to tweet

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HIM is a compilation of poems that honors men and their stories, their perspectives, their voices.  I love the inscription on the back, “There are words in his heart.” After reading two of Jeanty’s other books, Unspoken Feelings of a Gentleman and To the Women I Once Loved, I couldn’t wait to read HIM. I received my copy of the book just before I went on my family vacation, which was perfect timing. As I started the book, I decided to pace myself. The poems vary in length, and it can be easy to read many of them in one sitting. I wanted to take my time with it and give each poem the space it deserved, and give myself time to process all of the feelings that came with it: hope, pride, joy, sadness, and even conviction.

Love isn’t always the easiest thing to harvest. If this truth has settled in your veins already, you must not act blind to the contradictions that are swirling in your breath when you’ve grown angry at him for not being in love with you so soon. You can’t just shake a growing tree saying, “I am a good woman,” and expect fruits of love to fall. How many seasons did yours have to endure before it bore a harvest?

-Pierre Jeanty, HIM

One unexpected result of reading HIM (and other books by Jeanty) is that it encouraged me to pray for my future husband in an entirely different way. It challenges my thinking. Relationships are so complex, and Jeanty’s writing does a great job of capturing that complexity. I am hopeful – that what I and so many singles have been looking for – is out there, and that communication and vulnerability are possible. Pierre Jeanty has a way with words, and his words have the ability to bring healing, if you let them. I highly recommend this and other of Jeanty’s books to anyone who is in a relationship or seeking to be in one. I think it would also be a great conversation piece between couples. Simply put, I am so glad that I discovered HIM! I think you will be too.

I want to apologize to the men who the boy in me once mocked for being too loving, for holding onto their virginity, for having pure hearts, for valuing commitment; for befriending vulnerability, for being loyal to one woman. Only fools find reasons to mock the softness of men and the voice of love on their tongues. – Pierre Alex Jeanty, HIM

To learn more about HIM, and Pierre Jeanty’s other works, please visit his website here or find him sharing his writing on Instagram. See below for details on the upcoming book tour!

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HIM is available for pre-order on his website, and will be released on August 16, 2018 where books are sold!

 

 

Life Lessons + Books · National Book Lovers Day · Uncategorized

National Book Lovers Day: Favorite Books

Happy National Book Lovers Day! {This post was supposed to go live earlier today, but I got distracted by all the things – including a trip to the local library for more books!}

There’s no better way to celebrate National Book Lovers Day than by sharing one of my favorite books with you!

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There are years that ask questions, and years that answer. – Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God

In high school, I remember reading different coming of age stories (and let’s be real – sometimes the Cliff Notes). I don’t think I even finished chapter one of Catcher in the Rye, though I do remember painfully drudging through The Awaking, Tess of the D’Urbervilles, and The Grapes of Wrath (whose ending I’ll never forget).

At the time, the assigned book list felt unnecessary and awkward; in retrospect I realize I never felt any connection with the characters. As in life, a connection with the characters and the story is just as important in the books we come to love, which is why representation matters. In no way am I saying these are not great classic novels that we can learn from – they just didn’t resonate with me.

Two things everybody’s got tuh do fuh theyselves. They got tuh go tuh God, and they got tuh find out about livin’ fuh theyselves. – Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God

But I remember reading Their Eyes, and the connection was instant. I didn’t just read it – I inhaled it like precious air for my lungs. I loved reading about Janie’s awakening, which seemed to jump off of the page and speak to my own life. Maybe because I read it during a time in my life where I, too, was learning how to become independent and find my way in the world. I really do believe books can have a timing that makes their impact even greater.

Janie’s first dream was dead so she became a woman. – Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God

One of my favorite quotes from any book, Their Eyes made me consider – what does it mean to have a dream, and for that dream to die? What does it mean to be a woman – in your own eyes as opposed to someone else’s? What does it mean to be independent and free? As a “questioner” who asks all the things, Their Eyes is one of my favorite books to re-read and ponder. This is a great classic work about a woman becoming through her search for love and life on her own terms. If you haven’t yet, grab a copy and give it a read!

What’s one of your favorite books, and how did it change your life? Share in the comments!

Life Lessons + Books · Uncategorized

Propel Book Club: Unexpected

Hey guys! I am popping in briefly to share about a book club that starts on Monday. In case you’re interested I wanted to make sure you had plenty of time to grab a copy of the book.

Propel Women is hosting an online book club for Christine Caine’s latest book, Unexpected: Leave Fear Behind, Move Forward in Faith, Embrace the Adventure. The title alone is enough of an invitation for me. I don’t know about you, but in this current season, I can use some fear-slaying, adventure-calling wisdom (and probably a kick in the pants too) from Chris Caine, one of my faves.

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The book club will span the course of five weeks, and when you sign up you’ll receive one video each week. No book club would be complete without a community to discuss it with, so you’ll also have the opportunity to connect with others online who are reading the book.

We start this coming Monday, July 23, 2018, and it’s not too late to join us! Visit Propel Women to sign up. The book can be purchased here, and if you have Amazon Prime you could have it in your hands in 2 days!

Will you join me for this book club?

Life Lessons + Books · Uncategorized

The Art of Neighboring

This summer, my church is doing a sermon series around the theme of being better neighbors. I’m a southern gal with a heart for hospitality so this was pretty cool in my book. While I do enjoy connecting with people, it doesn’t always come easily. Gone are the days of high school and college where friends are easily made over study groups and open door dorm room events. Which leads us to the inevitable question – how do we make community in the working years?

I was honored to be invited to share my story with my church of ways that I neighbor with those in my community. After reflecting on what has worked well for me, I’d like to share some of those ideas here, too.

Be open and vulnerable. No one likes a phony, and most people can tell when you’re not being authentic. And who has time for that? No one! Be yourself. If you don’t mesh with someone, then maybe they aren’t meant to be in your tribe. But if you are true to who you are, when you do meet people you want to do life with, you’ll breathe a lot easier.

Several years ago, I lived under the guise of “I’m fine,” when truthfully I was so broken inside. I remember *finally* breaking down in front of coworkers about a failed relationship I was struggling to get over. You should have seen their stunned faces. One told me that she thought I never had any problems because I was so happy all the time. [insert my stunned emoji face here]. That was the moment I realized that “fine” doesn’t work if I wanted to have deeper level friendships.

Show up. Wash, rinse, repeat. You can’t build a relationship if you’re always missing in action. Make time to be there for the other person. Listen when they’ve had a tough day and be there to celebrate the wins.

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My Birthday Party – 2018

Invite others, and go when you’re invited. I love to invite friends and neighbors to different events. Mostly I prefer one-to-one or small groups, but this year for my birthday I invited more people than usual for a game night. I wanted friends from all areas of my life to come together, instead of just silos here and there. Not everyone could make it, but I was so excited to have neighbors, college friends, friends who also attend my church, etc. all in the same space. It was one of the best birthday celebrations I’ve had. Community truly does add richness to our lives!

Kick perfection to the curb. It helps no one. Most people don’t care, and when we show up with our realness, it allows them to do the same. All the energy being used to put up a facade can be used elsewhere, and you can actually relax!

Love covers a multitude of sins. We are all human and have tough days. Give each other the benefit of the doubt and show grace upon grace upon grace. Forgive when you’ve been wronged, and ask for forgiveness when you’ve hurt someone else.

bread and wine book cover

This week’s book is Bread and Wine, by Shauna Niequist. If you haven’t read any of Shauna Niequist’s writing, do yourself a favor and start with this one. In Bread and Wine, Niequist shares how hospitality takes shape in her life, which, most often, is around the table. Each poignant story about life and community is paired with one of her favorite recipes for you to try at home. Reading Bread and Wine awakened a desire in me to cook all the things! Generally speaking, I am a decent cook but I tend to prefer the exactness of baking. However the more I read, the more I wanted to experience the joys of trying new recipes around the table with old friends and hopefully new friends too.

What I also appreciate is that the “around the table” approach isn’t exclusive to food. There’s lots of ways to invite others into community if you’re not a master chef. If cooking isn’t your forte, what about a craft and chat group, a game night, or even a book club? You could organize a community service project to get others involved with a great cause. If you’re not ready to extend an invitation, sign up for a Meetup.com group and meet others who have common interests as you. Whatever you choose, make it fit who you are.

Who can you be a neighbor to during this season? Take the risk. Extend the invitation, and watch the magic happen. You’ll be glad you did.

Bookstore Spotlight · Uncategorized

Bookstore Spotlight: Second Story Books

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One of my favorite things to do is explore the city, and what better pastime than to explore new-to-me bookstores.

I know, I know, we are living in the digital age where we have one-click ordering online, e-readers, etc. But I’m an old-fashioned girl. I love the smell and feel of an actual book in my hands. Turning the pages, and sometimes reading ahead.

There’s nothing like it.

I love meandering through the aisles of a bookstore, seeing all the spines of best sellers, bargains, and more. Seeing which titles and colors catch my eye, or where the books by my favorite author are. There’s nothing like a lazy day spent at the bookstore with no particular book in mind, just taking it all in.

So in addition to reflections and book recommendations, this blog will also spotlight brick and mortar bookstores in the city.*

First up is Second Story Books!

Located in Dupont Circle Washington, DC, this is a unique bookstore that specializes in Antiquarian books. If you are like me and feel the urge to google it, I saved you the trip – they have tons of unique, rare books. I loved seeing the books with special bindings, books that are first edition copies signed by the author. WOW!

My favorite thing about Second Story Books is the quotes painted on the walls. If you follow me on IG, maybe you saw my photos last week! Sadly I forgot to save them..which means you’ll have to visit for yourself!

Second Story Books has discount sidewalk sales as well as special events, so be sure to keep them on your radar. They also sell CDs and DVDs. Visit their website for Consignment opportunities. Heads up, while this location is friendly for meandering, there’s no real sit down environment, so don’t go with that expectation, unless they have a special event.

Stay tuned for more Books Around Town!

*I do not receive anything from the bookstores; I am just sharing my personal reflections as I visit them.

Life Lessons + Books · Uncategorized

Hot Fun in the Summertime

It’s officially summer! YES! Bring on the bathing suits, sunscreen, and fun summer reads!

For my family, summer signals only one thing – that it is time for our annual family vacay. The planning started several months ago, and I admit I slowly started packing in May. One day away and we are all beyond excited! One week of unplugged adventure with my loved ones. My hand is raised 🙋🏾‍♀️ Calgon, take me away!

You might be wondering what books made the cut for the journey. This book-aholic always has a tough time narrowing it down. I usually take multiple books and read something based on how I feel. Sometimes I tote all the books and don’t touch them.

Friends, I have seen the light.

That’s wasted luggage real estate.

I finally decided to give myself a limit.

One fun read.

Nothing too heavy, but something that will give me an ab workout from laughter. Something perfect for the beach that I can stop and start as needed to go play.

I’ve decided to take Twenties Girl by Sophia Kinsella. I’ve read a few of her books and I am ready for the laughter! One book. That’s it.

Plus my Essence mags – the ones with Chadwick Boseman and Mike B Jordan on the covers. Because #WakandaForever Swoon!

This week’s book choice is summer approved. The Undomestic Goddess, by Sophia Kinsella, is the perfect beach read. I was first introduced to Sophia Kinsella through a friend who gave me her copy of Remember Me? Kinsella’s books are hilarious, with great leading ladies who are navigating this crazy thing called life. The Undomestic Goddess is no different.

Follow Samantha Sweeting on a journey of self-discovery as she faces a harsh reality after making a huge mistake at work. Afraid to go back and face the disaster, she inadvertently signs up to be household help. The only problem? She hasn’t the slightest idea how to do any housework. Has she truly kissed her chance for partnership goodbye, or will she face the music and find a new path? I guess you’ll have to read it and find out 😉

What are your plans for the summer? What fun reads are on your list?