seven things

Well hey there, little blog! It’s been a while, hasn’t it?

I’d all but abandoned this blog when the busy season at my job started and I basically lived at the office. Afterwards, I was low on motivation and creative energy (and maybe feeling a little inadequate compared to some of the ultra-shiny bloggers out there with jillions of readers and glamorous sponsors). But my friend Annie recently jumped back on the blog bandwagon and reminded me that blogging should be fun and doesn’t have to be perfect!

I’m starting my grand re-entrance into the blog world with a quick ice-breaker. In no particular order, here are seven things I’m loving lately.

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1. The response to Hurricane Harvey

How could I not start with this? I love Texas and Texans. It has been so heartwarming to see people coming together, putting their differences aside, and, in some cases, literally dropping everything to help. My church’s worship leader borrowed a boat and headed down to Houston with a friend to get stranded families out of their homes and onto dry land. Austin Pets Alive! has had to turn away volunteers and is literally out of space for donations because so many people have showed up to help dogs and cats rescued from the coast. The residents of Rockport, Massachusetts, are raising $5,000 to help Rockport, Texas. And for once, the disaster has mostly escaped being politicized.

This is what Texas — and America — is about.

If you’re still looking for a way to support communities affected by Harvey, or a way to help specifically with the long-term recovery process, I hope you’ll consider contributing to the official Rockport-Fulton Chamber GoFundMe. Rockport holds a special place in my heart since my family has been going there for vacation since my dad was a kid. (My first fish below!)

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2. Pilates

I stumbled upon The Balanced Life while searching for at-home workout videos. I had always assumed Pilates required über-flexibility and was maybe a little snooty…but I am so glad I was wrong! I’ve been doing 20-30 minutes almost every day since March and have gained so much strength, stamina, and muscle tone. “I can’t wait to get home so I can work out” is now an actual thought that goes through my head.

Robin does an amazing job of making Pilates accessible and fun. I love her $19/month membership program, but she also has free videos on YouTube that are fantastic to dip your toes in. Better yet, join the free 7-day Back to the Mat challenge! If you’re looking to change up your workout routine (Or start it. No judgment here!), check her out.

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3. Harry Potter audiobooks

Audible now carries the entire Harry Potter series narrated by Jim Dale. If you grew up a Potterhead, you might recognize his voice from the cheesy (but, let’s be honest, amazing) PC video games from like 2002. Listening to his very comforting voice reading one of my favorite stories has been such a delightful way to brighten up my commute downtown!

4. Grapefruit sparkling water

I hate grapefruit, but for some reason grapefruit sparkling water hits the spot on these toasty summer days!

5. Sunshine

Y’all, I’m like a flower. I love sunshine. I need sunshine. There is nothing, in my opinion, like waking up to bright, cheery sunlight filtering through the blinds and spending every possible moment outside soaking up that warmth.

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6. TED Talks

I feel like I am a decade behind the rest of the Internet, but I just realized that TED Talks really are awesome. Here are a few I’ve watched lately that stuck with me.

I’m 17 // Own your face // The power of introverts // How to gain control of your free time // The wait is sexy // Looks aren’t everything. Believe me, I’m a model. // Why you should define your fears instead of your goals

7. Simplicity

This season is all about simplicity for me. Trimming down our stress and our stuff; spending more time being quiet, creating things, growing good habits. I feel settled and in a comfortable routine more than I have since high school. I guess that comes with being a quarter-century old, hitting my groove at work, and clarifying what is really important to me.

I hope to be back on this humble blog soon. Have a great week, friends!

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on cows and contentment

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My husband’s intern lives on a farm in what you could reasonably call the middle of nowhere. It’s a good 20-minute drive down windy county roads, some of which aren’t even paved, from the nearest grocery store. It’s the kind of place where you can stop and listen and hear nothing. Nothing human, anyway — just the wind rustling the trees and a duck call here and there.

Among their menagerie of farm animals is a small herd of beef cows — big, burly mamas and tiny, fuzzy babies in varying shades of chestnut with long, luxurious eyelashes.

The weird thing about being in a field of cattle is the overwhelming sense of contentment that washes over you. These cows are perfectly happy to munch on grass and wander wide-open fields and snuggle their young day in and day out. If they get a few extra alfalfa cubes, they’re pleased as punch. But they never moan and groan about what they might be missing. They’re just cows, doing their cow thing.

I think we could learn a thing or two from cows.

As I write this, my Bible is open to Numbers 11. So here are the Israelites, getting ready to go on a journey to the promised land. Not just anywhere. The promised land. They need food along the way, so God provides them with manna — which is reportedly both delicious and nutritious.

But after a few days, the Israelites get unbearably bored. And they start whining about not having the exact kind of food they want as they are on their way to the special place that God set aside just for them.

Typical.

It’s easy to laugh at the Israelites and to think that, if we were in their position, we would be so much more grateful to God for all the help he provided us. But would we?

I don’t know about you, but even as a routine-oriented person who enjoys a quiet and largely predictable life, I too get bored. I see the sparkly, impressive parts of other people’s lives selectively shared on the Internet and itch to have what they have. I frequently daydream about throwing my responsibilities off onto someone else.

As humans, we crave adventure. We yearn for excitement. It seems our biggest fear is monotony.

But it’s in the day-to-day of life that real joy and contentment can be found. In embracing our role and our place and finding contentment in every moment.

Maybe your place is in an office cubicle or at home with a gaggle of children around you. Maybe it’s in a field of beef cattle.

Wherever you are, remember:

Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.

Romans 12:4-8

May we each embrace our place today and every day — a place we’ve been set in for a purpose unlike any other’s — and may we do it cheerfully.

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holding tight to permanent

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Part memoir and part biblical wisdom, She Reads Truth: Holding Tight to Permanent in a World That’s Passing Away is a powerful commentary on change, loss, and learning to depend on God. And oh man, y’all, this book hit me right in the feels. It’s touching and powerful and occasionally funny (there’s a great line in there about God waiting for his creations to figure out how to make sushi).

SRT provided gentle answers to a question I’ve been wrestling with lately: How do I reconcile loving my life in this world when Christians are called to not be of the world?

It’s not a question the book addresses head-on, but it’s critical in my current stage of life.

Because I do love it. I love my family, I love my job, I love my friends, I love snuggling with my pups, I love writing, I love sitting outside in the sunshine with a glass of Topo Chico. Heaven sounds nice and all, but I’m not quite ready to give it all up. Does that make me a bad Christian?

No, Amanda and Raechel write. It just means we need to put the things we enjoy — things God intended for us to enjoy — in a greater perspective.

Contentment is having hope that is not dependent on our circumstances. It’s living with everything we ever wanted or none of the things we really needed, and being joyful either way because we are dwelling on the good things that has already done. I was learning, maybe for the first time or maybe all over again, that God was good because of who He was, not because of what He could do for me…

Contentment was going to be a lifelong exercise in fixing my gaze on the Lord both in plenty and in want.

I have plenty right now. I know, unfortunately, that in the future I’ll be in a stage of wanting. But the message this book shares is applicable to both: The things in this life that we love are anything but permanent, but that’s OK, because their value doesn’t come from their permanency. Their value comes from their creation by God and their role in our lives as his plan unfolds. It’s a subtle but important shift in perspective. And it’s one I think we could all benefit from.

My rating? A solid four stars out of five.

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P.S. I received a copy of this book through a giveaway by Lifeway and Eric Geiger, who blogs about ministry and leadership. Check him out!

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