Why Taking a Break from Social Media Was Good for Me.

I’m not here to tell you to delete Instagram off your phone (or Snapchat, or Twitter, or Facebook). I’m here to tell you why I did in the first place and what I learned in the process. This is not someone everyone will do, nor can do (depending on your line of work). I’m here to tell you why taking a break from social media was good for me.

The decision was inspired by that new feature that Instagram has put in place to tell you how much time I’ve been spending on the app. I know that Apple also has this feature for iPhones now as well, but I’m staying true to myself and not updating my phone until it force updates itself. I was looking at those stats in the app in late October and realized I had spent an average of 1 hour 45 minutes on Instagram alone per day! (For some of you, this may seem like a lot, for others it may not seem like that much). I was in shock. Time is my most valuable commodity and I looked at this as me spending over 12 hours a week avoiding doing things that I complained I didn’t have time to do. Things like sleep more, go for a run, do laundry. It honestly made me upset and I knew I needed to make a change.

At the beginning of every month this year, I tried my best to set “intentions” (small, attainable goals), knowing that over the course of the year, these small actions will result in a lot of change. So when I planned out my intentions for the month of November, I chose to delete social media from my phone for 21 days to see if it made a difference in the way I spend my time. So here’s a little recap of how it went:

 

Straight from the diary: The First Week:

My hand is constantly trying to find the apps on my phone. I almost forget that I’ve deleted them and become sad trying to figure out what all my friends are up to. “What should I post about when I reactivate the apps?” “21 days seems too long – what if I just did a week? Yeah, that’ll be good.” I think it’s really nice to be out of town, but not feel like you have to let people know. What is the point of even taking pictures if no one sees them but me? I like being off the radar. Do people even know I’m off the radar? WOW I AM SAVING SO MUCH PHONE BATTERY RIGHT NOW. I feel like life is going on without me even though I am living it. It’s nice I can concentrate on more “me” things. Without constant bombarding, it’s easy to be more in tune with what you like instead of what’s trending.

 

Straight from the diary: The Second Week:

I feel like I’m replacing social media with Netflix… which doesn’t help anything. Should I ever get on social media again? Is this fast working? I miss my online only friends. I’m nervous about going from 0 to 100 when I get back online. I feel like I’m missing out on my real friends’ lives too. I just met someone new and added their phone number to my phone instead of asking for their insta handle – weird!

 

Straight from the diary: The Third Week:

I don’t really miss it that much.

 

That’s all she wrote for the third week. I honestly didn’t spend too much time thinking about it the third week, let alone journaling about it. Looking back, over the last few weeks I had gotten used to just not seeing the extra content that I just didn’t miss it. I spent more time sending photos to my family and friends over text, catching up with people I hadn’t seen in awhile over the phone.

 

What I learned:

It made me more aware of my relationships.

Not everyone I want to connect with is really active on social media. Just because I post something, I assume that everyone has the time to see it, which is not the case. I need to be more intentional about connecting with other people outside of social media. Relationships matter. And while online connection with the masses is valuable and serves a purpose, it does not replace intentionally reaching out to an individual someone.

It made me more aware of what and why I am doing the things that I do.

I constantly asked myself this questions: what are the things I am doing just so I can post about them? What are the things that I do for myself when no one is watching? What am I gravitating towards? These are the things that are important to me.

When my 21 days was up, the only thing I downloaded for the day was Snapchat (random, right?). To be honest, the only reason I had downloaded it was to get attention from a specific person; and when I became more aware of my why, I deleted the app immediately. This break for social has made me more aware of my why; and whether my motives are selfish, or more joyful and focused on others.

It made me more aware of how I’m spending my time.

Before taking this break, there would be times that I would be doing nothing but sitting in my bed. On Instagram. For hours! I could have at least been playing a movie in the background or on public transportation, or something.

 

What does spending time on social media look like for me now?

It probably means continuing to set limits for myself to not get caught in what everyone else is doing so much so that I can’t even connect with myself. It means continually asking myself, “why do I need to be on here?” How do I feel about my life after looking at other people’s lives (or what they choose to post)?

I have to recognize that this, like many other challenges in life, is not a once and done thing. I will need to always make a conscious effort to regulate how much time I spend on these apps; and be honest with myself on whether I am truly using it as a platform to connect with other people and build relationships that I may not otherwise be able to grow.

Until next time!

Kylie-Signature

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Solid as a Rock

Union Square

I started a new job a little over a month ago. The position is at a property management company, where I travel to different buildings within the tri-state area to help leads prospective residents into apartments and plan events for current residents! Yesterday I was in Jersey City and at lunch, I took a walk along the waterfront overlooking downtown Manhattan to have some quiet time.

Every time I spend time with God, I ask him to teach me something new or maybe remind me of something I’ve forgotten. I often feel that most things I hear are things I have heard before, but they are received differently based on context, the state of my heart, what season I am in, and how mature I am.

Yesterday I just sat on a bench in solitude. No headphones, my notebook tucked away (but at the ready because you never know when you’ll have a notebook emergency). I kept staring at the Freedom Tower, completely zoned out. I’ve lived in New York for almost 8 years, jaded by the skyline, but suddenly I started to remember how the World Trade Center was built. 

The space had been unoccupied for years. City planners, government officials, and citizens alike all had something to say with how to plan out the space. It took almost 10 years to plan and build a foundation for something so symbolic, so iconic, something to stand the test of time.  It wasn’t until 2009 that the foundation was finished and construction began expanding to more than just the building itself. 

I left New York for 7 months to live in London in late 2011. By then the construction of One World Trade was barely visible- not more than 200 ft above sea level (for New York skyscraper standards, this is invisible). When I came back in 2012, it was as if the entire skyline had changed. I could see the building from miles away. One World Trade was designed to be a symbol, a hub and a place for everyone for generations to enjoy. 

When a solid foundation is formed, there’s no telling how quickly the rest of the construction will go. It was just a matter of a few months and one building completely transformed the way Downtown Manhattan looked.

One World Trade from Jersey City Waterfront

I need to continually remind myself that laying a strong foundation is the key to creating and designing something built to stand the test of time. And even when I think is going slow, that’s okay. The best foundations are laid so carefully that when it’s really time work on the rest of the construction, it goes smoothly and quickly. And even when hiccups arise, the firm foundation accounts for that, and construction will be able to resume.

As I am still in the early stages of my new job, I know that the foundation is important. The same principles I apply to my faith to learn more, to grow more, can be applied and permeate the rest of my life. Learning the software programs, the processes, the policies, the mannerisms, and the vision of the company are all a part of the bigger picture. Along with developing relationships, building a reputation with clients, setting a standard for my work of course. I know this will take time; and humbling myself, being patient, and resisting the desire to be comfortable all the time are things I need to remind myself of daily. 

While I am of course reminded of the story in Matthew of the two builders: one who built a house on rock and the other who built his house on sand (then a storm comes, but only one of the houses survives. Spoiler alert: it’s the house made of rock), I am also reminded of the following:

“Therefore thus says the Lord GOD, “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a tested stone, A costly cornerstone for the foundation, firmly placed. He who believes in it will not be disturbed” Isiah 28:16.

It is more than okay to set standards, set goals and learn new things. I personally have to remember to keep it all within the context of grace and mercy, because I am only human.

We can only have that strong cornerstone of a foundation because we have a God who can help us withstand the weight of a blessing so big it could only come from Him. He already has carried the weight of the world on his shoulders; and whatever we experience in this life, he can help us build that firm foundation as well.

Kylie-Signature

 

 

You Are Loved and Are Called to Love

Valentines Day?! You’re going to write about VALENTINE’S DAY (I can already see your eyes rolling to the back of your heads).
For some, there is so much pressure and expectation when in a relationship on this holiday. And for others, there is this stigma that if you’re not in a relationship on Valentine’s Day you’re 1) worthless 2) unlovable 3) going to die alone and become a cat hoarder. I’m here to tell you that none of these are true – especially that last one – I’d definitely become a dog hoarder first (personal preference).
But real talk (in and out of relationships): I’ve never felt truly alone in my entire life. This is why:
1. I have made it my personal mantra to give away love without expecting anything in return.
2. I don’t need someone to complete me, only complement what I’m already doing. My heart and soul are full of joy and the Spirit of Christ.

When I give for giving’s sake (out of love) it eliminates the pressure of measuring up, comparison, and unrealistic expectations.

If I live in a “me-centric” world, I have an expectation of a certain amount of attention, love, etc. And when I don’t get that, my unmet expectations create a gap in my life filled with sorrow, self-hatred, and disappointment.

Don’t get me wrong – life is full of disappointments, I experience them often. Giving love away doesn’t eliminate those. There’s a difference between being disappointed in a moment and living out of disappointment. However, when I give something away and I don’t feel obligated to receive anything, those unrealistic expectations can easily become buried.

On that note, one of the most simple ways to give away love on Valentines Day (in my opinion) is a simple little note. It doesn’t have to be someone you have romantic feelings towards (but it can be), It can even be a non-specific note that you pass out to someone on the subway, or at the grocery store.

And speaking of giving things away ….. I wanted to announce a little giveaway that I’m doing for the month of February! -YAY
It's all in the Details.
As you may have read a previous post, I wanted to do a letter writing challenge in 2018 where the call to action is to send out an encouraging letter to someone you regularly interact with or may not have seen for awhile. Each month I focus on a different “theme” and this month’s theme – you guessed it – is love. I recently launched a new product in my Etsy Shop (NYC postcards!) and I wanted to share those (and a few other little Valentine’s goodies) with everyone. The giveaway includes (1) pack of 8 NYC postcards as featured on my shop, (2) colorful markers to decorate at your heart’s desire, (1) Muji black pen – size .38mm, (3) sheets of heart stickers, and (8) “love” stamps to make sure you’ll send some Valentines this year!

There are three ways to enter:

Entering on Facebook:
*OR*
Entering on Instagram:
– Tag a friend in the comments
*OR*
Entering Through the Blog:
– Comment on this blog post with a memory of your favorite Valentine that you’ve ever received.
Made with Love <3
Each platform counts as 1 entry. 1 entry per person. Open to participants residing in the United States of America. Must be 18+ years in order to enter. Contest closes February 5th 9PM EST. Winner will be announced via The Little Big Dreamer Facebook page, Via Instagram, and though a comment on this post. Happy entering!

 

And Happiest Valentines Day! *inserts all heart emojis possible*
Kylie-Signature

Follow the Trailblazer

Maker:S,Date:2017-9-26,Ver:6,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar02,E-ve

This past Saturday, I took a little day trip to go hiking in Cold Spring, NY to spend some time in solitude and nature. As I set out for the day, I decided I wasn’t going to listen to any music. 1- partly because I wanted to get “the most” our of my experience and 2- I didn’t want my phone to die in case I needed it for a emergency. Plus, nature and Spotify don’t really “go” together.

When I arrived at the trail head of Blue Hill, I read the directions for the hike several times and even took a picture of the map to bring with me. As I started up the trail, I saw this couple not too far ahead of me that had on their full hiking gear (special boots, backpacks, and sunglasses – I didn’t even know there were special hiking sunglasses!). I felt that because they had the right gear they clearly knew what they were doing. (As a newbie hiker, this is a totally logical explanation. Meanwhile, I’m still in my pearls and I’ve got my matcha to-go in a thermos tucked away in my backpack.)

So we set off on the hike (they didn’t know it was “we,” but I did!) At the beginning, the trail was clearly marked and there was only one way to go. Then, we reached a clearing after the first mile uphill and took a break for some water. I decide to continue on; and started walking the first direction I saw. I had an internal voice saying to me “wait a minute, there were a few forks in the road, how can I be sure this is the right way?” I hadn’t been paying attention, but there was a sign that had pointed me in the opposite direction of which I was walking. I quickly turned around and started proceeding on the right path; and, once again, following my newfound friends.

Maker:S,Date:2017-9-26,Ver:6,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar02,E-ve

I followed them all the way to the top until we hit a sign pointing in two different directions that said “short loop” or “long loop.” I wan’t sure on how much time I had before I had to catch the train, so I ended up taking the shorter of the two loops (which still had a great view). I rested on the mountain, taking in the view and enjoyed just being still.

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After the wind started picking up, I decided to head back down the trail. There were many hikers who were on the trail before me; and because it had just rained the previous night, so many of the paths were covered in mud.

I was about halfway down when I saw some hikers coming up a steep rocky path, so I started making my way down there, assuming they had come from the bottom of the trail. This path was awfully muddy and I found myself slipping a little more than usual, moving really slow, and gripping onto tress to get my balance back. After the two hikers past me, one of them shouted “the trail is actually back up this way, we just took a shortcut and went straight up the rock.” Relieved that I didn’t have to continue the steep descent I replied “thank you,” and proceeded back on the trail.

The path on the way down was marked with white tokens nailed to the trees; and I had to keep looking ahead to see which was the right direction to turn. As soon as I had passed a marked tree I immediately looked for the next token. If I kept looking at the ground for footprints where people had gone before, it was near impossible to tell which way was the right way, for so many hikers and made their own paths and gone through shortcuts.

Maker:S,Date:2017-9-26,Ver:6,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar02,E-ve

That is how our relationship with God is on our path of life. As an expert guide and trailblazer, God has already gone before us, laid out a path for us to take, and marked where we need to go with trail-markers in order to keep hiking through life. It is my job to keep my eyes open and head up in order to keep checking in to see where the marked path is. Like life, hiking is not exactly based on intuition alone and following other people’s “shortcuts” doesn’t always lead where I need to be going: it could in fact lead to the edge of a cliff. As long as we’re on this path of life, be sure to check in with the One who marked the path for us in the first place.

He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.

Psalm 23: 2-3

Looking to God has a guide, I let Him lead me on a path of righteousness & peace. I am called to be vigilant, aware, and constantly in contact with God. When I forge my own path because I think I’ve found a shortcut, the trail can be a lot more difficult than I had anticipated. When I follow other’s footsteps, I can find myself getting lost, or even putting myself into danger. Only God knows the perfect path for me because He has made it just for me and He has gone before me.

 

Kylie-Signature

I Get By With a Little Help From My Friends

I have lived in New York for over 7 years now and I cant even believe just how fast the time has gone. When my parent first dropped my off at my dorm room in college, we kind of gave a quick hug goodbye and then I didn’t even think about seeing them again until I was home for Christmas. I never got homesick at all when I was in college, didn’t feel lonely or left out (like the way I felt in high school, but we will save that story for another day).

I have to give all the credit (well, to God of course), but also to the community He had placed me in from such an early stage in my life in New York. Now don’t get me wrong – I love my Mom and Dad, but they can’t always physically be in New York City and sometimes I just need some person to person contact / realness in my life. So I had quickly made friends with some of the people who lived on my floor freshman year of college and have been friends with them ever since. I even met my best friend Isabella within my first couple years of living in NYC. And, if we didn’t live on the opposite sides of the United States, we would be inseparable. Even now, after a couple of year of feeling lost and a couple of years of missing God-centric friendships and relationships in my life, I came to Liberty Church (by way of a referral of a friend of a friend). I’ve met some of the most incredible people of my live there (including my best friend Louisa) and I know it as not by accident.

Throughout the years, these friends have been speaking LIFE into me. By encouraging and challenging me, I have stepped out of my comfort zone and into a place where I am living life to the fullest. Just recently, I took a solo trip to Paris, which wouldn’t have even been dreamt up if I didn’t have my two best friends lead as example.

Long story, not so short, if it wasn’t for these incredible, encouraging and nurturing people in my life, I would not be doing what I am today. This year, I want to remind myself of the power of a word of encouragement towards someone and how much that can have an impact on someone’s life. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 reminds us: “Therefore, encourage one another and built each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” I want to challenge myself (and everyone who wants to take part) to do a year long writing challenge, inspired my my letter writing friend Rhea Abramson of Devoted Diarist and Mail More Love. The challenge will be to write 1 letter of encouragement a week. Now, if you’re anything like me, 1 letter a week doesn’t seem like a lot, but the challenging part will come when I have to be consistent about sending out 1 each week. To help out, I’ve made a little bit of a guide / how to / organizational tip (but seriously… the organizational tool is mainly for myself).

Rules: send out 1 letter of encouragement (snail mail) to someone every week. This doesn’t have to be a close friend. It could be anyone: your next door neighbor who just had a baby, an old classmate you used to study with, one of your coworkers who is seems to be in a bad mood all the time, the guy (or gal… this is the 21st century after all!) who mows your lawn every week, your super who legit refuses to fix your radiator (totally hypothetical situation… not at all true), or even that relative you haven’t spoken to or seen in 5 years. Remember, it doesn’t need to be fancy, it just needs to be thoughtful.

Tips:
-Set a reminder on your calendar (on a not busy day or the week), in the morning or evening to sit down a write your letter. It could be a short as a postcard, or it could be as long as a 5 page letter. The most important thing for me to remember is being able to take the focus off of myself to think about the future of someone else. The well being of someone else, their talents, and the potential that you see in them.

-Go to USPS (yes, the Post Office. No, not everyone is as grumpy and slow as they seem if you smile). Buy 2-3 sheets of FUN stamps (not that there is anything wrong with the American Flag Forever stamps), but you can get some fun Oscar De La Renta stamps too for the same price. So why not? 3 sheets (60 stamps total) will last you until the end of the letter writing challenge.

-Plan ahead. Make a list ahead of time of the people you want to send a little letter to. Then you have to do “the ask” aka “the address ask.” It’s sometimes weird to just send a text saying “what’s your address?” It can seem awkward. So if you’re not on that level of comfortability yet, you can say “what’s your snail mail address?” Or if you want to sneak up on them, you can ask someone close to them OR if you know where they work you can send it to their work address. (If they work for a financial services company, investment bank, accounting firm, law office, they will probably have a compliance department to read / sift through the mail so bear that in mind too).

-Make it fun. Decorate your envelope. Add some stickers. Draw on a smiley face. Buy a hilarious, beautiful card that the other person would really appreciate. (I currently justify my card budget by saying that it is technically a gift for someone else, so I’m not really spending the money on myself- lol).

Where: I’ve made a little guide to where I like to go shopping for cards! (Stores are based in LA, OC, & NYC). There are a range of different price points, so there is something for everyone!

Everywhere: Target & Michaels: Both of these stores can sometimes have a great selection of boxed cards (around 8-10 cards) for around $2-$3! I personally like the thank you ones the best, but I have gotten some generic greeting cards there as well.

Online: Etsy, The Social Type, Egg Press. You can find some great deals on Etsy for cards, especially if you are looking for something rather specific. Also, The Social Type and Egg Press both have sample sales every once in awhile (i’m talking letter press cards for $.80 people!!), so be sure to sign up for their mailing list and follow their social accounts to be the first to know about their sales.

LA: The Social Type is great (as I mentioned before- they have awesome sample sales), and they have a store-front in Los Angeles as well Another great suggestion from @writebella (aka the card whisperer in my life) is La Familia Green as well as Urbanic and Lundeen’s).

OC: Surprisingly I don’t have too many OC suggestions, but I do love Sugar Paper even though it is on the pricer side. They have a great selection of beautifully crafted cards and small gifts for any paper lover. Posh Paper in my hometown (Yorba Linda) is also excellent: they have a great selection of stationary as well.

NYC: Oh gosh. There are so many great shops here I don’t know where to begin. But I’ve narrowed it down to my favorite 2 shops Pink Olive and Paper Presentation. Pink Olive is the perfect place for any paper lover, gift lover, cute things lover (and there are 5 locations in total – including the cutest and latest addition to the family – the Cold Spring store!) There are beautiful cards for every occasion (I LOVE the selection of Rifle Paper) as well as their in house collection featuring the phrase “You Are Loved.” What incredible words to live by. Paper Presentation is a one-stop-shop. You can pick up everything from greeting cards, to wrapping paper, to custom stationary, to stickers with unicorns on them to dress up any card. I often stop here when I am running errands in the Flatiron District.

Montreal: If you happen to be in Canada, Boucle Et Papier is a a great shop. They have a wonderful selection of Sugar Paper, as well as Liberty London, which I have had a hard time coming across in the past.

Lastly: Tell people and encourage others to do the year of encouragement too! Share on your social pages and accounts with the #YearOfEncouragement to get others inspired to also send encouraging letters. The one a week letter is just to be a guideline. If there isn’t anyone to send a letter to that week or if you forget- don’t worry about it! You can always pick up from where you left off. Remember that sending even one letter out is better than not sending one at all.

I can’t wait to kick off 2018 with words of encouragement for others and taking the focus off of myself for a little while. I hope you join me in this #YearOfEncouragement

Relationship Test

I wrote this post on a flight to Paris connecting through Iceland. While I hadn’t officially started my trip, I had some difficulty getting there and wanted to share my experience.

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People say that the ultimate test of a relationship is to travel with said person. Say I’m thrown into (perhaps) foreign territory. I have endless options to choose how to spend my time: under definite time constraints (and probably money constraints). Bumps in the road are inevitable and sometimes unavoidable. It is how I choose to respond to the events of my travel experience that determine the healthiness of my relationships.

While this is all straightforward when traveling with others, what about the event that I go on a solo trip? (Like the one I’m currently on in Paris? Well, I’m still on the way, I have a layover in Iceland- we’ll get to that part in a bit). I firmly believe that how I respond to the events of my solo travel (be them good or bad) can reflect some underlying characteristics.

So I’m on my way to Paris. I booked this trip a couple of months ago because I found a reasonably priced airfare and have had the itch to go to Paris every single day since I left the city 5 years ago. (Not kidding: every single day). The hype is so real at this point: I had a full itinerary planned down to the hour (including things like picking up vintage postage stamps for my postcards that I preaddressed- YES PREADDRESSED). I was listening to my Parisian-themed playlist, featuring the likes of the Ratatouille & Midnight in Paris soundtracks. AND I was wearing the perfect minimalist athlesure outfit I could pull out of my closet for an “effortless chic” travel look. I did all of the things.

Then, things turned from 100 to 0. Real quick. Real freakin’ quick. Long & tiring story short, our flight was delayed for more than 48 hours total. Luckily by this time I had amazing friends who took me into their home, took me rock climbing, fed me, prayed with me, and acted as my travel agents to help me to book another flight to Paris. (THESE are the kind of people I like to have in my life).

During this whole process I felt so much distress. Why tho? Whyyyy?! Disappointment? Sure, of course. Sad? Absolutely. But by the time I had received that fourth delay text, my body was physically shaking and I felt ill. Part of me was torn and sad and not even wanting to go, after all this time. But the other part of me was picturing myself having an almond croissant at Cafe de Flore. It was that simple image of what was to come that kept me going, that made me wipe off hours of tears and drag my sore body to the airport on the other side of town to make this flight.

When I’m under distress- what am I saying over myself? Am I crumbling under the stress? Or am I saying that despite the circumstances that have come my way I can see the finish line and get through this with God’s patience and strength. How am I treating myself and the people around me? Am I snapping easily? Or am I the example of peace to comfort others who are under distress. Traveling alone is a relationship test for my relationship with myself and with that with strangers.

 

I can tell you right now, these last 24 hours were not hours of peace for me. There were many tears, lightheadedness, confusion. Not to mention several passive aggressive tweets (and active aggressive ones) at the airline I had originally booked.

Yes, I need to be practical. I don’t have unlimited resources to get to Paris. But I do have a will, a way, determination, and a God who is able to provide opportunities & deliver me from the stress that had consumed me. Right now, I am living out that example: I’m at peace knowing that every person I meet on this trip is a new opportunity to overwrite the stress that came earlier.

When I was waiting for the first flight, I wrote in my journal (as one does when needing to relieve some stress): “200 years ago, leisure travel wasn’t a thing. I’m so grateful that I am able to travel the world for fun because back in the day it would have taken over 2 years to get to Paris.” Whatever life throws at me, I have the choice to respond in a proactive and constructive way. I can see obstacles and a stopping point, or I can view them as another way to get a new “skill” under my belt.

Kylie-Signature

Lost in the Sauce

Everyone says be true to yourself, be who you want to be. While this is great vague advice, it often leaves me wondering what that really means. I find it so easy to jump into trends, and gravitate to what is popular, what everyone else is doing. Nothing wrong with a good third wave coffeeshop, but sometimes I take a step back and I feel like a clone. A couple years ago, I could look in the mirror and see everyone else: everyone else and not myself.

A few years ago, one of my best friends, Isabella, gave me this piece of paper to fill out. She called it an “essence matrix.” You fill in each “box” with three things for each category. (Categories are: Music, Moving Image, Avocations, Colors, Flavors, Textures,  Visuals, Plays, Literature). The end-product looks something like the picture below (or better, if your handwriting is more legible than mine!) Every six months or so, I make a new one and fill it in again. It’s interesting to see how (and if) my answers have changed over time. It is a really nice way to explore the things which impact my decisions that I simply don’t think about every day.

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“Be true to yourself. Be true to yourself,” I whisper and ponder. What did I use to love that I stopped doing becuase I was afraid I was too different, afraid the world would judge me?

More importantly what does God say about me, who I am and who I should be? At the end of the day, God’s judgement of me is the only one that matters. Not my peers, not my friends, not even my family. Do the people speaking into my life have my best interest at heart as it relates to your God-given destiny? Because trust me, my best interest for myself is not always what is best for myself.

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1 Corinthians 3:12-13 says that “now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.” How I am picturing this is a house made of wood; and there is a bonfire next to the house. When the foundation of a house is built of wood, of hay, or of stubble- how does it stand against the fire? A quick change of the wind in the wrong direction and it sets the house ablaze. Once that fire finishes burning, the home owner is left with nothing.

The ways of the world are like an unpredictable wind. We do not know what the next trends will be, how the dollar will value against other currencies tomorrow, or what life changing invention will come into play. Instead of being subject to the wind- build a house on truth, what is everlasting, and what makes you grounded. If you are rooted in the ground and in truth, and the strongest winds of the world come your way, you will not be shaken.

New York City is a constant space of inspiration, influence, and change. It is all to easy to get caught up in what everyone else is doing with their lives. Comparing my life to others not only hardens my heart, but it takes the focus off of myself. I no longer am focusing on the truth that God is speaking into my life, nor am I living out my unique calling, the things I feel uncomfortable doing because I am under the influence of what the world wants me to be. If I am not too careful, New York can be a place of “sinspiration,” a place distracting from truth. The only reason I am tempted at times is because my heart hasn’t changed. Those who are truly filled with the spirit of Christ cannot be tempted, just as Christ cannot be tempted. Rather, they can stare temptation and the things that are not of truth – things that do not speak to who the truly are – and say “be gone.”

While we all have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God, sin is not in the nature of those who have devoted their lives to Christ. So while I can be true to myself, I am also subject to the nature of what I have chosen to devote my life to, what I have built my house on, and who I tell myself that I am. So what brings me joy? What brings me closer to Him? What draws others to see that Christ-like nature in me? That is what is most true to myself. Don’t get lost in the sauce: build your house on solid rock.

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Season for Everything

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Madison Square Park Fall

“Seasons” is such an overused word, especially in Christianity. Don’t get me wrong, I use the word often, but I try to use it in proper context.

What do I mean by that? Cultural context gives a season a fixed period of time. Winter, for example. Winter happens once a year, 3 months out of the year, every year. It’s often cold, unless you live in Southern California. But the season is expected and everyone knows it will eventually end; and then Spring will come and it will get warmer outside.

This is just me, but I use the word “seasons” too often in the context of that fixed period of time. When Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 starts off by saying “There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under heaven,” it is a great reminder that after war comes peace, after weeping comes laughter.

And while I know “this too shall pass” is a great way to encourage in those times of weeping, I can’t help but wonder when it will pass. Those “seasons” of weeping, feeling lost, being frustrated after waiting so long, working relentlessly but getting nowhere can seem to never end. But these seasons aren’t fixed. We don’t know when they are going to end. And that’s a really really hard pill to swallow. There are two archaic (aka Bible times) definition for seasons (neither of which are “comforting”). First is “a proper or suitable time.” The second is “an indefinite or unspecified period of time; a while.” A while. A WHILE?! How long is a while? 5 minutes? 5 weeks? 5 years? I’m gonna need a little more context than that Jesus.

So let’s look at context. A little beyond the popular opening of Ecclesiastes is the following: “What do workers gain from their toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God.” (Ecclesiastes 3:9-13).

He has made everything beautiful in its time. So in any one given “season” (aka endless and undefined time period in my life) while there might be war, there will also be laughter. The laughter has nothing to do with the war happening in my life but can alleviate the pain of the war. Right now, well actually for the past three years, I have felt extreme frustration and worthlessness in one area of my life. I couldn’t even imagine if I let the last three years of my life be labeled as “worthless” or “unfruitful.” There are so many other areas of my life where I can see God moving and blessings pouring out daily. When this “season” of my life is over (whenever that may be), I can look back and label it the very opposite of how I feel about that one frustrating situation of my life. I can call this season “fruitful” in my relationships. I can call this seasons”growth” with my walk in my faith. I can call this season “joyous” when I rediscovered my love to draw. While every “season” in our life presents challenges, it can produce joy at the same time. As Ecclesiastes 3:13 says we CAN “find satisfaction in the toil.” Thank God for multifaceted seasons. Thank GOD!

Right now, I’m looking out my window at work. It’s the same view I’ve had for over a year. When I first started, I noticed this plastic takeout bag caught in one of the trees out my window (littering is a conversation I’ll save for another day). Over time, through the winds of Autumn and snowfalls of Winter, the bag slowly wore out over time. All that remains there now are tiny pieces of plastic wrapped about the same branch, blowing in the direction of the wind like a dreamcatcher. A couple weeks ago, another plastic bag made it’s way into the same tree. Not that trash in a tree represents anything positive, but it just made me think of how things will often find their way back. That groove Stella thought she lost? It came back! When I was full of sorrow and I couldn’t seem to find any source of happiness? My joy came back! That rut I never thought I was going to get out of? I got out of it!

So while I wait for the despair to pass, for the weeping to stop, for the pain to go away, I can turn and choose to focus on the area in my current season that I am blessed. But it is hard. It is hard to not become disappointed while I am trying to be patient waiting for the good to come. I love how the early Drake puts it in his song Over: “I really can’t see the end getting any closer. But I’ll probably still be the man when everything is over…If you thinking I’mma quit before I die, dream on.” Have peace in your mind that no one truly knows when their tough season is going to end, not even Drake. But know that through all of that, when we choose to not quit and we choose to stay faithful, God will place blessings in our lives that will give us joy in the midst of heardship. (Also that was far-fetched illustration but that song has been stuck in my head and I wanted to make it work soooooo…)

When I actively choose to praise God for the multifaceted season, I am praising him for everything: the good, the bad, the ugly. AND I am acknowledging that even in the midst of the bad, He is good. He is above all things and above all circumstances.

And speaking of seasons, here are some Fall pictures from Central Park last year. Just waiting for the leaves to turn again soon!

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The Cost of Impressionism

Impressionist Paintings at Met

As someone who calls herself an artist, the idea of creating scenes, capturing moments, and sketching beautiful architecture came from my love for the Impressionist period of art. I love the way that Impressionists leave little interpretation to the viewer: the paintings from this era evoke an “impression” the artist carefully curated specifically in that moment, tailored for that viewer.
Winter Morning on Montmarte
Upon hearing the word Impressionism, most think of the artistic and historical definition of the word. Perhaps the lesser known term is the following (as defined by Webster’s): “the depiction of scene, emotion, or character by details intended to achieve a vividness or effectiveness more by evoking subjective and sensory impressions than by recreating an objective reality.”
This leaves me thinking: what impression am I trying to give people to leave no interpretation as to the reality I am trying to portray? In other words, am I sacrificing who I am to make sure that I impress others? To make a perfectly curated “moment,” a tailored view to seem like I am more vivid or more effective (if we are still following Webster’s definition)? At the end of the day, I may be impressing people, but at what cost?
I remember first moving to New York City in college. The magic of New York was soon traded for the need to keep up with the Jones’s. I remember coming back from my first semester during Christmas time and someone would tell me “omgsh… look who is living their best Gossip Girl life xoxo.” At the time, I had not yet seen the show,  but I knew it was about Manhattan Socialites of the Upper East Side being invited to parties and soirees and galas wearing the latest fashions off the runway. Truthfully, it felt sooooo good to hear someone say that. I felt accepted. I felt like I got the “seal of approval” from the world, something I didn’t really “get” when I was in high school. So I continued this lifestyle and persona of giving others the impression that I was always living this vibrant fabulous life (according to world, Hollywood, and socialite standards of course).
$11,000 in credit card debt later, I was struggling to really make ends meet. I worked more than 3 jobs just to keep my head above water. I felt so overwhelmed and underwhelmed at the same time. Overwhelmed by the burden I had placed on myself, yet underwhelmed and unimpressed with the gap between how my life actually looked and how I had expected it to look. I would even throw in the word “hustlin” to justify the fact that I had more than one job to even make rent, just to seem busy and important. Unfortunately, our society, especially New York, prides itself on the 14-hour work day and the phrase “everyday I’m hustlin” (which, is a song I still love, thanks Rick Ross). Trying to keep up the pace with someone I wasn’t was exhausting. It was a mistake that cost me money, time, real relationships, and honesty with myself & with God.
With every decision comes an opportunity cost. By choosing to engage in something, I am inherently choosing to say no to another opportunity. When I was choosing to buy into the words the world was telling me, I was giving up who I was. Why on EARTH was I giving up who God has called me to be and what plans God has for my life because I was worried about maintaining an impression that was chosen for me by the world and not by God’s design?! I was impressing people who’s density was not relevant to mine, people who weren’t encouraging, people who didn’t have my best interest at heart. And what’s worse – I was afraid to tell the people I actually cared about becuase I feel that they would think less of me, not respect me, and judge me.
Our actual reality, not the objective one we curate for other people, gives us peace and honesty in all areas of our life. I know that I never have to pretend and I never have to compromise what makes me unique. You know who is impressed with me? God. You know who’s approval I don’t have to strive for? God. And I can rest and live my life knowing that that to continue to walk in truth is the only impression I ever have to make.
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