2018: The Year of Intention

Do you ever just make plans and then they get pushed off or put on hold due to something unexpected?

For example: last night I had planned to go out with a few girls to dinner, ring in the new year, and then dance the night away (among other things like writing this blog post and cleaning the apartment). I woke up with an incredible sinus headache and the chills. The only thing I actually did yesterday was start and finish Mindhunter on Netflix and rewatch some of my favorite episodes of Arrested Development and play HQ Trivia (no – I have not won any money yet, no I’m not bitter about it).

When I make my plans for the day, I never factor in if something goes wrong. I just assume that everything will go as planned. Over the years, that has put a lot of unnecessary pressure on myself. Pressure just to try and make sure that nothing goes wrong (apparently I forgot that I am a human and that the grace of God exists).

Looking back on how I have planned out my life for my previous years, I set resolutions with the expectation that everything will go according to plan. I say to myself “No, I won’t get injured and I will be able to perfectly complete my training program in time for my marathon.” Or “I don’t plan on getting sick so any money I set aside for the doctor can be automatically put into savings.”

Well unfortunately that’s not what I have encountered this past year. It has been full of disappointments and realizing that life happens and doesn’t stop just because I make plans otherwise. This year, I’m aiming to set realistic resolutions. Resolutions that I have carefully planned out with a buffer for when things don’t go exactly as planned. For me, instead of looking at the year as a whole, it means breaking the year up into 12 months to set monthly goals instead of yearly ones. Instead of calling them resolutions, I am calling them intentions. Intentions have more meaning to me: it’s saying despite what happens in my life “I intend to do this.” I’ve planned it out, I’ve planned for buffers, and I will get this accomplished.

This year, as I look at my “resolutions” “intentions,” I ask myself are these realistic? Or am I banking on the fact that “life” won’t actually happen and everything will go according to plan? Plan for your goals and dreams, but be sure to leave buffer for the unexpected too.

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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.

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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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Use Your Advantage

Sometimes I get so frustrated with my life because I often feel like I am stuck. Things just really aren’t moving along as fast as I would like them to and not how I imagined them to. I want to be able to take matters into my own hands and get more in control of my “destiny” so to speak.

No matter how many times I get disappointed and anxious (because believe me, it WILL happen again), I know that I am where I am for a reason. And while what I can be going through is frustrating for me, it may actually be to my benefit in the long term.

Take Joseph, for example. His brothers hated him. threw him into a reservoir, and THEN sold him into slavery. After that, he was sold to Potiphar (guard and official of Pharaoh at the time). For awhile it seemed like Joseph got a break. He was entrusted with Potiphar’s estate and was handed many responsibilities and it says that “from the time he put him in charge of his household and of all that he owned, the Lord blessed the household of the Egyptian because of Joseph. The blessing of the Lord was on everything Potiphar had, both in the house and in the field” (Genesis 39:5).  So…. a pretty sweet setup.

But just when you think Joseph had a breather, things began to go south real quick. Potiphar’s wife tricked Joseph by threatening to tell her husband he was sleeping with her… unless he slept with her. What a Catch-22. When Potiphar found out that Joseph allegedly “slept” with her, Joseph got thrown into prison. (If this was me, at this point, I would have thrown in the towel. Like HOW ON EARTH is there room for recovery after this?)

While Joseph was in prison, he was met by the Pharoah’s officials: the cup-bearer and the bread-maker (who were also imprisoned). One night, both officials had dreams that neither one could interpret. Joseph said to them, “Do not interpretations belong to God? Tell me your dreams” (Genesis 40:8). After he successfully interpreted the dreams, Pharaoh restored the cup-bearer to his rightful position. Years passed, and the cup-bearer had forgotten all about Joseph in prison until one night Pharaoh had a dream that no one could interpret. “Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘I had a dream, and no one can interpret it. But I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.’ ‘I cannot do it,” Joseph replied to Pharaoh, “but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires’ (Genesis 41:15-16).

Joseph successfully interpreted the dream. Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has made all this known to you, there is no one so discerning and wise as you. 40 You shall be in charge of my palace, and all my people are to submit to your orders. Only with respect to the throne will I be greater than you” (Genesis 41:39).

Well. ALLLLLL that is to say is that we all experience ups and downs as we walk through life operating in faith. So stay the course and use what is advantageous in every mountain and valley. If Joseph had not used the advantage of diligence in his work, he would not have been entrusted by Potiphar to take care of his estate. If Joseph had not used his advantage of hearing God and being SO in sync with the Holy Spirit while he was in prison, his journey would have likely ended there.

The most important thing to remember is that I am placed in a position of advantage because God has put me there and that favor, that advantage follows me.  “But while Joseph was there in the prison, the Lord was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden.” (Genesis 39:20-21). No matter what sphere of influence I am placed in, and for however long, it is because God has curated this position specifically for me. Did it seem like an advantage for Joseph to be thrown into prison? Not at first.

Learning to take the perspective of the advantage is to your ultimate benefit. As I look around me, I ask myself “what is my advantageous about the life I am living in this moment?” Because if I only live and worry about the future, I am missing out on the precious moments and people God has placed right in front of me. How can I possibly expect God to entrust me with the things I am praying about for the future if I am not nurturing the season I am right now? I can’t build a solid foundation coming form a place of worry.

So if I’m frustrated about being single: my advantage is that I have time to grow more into the woman who God has called me to be. When I’m frustrated about my job, my advantage is reminding myself of my job’s benefits (the short commute, great coworkers). And when I find myself frustrated about my finances, I look back to see how far I’ve come this past year (paying off all debt, starting a savings account) and know that while it’s small progress, it’s still progress.

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What about my day, my week, my life doesn’t seem to be working to my advantage? How can I look at this situation and say “well, it didn’t look like an advantage….. at first.”  As I head into the rest of this week, if I get upset or flustered about something I can ask myself: “what is my advantage?” “how do I have the upper hand in this situation?” “what am I currently doing that is honoring the situation I am in?” and “how can I use that advantage to make someone else’s life (and not just my own) a little bit easier?” I never know what blessing can become of it.

 

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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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Two of the Biggest Mistakes I Have Made

Mistake No. 1: I think I can change people.

“Wait..then why do I even do what I do?” “How can I make an impact?” “What is the point?” I ask myself.
At the end of the day, the most I can be to someone is someone of influence. And that is enough. By being there, by sharing what I am passionate about, my sharing my faith, just my demeanor and presence can have an impact on someone. I can’t twist their arm, get inside their head, and create a change. Lasting change is a gift from above; and it comes from within. So in the meantime, I can be the change that I want to see in others. At the very least they will observe that I do things differently, and perhaps become influenced by the example that I set.
As it pertains to myself, I find that it is the closest circle of people I associate with that influence my actions (for the better, or the worse). Which, yes, can cause me to change overtime, but true change comes from within. I’m often a stubborn person, I don’t like change. Once I get settled into a routine, I am pretty tight fisted about it. But because I am saved by grace, there is a world of opportunity for me that exists in the sphere of change.

Mistake No. 2: I think I can’t change how I feel.

Let me start off by saying this: feelings are a good thing. It means I still have a pulse. However, when things get intense in my life, I have a tendency to be dramatic (sometimes I like to say “theatrical,” because dramatic gets a bad rep).

In the past, I have dragged out feelings and held onto moments of hurt in my life for far too long. Yet, it was my choice to do those things.
Sometimes it is hard to let go of pain from the past. For me, that pain was a crutch, a crutch that reminded me everyday that I didn’t deserve to be treated right, fairly, or respectfully. When someone does have a foot injury and has to use crutches, it is nearly impossible to go anywhere without them. With every step taken, the crutches follow. They have to. Weaning off of the crutches can be painful at first, but it is an important step to complete and total healing.
Healing is a choice, and a difficult one at that. I have this phrase that I totally made up called “wax on water.” Basically I picture pouring water on a wax candle; and how the water cannot possibly penetrate the outside layer of wax. Scientifically, it just. wont. happen. If I can make myself this wax candle, every bad situation, mean jeer, or strike that comes my way will not get under my skin and it will roll off of me like wax on water. The faster I change how I react to a situation and how I feel about something that has happened to me, the quicker it is to get over it. When I let things sit and fester, then I question myself, my actions, my worth, and my relationships.
My Dad always says “you can attract more bees with honey than with vinegar.” So I ask myself: are my reactions and words the taste of something sweet or bitter? Stay on the sweet side of things. ❤
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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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Just Say Yes

Paints & Brushes

What would happen if we just said yes?

“So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many are called, but few are chosen.” Matthew 20:16 (KJV)

There is blessing and promise on the other side of discomfort. When I choose to say yes every day, to keep living a life full of the fruits of the spirit, then I have the power to impact the lives of those who see me living. Just by living in The Spirit of God, to say yes to Him every day, I am set apart. I am chosen and called to say yes.

The NYPL Building, 5th Ave

About a year ago, I was attending the She Is Free women’s conference my church Liberty Church hosts every year in New York City. Ordinarily, I would offer to volunteer, but it was my first time attending the conference and I wanted to “not miss a single thing” and wanted to get the “full experience.” A couple of my close friends, Louisa and Trish, asked me a few times to volunteer and I politely declined. After a few more asks, I felt a tug on my heart to just take the leap and volunteer. And boy was I glad I did. My station was in the green room, which was where the speakers and hosts of the conference spent some down time in between sessions. Not only did I get to meet and speak with some of the leaders whose books I’ve read and podcasts I listen to,  but I received a word from Kris Vallotton that would ultimately change my entire experience at the conference. Because I was expectant and because I had said yes to volunteering, I was at the right place and the right time to receive that word. Kris looked at me, and he saw me. He said yes to stepping out in boldness, and gave me a word of encouragement. He said I was a dreamer (…and then I broke down crying… because obviously…). At the end of the day, my ability to say “yes” is not just for me, but for someone else.

So today, I say yes. Yes to stepping out of my comfort zone. Yes to something I would normally turn down. Yes to something that I don’t feel like doing. And it’s not enough to say yes once, but I need to keep saying yes. I need to actively choose to do the things that push my boundaries and push me out of my comfort zone. I need to actively choose to be bold, to be a bit more curious, to be living and leading a life that that this world calls a bit “odd”.

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