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The Best Date Night Plan EVER

Hi sweet friends,

Fall is one of my favorite times of the year — and it isn’t just because of all the cozy sweaters and excuses to eat tons of soup. Fall is a very special season for me because it’s when I married my best friend. David and I are celebrating 2 years of marriage this fall and we are in such a beautiful place in our relationship.

That said, we do struggle to keep the romance alive when it comes to busy work schedules, giving so much time to this platform, and balancing all of our extra curricular responsibilities. We tried promising we would have a date night once a week and that doesn’t always go quite how we planned. Sure, we grab dinner together from time-to-time, cuddle up for movie nights, and take a couple of small road trips here and there for special events or adventures. But, I still felt like we needed something else. Something more intimate and intentional when it comes to helping us grow in our relationship.

So, we did something different from anything else we have ever tried — we had our date delivered to our door. And it was such a fun time! We are officially in love with Date Night In Boxes.

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Date Night In Boxes are “a custom created, memorable date night subscription experience to be enjoyed from the comfort of home. Each Date Night In box includes interactive activities with ambiance and a tasty treat…” 

This was such a fun experience for David and I — we are so excited to receive our next box. It gives us something really fun to look forward to together and we know that it will involve a whole new experience each time. We can both get stuck in our routines and it’s so nice to break things up with a creative date night.

So, I want to break down the box for you and how this date night played out for us…

  1. The Prep

What makes this type of subscription box different is that it not only creates an experience, but Night In goes the extra mile and makes sure that you have EVERYTHING ready for you romantic night in. What you see in the box is not all that you get — they also offer an appetizer, dinner, dessert, and drink recipe that goes with the theme of the night. Plus….you get a personalized Spotify playlist to help set the mood — and, again, it totally compliments the theme of the box. This month’s theme was “Fall In Love” so all the songs were perfectly picked to make me think of how we fell for each other almost three years ago.

So, while David was at work I started with the prep work for the night. I made the homemade salted caramel dipped apples for dessert and got those chilling in the fridge (and I may have eaten a couple “accidentally”). After that, I set the table and started on dinner.

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…DINNER….oh my goodness….that recipe was spectacular! I think it was half the reason we felt so in love at the end of the night. I tweaked it a bit to our preferences (plus I can just never follow a recipe no matter how hard I try). What we ended up with was comforting, warm, and perfectly creamy chicken pot pies with a biscuit-top crust.

Once dinner was well on its way, I lit the candles, poured the apple cider, (snuck another taste of the apples), and waited for David to get home.

2.  The Conversation

I’m not sure if we followed the night’s agenda exactly in order, but I thought the discussion guide was the best place to start for us. If you select the FAITH Night In Box you receive a special discussion guide that doubles as a couple’s devotional. This was really impressive to David and I! It started a beautiful conversation about our relationship and growing closer to Christ in our daily life and learning how we can encourage each other to read the Word.

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3. The Crafts

So, this may have been the most challenging part for us because neither David or myself are super crafting and literally making a miniature candle was such a challenge for us. But oh so fun! We laughed the entire time! The second craft was a little more intimate and challenged us to think about all of the milestones in our relationship thus far. For this one we marked a piece of wood with our thumbprints and listed out some of the most significant dates in our relationship (first date, engagement, wedding…,). This was a simple yet really sweet craft that ended with us having a special keepsake from the night — our ideal type of experience!

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Can you guess which thumbprint belongs to me?

4. The Snack

Okay, I have to write an entire section about the snack provided for the night. The SuperSeedz Maple Sugar & Sea Salt Gourmet Pumpkin Seeds were DELICIOUS. So much so that David has bugged me about them almost every day since to see if I have ordered any for us to keep on hand. What’s really special about this subscription box is that we get to try these new-to-us snacks that are carefully selected and made well with quality ingredients, PLUS — they offer a special discount on those same snacks to subscribers.

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5. The Game

While we enjoyed what was left of dessert, we played the fun game provided in the box. This was a time full of laughs — mostly from me because I totally won! This was a really sweet way to wrap up the evening with lighthearted fun that brought out the competitive side of each of us. What makes it even better is that we can now break out that game anytime we want to and enjoy some friendly competition — or try to decide who has to do the dishes.

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6. The Bonus

Just like Night In goes the extra mile to get your prepped for the night, they also go the extra mile to make sure the romance doesn’t end when you’ve used everything in the box. On the back page of your agenda you will find suggestions for adventurous activities or movies that support the theme of the month. For example, this month’s suggestions were hayrides and apple orchards or snuggling up for a screening of Practical Magic or When Harry Met Sally. David is a total movie junkie so he especially loved this little touch for wrapping up the evening. Plus, it gives us the opportunity to carry the date over into a full weekend or even a couple of weeks of movies & activities.

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All-in-all, we ADORE the Date Night In Box and cannot wait until the next one arrives at our door. The best part for us? The anticipation! It really rekindles that old familiar can’t-wait-for-our-next-date feeling that we both so sweetly recall from three years ago.

If you’re thinking about spicing up your date nights, then you have to check out this box! There are a few options to choose from — like Faith-based dates or kid-friendly dates for a full night of family fun.

To learn more about Date Night In Boxes, click here to see why David and I are obsessed with this innovative way to get us back to our days of sweet, fun, and intimate dates.

Check in with me next month so see how enjoy the next Date Night In Box.

-S.

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What You Can Learn When God Says No

Friend,

Have you ever bargained with God? Have you ever told Him exactly why YOU think that the answer to a certain prayer should be yes? Have you spent countless amounts of time praying for something only to receive a big, fat, NO in the end?

Well, that happened to me this summer. I have been praying for this one specific thing for quite some time; I would guess close to a year. It’s been heavy on my heart and it’s deeply affected my attitude on the daily throughout this entire year. I’ve prayed. My husband has prayed. My best friend. My mom. Even my mother-in-law. It’s been a long year of prayer to say the least.

Want to know what all that prayer got me?

NO.

It got me a really hard-to-hear NO from God.

 

But, I learned something really important that has completely changed my attitude in recent weeks. And, if you feel like you have received a no from God, then I want to share this with you in hopes of opening your eyes to the bigger picture and the positive side of no.

  1. I Do Not Know What Is Best For Me

As much as I hate to admit it, what I think is best for my life is hardly ever what is truly best. In fact, most of the time I am down-right WRONG.

During this year of what has felt like constant prayer, I have done a lot of bargaining with God and trying to convince Him of why my way is best. I can’t tell you how many times I have literally prayed the words “I know this would be good for me because….”

Like I have ever been right about that before! And here I am trying to tell the Creator why THIS time I believe I’m right. Though time and time again He has proven that His will is always better than my own.

Friend, let me save you a little time and trouble here….

YOU DO NOT KNOW WHAT IS BEST FOR YOU.

You may know what would be good for you. And you certainly know what you want and what you think would positively impact your life. But when it comes to what is absolutely and truly BEST….well, that is up to God. Because of His all-knowing nature, He can truly determine what will produce the best possibly outcome for you and the ultimate plan He has for your life.

 

I know that sounds really preachy. I even hate hearing it myself. But, it’s the truth that has been revealed to me through this season of praying and hoping. You see, my husband and I have this motto, if you will. No matter what we do or where we go, we just want to make sure we are in God’s will. And, throughout our entire relationship, it has brought us nothing but goodness.

Yet, still I find myself wanting to argue my own will and have my own way.

Thankfully, God in His mercy doesn’t always allow me to have my way. When I think of all the times He has said no in the past I sigh in pure relief — so many blessings I would have missed out on if He had answered yes when I wanted Him to.

I know feeling like God is saying no or just isn’t answering your prayer at all can feel like the most painful rejection ever, but I promise that He always has a good reason. And that reason is this: His will is always better. ALWAYS. Even when it seems that what you’re praying for cannot possibly have a better alternative, I promise that what He has in-store for you will far exceed what you have in-store for yourself.

2. Sometimes NO Means NOT NOW.

The thing I have been praying about all year almost received a yes this summer. At least, it seemed that way at first. Everything was lining up. It all made sense. The timing was perfect. It all seemed even better than what I had actually been praying for. But then,…silence.

It all stopped and it felt like my prayer got a big fat NO stamp on it just when I thought the yes was finally coming my way. I was heartbroken. I spent many nights crying in bed while my husband tried to comfort me. He said everything he could think to say in attempt to help me see the positive side of the situation. But, all I did was continually ask why.

WHY wouldn’t He give me this? It seemed so perfect.

WHY would He let me believe it was going to happen and then take it away?

WHY doesn’t He want me to have this?

And then, finally, David said something that finally made sense to me.

“Sometimes what you perceive as a NO from God is actually a NOT NOW.”

 

Suddenly, I found myself rising back up to my usual self and little-by-little I stopped questioning Him. I learned to be okay with a simple “not yet” for now.

You see, this particular thing I’ve been praying for has been on my heart for so long. And for the past year it’s been made clear time and time again that some form of this prayer is what God is leading me toward. So when I thought He was saying no I spiraled in confusion. That is, until I finally accepted that God’s timing is perfect and that He will fulfill this promise when He knows the time is right.

Maybe this is true for you as well. There are certainly times when God says to no to what we think is best. But, I also believe that if you have covered a decision in prayer and have felt God’s leading that He will be faithful to finish what He starts….when He knows the timing is absolutely perfect.

Looking at my life right now….it’s actually a really good thing that what I prayed for didn’t happen when I thought it should. I would be weighed down by guilt and chaos and stress at this point in my journey if everything had gone the way I wanted it to. The timing I thought was so perfect turned out to be pretty far from it. Turns out, as we have already discussed, I tend to be wrong more often than I like to admit. So, I invite you to believe with me, friend, that when the timing truly is perfect He will fulfill the desires of our heart.

3. It Isn’t About Me.

Have you ever been so caught up in a prayer that forget that you aren’t the center of the universe. That’s what happened to me this summer — I was so focused on this one thing that I totally forgot how it might impact people around me — my husband, family, coworkers, friends….I was so caught up in how it would change my life for the better that I never considered how it might make the life of many others more complicated. I never considered how it would change how I serve those I care about. Because in those moments of prayer I only had one thing on my mind: MYSELF.

 

I never set out to be selfish about this. And who ever does? We all think we are being pretty generous and selfless, but if we’re being honest with ourselves….most of our prayers are pretty selfish. We want happiness, security, prosperity, contentment….and we never stop to think that maybe lacking those things isn’t the worst thing that could happen. We forget that we aren’t here to be happy and to prosper….but rather we are here to give of ourselves, sacrifice our own security, and seek to bring true joy to others by shining the light of Christ.

When I sit down and think about all the prayers that I have circling my life…most of them are pretty selfish. Good health, secure financial standing, an enjoyable career, safety….all of these things have one thing in common: my happiness. And as hard as it may be to admit…..that is not what this life is supposed to be about!

I had to ask myself….is receiving a no to this prayer really causing anyone discontentment except for me? Does it majorly impact anyone else but me in a negative way? No, not really. When I think of the time I spent worrying and begging and bargaining over this….I feel sick because all of that prayer could have been devoted to so much more — to something that truly impacts others and makes a difference for The Kingdom.

Dear friend, it is more than okay to pray for the desires of our heart, even if they are mainly about us. But, what is not okay is making those types of prayers our priority. That is what I did, and I truly believe that the no/not now that I have received is a wake up call regarding my selfishness. It’s time that I stop devoting 99% of my prayer life to myself — that isn’t the kind of prayer warrior I want to be!

I don’t know about you, but I want to be the kind of prayer warrior that lifts others up, that prays for the ones that no one prays for, that feels God’s presence in every moment because my entire life is drenched in prayers for others. I want to witness God moving in the lives of the ones I love rather than just in the life I lead. I want to open myself up to all of the possibilities of seeing miracles and lives changed.

 

So, you might ask: do I still pray for that thing I was so distressed over? Yes, every day. I lift it up every, single, day. But, I do so in a new way. Now, I hand it over to God each day, accepting that His will for this prayer is far better than mine. I try to truly let it go each morning and trust that He will use today to bring me close to that answer I long for. My faith in God’s ability and willingness to answer a prayer hasn’t changed — but my pursuit of that prayer has. I have found an abundance of joy in devoting more time to praying for others — my husband, my family, my dear friends, random people I meet or know of, even my readers (aka: you!). Trust me, that kind of joy is far better than the joy I would have received from having my own prayer answered. That kind of joy is irreplaceable.

-S.

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How to Journey Through Heartbreak & Remain Joyful

Sweet friend,

I’m just going to go ahead and say it, even though it is soooooo cliche, but just bear with me here…..

We ALL must journey through heartbreak at some point. I know, I know….that doesn’t change how painful it is when it happens and it certainly isn’t a statement that offers hope. But, you probably know firsthand what I mean by this.

So, because I know we all have either faced heartbreak, are facing it right now, or will face it at some point, I felt it was so important to start this conversation. I think we are so convinced that as women we can never show weakness for fear of being labeled the weaker sex or living up to some stereotype. But, today, I want to get VULNERABLE and talk about this entire topic LIKE A GIRL. Friend, heartbreak stinks. When you’re journeying through it, it feels like the most life-altering and devastating experience you could have.

 

Before we dive in, I want to tell you about the year my heart broke three times.

My senior year of college and the summer that followed was the most altering year of my young adult life. I was not the same person at the end of that year that I was when I first rang in the new year.

By February of that year I had been dating someone for about five months. This wasn’t just any guy. This was my best friend. This was a relationship we had both prayed over and talked about long before deciding to pursue it. And, of course, I totally thought that this relationship was destined to be the ONE because he was my best friend. All the movies told us that this would work out. All of our friends questioned why we hadn’t started dating sooner — we spent every second of the day together anyway.

Well, as it turns out, sometimes dating your best friend is not exactly what the movies lead you to believe it is. By the end of February, we had called it quits. And I don’t mean that we both decided to go back to being friends. I mean that he decided to call it quits.

So, we all know that getting dumped is no fun. But getting dumped by your best friend….that is just about one of the most awful rejections I’ve ever known. Now, I will be honest and say that I was in complete denial about our relationship. The sparks that we thought existed between us simply weren’t there — it just happened that he was willing to admit that sooner than I was.

 

Surprisingly, we were actually able to go right back to the way we were and to this day he is still the one I call when I just need my best friend. Of course, in those days after the breakup, I was pretty sure that I had just lost the best relationship I had ever known. How could we ever be friends after this?

For a month straight I went back to my dorm every day, crawled into bed with some sort of food (usually sushi or pizza) and watched endless episodes of Friends. I just couldn’t seem to get back to who I was before — I felt sad all the time and on the verge of tears most days. You see, I had just experienced my very first broken heart.

Fast forward to May of that year. I had just graduated and was about to start my summer internship. I was dating this dreamy guy who I’d met about a month after that breakup. He was totally infatuated with me and I with him. This was the kind of passion that you read about in books. I was head over heels.

3 days after gradation….HEARTBREAK.

I was beyond devastated.

I had to walk into my internship the next day and pretend like I was okay, but I was a mess on the inside.

Months passed and I still felt the ache. My internship was going great, the summer was full of fun things, and I had a bright future ahead. But still, I was hurting.

The end of the summer came around and I found myself being pursued again. This time, it only took about 3 dates for him to totally stop all communication and I was left with, yet again, another let down. This time was not nearly as painful on it’s own, but after feeling rejected so much in one year, it just added to all the cracks forming in my heart.

Of course, I am now married to the man who really was meant for me. And he makes all of that pain seem far less important. But, during that year of heartbreak I felt myself sinking. I’d grown insecure, untrusting, and unconvinced that any man was worth my time.

But I learned so much in those months. Some things that truly changed me for the better. Those breaks in my heart became small scars that remind of how far I’ve come, how strong I am, and how much I can depend on God to see me through anything.

 

After drawing out this long story about my relationship history, I want to share with you the things I learned through that journey in the simplest way I can….

  1. Dating relationships should never identify you.

Marriage may come with titles like “husband” and “wife” and those titles certainly become a part of who we are — they identify us as committed to one person so the rest of the world knows where we stand. One of the most defining things about me is that I am the wife to David Stephens. It means that I place his needs before my own, I serve him as God leads me, I am submissive to him as the leader of our relationship. It means that I get to enjoy the blessings of marriage with him, fall asleep with him each night, and possibly raise a family with him someday. Those are self-defining things that simply come with being married.

But, a dating relationship should never receive the same privileges that a marriage relationship does. A dating relationship should never define who we are. Part of the reason that I struggled to move past breakups was because I struggled to place my identity in God instead of in the guy I was with at the time. Because I wasn’t relying on what God said about me, I was devastated when rejected came my way.

That summer I grew closer to God than I ever had been before. All of those heartbreaks had left me with no other choice but to turn to Him and learn to find my identity in who He says I am. And though  I was still hurting, I was able to find true JOY because of my relationship with Christ.

So, if heartbreak feels more difficult for you than it should….maybe that’s because it is. Maybe what you’re really facing is an identity crisis. And the only way to move past that is to turn back to who God says you are. Spend time with Him, talk to Him, and really search His word to know what He says about you.

2. Your plan will never compare to God’s plan for you

I still struggle with this every day. I am always fighting and questioning God when things don’t go my way. Even though I know that when things aren’t going my way, that just means that God is working out something even BETTER for me than I had planned.

Of those three broken hearts, those three guys that I thought were so perfect for me….none of them even come close to the man I get to spend every day with. I am beyond grateful that the Lord didn’t let me have my way, no matter how much I begged. He knew that what I thought I wanted was not at all the type of guy that I needed in my life. He knew that David was waiting and praying for me. He knew that even though my heart was breaking, which I know He felt 100% with me, that He had something unbelievably good stored up for my future.

Friend, if your heart is breaking right now I invite you to take joy in this one thought: the relationship that you thought was unbeatable is actually going to fall quite short compared to the one that God has in-store for you. I know it seems impossible that anyone THAT good could ever come into your life again and you truly feel like you can never love anyone else more than you love him…..but you would be greatly surprised at what God can do with a willing heart. Including HEAL it. Trust that He has goodness planned for your life and believe that He will fulfill every promise and you will live each day with a joy that others simply can’t describe.

 

3. A relationship will never bring you true joy.

Not that lasting kind anyway. My husband makes me happy — every day! But my JOY is not found in him. Because if it were….well, I would be a pretty miserable person on the days he annoys me or does something in a different way than I would. If my joy were found in my marriage then I would never know as each day came whether or not I was going to be happy that day. But, because my joy comes from God, I know every morning I wake up is a day destined for joy….NO MATTER WHAT.

If you can learn to find your joy in Christ because you know that no other relationship will ever provide that kind of joy, then you will be free from all the miseries that other people complain about when it comes to relationships. You will know for certain that no matter what happens, you will be a genuinely joyful person.

I have one final thing to share with you, friend….

If you are really struggling through a season of heartbreak right now, then I would like to give you a special gift.

I have created a 7-day devotional that focuses on how you can journey through heartbreak and come out on the other side more joyful and hopeful and learn to see yourself as adored and loved by the Creator.

Just click below to download your FREE copy of this devotional and start the healing process today.

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Click HERE to download your FREE copy.

 

I hope you are choosing to walk the path of healing, friend. I pray that you are seeking God’s will through this confusing season — He will be faithful to heal your heart and provide you with the love story you deserve.

-S.

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3 Steps for Overcoming Issues with Food, Dieting, & Body Image

Hi friend,

Like many of the conversations we have here in my little internet corner, this one won’t be an easy one. It’s a topic I have skirted around a couple of times and it is one I’ve been super nervous to discuss with you; but, today we are going to break the ice on the conversation about our relationship with food.

I don’t know about you, but I have had a struggle with food and body image since I was really young. I can’t quite pinpoint the exact moment that I shifted from carefree girl to girl obsessed with calories, fat grams, and the size of my jeans. But at some point in my younger years my mindset shifted and the struggle to shift it back has been REAL. Does this sound like you? If so, I encourage you to keep reading so we can try to walk through this topic together and maybe come out on the other side with a little more courage.



There is something you should know first, though, before we move forward. This is NOT the post that will fix all of your issues with food and dieting. These words are not meant to erase everything you have been struggling with. This is just me, a friend, reaching out to you and saying “you’re not alone in this and you are not defeated.”

The steps I want to share with you today are not the cure for the struggle that we both face every day and none of them are going to fully eliminate the problem — but I believe that they can help us move forward, start to find healing, and learn to shift our mindset. Remember, I’m not here to tell you that there is a sure set of steps you can take to rid yourself of this burden– I’m just here to share my story in hopes that we can walk through this together.

1. Stop Gripping so Tightly & Learn to Let Go

Control is a huge part of this struggle for me. Whether it’s fighting for control over every little thing and being obsessed with what I’m putting in my body, or panicking because I know I have far less control than I would want. At some point I had to stop lying to myself: I cannot control everything. Including my body. Yes, I can make healthy choices. But I can’t control that I’ve been created with a small chest and wide hips. I can’t control that I’m a short girl with thick thighs — no matter what the number on my jeans says, they will always be thicker than what I have allowed myself to believe is acceptable.

I have to learn to be okay with the amount of control I DO have as well as the control that I DON’T have. And so do you, friend. Because we have both been made with beautiful intention — to be exactly the way we are. So, instead of fighting the way we have been made, maybe we should simply let it go. Let go of the control. Let go of the standards we have been told to live up to. Let go of that image we have of our perfect body because we have better things to do with our minds. Let go of the control we so badly want to have over the shape of our hips, size of our thighs, and flatness of our bellies. Let it all go so we can focus on the things that matter.

2. Stop Fighting Yourself & Start Fighting FOR Yourself

Something I believed for far too long is that I would wake up one day and this struggle would be over. And it wasn’t until recently that I realized that just isn’t going to happen. I’m not going to “grow out” of this. I’m not going to forget about it with time. It isn’t just a part of life — it is a part of me. And as much as I may hate to admit that, it’s the truth. Sure, it in no way DEFINES who I am. But it is a small part of who I am. It’s just as much a part of me as my quick temper, impatience, and tendency to procrastinate — they are all things I hope to change with time, but they are all things that will probably remain a part of me for the rest of my life, even if I can improve them somehow. It is how I handle them that makes the difference.



So, instead of fighting this part of me and being confused by the fact that I’m still dealing with it, I’ve decided to accept its presence and start fighting FOR myself. Start fighting for the things about me that matter MORE than this struggle — the good stuff.

And you should too. Start thinking of all the positive things you know to be true about yourself and FIGHT for them. Fight for your compassion. Fight for your love of art. Fight for your dreams, the people you love, the silliness that makes you…well, YOU. Those are the things worth fighting for. And I would be willing to bet that somewhere along the way you and I might find that while we were fighting for the GOOD stuff, the not-so-good stuff just sort of fell away. It’s when we shift our focus away from the struggle that the struggle itself seems much smaller.

3. Stop Believing the Lies & Hold Onto the Truth

It is nearly impossible to ignore the lies thrown at us every day. Or how about learning to let go of the lies we believed as little girls? The same ones that followed us through our teenage years and now as adults. I think some part of us likes to hold onto the lies simply because they feel comfortable and familiar. But we both know that we can’t continue to believe them while also believing the truth. We must choose which one we will hold onto — which one will we stand for? If not for us, for our best friends, our moms, our daughters….the versions of ourselves we want to be.

To stand for the truth, we must first understand the truth. And here it is.

We were not made for this. Our Creator did not weave every piece of us together so intricately and perfectly just so we could sit here and be unhappy about it and use all of our energy trying to undo it. No, we have been created for far more than this. We have been created to be storytellers, wives, moms, world changers, doctors, artists, business women, advocates, missionaries, friends, role models, and most importantly: shining examples of the love that surpasses all other loves. We were made to represent Jesus and if we are so focused on the lies of the world then we will never fully know the truth: that we have purpose beyond what we look like and what our body fat percentage is. We have real work to do! We have a world to change! And it isn’t going to happen if we spend all of our time trying to count our calories and measure our waists.



So, friend, I am inviting you to STOP gripping for control, STOP fighting who you were made to be, and STOP believing the lies of the enemy. You have so much work to do — a purpose that only you can fulfill. And you don’t have time for hating your body and obsessing over your food.

That leaves me with an invitation…

Will you join me? Join me in learning to stay focused on what matters most and trying to show the world that we will not be weighed down by expectations, lies, and envy. NO. Let’s show them that we can shine with GRACE, PEACE, and DIVINE PURPOSE.

I have one more invitation for you:
If you are feeling at all inspired by this post, I would like to offer you a gift. Something that I pray will bring you closer to overcoming this struggle every day. I have created a 7-Day devotional that expounds on this topic and takes an even deeper look at the healing process. This devotional is completely FREE for those who have read through this post — because that tells me that YOU might be the reason God placed this devotional on my heart. So, I would like to give this devotional to you.

Just click HERE to download my FREE Seven-Day Devotional, For The Girl Who: Is Scared of Cake.

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And if you do choose to use the devo, please let me know! Snap a screenshot of your download on your Instagram Story and tag me (@s.sweetlyblog). I would love to see you using this free content. Plus, you never know who you might encourage in the process of sharing.

-S.

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How to Have Patience in a Season of Waiting

Hey there, friend.

Can we just talk honestly for a moment about seasons of waiting? They are not fun or graceful…at least not for me. I kick and scream the whole way through. I show little to no patience during those seasons…patience with myself, other people, and even God. Maybe it’s just being a part of this whole instant-gratification generation, but I am absolutely horrible at staying patient through waiting seasons.

So, why on earth do I think I can sit here and offer you a word of advice on how to have patience during seasons of waiting? Because when I sit down to write these posts I am often in just as much need of writing it as you may feel you are of reading it. I think it’s easy to picture the people on the other side of our screens as having it all together — I mean, they sit down and write this stuff so they must be doing well, right?

Nope. Definitely not.

Friend, I am a broken, messy, girl-in-need-of-grace-every-day person. And I have about .001% of my life together (and that .001% is only because I managed to sweep my floors at least once this week).

Just like you might be right now, I am facing a season of waiting. Waiting on God to answer prayers, fulfill a promise, and bring me to the next part of this chapter. The future is uncertain, my days are often chaotic, and sometimes I am just straight up tired of waiting. So, today’s post is just as much for me as it is for you. These are the ways that I’m attempting to have patience in a waiting season….



Focus on the Present

It may seem simple and impossible all at once, but the best way to attempt to remain patient and content in a season of waiting is to focus on all of the blessings in your present. Try to enjoy the season you’re in right now. Believe it or not, this may be one of those seasons you’re going to look back on with great joy some day.

The summer after I graduated college was one of my biggest seasons of waiting. I had no idea where my life was going and I was doing my best to wait on God to show me the way. I was often stressed, lonely, and overwhelmed. I was searching for my first career break, hoping to have my own place, and healing from a broken heart. But, I often look back on that summer as one of the most fun summers I can remember. It was my last summer of just being a carefree young woman. It was my last summer working part-time, spending my afternoons by the pool, and eating whatever I wanted because I was burning so many calories just by staying crazy busy. It was my last summer home with my parents: the last summer I spent staying up late with my mom, giggling and being silly and talking about life and love. It was a season of waiting for sure, but boy was it a joyful season and I wish I had savored it a little more in those moments.

So, I invite you to try to take inventory of THIS season instead of rushing on to the next one. What things are giving you joy right now? What moments could be fleeting? What experiences could you be having that you may not have again once this season is over? Hold on to those, friend.

Focus on the Lesson

Think about it — what could God be trying to show you or teach you while you’re waiting on Him to bring you to the next step? So often when we think it’s about the destination, it is actually about the journey. Every season of waiting that I have journeyed through has had some sort of major impact on my life, my perspective, or my character. There isn’t a single storm or season that we endure that isn’t meant to mold us, shape us, and make us stronger than we ever thought we could be. Seasons of waiting don’t mean that your hope or prayer or dream is being delayed….they mean that you’re being prepared for the hope, prayer, and dream ahead of you.



I know, I know…seeking the lesson during the waiting season is nearly impossible. It’s so much easier to see it from afar, when we have finally passed through it. But just think of how much less frustration you might have if you can just uncloud your vision for a moment to gain a different perspective of the situation.

Focus on the Relationship

Even if you can’t seem to get a grip on the lesson in front of you and focusing on the joys of the present just feels completely impossible, there is one thing that you can focus on that will make all the difference through your season of waiting: the relationship you share with Christ. No matter what type of season of waiting you’re walking through right now, you can always grow closer to Him. Even when the waiting is painful and unbelievably frustrating, you have a dear friend to talk to about it. Even when the next chapter seems thousands of miles away, you can know that you aren’t walking alone. In fact, the lesson that we usually find at the end of these seasons is quite simple: we need to prioritize our relationship with the One who waits for us every day.

I honestly believe that most of the waiting seasons we face are because we have become so focused on the light at the end of the tunnel that we forget about the one walking through the tunnel right next to us. How many seasons of waiting have we journeyed through because we just won’t make time for Jesus? How many times have we been so preoccupied with where we want to be that we completely miss the point of where we are: because that is exactly where He wants us.

I am guilty of being so caught up in my pursuits and passions and dreams that too often I forget the One who gave me all of those dreams and passions in the first place. I forget that He didn’t create me to just do and seek and chase…He created me to be in constant communication and relationship with Him. We can’t let our longing to get through these seasons of waiting get in the way of what matters right now.

 

Friend, if you are doing your best to just make it through this season, searching for any sign of an end in sight…may I just challenge you? Don’t worry, I’m challenging myself on this one too…

Let’s make a real effort to seek what really matters in this season. The waiting isn’t purposeless. We need to enjoy these moments, pursue our relationship with Jesus every single day, and attempt to see the message He might be trying to share through this time of what feels like endless waiting. We aren’t meant to just try to get through to the next step: we are meant to thrive and be joyful and point people back to the One who got us this far.

Through my own season of waiting, I’m learning to pray with a new perspective. I’m hearing God whisper to me that I can pray for the impossible because I serve a God for whom nothing is impossible. I’m learning to pray big and expect miracles and believe that seasons of waiting are meant to prepare us for something amazing. 

If you’re ready to start praying big for the miracles and dreams He may have you waiting for, click here to read how you can pray big even when you feel small.

He has unbelievable goodness stored up for our future, friend. We just have to be willing to be content with what He has given us right now, in these moments. This season will pass. Keep your eyes on Him. We’re gonna get there…

-S.

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4 Ways to Master Your Mission

Hey there friend,

I have an important question for you today — what is your mission?

I don’t mean your job, or your title, or the future that you visualize for yourself. I mean your MISSION – your purpose for being here. The call on your heart that screams out louder than anything else. The one thing that you can’t stop thinking about. If you are ready to tell that mission to anyone who would stop and listen then this post if for YOU.

Not sure what your mission is? That’s okay! I have two previous posts that I believe would help you determine what that mission is. I invite you to read both of them, really do some soul-searching, and then come back here to this post when you are ready to start mastering that mission.

4 Ways to Chase Your Calling

How to Pursue Passion & Forget Fear 

If you DO know what your mission is then stick around — this is going to be a good one. I am taking you through 4 ways that you can dig in deep and give that call on your heart everything you have.

First, I want to share my heart with you about all of this…

So, when I started this blogging journey last September I had no idea just how much it would impact my heart. I knew it was what I was being called to do so it just made sense to go for it. Friend, I had no idea what I was about to receive by answering that call. This platform makes me happier than I ever imagined it would. As I was researching in preparation for my blog launch I kept getting the same impression from other bloggers: blogging is hard work.

And it is.

It drains me of energy. It can be emotionally taxing. It takes SO MUCH time. It means sacrificing experiences to dig in and do the work and it can sometimes mean a monetary investment.

But here’s what makes the difference for me. I KNOW it is what I’m meant to do and it brings me joy because I consistently receive feedback about the impact my words have on someone else.

That, my friend, is the recipe for a mission. Something that impacts the lives of others while adding purpose and joy to your own life. So when I use the term “master your mission” I am referring to reaching the point of knowing exactly what your mission is, doing everything you can to accomplish it, and finding purpose and joy within it all while making a real impact in others’ lives.



Here are the 4 ways you can master your mission.

  1. Invest with Intention

My own personal journey has required a lot of investing — time, money, energy, emotion, honesty…and so many other things. But, every time I have had to spend time learning something new to apply to my brand, pay for a domain name or scheduling service, or just block out time (within what little free time I have) I have done so with great intention. I knew going into this that it would take some major investing on my part — but I also knew that the purpose behind all of this was worth more than what I was investing.

I encourage you to invest with great intention. Don’t try to find the quick or cheap or free way into your mission. Give it the time and effort it deserves! Maybe that is school tuition or committing to spending your weekends working on that call of yours. If you’re anything like me, then it might mean investing a lot of your own emotions and story into your mission. Whatever that investment looks like for you, just do it! When you finally feel that wave of purpose in the center of your mission I promise that you will see a priceless return on that investment.

2. Prioritize Prayer

And by that I mean pray constantly. Every morning. Every night. Every time you sit down to work on your mission. Because the God that gave you this passion and calling will be faithful to bring it to fruition in your life. But you have to make it a priority to go to Him every day and seek His will in this calling. You have to hand it over to Him every day.

Pray specifically. Pray big prayers. Pray with abandon — knowing that His will is far greater than your own.

I actually have a notebook that I purchased a couple of days after deciding to pursue this passion and I started writing prayers in it every day. Now, I already had a prayer journal, but this was different. This one was specifically for what I felt God was calling me to. This was for me to pour out my heart and ask for God’s hand on my mission. I use it to write out scripture that encourages me. I use it to pen the thoughts, hopes, and fears I have about this pursuit.

So, make it an absolute priority to take your calling to the One who called you. Every day.

3. Be Generous & Gracious

When it comes to the people who could be impacted by what you’re doing or hope to do, be overly generous and gracious.

Give. Give. Give. And when it feels like it is finally your turn to take….give some more. Trust me, your heart will be filled so much more by giving than it ever could be by receiving.

And then be unbelievably thankful — even if you feel like you are the one who should be thanked. Remember: this is a MISSION. It isn’t just about you — it is about THEM. Your tribe. Your people. The ones you set out to impact in the first place. Express your gratitude to anyone and everyone that supports you plus give thanks to those who are benefiting from what you’re doing.

That seems backwards, right? Thanking the people who YOU are giving too. Well, friend, without that tribe then your call would have no purpose. Simply thank them for being there, for receiving what you have to offer, for being your tribe.

4. Release & Rest

Release all of it. The dream. The passion. The hours of prayer and work and stress and planning. Now, hear me out.

You are doing what you’ve been called to. You’re investing and praying and giving generously — but at the end of each day you must let all of that go. Just when you feel empty from all of the giving that you do, give one more time right before you go to sleep — give it up to God. Let Him have all of your hope, your work, your plans. You have done your part for the day, now let Him do His. Let Him use everything you have invested to do something amazing.

You know what you will finally receive in return?

REST.

When you give everything up to God — even the dreams you hold onto so tightly — you will be absolutely floored by the rest that He will give you. Because when you let it all go you realize that you never held any of it to begin with and that is an incredible blessing. It means that you are not responsible for the success of your passion: He is! I don’t know about you, friend, but I would much rather have the Creator in charge of what I’m doing than even consider attempting it on my own.

That’s it, fellow dreamer. That is all it takes to master your mission. It’s truly a shift in mindset when you really break it down.

I encourage you to apply these 4 tips to your pursuit every day and see if you feel a little more at ease, a lot more joyful, and rested in a way you never realized you could be.

We CAN do this, friend. We can do everything that has been purposed in our hearts. It just takes a little hard work and a lot of faith.

I believe in your mission. So, go prove me right.

-S.

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4 Ways to Chase Your Calling

Hello sweet friend,

Do you remember the most-asked question you received as a child — “what do you want to be when you grow up?” Do you remember your answer?

I remember mine.

“Writer.”

From the age of eight and well into college (even though that was not my major) I always chose the same answer. And it always encouraged more questions. People wanted to know did I want to write fiction novels? Journalism? Maybe children’s’ books? I never had an answer for that part of the question. I never fully knew what I wanted the word “writer” to mean for me. I think that was part of the reason I never chose to study writing academically. It seemed that I only knew a small detail about the calling I wanted to chase.

Until now.

Every week I get to sit down and type out these words and talk to YOU. It isn’t my full-time job. It doesn’t provide sustainable income for my family. It isn’t published. It isn’t the number one title I hold in this life. But this writing is one of the most important parts of my life. Why? Because it has impact — and THAT is exactly what I always wanted — it just took some time to figure that out.

When I think that the childhood dream I once had is currently providing purpose to my life and also providing encouragement to the lives of others….I can’t help but feel the tears well up. It’s an unbelievable blessing that I still get overwhelmed by every single day.

I want YOU to have that feeling, friend. I want you to know that what you are doing matters. That it makes an impact. That it creates conversation and encourages those you feel called to encourage. So, today I want to start a new conversation with you. I want to explore a new, 2-part series that will equip you in chasing your calling and mastering your mission. First, I want to guide you through those first steps in answering your call and pursuing it with everything you have…

  1. Examine the Emptiness

One short year ago I was struggling in a way I never expected. I had everything I thought I needed to complete my life. I was still a newlywed, pursuing a career in the field I studied, enjoying the perks of finally being a homeowner, and genuinely enjoying the carefree life of a dog-mom. But, something was missing. It took months, but I finally started to examine this empty place inside I felt silently screaming at me every day.

Standing in my kitchen, my sweet husband holding me as I cried, I suddenly realized what the missing piece of the puzzle was: mission. I knew that there was a special purpose for me to pursue. I knew that I longed to encourage women. And I knew that though I felt the sting of emptiness in those moments, God would reveal that mission to me in time.

So, right now, before reading the next steps below, I want you to sit for just one moment and examine the emptiness you might be feeling. Maybe even acknowledge it for the very first time. And then ask yourself how that emptiness might somehow be related to the question you were so often asked as a child. What do you want to be when you grow up?

Typically, we connect the word calling with the word career and the truth is that for many of us those two words are not interchangeable. And that is okay! What truly matters is that we are actively pursuing whatever that calling is, even if it has nothing to do with our career. It is perfectly okay if your calling and your career are not the same thing.



Friend, if you are feeling like the calling part of your life is missing….if you are longing to make an impact…if you feel some sort of emptiness in the middle of all of your pursuits…I invite you to be honest with yourself. That is the first step to chasing your true calling.

2. Search Yourself & Seek Truth

Much like I did, you may find that determining how you will pursue your mission  is easier said than done. You might know without any doubt at all what your mission is meant to be but you may not know how you will start to pursue it. For many of us, the blogging route makes the most sense. But that does not have to be the case for you if writing and content creation are not your passions.

I encourage you to take a deeper look at all of the things you love. All of the things that make you want to jump right out of bed in the morning, no coffee needed (the things that come before morning coffee are very powerful if you ask me). Everything you are passionate about has been created within you for a reason — and that reason might just be the calling you hope to chase.

Make a list of what you love to do. Ask friends and family what they think of when they think of you. And then take some real, intentional time to sit and pray. What you’re looking for may be right under your nose so ask God to reveal it to you. I believe we miss out on so many blessings because we never ask the simple questions. So just ask Him. You may be pleasantly surprised by what His answer is.

3. Cut the Comparison

We hear it all. the. time.

“comparison is the thief of joy.”

While this is true, I believe that comparison is the thief of many things.

Success. Individuality. Authenticity. Confidence.

When you think of it that way it is easy to see that comparison is one of the most damaging things to your passion or calling. If you believe that you were created with a unique purpose, to accomplish a unique mission, then you must also believe that comparing yourself to others in your niche or field adds absolutely nothing to your pursuit.

So, cut the comparison. Stop lurking on Instagram and scrolling through profiles that make you feel less than. Stop getting trapped on others’ websites and believing the lie that you are not as important because your site feels simple or underwhelming. Stop telling yourself that the calling you are passionate about is not as important as the one that she is passionate about. Quit comparison, cold turkey. And live in the freedom that  your Creator (the same One who has called your to this mission in the first place) has given you to pursue the passion He has placed on your heart.

4.  Leap & Learn

Once I realized what I was missing and finally zoomed in on exactly how I wanted to fulfill that purpose, I took two major steps to make that happen. First, I took the leap. I was scared to death, fearful of embarrassment, and greatly doubted my ability to do half of the things I knew it would take. But I took the leap anyway.

What made that leap a little less scary? Preparing myself with as much education as I possibly could. I knew that I wanted to reach women through the blogging community so I took educational courses on ministry through blogging, I wrote everything down, and I continue to learn every single day through reading, listening to podcasts, and doing simple research.

In these beginning stages I insist that you seek education in any way you can. Depending on what that calling is and what chapter of life you are in I would encourage you to take courses, pursue certifications, read as much as you can, take an unbelievable amount of notes, and never lose the desire to learn. All of the information you gain will be absolutely priceless in the journey and pursuit you are leaping into.

So,…..what do you want to be when you grow up? I don’t know about you but my answer has changed a lot from what it was when I was eight years old. My response is no longer simply “writer.” Instead, I long to be many things. Compassionate. Generous. Encouraging. I want to make a real impact. I want to show up for other women.

So my goal? Use this passion I’ve been given to make the impact I feel called to make.

You have passions, friend. Things that you have held dear to your heart for a long time. Loves and interests that you can use to achieve your calling. Even if you don’t know quite what that calling is, you can take steps to figure it out. You can be everything that eight year old version of yourself would have been so proud to be.

Chasing your calling doesn’t have to be this grand, road to fame sort of pursuit. It can be a slow, quiet walk toward the purpose you have been created for. Next week I will be diving into the second part of this series, Mastering your Mission. Don’t miss this part, friend, it might just make all the difference in your pursuit.

Subscribe here to be notified when Mastering Your Mission is live.

-S.

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Why Your Mess Is Actually Your Message

Hey there friend,

I want to start our conversation today by painting a picture for you. Right now, in the moments I’m typing this post, I am a complete mess. No, really.

I’ve been crying. A lot. I’ve had more pieces of Dove Milk Chocolate than I would care to confess to in one night. I’m still wearing the blouse I wore to work but I’m also wearing the leggings I’ve been sleeping in for the past three nights. My eyes are puffy and red. I’m sitting in my bed typing all of this to you, waiting for my husband to come and find me in this mess.

Have you ever used that term to describe your life? A MESS? Have you ever just looked at your life and thought is there anything in my life that ISN’T a giant mess right now? I’m pretty sure I do that about ten times a day. I think I keep waiting for the day when life doesn’t feel like a mess and the truth is that just isn’t going to happen. There will always be something in life that just feels messy.

BUT…

Here’s the really amazing thing about the messes of life: we have a message! All of those tears. All of the anxiety. All of the crazy, chaotic, completely heartbreaking things that happen to us can tell a story. And that story can impact and change lives. So, I want to invite you into my mess right now and share with you how you can turn what feels like a total mess into an impactful message.

So, in the past few weeks I have just been an absolute mess. So much so that I can’t even think of any other word to use except for M-E-S-S. Life has just been throwing some pretty powerful punches lately and I haven’t been so great at blocking them. I’ve gone from bitter and angry one day, to a puddle of tears the next day, and by the end of the week I’m just exhausted and guilt-ridden.

I know I’m not alone in this. If you’re reading this then it’s probably safe to say that you are right in the middle of your own mess. Maybe it’s just one major thing in your life that is overpowering all of the positives. Maybe, if you’re like me, it just feels like life is coming at you from all angles. Either way, you’re likely journeying through your own messy life right now and I have a few things I want you to know today to encourage you to seek the message that can come from your mess.

First, there is purpose in absolutely everything that you are facing right now. Even the things that seem completely pointless or unbelievably painful…even if you never know what that purpose is in this life…just know that there is still a purpose and there is still good (no matter how small of an amount) that can come out of what you are currently up against. There is so much purpose in the pain — never forget that.

Secondly, your story matters. It does! There is someone out there who NEEDS to hear it. Think of all of the lives that have touched your own. Think of how many stories have helped you press on through the messes of life. What is happening to you, what you’re going through, what you think of as a mess might just change someone’s life. Even if your story feels small or too common or not dramatic enough…it still matters. Even if your story is shocking, messier than anything else you’ve ever heard of….IT. STILL. MATTERS. Do not ever, for one second, think that your hurt, your stress, or your tears are unimportant. What you are experiencing, the story that is being written for you, it is all worth telling.

Thirdly, no one is immune to messes. This life is never going to go how any of us imagine it will. There will always be obstacles, road blocks, heartbreak, disasters. And we all must face our own giants at some point. So that gorgeous girl whose instagram feed tells you has it all together…well it isn’t true. She’s going through a mess of her own. All the more reason to share your message — because you can be one of the few who speaks up about their mess and uses it to encourage others.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, your mess is often your most impactful message. Just think for a moment — have you ever been impacted by perfection? Has your life every benefited from hearing someone’s perfect story and seeing their perfect life? Yeah…me either! That’s because perfection doesn’t encourage us — it just gives us something to strive toward (which is completely unrealistic). But, how many stories of tragedy, heartbreak, or even mundane struggles of life have lifted you up in some way? Messes are so often where we find true beauty because we are able to see examples of grace, mercy, redemption, and growth.

I’m going to let you in on a little bit of what my mess has been lately….

When I started this blog, when I began building this community, I was prepared for attacks. I knew that if this was what God called me to then I would face attacks from the enemy if I decided to go for it. What I wasn’t prepared for was attacks in every other part of my life except for the blog. From mental health, stress levels, navigating marriage, and many other things, I have felt completely attacked lately. Which leads me to feeling like such a mess because everything is so out of my control.

This mess has been taking up so much of my energy lately and I was starting to feel defeated when I realized something….

These messes that I’ve been perceiving as attacks are actually really amazing opportunities for me to create content to share with YOU. That’s right — I finally was able to see beyond my mess and see the message. What I have been seeing as an attack has actually been a blessing in disguise — it’s been inspiration and a chance to connect with you. And that alone is worth the struggle for me.

So, I want you to remember that even if it feels like things are as bad as they could possibly get, you can still find a message in that mess. There is something there that could make all the difference in someone else’s life. Share it in whatever capacity feels right to you. You might just find that your own mess feels a little less lonely along the way.

-S.

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3 Reasons Marriage Didn’t Solve My Body Image Issues

Hi friend!

Today I’m diving into the topic that I have a lot to say about…yet it’s the topic I’m the most hesitant to discuss — and you know how I have no problem talking about the hard things here! In fact, I’m usually pretty difficult to shut up about those types of things!

My approach today is making the whole topic of body image even more uncomfortable because I’m talking about it within the context of my marriage. Not because I just long to share every single personal detail of my life with the internet, but because I believe there are other women who are going through this same struggle or there are those of you out there, maybe not married quite yet, who are believing some pretty crazy lies about body image and marriage.

So, today I’m talking about the 3 Reasons Marriage Didn’t Solve My Body Image Issues. And please don’t see this as a negative thing! In fact, I think it has actually strengthened my marriage in a lot of ways. But what I want to shed some light on today is the lie I believed about how having a husband would solve all the body image problems I have fought since childhood.

  1. My Husband Is NOT Responsible For My Body Image

From childhood I have believed that my husband should be the person who makes me feel beautiful. So, on the day I got married I think I mentally shifted my body image issues onto my husband’s shoulders, relieved that I no longer had to work on the way I see myself. He would just take care of that for me!

Fast forward a year and a half and I’m still ugly crying about body image. I’m still questioning why he even married me! I’m actually getting angry and hurt when he can’t read my mind as I’m silently begging for a compliment. I have believed the lie that my husband doesn’t find me attractive simply because he isn’t constantly reassuring me of my beauty. How crazy is that?!

Here’s the harsh truth I finally had to tell myself: It is NOT my husband’s job to overcome all of my body image issues and make me feel like the most gorgeous woman on the planet. Is he to love me and encourage me and lift me up? Absolutely! Should he remind me from time to time that he actually likes my unique shape? Sure! But nowhere does it say that he now has to carry the weight of all of my body image problems simply because we are married.

Now, hear me out. I 100% believe that when David and I married each other we also agreed to marry all of the baggage we both brought into this partnership. But what I had to come to realize is that just because he needs to accept me along with my struggles that doesn’t mean that he needs to rescue me from those struggles. This body image battle is MY BATTLE.  And though I love having this amazing person stand beside me on the battle field, I know that he can’t fight for me. I have to be the one who takes a deep breath and presses on even when the odds seem stacked against me.

2. My Husband Doesn’t Have The POWER To Change My Body Image

Though I like to believe he can do anything and that he is strong in every way that I fall weak…I finally had to realize that no amount of compliments he can give me will ever change how I feel about myself. Because I have to choose to believe them! I have to choose to let go of all of the lies and impossible expectations I have allowed to creep into my mind.

David would probably tell you that he can call me beautiful until he’s blue in the face and I will still ask him an hour later if he thinks my nose is crooked or my hips are too wide. Poor guy…he just can’t win…maybe pray for his sanity!

Seriously though, it all comes down to my decision to push past the lies. My decision to hold my husband’s opinion of me higher than the distorted opinion I have of myself. He can’t pour truth into me if I’m not willing to receive it. He would tell you I’m the most stubborn person EVER….so why did I expect him to have the power to make me change my mind? No one else ever has! Only I can do that. Only I can choose to ignore the lies, listen to the kind words of my husband, and learn to see myself differently.

3. My Husband Is NOT my Savior

This is where it all gets confusing, right? Because if you grew up anything like I did then you spent your days pretending to be Snow White and Cinderella. To this day I still wish I were a Disney Princess. These days it’s more for the perfect hair than it is for the perfect prince…but still! I thought that my happy ending meant my future husband rescuing me from all of life’s problems. Even though I realistically knew that was not going to be the case when we got married…I think on some level I was still that little girl believing that my husband was going to be my savior.

So that brings me to this: if my husband isn’t responsible for fixing my body image and doesn’t have the power to in the first place….and he isn’t my prince come to slay all my dragons…then where does that leave me? Fighting through this all on my own? Going up against my scariest demons alone?

Not at all. It leaves me running straight into the arms of my actual Savior. To the one who really has reached out to take this weight of body image off of my shoulders. It leaves me learning to let go of my thoughts toward myself and learning to see myself the way He does. It leaves me falling into the embrace of the only One who can take everything that hurts and everything that makes me feel less than and turn into healing. Into real beauty. Into something that shows the world just how amazing He is.

So, whether you’re a wife, a bride-to-be, or maybe just a girl praying for a prince….can I just tell you a little secret? Marriage is never going to solve the problem that lies deep within you. It’s never going to undo all the years of putting yourself down and believing lies about what you should look like. In fact, don’t be surprised to find that body image issues magnify when you promise to spend forever with someone.

BUT….

Here’s the really beautiful part of it all. That marriage that doesn’t exist to solve your problems is an amazing picture of the relationship your actually Savior wants with you. Jesus isn’t just the one who did the dying for you. No. He wants to be the One you call on every time those body image lies creep in. He wants to be the One who convinces you of all the beauty that He created you with. He wants to be the One that everyone sees when they look at you. And that…well that makes you more beautiful than you could ever dream of being.

So, the relationship you share, or will share, with your husband is never going to erase your deepest rooted problems. Only Jesus can do that. But it will give you a loving partner who can fight right along side you.

So, if you’re married, and especially if you’re going to be married soon or plan to be some day, I encourage you to do two things. First, go running to your Savior. Let Him know all of these burdens about body image that rest so heavily on you. Secondly, talk to your partner. Tell him your struggle. Tell him all of it that you can. And let him know that you don’t expect him to fix it. But that you do hope he will stand with you, lift you up when you’re weak, and pray for your mindset and your health. Ugly cry if you must — you still won’t beat me on that record! And ask for some help in this battle. A lie I have believed for a large portion of the time I’ve been married is that if my husband isn’t going to do it FOR ME then I have to do it ALONE. And that is so far from the truth! That’s what this whole marriage journey is about — being there and being strong for each other when the struggle becomes too real. Let him in, let him fight with you, and you might just find that this whole struggle with body image can be one of the most strengthening experiences for your marriage.

 

And friend…never ever forget…you are so unbelievable loved by the One who made you. And because of that TRUTH, no lie that this world tells you can ever make you less than beautiful. Because the most comforting truth of all is that even though we face the battle every day, this war has already been won.

 

-S.

 

 

*Gorgeous Image By MAGGIE SMITH PHOTOGRAPHY

 

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What To Do When Your Plan is SHATTERED

 

Have you ever had this idea of how your life will be and worked so hard to get to a certain point in your life and had it all fall apart right before your eyes? And you’re left feeling lost and fearful of the uncertain things that lay before you. It seems we all must endure those times at some point in our journey. I know I have. In past posts I have given you a look into my journey up until this point. I told you How I Prayed For My Love Story. I even walked you through my first post-grad job experience and how I coped when my dream job turned out to be a nightmare and I had no clue where my life was going. Now I want to talk to you about the very first major obstacle that my marriage had to overcome, not even a month after our wedding. My plans for our life together all came crashing down in a matter of minutes and, as you might have guessed, my faith was tested yet again.

My plan was shattered about 3 weeks after David and I got married. Everything had gone according to plan. Perfect wedding and an even more perfect honeymoon. During those “honeymoon high” days I never expected what lay ahead of us.

I’ll never forget the day we returned from the honeymoon. David was already living in this lovely little home and compared to my own apartment it seemed like a castle. The day we got home from the honeymoon I started settling in. Unpacking, rearranging, painting, and decorating. Almost three weeks to the day, we had my parents over for dinner. I was so excited to show them our little home and describe all my interior design plans for it. I had been planning this for a year (even before we were engaged). I planned this elaborate dinner for the evening, got up super early to make sure everything was perfect for when they arrived, and cooked the first big meal in my new kitchen. Little did I know that same evening we would start packing up our belongings and by the next day would be living in a cramped little room on the second floor of my mother and father in-law’s house. My plan? Completely shattered.

A month before Christmas, barely settled in from our honeymoon, and there we sat in a lime green room, sharing the space with my mother-in-law’s sewing equipment. David’s parents were in the neighboring bedroom, his brother across the hall, and his youngest sister one floor below us. Not ideal for newlyweds and not ideal for two people who were used to living on their own. We were hardly adjusted to living with each other and now we had to live here while all of our belongings and all of our sparkly new wedding gifts sat in a storage space across town.

If there was one thing I was looking forward to after the wedding it was settling into our home, creating the vision in my mind of the layout and decor, and getting the house ready for our first married Christmas. I certainly did not expect to be searching the housing market and living with my in-laws. My plans were not only shattered. They were ripped out of my hands, torn into a million pieces, set on fire, and thrown back in my face. This was not how things were meant to be!

So how did I survive? How did I endure 2 months crammed into a tiny room, living with a family I had only just become a part of? And how on earth did we manage to focus on buying our first home? Well, I will spare you the very long story of how we ended up losing our little rental home that night. All I will say is that our situation was 100% a part of God’s plan, even though it was 110% NOT a part of my plan. I was supposed to be filling our home with Christmas décor and breaking in my new cookie sheets, not trying to navigate around our small room without knocking over our tiny little excuse for a Christmas tree. But God used that season to grow David and I closer and to point us to the place He wanted us to be.

Have you had your own plans shattered? Maybe you feel like I did that night I began to pack our new life together in boxes and press the pause button on all my expectations. Maybe you feel let down? Unsure? Helpless? Angry? While it is completely okay to feel those things (I sure did!), I would like to encourage you to look at the pieces of your shattered plan in a new way. I want to talk to you about 5 ways you can approach your shattered plan and learn from your situation.

  1. Learn to Let Go of Pride & Embrace Honesty

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I think we all struggle with pride on some level. During that time I was riding the wedding high and then everything came crashing down. So my pride took a major beating that night as we took down our Christmas tree and packed up our unopened wedding gifts. Telling people I was living with my husband’s parents? Major reality check for my pride! But I learned something really important through that – pride can sometimes hinder us from being honest and honesty is the best way to connect with people. When I told coworkers, friends, even people at our church I was so embarrassed at first. But by being honest with them I was able to open the door for their advice. I learned some of the early struggles some of them had faced early in their marriage and it encouraged me. I found that vulnerability was far more beneficial than pride and it opened up the door for so many uplifting conversations and I KNOW that the more people that were aware of our situation meant that there were more people praying for our situation. So, even though your situation may seem embarrassing and shameful, don’t be too prideful to ask for advice or prayer. By being honest about what is going on in your life you may find that you have a supportive team surrounding you to get you through this season.

  1. Search for the Blessing in the Situation

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This may seem near impossible in some of life’s circumstances, but I encourage you to find SOMETHING to take away from the situation you are currently facing. My major positive focus of those 2 months pretty much homeless was that I got to know my mother-in-law and sister-in-law incredibly well. I was able to have a house full of family during our first Christmas and that was such a huge blessing!  I was able to really fall in love with my husband’s family and know many of them on a deeper level. Even though my own mom was over an hour away, I felt like I had a mom right there with me every single day. I was able to spend quality time with my nieces and nephews when they visited during the day and those are memories I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world. So I encourage you to seek the blessings in the situation, because you should enjoy those moments as they are actually happening, not just as memories. Don’t let disappointment and impatience keep you from the blessings that God has for you today, even if your situation is less than ideal. Much like I did, you might find that some of life’s most pivotal moments happen in our most trying times.

  1. Trust in God’s Plan & Timing

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If anything will teach you how to trust God’s will and His timing it is completely losing your own plan for life. The night we moved out I had one thought running through my mind. I think I had to keep saying it to myself so I didn’t break down in front of everyone as they helped us load everything into all of their vehicles. David and I had sat down when we realized we would have to move out the next day and determined that If God took away the home we had then that must mean that he already has another home for us somewhere else. That thought was the only thing that kept me going as we put everything we had in black trash bags and stacked them in a storage unit. I kept reminding myself that His way was far better than ours and that He would provide the exact home He wanted for us. I had to trust that He was taking us away from that home for a reason, even if I couldn’t see or understand what the reason was. So, if your own plan has been ripped away from you…learn to let it go. Learn to step away. And learn to trust that the One who is writing your story knows what He is doing and He knows what is best.

  1. Expect Good Things from the Lord

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It would have been so easy for me to break down that night and assume that God must have been angry at us or punishing us for something or maybe even just making everything balanced since everything at the wedding seemed to go so smoothly. It would have been very easy for me to sulk, to convince myself that God didn’t care if we were newlyweds with no home. But instead I learned to not just pray for good things from the Lord but to EXPECT them. He had provided me with so much up until that point…why would I start to doubt him just because things weren’t going my way? Oh, I wanted to. There were days when I could have easily believed that we would be there in that lime green room forever. But during those days, when those thoughts would creep into my mind, I would remind myself that the things that God had for me were nothing but good because HE is good and all of His plans for my life aren’t just for my own happiness but rather for His glory.

  1. Know that God Sometimes Rewrites our Plan to Protect us

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Looking back on our old situation and the many different ways it could have gone, I see how God was protecting us from our own potential to make the wrong choice. Even in the heartbreaking moments of hearing David say “we have to move,” God was sheltering us and placing us on the right path. He redirected our steps because we were blindly walking the wrong way in terms of where we should live. He knew the financial strain that home would have on us eventually. He knew that the relationship that we thought was solid with our land lord’s was one of falsehood and trickery. So instead of letting us walk into a trap, because to us it looked so appealing, He intervened and stopped us from making one of the worst decisions of our life together. God doesn’t just recreate our plan because He wants us to be something or do something in particular; he also interrupts our plan to keep us from harm and struggle. Did you somehow get redirected from the path you were walking? Maybe that is God’s protection. He knows what lies ahead. He knows the monsters that disguise themselves as princes. He knows when the house made of candy and treats is really a death trap. Think about your situation before the plan was shattered…was there anything there that could have turned into something negative in your life? Was God simply protecting you by allowing it to slip from your hands? That is what He did for me on that sad day. He allowed my heart to break just a little in order to protect me from a heartbreaking future.

So if you have recently had your own plans ripped away from you and you’ve had to pick up the pieces and the ashes and attempt to start again, may I just encourage you to embrace that brokenness! Because the things that God has for you…the plan that HE has made to REPLACE yours is so much better than anything you could have dreamed for yourself.

David and I are now living in the sweetest, most charming little home I ever could have imagined, and looking back I would never have chosen that place over this one. We both knew that this would be our home the moment we walked in. And guess what? The entire purchasing process and searching process was smooth. This was the first home we looked at with our agent and there wasn’t a single bump in the road along the way. Is that always going to be the case? No, not at all! But for us it was reassurance that God had brought us out of that season of uncertainty and obstacles and He was bringing us into the place we would finally call HOME.

Dear friend, plans will always change. This life is never going to be what we expect. But it can be what we make it. It can be grace-filled, honest, and a spectacular experience if we are open to God’s plan and patient for His timing. When plans don’t go the way you hoped remember that you have freedom in the author of life and the creator of the universe and He has your story completely in His control. He wants to write you a happy ending, but with every good story there must be struggle along the way. He’s such an amazing story teller, so why doubt Him? Embrace the shattered plans. Be vulnerable. Seek blessings in every situation. Trust in HIS plan. Expect GOODNESS from Him. And know that He does everything for YOUR GOOD.

Keep pushing forward, friend. The next chapter is not far away.

 

-S