Love Out Loud

Hi friends!

Thanks for all your thoughts and prayers these last few days. Sometimes, I see the face of God in people who cover me in love, and I am so grateful for all your encouragement.

In light of what has been happening in my life in recent months- both good and not-so-good- I've been thinking of ways to improve the the things I love most. Like this blog. Obviously, I have a new design (which I still look at everyday and think, "Oh, hello there! Don't you look fabulous?") and I've also been working on some new ideas for a couple of blog series.

Today, I'm proud to introduce Love Out Loud, a series I've created that's going to center around doing just that: loving out loud. It can be in any way you think of: painting, drawing, praying, serving, spending an afternoon in the sun, reading a good book, cooking a meal. Anything that allows you to take what's inside of you and put it out into the world.

About a week ago, my friend Jennifer and I picked up this little beauty in her parking garage. Someone had left it by the Dumpsters and when I saw it I just knew it belonged in our office. We have a stack of books that have been hiding out in the corner behind the door with no place to go. And with a little TLC this piece has found a brand new home!

This is my first project for Love Out Loud. If you'd like, please join in! You can share your own projects with me on Instagram or Twitter by using the hastag #loveoutloud. I would love to see what you come up with!

Hope you all enjoy the Oscars tonight! 

black friday

[via Pinterest]
Okay, maybe that's overkill.

It's not really a black Friday. It was more of a black Thursday night. But I'm still feeling it today.

I have so much I want to share. I have experienced real joys in this season of refinement. But there are certainly days when the pain of what I fear comes at me with the strength of a thousand men. And I break down.

This is the picture of mental illness.

There I said it.

We all experience it at times, in varying degrees. And there is such a stigma attached to those two words.

Mental illness.

It conjures images of padded cells and wild eyes and restraints.

But the truth is that the mind is a part of the body. And the body can break.

We need to speak out about the reality of this truth. I am no great advocate. But I see what leaving mental illness untreated has done to people close to me. And I feel the constant urge to make sure I am pursuing what is best for me. Not just for myself, but for my husband. For my relationships. For my community. For my faith. For my ministry. For my God. Mental health is not just mental. Just like physical health is not just physical. We are beings with all kinds of needs, and all of these needs are connected. Spiritual. Mental. Physical. Emotional. There must be balance in our lives if we are to be healthy in every way. I am working on making sure I have that balance in my heart and my mind. And I am grateful that when some people who- even as they try so hard to empathize and support- still don't understand,  there are others like my dear friend Mary Beth who know exactly what I need.

I have made an appointment finally to start seeing a counselor. And I call out to my Jesus each day with desperation for freedom. Please pray for me in this time, if you will.

I wish I could just say everything. After all, I am not afraid to be transparent. But some things, even here (or perhaps especially here) are better left in the heart, between close family and friends. Just know that there is pain in my mind and heart, and I need healing. I don't know why I feel the way I do. Outwardly, all is well. But I can't put on a happy face and pretend anymore. It does a disservice to myself and to others. And perhaps my experience will not only prepare me to face greater challenges in my life with courage, but will also allow me to serve someone else with the same struggles. 

Either way, I love you. And I thank you.

The Vampire Diaries: On Set

Oh, hey!

If you follow me on Instagram, you've probably seen my complete overload of photos about serving as an extra on set with The Vampire Diaries. Yesterday, my best friend, Jillian, and I spend a whopping 15 hours there! It was tedious, and sometimes boring, but also exciting and a little bit glamorous, too. I think I might have bruises on my arms from where Jillian clutched onto me when she first caught a glorious glimpse of Paul Wesley in the flesh! And Ian Somerhalder...oh don't even get me started! I thought Jillian was going to faint. It was fantastic! I've only ever seen three episodes, but it was still a blast being there with her. 

We spent the morning getting ready to go on set. We were acting as patrons in a couple of diner scenes. First, we were there with Claire Holt (so sweet!) and Nina Dobrev. Later, we sat together at the bar right in front of the three main characters: Nina, Ian, and Paul. Jillian had a clear shot of the action from where she was sitting, and the best part was listening to them poke fun at each other and make jokes between takes. I was having so much fun because Jillian was on cloud nine. I served as background in this same episode a few weeks ago, but it was freezing outside and the actors were across the street, so it wasn't quite as much fun (although I did  make a sweet new friend...hey Caitlin!) Plus, I didn't have my best friend there to freak out every time an actor walked by...I tell ya, it makes the experience that much more enjoyable when you get to watch it through the eyes of a huge (er...obsessed) fan. 

The only downside with getting to be on-screen with actors comes the sometimes disappointing privilege of seeing them as they really are. And in one case in particular I was not impressed. I won't say who it was because, well, this is the internet and it never really goes away once you hit "Publish", but I will say this individual was completely disrespectful to both the crew and the dozen other staff members hovered around her at all times. She acted entitled, vain, abrasive, and unprofessional. She's a fantastic actress, but I felt that the people who have spent so much time making her career a success deserved more respect than they were given.

Or maybe she was just having a bad day (but still...).

Anyway, watch for us on episode 18 of this season, debuting March 28th! You can find me walking my pink bicycle behind Paul Wesley (Stefan), sharing a table behind Nina and Claire, and sitting at the bar with Jillian, drinking fake coffee. Hooray for fifteen minutes of fame!

P.S. These were the only photos we could take because we were in extras holding, where it was allowed. I caught a few blurry, terrible shots of the actors as they walked by us, but since we weren't technically supposed to do that, or ask them for pictures, or have cameras on set, or do anything other than our jobs, I will just say it was awesome and leave it at that.

rock-a-bye baby

As I was searching through the old house out back behind my in-law's (the little house that served as my high-school husband's bedroom), looking for some journals, my mother-in-law came in and took me up into the attic. Up beneath the old gable, hanging on the wall, were four tiny rocking chairs, each one belonging to a particular person. People who are now all grown up.

 One of them belonged to my husband.

I looked at those four little chairs and imagined all the years they held sweet babies, rocking back and forth,...singing to their dolls, or shouting for their mama, or reading their favorite stories. I pictured my husband as he was back then, with his big bright eyes and the ears he eventually grew into, and felt tears burning in the corners of my eyes.

I looked at that little chair and imagined our own little baby. I looked at that chair as it hung on the wall and realized there is nothing ever truly lost or forgotten. We might put things away for a time, but they wait patiently for the next generation to come back around. They know that one day they'll serve their purpose once again.

I told my mother-in-law I wanted to have it, if I could, whenever Pierce and I have our own children. She looked over at me and said, "Well, you can have it right now if you want."

And I am thoroughly delighted to say it's coming home with me today. It's a little beaten up, but like the Velveteen Rabbit, that just shows how much it was loved on. 

Hopefully one day it will get loved on some more.

snapshots + memories: weekend edition

Here's a little bit of what we did this weekend:

I made a wicked pasta salad. And subsequently ate more than half of it.

We held babies. This one, in particular, is the cutest ever. 

We ate some brownies (from the box). Which, as you know, are not complete without a glass of milk.

We spent some time hanging out in our city.

Finally, we enjoyed this fantastic view from our office. Nothing like a Sunday night sunset.

Happy Monday to you!

Sunday Letters

Today at church, we finished up a series with Jeff Henderson, one of our campus pastors. He told us we should never assume the people we love know how we feel about them. He said that his mother used to write him letters, letters he now writes for his own children. 

My dad used to write me letters growing up. I remember his handwriting, small, bold letters in all caps, and his sweet words of love and encouragement. There is nothing like a father's love for his children. My dad showed me that. 

And because I love writing, and receiving, handwritten letters, I decided it was time to spend some of my Sunday afternoon doing just that. I have tons of unused stationary, and tomorrow morning it will find its way into the back of a USPS truck and on towards three other, very important, mailboxes. 

I am going to do my best to follow through with all my new, unexpected goals which have popped up over the course of the last two months. I guess dealing with some depression and anxiety has served me well. All I long for now is time with people who matter and time spent on good things, things that make me look up and whisper a quiet, "Thank You". These letters are a step in that direction.

And, in case you didn't know it already, I love you, whoever you are.

it's a girl thing.

As you know, my little sister Kati recently celebrated her sweet sixteenth. 

I still can't believe it. 

The girl who snuggled close to a picture of the two of us at Disney World and cried the morning I left for college...the girl who begged me to drive her everywhere and buy her McDonald's fries...the girl who loved hats and writing stories and gave me the wisest eleven year-old wisdom when I moved home from sixteen.

And, this year, she's going to prom, too.

Wasn't I just changing her diapers?!

It's gone by so quickly. She was finishing up kindergarten when I graduated high school back in 2003. So watching her try on dresses today was kind of surreal, but also maybe the coolest thing ever. My mom, Kati's best friend, Sarah, Marie, Lily, Rose, and I went along for the ride. We had lunch together, played a little dress up, and went gaga over everything Kati put on. I would swear I had a premonition of what her wedding day will be like: lots of women who love her, fluttering around like chickens, oohing and aahing over our gorgeous girl. I kind of can't wait (kind of). Until then, prom will just have to do ;).

Oh, and she found the perfect dress, too. 


Today was the best.

The best, I tell you.

My sister-in-law, Cassi, and I went for a walk around Little Five Points in the city and we couldn't even get close to having our fill of laughter and conversation and, yes, vintage clothing. Oh, the glorious vintage!

Also, is that wall not something to gawk at? I love the street art in this city. It's really spectacular. 

Hopefully in a few days, I'll be able to show you guys some pictures of the in-effing-credible dress from The Clothing Warehouse. It's a gorgeous, floor-length 70s number by Jack Bryan and when I put it on, I literally sighed with longing. That doesn't happen very often. But there's just something about vintage...

Oh, and how do you guys like the new design? It's the first time I've had something I didn't customize myself and I am pretty darn excited about it. Shannon over at Shannon Loves Design was so much fun to work with and she's super sweet to boot! If you want, you can check her out here.

preparing the heart

Hello, hello, and happy Monday!

I'm sitting at San Francisco coffee, thinking about what the last twenty or so hours have been like, and I want to share them with you. Just not yet. 

It's getting better, you guys. Much better. Where I was a month ago versus where I am today is just...just...

I can't explain it. It's not just that I feel better. Medicine will do that for you. But life change, and better  choices for your health, are your (or in this case, my) decisions. And no one can make them for you. When it comes to mental health, I know that it has many facets. It's not black and white as so many people assume (I call those people "ignorant", whether by choice or by accident). So in the last two weeks, I've been trying to live purposefully. Resolutely. Like I said I would back in December when I talked about what having resolutions really looked like for me. 

And it's changing my heart. God is preparing me for something.

Something big.

Something grand.

Something incredible.

I'm not sure exactly how it's going to pan out, but I finally see how the struggles I have faced mentally have been preparing me to be more fully equipped for God's work. It's almost like He's saying, "Hey, you know that thing you're afraid of? You know those things you try so hard to avoid? Yeah. Well, that's where I'm putting you. Right smack dab in the middle of it."

And, truth be told, I'm kind of excited.

(P.S. I have no idea what this picture of my sparkling water has to do with anything, except for maybe the fact that the chair behind it kind of looks like a heart? Maybe?)


Hi friends!

I bought these jeans a few weeks ago from H&M, and when I saw them in the store, I literally said, "Oh, yes!" out loud. And I'm sure the giggles I heard coming from that group of teenage girls next to me had nothing to do with it. Yeah. I'm cool.

So today after church I decided to share these pants with you. And if you lived close by, I might even let you borrow them, if you wanted. 

Because I might be a total dork, according to those girls in the store, but I'm a nice dork.

Valentine Party Gift Exchange

Hi friends!

I'm SO excited to share some goodies with y'all today that I received this week from my new blogging friend, Shannon, over at Call Me Shannon. Some of our favorite bloggers, Casey, Nicole, Lauren, Alycia, and Ashlee, decided to host an online blogging Valentine's Party where everyone who signed up would be partnered with another blogger and would send each other gifts.

And, c'mon, who doesn't love a good gift?

Take a peek at what Shannon sent my way:

First, I have to say I adore the little stationary pack because, well, writing is what I do. And handwritten notes are my favorite! And how about that fantastic chocolate mustache (which I've been waiting to eat all week)? Best of all, I think it's pretty cool that both Shannon and I sent each other mustache-related gifts. Either great minds think alike or we've been watching a little too much Downton Abbey...

Anyway, Shannon and I have been emailing each other for the past couple of weeks and we decided to do a fun little questionnaire so you guys- our lovely readers- can get to know us a bit better, too! You can also take a peek at my answers here.

What is the best book you've read in the past year and why? (I'm always on the lookout for any good books!)
I love to read! I really liked Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. Be warned, it's a little dark but crazy smart. I also loved How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran, if you're into comedy and girl power. Last year I spent most of the year reading George R.R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire (aka Game of Thrones). It's very nerdy and a huge commitment (5 books so far, each close to 1000 pages), but it's very well written and captivating. 

Did you make any New Year's resolutions? How are they going, so far?
I always make resolutions! You can read all of them here. So far, I'm making progress with reading, writing and leaving the country. I totally need to work on simplifying and making more phone calls. I love the practice of goal setting because it helps me clarify what I really want and take a deeper look at how I spend my time. 

What is one place you'd like to travel to in your life?
India and Australia are at the top of my list right now. I've also never been to Europe and there's so much to see and do there. I'm saving my pennies to make all of that happen! 

Thanks for the gifts, Shannon! And happy Valentine's to you all! 

Where you go, I'll go.

Chris Tomlin is a fantastic singer/songwriter. And he writes about Jesus the way I feel about Jesus: like He's a friend.

One of his songs goes a little like this:
 "Where You go, I'll go. Where You stay, I'll stay. When You move, I'll move. I will follow You. Who you love, I'll love. How you serve, I'll serve. If this life I lose, I will follow you."

I love that song because it is a genuine reflection of my desire to pursue God and pursue Godliness. 

But I often get the two things confused.

On the one hand, God is God. He is a Person. He has thoughts, feelings, hopes. He loves and laughs and gets angry and frustrated, too. He is all that is Good. He is...forever and ever. There is none like Him.

Godliness is perfection. It is a standard. It is a thing. A good thing, yes. But a thing, regardless.

I have made a life of pursuing Godliness and failing. I have not yet made a life of pursuing the One who set the standard.

Even when we pursue God, we will still fail at Godliness because we will still be human. But we are not chained to our flaws the way we once were. We are free from how they can cripple us. We don't have to yield to fear or worry any longer because, while those emotions still exist within our hearts, they do not control us. At least, they don't have to.

Sunday at church, Billy Phenix (one of our campus pastors) said that in order to receive the promises of God, we have to draw near to the Promise Maker. When we take a step towards Him, He takes a step towards us. And the journey will never end on this side of heaven. Because that's how extravagant our Father is. And instead of being overwhelmed by His might, we should marvel at it. Because it belongs to us, too. We belong to Him. We are in this life together.

I wish I could remember these things. I forget so much.

I'm all about new beginnings and new adventures. Every December 31st at midnight, I say a prayer silently to myself (after I kiss the Hubs, of course) about the upcoming year and all my hopes for it. For the last few years, one of my prayers has been that I will cling to Him and that my life will honor Him in every way. Basically, what I'm praying is that I'll stop being so gosh-darn afraid and let faith lead the way. I'm praying that I'll finally start trusting in God, and stop trusting in my own (in)ability to be Godly.

I prayed that this year. And then I got depressed. Great start, huh?

But I recognize that my depression is a result of unnecessary anxiety. Part of it is most certainly a biological issue and, yes, I am currently taking medication to help. But another part of it is spiritual and mental, and I have bad habits I've allowed myself to learn that now need to change. God can do anything, but I can only change if I'm willing to work for it.

I don't want my life to be categorized by how much I felt for God or how much I talked about God. I want my life to be categorized by how I lived for Him. By how I loved for Him. By how much like Him I was, not because I am so amazing, but because I trusted in Him to change me and sustain me.

I spent the better part of January just trying to get through each day. I shared some of that on the blog here, but there were many days while blogging that tears were streaming down my cheeks and fear was raging in my mind. There were many nights when I went to bed early just so I could have some freedom and rest. And I certainly didn't touch my book or even read one, for that matter (if that's not a sign of depression, I don't know WHAT is!).

But then I went to the doctor. I got flowers and cards from friends and family who also called and texted and emailed and came over to sit with me. I talked to my husband and let him hug me even when I wanted to push him away. I went to church and cried at the end of the aisle with my head in my hands, hiding in the darkness during praise and worship, because I barely felt anything for my heavenly Father. And I was scared of that numbness. I cried a lot in January. I lost seven pounds. I stopped being interested in the things I love. And then I cried some more.

But then...I heard it.

On my way home one evening, I heard His voice. I felt a barely discernible, but still powerful, bit of hope. And then, by golly, I read a book.

Suddenly, I felt what others had been trying to tell me all along.

It will get better.

You are worth His love.

We love you.

He is bigger than anything you face.

He is trustworthy.

He is perfect.

He is HERE.

And since that night, it has gotten better. I have finally started to see myself, a little more each day, the way He sees me. I know I am loved. And I know He is here with me. He's not "up there" while I'm down in the depths of despair, reaching but not grasping.

No, He's standing in the muck and mire with me. He's holding my hand, waiting patiently for me to be ready for the climb. And as I grab hold of the walls around me, He stands prepared to hold me up, to push me out, to walk with me away from this place.

Where He goes, I go.

miss mary mac, mac, mac

Hi friends!

Happy Super Bowl Sunday! Actually, it's not happy at all for this Falcons fan. But I hope you're enjoying your seven layer dip on this fine evening, anyway.

Today, after church, I finally got to experience one of Atlanta's most famous restaurants: Mary Mac's Tea Room. It's been around since 1945 and, along with an owner who greets you at the door and Atlanta-themed dining rooms, it's filled with photos of celebrities and presidents and world leaders (the Dalai Lama!) who've stopped by for pot likker or fried green tomatoes.

If you're ever in the area, I implore you to sit down at this fine establishment and order yourself some sweet tea and chicken and dumplings. You will not regret it.