Friday Five // Confession Style

How to you gauge if a week is a "good" one or not? Do you put a successful checkmark beside it if you've completed all your to-do lists? If you've had multiple lunch dates or meetings that went well? Or maybe the number of times you managed to cook dinner while having a perfectly cleaned house? I confess that I'm quick to overlook the little moments that truly make a week "good" so today I'm confessing all the little things that deserve some celebration.

one. I confess that I've failed miserably at my August goals this month. That'll all come up in my September post, but while trying to salvage the last few days, I pulled out some of my favorite stationery to fulfill my "write 4 letters" goal. Writing some snail mail always tends to put a smile on my face--snail mail and pretty stamps are a lost art, if you ask me.

two. I confess that if you had asked me a year ago, I would've adamantly told you I would never have a dog. I'm totally not a dog person. And here I am today, confessing my love for this pup below. I mean come on, how could I not love her? Those floppy ears, big eyes, and sweet spirit just kill me. Did I really just admit that I'm a dog lover? 

three. I confess that I'm ready for fall. Bring it on, Mother Nature. Pumpkins, crisp weather, scarves, and boots...I'm ready for all of it. And I confess that a little glimpse of fall may have already made its appearance on my mantle with these beautiful little pottery pumpkins. Are you as ready for fall as I am? 

four. I confess that fresh flowers are a guilty pleasure of mine. They put a smile on my face quicker than anything else--there's just something about bright, colorful blooms that brighten my mood. And luckily, my best friends know that and know just when to surprise me with a bouquet. Instant mood lifter!

five. I confess that I finally bought my first batch of macarons. I've been searching high and low for these beautiful little treats and finally found some in my town. I also confess that  I'm not a huge fan--they're much prettier than they taste. It's worth a pretty picture, but I'll stick with my Nestle Toll House cookies any day. 

And finally, I confess that it's been way too long since I've linked up with one of my all-time favorite bloggers, Leslie at A Blonde Ambition, for her Confessional Friday posts. So here I am, remedying the situation. What do you have to confess, dears? Come on, let it all out. Xoxo

The Truth About Being a Sorority Girl

The other night, I was getting to know a new friend over a glass of wine. I asked her about her family and where she grew up, she asked me about college and life at Ole Miss. I happened to mention that I was in a sorority in college and was still involved with my chapter now and she made a comment that stopped me in my tracks, and frankly, kind of rubbed me the wrong way.

"Wait, what? You were in a sorority? I don't picture you as one of those kind of girls." Nicely, I asked, "what kind of girl do you mean?" "You know, those bleach blonde, designer-label-wearing, spoiled rich girls who are more interested in finding a husband than getting a degree." 

I was totally caught off guard, and I'm sure she could tell by the look on my face. I nicely explained that sorority girls are quite different from the stereotype we're known for.

I live in the South where pledging a sorority is the norm. It was never a question to me; once college was on my radar, I knew I would go through recruitment. I knew I wanted to be a part of the Greek scene, but not because of the reasons you'd assume.

You hear all types of misconceptions about being in a sorority...anything from "Well, you basically bought your friends, didn't you?" to "You mean you all don't look like Elle Woods on Legally Blonde?" And I've even gotten this before: "Do y'all sit around and have pillow fights and paint each others nails?"

So here I am, friends, to tell you all the truth about being in a sorority.

Contrary to what movies portray, the typical "sorority girl" isn't a bleach-blonde, size 2 bimbo. I'm the opposite of Elle Woods and I'm okay with that. Putting labels on other groups isn't socially acceptable, so defining all sorority girls as such shouldn't be the norm. I'm thankful for the amazing women that are redefining what it means to be a sorority woman.

There's no such thing as hazing at our university. It's as taboo to me as it is to you. I've never seen it and never want to. That's another thing movies have exaggerated; we take a "no hazing" policy very seriously. 

We don't have house parties. Our sorority house is beautiful and loved; we'd never dare to mess up a house we're so proud of and grateful for.

Not a single one of my friends went to college strictly for a "MRS" degree. The girls in my sorority are motivated and passionate and all have big plans for their lives, and getting a husband was not a priority over getting an education. 

Very few of my friends "lived off Daddy's money," as I've heard it put before. I was fortunate enough to have my parents pay for what scholarships didn't cover, but I had a job throughout college for my spending money and extra finances, while balancing sorority responsibilities and nursing school. 

Aside from the social aspects, sororities shape young women and mold them into responsible adults. We get involved with lots of extracurricular activities through sororities. We learn time management (hello rush week!) and cultivate great people skills. We learn how to rock an interview and become interested in giving back to others. One of the biggest advantages I learned was how manage sorority responsibilities, classes, job schedules, and everything else all at the same time. 

You find life long friends. Cheesy, I know, but hear me out--those girls are the friends I talk to every day, still to this day. I know in my case, I made friends I may have never made otherwise, and those are the girls who stood by me on my wedding day. Those are the women I look up to and admire, the girls I call when I've had a bad day or need to vent over a glass of wine. They're more than just superficial friendships and casual "let's get together soon" wishes;  they're the kind of friendships most women dream about having. We've lived together and grown up together.

You learn big lessons from these friends. Together, you go through parent divorces, losing loved ones, big moves, job losses, and so on...all of the big life lessons that make you grow up quickly. And those girls stand by you and you stand by them. They become family. The kind of family that I'm now celebrating engagements, weddings, and baby announcements with. The kind of community I always hoped to have.

After graduation, job connections and resume opportunities through alumnus of Kappa Delta will be so beneficial. Any major city is going to have an alumni association, and that association is ready and willing to help fresh faced graduates out in the big world. I'm thankful for this network that continues to give back to me.

Sorority girls aren't all that different from any other girls, in the end. Sure, we know more sorority chants and have infinitely more t-shirts than most, but deep down, we're just girls who want to be a part of something great, something bigger. We may get a bad reputation sometimes, but we're really just well-rounded, ambitious women. The kind of sisterhood that a sorority cultivates is an incredible thing, so don't knock it 'til you've tried it. I think we all have regrets from college, but being in a sorority isn't one of mine. No matter what sorority, I feel like the feeling is mutual across the board. I wouldn't trade anything in the world for the community that my sorority gave me--it's a sisterhood that pushes us to be better versions of ourselves, and I'm continually grateful for that. 

By the Sea

There's a place where I feel most at ease; where all my worries seem to melt away and happiness just takes over. It's a place that comforts me and grounds me, a place where I can go to reenergize and refocus when life gets a little stressful. We tend to breathe a little easier and a little deeper, we savor the in-between moments, and our burdens seem lighter. I think we all have those places, where you go to "plug" in and refresh. Mine is the beach. 

The beach is where I see God the most, where His presence is most obvious to me. I hear Him in the sound of the waves crashing on the shoreline, I feel Him in the ocean breeze that seems to breathe a new life into me. I see Him in the sunset, as I watch the sun slowly fade off into the horizon, as the sky turns colors that my eyes never knew existed. It's hard for me to look at the ocean and not know without a doubt that there is a Creator, a Supreme Being. This earth we live on is just too magical and captivating to believe otherwise. 

I feel so small when I stand on the shore. All I can see are clear skies and blue water for miles and that overwhelms me. To know that I serve a God who made all of this and yet still loves me more is an incredible, unfathomable thought. With everything going on in my life lately (more on that later,) some people would've expected me to stay home, that this quick trip would be too much on me. But I needed this time by the water. My body, my soul, and my mind needed it, even if just for a day or two. That sea breeze does something to me, and I'm thankful for the time by the sea. 

At the beach, life is different. Time doesn't matter; the day is gauged by the sun's position in the sky. The ocean stirs my heart and inspires me; my mind is fresh and my creativity is sparked. Knowing that the waves will come no matter what is comforting, because although I can't control the waves, I know who does. Every minute by the sea renews me; it washes the weight of the world off my shoulders. 

Do you have a place like this? A place where the world goes away and all is right, even for just a little while? What's your happy place? I hope you can go to this place and enliven your soul; we all need a little renewing from time to time. Xoxo

A Tour Through Blogland // Walker House

I'm really excited about today's post--I love all things home and decorating, and it's one of my favorite things to read on other blogs! Needless to say, I'm thrilled to show you a little glimpse into my home today. Welcome to the Walker house, I hope you feel right at home!

Madison from Wetherills Say I Do took us on a tour of her home last week, and this week, she's invited me to do the same! This house is so special to me--it's mine and Andrew's first home together, the first space that we called our own. It's been more than just four walls and a roof; it's a place where our marriage started, our relationship has grown, and where we've made countless memories already! I never knew how much I could love a place, but this space has a special place in my heart.

Our home is a constant work in progress--we may have lived here for a while, but there are still unfinished rooms, or rather rooms that I can't decide how to finish. So for today, I'll show you some of my favorite spaces in our house. And eventually, you'll see the progress we make as it comes. I love that about our home--I love that it's always changing. I always want our home to be a comfortable representation of ourselves, and I know I'm always changing, so I pray our home reflects that, too.

My favorite spot in our whole house is probably this couch. As silly as it sounds, that's where I do most of my blogging and where Andrew and I sit and talk at night. He makes fun of all the throw pillows I love, but I think it gives our couch character.

My first piece of furniture I ever bought was this coffee table--I fell in love with it and decided it was worth the money for a piece like this. It'll always be a part of my home! 

How to Spruce Up Your Space is one of my favorite posts I've written about how to freshen up a space on a budget!

My most recent purchase is this corner shelf--I've had a chair there up until last week, but then decided it needed something more. I perused a few local yardsales and found this almost immediately and had to have it! It looks perfect in that corner and adds just the touch I was looking for.

An area that I love spending time in? The kitchen. I'm not the greatest cook, but I sure try. This kitchen has seen some delicious recipes and some failures, too. Either way, I love that it's a place where the people I love can gather. 

A few of my favorite recipes that have been successful are my Chicken Enchilada Casserole and my Sugar-free Strawberry Pie! 

I collect pottery and love displaying it around our home. Just about any surface of our house has a piece on it, and I think it gives it a personal touch! When we moved into this house, I searched high and low for a hutch or display piece to put in our dining room. Right when I was about to give up, I spotted this one at an antique place here in Oxford, and knew it was the one. It's one of my prized possessions, too.

We have two guest bedrooms--one is still in progress and the other is the size of a shoebox, but we make it work. It seems to be the room people migrate to when they stay--it's cozy and comfortable, with warm splashes of color. 

A room that I wish I used more is our office/man cave upstairs. It's our "bonus" room, and a corner has been redone to hold my "writing space" but the rest is still unused and unorganized. Like I said, it's a work in progress, but we'll get there, one day! I do love my cozy office nook, though. It's so nice to getaway up there with a cup of coffee and a book. I do my best thinking in this corner.

I saved the best for last--our back porch. When summer rolled around, we decided it was time to clean it up and make it livable. It's been our favorite spot for get-togethers, date nights, and crafting. If I can't find Andrew, he's most likely out back, enjoying the porch. We've added a few things here and there, and my DIY pallet art fits right in out here.

I'm hoping to finish our bedroom and extra guest room soon! I can't wait to show you those as we complete them. I've got some ideas in my head, just haven't put them to use yet. But stay tuned, friends! 

Your next stop on the Blogland Tour will be with my blog bff, Brittany from Happy Is a Choice! We have so much in common--she's a newlywed who loves Jesus and coffee. I love her blog and love her heart! I can't wait to see what she has to share with us about their home.

What makes a house a home to you? Is it the things you fill it with? The person you share it with? For me, it's all of the above. I hope you enjoyed a little glimpse into my "behind the scenes!" Xoxo

Playing Tourist in Your Own Town // Volume II

Do you ever have those days when you just need open space and fresh air? Ive been cooped up in a hospital on my work days and off days lately, so the other night, I begged Andrew to just get me outside. Anywhere with blue sky and sunshine. 

I live in a college town that is home to one of the biggest tailgating spots in the nation. The Grove is well-known by sports fans everywhere; it's been written up in every magazine you could imagine and is on every top tailgating list. It's one thing I love about where I live, but not just because of the tailgating. Andrew and I packed a quick picnic (think turkey sandwiches and chips in ziploc bags, the best kind!) and headed out to the Grove. 

This is what it looks like during football season--it's transformed into a sea of tents, tons of food, and even more excited fans. 

But I've gotta be honest, I think I prefer it in the offseason. There's something about acres of trees, quiet, solitude, and a good breeze right in the middle of town that refreshes me and makes me relax. It was just what I needed to "get away" and recoup. 

Nena was in heaven! I love visiting somewhere in our little town and seeing it through different eyes. Have you played tourist in your town? Get out there and visit somewhere new--you never know the adventure that's awaiting you! Xoxo

What I've Learned

Happy Friday, friends! This is a post that gets a little deep with some of my feelings--this Bible Study has made me think about a lot of things in a different light and I want to share that with you today! 

I am utterly shocked that our Bible Study is already over. I feel like it was just yesterday when I was fretting over making a vlog to kick it off. It’s been a challenging yet wonderful 6 weeks with Lord I Want to Know You. When thinking of how to wrap up all that I’ve learned, I’m almost stumped at where to start. 

Nicole and I were chatting a few days ago about the last section of the study, and I had to be perfectly honest with her. I told her that I felt that the last few chapters were a little over my head at times—and other times, I just felt as if I was reading it to finish it. I was flipping pages, waiting for it to end. 

My heart just wasn’t in it, whether it was because of some things going on in my life or just that God didn’t have much to teach me in those moments. I was struggling with not having something to take away from it, and she just said, “Not every study is going to impact every person in the same way.”

And she’s so right. I prayed at the beginning for God to open my eyes, open my heart to what He wanted me to know, and I think He did just that. There were so many sections of this book that just overwhelmed me in the best way and I know the Lord was pouring His wisdom over me, yet there were others where I felt confused and a little overwhelmed in a bad way. Even though that’s discouraging, I realized that it’s okay too. Every study I read isn’t going to change my life. 

God doesn’t intend for every passage, every verse, or every quote to speak to me, and that’s how it should be. Because when He does speak, it’s so good and so precious. And those things that He IS teaching me are so important. Sometimes it's hard for me to hear His voice in the midst of the chaos of life, but I'm learning slowly to appreciate the silence--to know that He's still there, just waiting to reveal Himself to me.

So I’ve learned to cherish those times when I feel like God is jumping off the page at me, but keep pushing through the other times, too. There will be ups and downs with my Bible reading and devotionals—it’s not always going to be an emotional experience. I’m prone to needing to “feel” something to think I’ve learned something, when that’s not the case. This study has opened my eyes to so much about the Bible that I didn’t know before, and I think it’s genuinely just a starting point to what the Lord is revealing to me. He’s just starting to teach me about His names and what they mean. He’s not finished with me yet!

Another thing that’s become clear to me is a “virtual” Bible study doesn’t work for me. Don't get me wrong--I've loved every bit of sharing this with those who have participated; but still, it was just different. I’m a tangible learner; I need to be surrounded by people to discuss things, maybe not every week, but at least a few times throughout a study, for me to really “get” things. Sure, I have an understanding of most things, but God made us all differently; Nicole may read a passage and gather one thing out of it, and I may get something totally different. 

That doesn’t mean either is better, just means that God is teaching us in different ways, and maybe even different things. I thrive on discussion; I love getting to hold hands to pray, laugh out loud with other believers, talk about the parts we didn’t like or understand, and dive further into His Word together. 

God made the Body of Christ so that we could fellowship together and truly create a community, not just be faces behind computer screens. I think the word community is misconstrued so often with the blog world—a community is so much more than just a group of people brought together by a common thread. A community is a family, people who know each other deep down, past the superficial things. A group of people who long to serve each other and others, who thrive on doing good around them, away from a computer, sometimes. A community is tangible and loving and heartfelt. And I longed for that so much with this study. Nicole and I discussed it a bunch, and I’ve talked to a few others about it too, but it just wasn’t the same. And I think that all along, God was teaching me how much I need the Body of Christ to learn and grow.

But, back to our study. There have been so many days, instances, and situations in the past 6 weeks when my mind has immediately gone to the name of God that pertained to what was going on. I’ve prayed for El Shaddai to cover me, for El Roi to know the situation surrounding me and for Him to do His will, and I've prayed Jehovah-rapha, over friends, myself, and strangers on a prayer request list.

I’ve seen faces of God that I never knew before, and I’m so grateful for that. It’s been a huge blessing in my life, and although every page wasn’t a huge revelation, I know He’s made Himself known in my heart and has planted that seed for me to keep learning about who He is. 

Friends, I'm so glad you journeyed along this with me. If you've participated, what have you learned? Has God revealed anything to you during this study? How I long to be able to just sit with you and revel over how good the Lord is in our lives! One day, friends, one day! Happy weekend to you. Xoxo

Rachel in the Kitchen // Strawberry Puff Pastry Braid

Last weekend, Andrew and I were just hanging around the house watching the Food Network, per usual. The Kitchen came on and I instantly became enthralled by that show--every dish that they introduced looked fantastic, so we immediately looked up the recipes and bookmarked them for later.

I soon became bored with not wanting to do laundry or the dishes, so I convinced Andrew to go with me to the grocery store to pick up the ingredients to throw one of those recipes together. And it turned out so delicious! I love spontaneous baking adventures.

I have the cutest sous chef. His name is Andrew.

The braiding part seemed like it would be hard, but it really was the simplest part! 

We substituted the sugar with Splenda and added brown sugar (because we didn't have Demerara) and walnuts on top. It was such a delicious treat--I'm a pastry girl at heart, so I could eat this all day every day. There's just something about the way the cream cheese mixture melts all over that flaky pastry's what dreams are made of, friends!

You'll have to let me know if you try this recipe--it's perfect for a family get together, a cookout with friends, or just for a summer afternoon treat! Pastries, cream cheese, and strawberries...what's not to love? Enjoy! Xoxo

What Do You See?

Being someone who has struggled with weight her whole life, I'm my own worst critic. I see myself through harsh eyes--I focus on the bad and rarely ever the good. 

After I showered earlier, I couldn't help but stare at myself in the mirror. With all makeup off, I really began to see myself a little clearer. I look in the mirror and notice the redness in my cheeks. I see the bags under my eyes from working too many shifts in a row. "Gosh, my teeth are getting more crooked by the day." I brush back the hair that needs a little attention. I try to avoid looking myself up and down, because I know the extra pounds on my frame will stand out. I think, "gosh, when did I get so pale?" I spot an extra stretch mark around my hip that wasn't there yesterday and cringe. I make myself stand up a little straighter to look a little taller, but then my shoulders look too broad for my liking, so I slump again. It's a never-ending struggle. 

And then my husband walks in and puts his arms over my shoulders, kisses me on my cheek, and says, "you look so beautiful right now, babe."

I wish I saw myself through his eyes--he sees the beauty that my eyes aren't capable of seeing. Why are we so hard on ourselves? Negativity is contagious and toxic--it stifles the good that surrounds us and brings me down to a place where I don't want to be.

I took another look in the mirror, and tried to focus on the good. What did I see?

I see big blue eyes that match my brothers, my fathers, and my grandfathers; a true sign that I'm from the Dillard family.

I see the facial characteristics that often make others mistake me for my mother or my sister, which is something I take as a compliment.

I see skin that is fair but beautiful, healthy, and isn't burned by the sun and won't be covered in wrinkles when I'm 40.

I see strong legs that serve a purpose--legs that can run, walk, and help me do whatever my heart desires.

I see hair that grows like a weed, that is strong, healthy, and long, which is a blessing, in my eyes. 

I see curves that my husband loves--curves that make me feel feminine and sexy. 

Beyond that, I see strength. I see someone who wants to make a change in her body and is back in the gym, day after day, even when she's sore as can be.

I see bravery and courage of someone who isn't afraid to speak about her faith, who wants the world to know how much Jesus loves them.

I see a friend who would do anything for the women she calls her best friends.

I see a woman who is ambitious and strives every day to better herself, in her faith, in her relationships, and in her career.

I see shoulders that carry burdens and give my friends a place to cry and lean on.

I see someone who wears her heart on her sleeve, who can cry at the drop of a hat, but someone who lives life full of emotion and zest.

I see a woman who is learning who she is, day by day, and is proud of the person she's becoming.

This world's view of beauty and perfection is so skewed these days--we've forgotten what it truly means to be beautiful. We've forgotten that beauty comes from the inside, from the characteristics that make us better people. We need to realize that acceptance of ourselves, our true selves, is what really makes us beautiful. And that's all there is to it.

Friends, I want you to look in the mirror--really look in the mirror--and see past those traits you hate about yourself. Look hard at that gorgeous woman staring back at you, and see the beauty that is there. She is loved. She is wanted. Do you see how far you've come? Do you see the hardships you've defeated? When you really look at yourself, when you let go of the world's idea of "beauty," what do you see? 

Friday Favorites

Friday's here and I think we can all agree, it couldn't have come any sooner! TGIF, right? I'm choosing to be grateful for the little moments this week and share with y'all a few of my Friday favorites, the little moments that made this week wonderful.

 A stroll across campus--loving all the flowers in bloom right now

Our wedding announcement was in our local magazine. Seeing our pictures just makes my heart happy. I love reminiscing on that day! 

Back porch pina coladas with my honey!

 "Just because" flowers to make a crappy week a little brighter.

Making a fun dessert that is pretty and delicious--recipe coming soon!

These are the little things that have made me smile this week. What little moments have made your week a good one? Hope your weekend is just fantastic, friends. Xoxo