When Brokenness Leads to Something Beautiful

There are times in life when I confuse things in my life falling apart with me being broken. God tells me a different story. 
“When things fall apart, the broken pieces allow all sorts of things to enter, and one of them is the presence of God.” -Shauna Niequist
Blog silences usually equate to something going on in my life--how easy is it for us to get caught up in what's going on in our own lives that we forget there's a big world out there that keeps spinning, even when our world has stopped. That's where my head has been lately--out of touch and out of sorts. My emotions tend to blow things out of proportion; it seems so big in my life when in reality, life just keeps going. The sun keeps rising, the world keeps turning.

A little over a month ago, I made a doctor's appointment after noticing some vision loss. One doctor's visit turned into four more; appointments with specialists were made and questions were left unanswered. And of course, my worries were at an all time high. There were lots of tests, tons of waiting, and finally, the answers came. Without getting too medical on you, the pressure of the fluid in my brain is elevated and has been causing a "false tumor" in my brain, resulting in headaches and swelling around my optic nerves. Knowing what it is comforts me, but the diagnosis in general is terrifying. 

The kicker? They aren't sure what causes it. It's idiopathic in nature. But they do know it's more prevalent in overweight women. It becomes a new ballgame when you hear from a doctor that the pounds you've packed on may be contributing to your vision loss. I had a spinal tap for an official diagnosis, and that led to a spinal headache for almost a week. It was one thing after another, and all I felt was broken and defeated

See where the pity party comes into affect? It's been hard to battle all of that without letting my emotions or attitude get tangled up in it. I think that just makes me human, but it hurts either way. I was quick to ask God "why?" instead of thanking Him for it not being more serious. That should've been my first response. This rut isn't going to defeat me. It's out of my hands and into God's. Why am I so slow to do that in the first place? I am nothing on my own.

Hearing that my weight was contributing to my issue put me back into a terrible, uncomfortable, vulnerable place. My biggest, most gut-wrenching struggle just took over my life once again. It's a daily debacle--something that I have to wake up and face every day. 

Out goes the vanity and selfishness of weight loss--this is more than hitting a certain number on the scale or fitting into a smaller size. It's about me not losing my vision. It's about me not living with headaches on a daily basis. It's about getting to a healthy weight so getting pregnant is in the near future--because right now, it's not. But then again, that's another post for another day. Maybe that's what I needed all along, a bigger reason to realize how important my health is.

So here I am at the point when I need to get over myself and my own worries and realize there really is a bigger picture. Sometimes, we try to write our story when we're right in the middle of it, and that's pretty much impossible. The middle isn't the best place to be--it's lonely and discouraging and heartbreaking at times, but it's the only way to get to the ending. The beautiful, fantastic ending.

That's all I'm looking for, after all. A good story, a life worth retelling and remembering. And a good story has ups and downs, twists and turns. The Lord knows what He's doing and I'm canceling my pity party and trusting Him as the author of my story. My story may be hard and painful right now, but I'm trusting in the hope that the next chapter will be beautiful and that makes it all worthwhile. 

So even on those days when all I feel is broken, I'm remembering that sometimes the Lord breaks us in order to rebuild us; His picture of the gospel becomes so much more clear to me when all I want is a fresh start, a new story, a rebirth. He's creating a new life with me, rebuilding me to be stronger, more beautiful. This is just a season, and the beauty of that is that a season will always come to an end. Here's to hoping that the next season of life is a little more beautiful and a little less broken.

Wednesday Wishlist // Fall Fashion Favorites

Let's all be honest, ladies...one of the main reasons we love when a new season rolls around is to refresh and spice up our closets with the season's newest must haves! I know that's true for me; as soon as Spring comes around, I'm itching for skirts and less layers. And with the first glimpse of sunshine and temperatures in the 70's, we're welcoming summer with flip flops and tank tops. Fall is no different in my closet--that first crisp in the air makes me long for fall fashion, pumpkin anything, and nights by the fire. 

When I think of fall, I think of plaid, warm sweaters, warmer tones in colors, and of course, boots and scarves. It's by far my favorite season to dress for, so naturally, my online shopping has seen a little bit of an increase in the past few weeks. My husband may have noticed, too, but I just blamed in on Fall fever, and he laughed it off. 

Here's what I'm loving this fall--simple, easy pieces that mix well and layer easily. Add in a scarf and some fantastic booties and you have an easy outfit that'll turn heads! 

one. This sweater makes me want to sit by a fire and drink apple cider. Cozy and cute!  
two. Baublebar jewels are my favorite way to add a touch of sparkle to any outfit. I'm a sucker for jewel tones, especially in the fall!   
three. Have you heard of Kelly Wynne? She's an up and coming bag designer from my alma mater and I'm a little obsessed with her designs. This emerald cross body needs to make an appearance in my closet soon.   
four. Forget the Zara plaid scarf--I scored this one from F21 for $9.80. Isn't it great? 
five. Everyone needs a great pair of booties for fall. These Old Navy ankle boots will go great with almost anything and the price can't be beat!  
six. My friends recently convinced me to go a little darker and brighter with my lip color for the fall...this Nars gloss in Quito is my new favorite!  
seven. Vests are everywhere this fall (as usual) but I'm loving this utility vest trend. The olive green is sold out at the moment, but I'll be buying it as soon as they restock!  
eight. I fell in love with this dress at first glance...tartan plaid and a drop waist? Yes. I'm still trying to figure out how to style it for when it gets cooler, but I can't wait to wear this! 
nine. I bought this Old Navy skirt because I can't pass up polka dots. I'm hoping to wear it with a chambray top, some tights, and a fun pair of booties. 
What are you loving for fall? Are there any trends you love? Trends you loathe? Either way, bring on the pumpkins, right? Xoxo

The Thing About Gratitude

Life has been so strange lately; I haven't had more than one night off in a row, which makes for a tired girl, a busy mind, and a dirty house. My soul is craving a little downtime, so to sit with you and drink a cup of coffee without having to watch the clock would be perfection right now. 

I sat down the other night to think about our next Community Brew, just to brainstorm and see what the Lord led me to. That brainstorming led to an English lesson with myself--the difference in gratitude and thankfulness. I'll admit, I use them interchangeably. But I was wrong; they're not quite the same thing, and I'm glad I realized that because it's shifted my whole way of thinking. 

Gratitude is a state of being and thankfulness expresses gratitude--so gratitude is a feeling and thankfulness is an expression of that feeling. Gratefulness folds inward; it shifts our perspective and leads to contentment. Thankfulness is how we show it, to ourselves and to others. It's kind of like joy and happiness--happiness is based on situations but joy is a constant, something you have to choose to have and work for.

Where do I begin on what the Lord has done in my life? Day by day, He's showing me His faithfulness over and over and it just brings tears to my eyes. Sure, there's the usual list--family, friends, job, house. Lately, I'm learning to be grateful for my health. I've had a lot going on with my health lately, and as easy as it is to get discouraged, I'm choosing to be grateful for the body He blessed me with, even when it's not working as it should. God is bigger than any situation going on in my life and I'm learning to remember that daily. It's all for His glory, after all. I want to live in a state of being grateful; I want to have a happy heart that pours out thanksgiving to Him even in the midst of struggles and trials. It should be an effortless thing for us, but we make it so much more complicated than it needs to be.

Why is it so hard to live a life like that? Do you find it hard to be grateful all the time? I wish it was a natural, innate act for me, but there are days when I have to forcefully choose gratefulness over bitterness. I have too much to be thankful for to let life's little bumps get me down. 

Gratitude comes a lot easier when I willingly show it to others around me. I think we underestimate the power of a kind word to someone, a simple, heartfelt thank you or telling them why you're so grateful for what someone has done. Compliments go a long way in changing one's attitude and heart--it can make all the difference in my day when someone stops to just take the time to tell me they care about me or are grateful for the work I've done. It seems to make it all worth it. That's what I'm striving to do lately--be more present in the little acts of gratitude. It doesn't have to be a big show; that kind of defeats the purpose. 

The thing about gratitude that we so often forget is that gratitude is an attitude, friends. Let's strive to live our days in that state of thankfulness--I know our lives would be much happier and more full of Christ. What have you been grateful for lately? I can't wait to chat with you, sweet friend. Xoxo

I'm linking up with Madison and Rach for another installment of Community Brew!

A Monday Introduction

I don't think I've ever said this before, but I for one am happy it's Monday. It's been a weekend, to say the least. Instead of me spilling my heart today, I just wanted to do something fun and different--a little "introduction" for some of the new faces around here, or maybe even a "reintroduction" for all my loyals!

name // I'm Rachel and I'm 26 years old. 

what you should know about me // I have a thick Southern accent and say "y'all" in almost every sentence. I have a deep obsession with all things Christmas and all things fall. My radio is always set to KLOVE; I rarely ever listen to anything else, but if I do, it's either Celine Dion, Hanson, or Katy Perry. I like to think I'm easy-going, but I'm the opposite--my husband will vouch for that. At first glance, you think I'm a girly girl, but deep down, I love some SEC sports and can watch football or baseball with the best of them. 

loves of life // Jesus. My honey. My family. My sweet friends. My pup. A big glass of wine. A good book. Community. Friends who challenge me. Anything with glitter. 

home // I live in the most quaint little small Southern town, the kind of town people write stories about. We love it here--it has a charm that pulls you in. 

dream job // Interior decorator. Or maybe a writer. I want to write a book one day. 

work // I'm a RN in Labor and Delivery at the local hospital and I love my mamas and babies! My job is crazy and demanding but I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world. I mean come on, I get to help bring babies into the world. I'm blessed to have the job that I have.

other half // I'm married to Andrew (7 months and counting!) but he was my best friend long before I ever knew he was the man I was meant to marry! Our love story is an interesting one, for sure.

favorite food // It depends on the mood you catch me in--some days I'm a sweets girl at heart; others, all I want is something salty. I can never say no to pizza, pasta, a cupcake, or queso dip. 

standard bar order // I'm more of a "bars only on special occasions" kind of girl, so then, I tend to get a martini with a fun name. But my go-to is a glass of Pinot Grigio. 

what I blog about // I blog about my life--DIY projects we've worked on around our house, Pinterest recipes I've tried, excerpts from my journal, and all the little moments in between. I talk a lot about my faith, about marriage, and really, anything that's been on my heart lately. 

why I blog // I'm a creative soul deep down; I long to be writing, painting, building, etc. I started blogging in college as a way to keep up with memories, almost like a scrapbook. With this blog, I didn't want to follow the normal "rules," I wanted to blog for me and for what made me happy. I write about what inspires me. I write when I'm inspired. My desire is that the people who come read my blog would leave this space encouraged and with a little more joy than they came with. This is why I came back to this blogging world.

So girls, tell me a little about yourself? I think we get so caught up in being glued to a computer screen that we forget to get to know the girl behind it. I want to know about you! Happy Monday, xoxo!

Slowing Down // Bread & Wine Project

I'm a quick eater by nature. You put a plate down in front of me, the food is gone fairly fast. I think it stems from me being a nurse and having to scarf down a meal just to ensure that I actually get a meal that shift, but I've slowly let it leak over into my life outside of the hospital. I don't like the rush that's often involved with mealtime--I'm a food lover, so more than anything, I long to savor the flavors, taste every bite, and experience every seasoning. 

When Rachel announced the next Bread & Wine Project Linkup, I knew it was just what I needed to slow it down. Life, eating, fellowshipping. All of it.

Lately, I'm grasping what it really means to enjoy a meal with my family. Whether it be Andrew, my sister and brother-in-law, or close friends, that's when memories are made and those are the moments that matter. I'm consciously trying to remember each bite, to listen to the conversation going on around me. I sip my wine slowly, gazing around the table and thanking the Lord for bringing all these people here, in this moment. It's a time with no phones, no computers, no TV. Just the noise that we create. 

A favorite "meal" of mine would be one of just appetizers...grab a bottle of wine, make a few dips, and you're all set. I was in an appetizer mood the other night, so I scoured some recipes and put my spin on them and called some friends over for an impromptu cocktail party (in our sweats.) It was random but enjoyable; time slowed down and we just indulged in the delicious hors d'oeuvres before us and mentally prepared for the week ahead. I pray our home is place of comfort, where clocks don't matter, and where stress melts away. That's what it means to slow down.

This recipe is the best kind of recipe--it's tasty, so quick to make, and involves cream cheese. What more do you need? 

Now that your mouth is drooling, go ahead and write this recipe down so you can make it SOON! Xoxo

Being Brave // Living Up to My Potential

There are days when I just get caught up in the monotony of what's going on in my life. I just check things off a to do list, only to say I've done it; the same thing day in and day out. Yet I fall prey to this way of life and feel comfortable with it, because it's all that I know. 

There are days when I pray for God to use me in a radical way, days when I feel like I'm not living up to the potential that God has in store for me. And I even keep asking Him to open doors for me, to make me into the woman He planned for me to be--but am I really open and ready for that? Am I subconsciously putting my foot in that doorway and keeping that door shut?

Sometimes I just feel like I'm asking Him this out of selfish desires. Is that really what my heart wants? I say yes, but when the Lord gives me opportunities or presents situations to me, do I answer? Do I listen? Do I act? The answer is probably no.

I dream to grow into a woman who seeks God all day long; who is in constant conversation with the Lord on a daily basis. Sure, I have good days when I feel close to Him, but then I have others when I don't. I want to be the kind of woman that friends gravitate towards, because I radiate joy. Pure joy. Those women's lives seem effortless and I know it's because they've opened up their hearts to what God says and they just say yes with a smile, knowing He has something big in store. 

Is this life all that God has planned for me? If so, that's perfectly fine. I just have this feeling deep down that God is preparing me for something more, something greater. My biggest prayer lately is for God to make me brave. We have this hanging above our bed, and I see it every morning.

What's the missing link? Where am I going wrong? I think I'm not as open as I think I am to God's calling. I think I let myself get too busy sometimes to make out His voices in the midst of the hundreds of others that are pulling me every other direction. I think we all fall prey to this sometimes--trying to "simplify" leads to more clutter. We just jumble everything up more.

Potential. It's a daunting word. Potential involves change, and I'm not always the biggest fan of change. Change is a journey and it's not always the easiest one.

I think I'm in the middle right now. Somewhere between God starting His work in me and the finished product. But then again I guess we all are in the middle. And while I'm here, I'm going to work on having a willing heart. 

This place in my life requires bravery. It requires me to let go of the chains holding me back and just decide to be brave. To discern what God is speaking into me and follow Him without abandon. One of my greatest fears is missing out on something incredible because I was too hesitant to put on His bravery and just say yes to what God was calling me to. 

There's something stirring deep inside of me that is ready to live out my potential, even when it takes me out of what I know as comfortable. Because that's when God is most glorified in us, when we follow where He leads. I have a feeling I'm going to find my potential, but it's going to be just outside of my comfort zone. I think I'm ready for the adventure.

He makes me brave. I'm waking up today choosing to be brave. Today, I'm asking Him to open doors and make me uncomfortable and push me to those places I'm not ready for. I want Him to keep pruning me and making me into a better me.

A Letter to My Single Girlfriends

To my single girlfriends,

I've been in your shoes before. You feel like all of your friends are coupling off, one by one, until you're the only single one left. Single. Who knew you could hate a word so much? It's discouraging and disheartening; and although you're happy for them, you can't help but wonder when it will be your time. Sure, you don't mind being the third, fifth, or even seventh wheel, but it gets old after a little while. And we know that you'd rather stay home than hang out with us all the time. I hated that feeling.

The cliches get old--"You'll find someone when you stop looking" or "God has a plan for you, just keep praying for the One." Or my favorite, "You have to be happy with yourself first!" All you can do is smile and nod, knowing they're just trying to be supportive, but quietly, you're just wanting to punch someone. Cliches seem to make it worse, don't they?

And sure, you don't feel this way all the time. Just when weddings, events, or holidays come around...or when you're out with friends and you're the only uncoupled one there...or when your great aunt asks when you're "finally going to settle down." Isn't it funny how everyone else in your life assumes they can "fix" your singleness for you?

Friend, I understand. I promise, I do. People like to think that just because I'm married now, all my single years are erased. They're not. I remember them all, even the ones I'd like to choose to forget. Those feelings are hard to get rid of, because that hurt goes a lot deeper than most realize.

I'm not going to sit here and tell you that you need to love yourself before anyone else can love you, because you've heard it before. It may be true, but it's been said already. I'm also not going to try to hook you up with a guy I know or suggest you try online dating. I'm not here to "fix" anything, because really, there's nothing to be fixed. You're awesome and fantastic on your own--you need to remember that. 

I do have a few things to tell you though, and I want you to listen closely. 

I want you to know that you are loved and you are wanted. You are fantastic. A guy doesn't measure your worth, as easy as it is to fall into that way of thinking. You're better than that. You're probably thinking, "Of course, I know that, Rachel" but I want you to really remember that when your heart is hurting. Place those words in your heart and hold onto them, because one day you'll forget that.

Don't cringe every time you hear that another friend is engaged. Just smile and celebrate with them, because one day, they'll be there to celebrate with you and it'll all come full circle. Trust me, you'll want those friends around you. And I guarantee they'll be so happy for you, because you deserve to be happy. Life is too short to sit out on a celebration--put on a pretty dress, throw on a big smile, and have a blast. Your day will come.

Don't stop living your life. Don't think that just because you're single, you shouldn't travel to Italy or buy a home of your own or take a cooking class you've been dying to take. Do all of those things. Go to places you want to visit (and take me with you!) and do things that make you uncomfortable. I'm one of those souls that believes God puts opportunities in our lives to make us better and to expose us to people we wouldn't have met otherwise. Who knows if Mr. Right is sitting in that cooking class you're afraid to try on your own. Or maybe he's at that party at a friend's house that you don't want to go to. Say yes to things and you never know what will unfold. God has a plan, I promise. 

There's a guy out there who is going to make you realize why God made you wait. He's going to be more than that checklist we all had in our minds on our future husbands. He's going to turn your world upside down and change your heart and make you think you were crazy to ever have wanted any other man. I can't wait to be there to see this happen...and I'm going to hug you and celebrate with you and say, "I told you so!" anyway.

You are loved and you are wanted, sweet friend. And I'll never stop praying for the man who will be your husband. 

Your friend,

How to Style a Bookshelf: Easy Tips to Make It Chic Yet Simple

I grew up in a home where decorating daily was normal. My mom was always rearranging furniture and switching out accessories from room to room. I think she got that from her mother, because my grandmother is the same way--always fixing and fluffing, making sure everything looks pristine. Coming from two women who put even HGTV to shame, I've always had a love for decor. I may not be a professional at it and have a lot to learn, but I do love to play around with new pieces, different arrangements, and fun colors. 

One of my favorite things to style are bookshelves. Of course, with any decor, it all depends on your taste and your preferences. There's no wrong or right way to do any of this; it's all about making it look like you want it to look. That's really the fun in it--taking a few suggestions and twisting it into a gorgeous product with your personal touch on it. You may love some aspects of my shelf, you may hate others. So grab your favorite pieces and get to styling; I guarantee you'll end up with something you love!

I'm no expert, but these are tips that help me construct a bookshelf style that I love! 

one. Clear your bookshelf. Take everything off and start with a blank slate. And grab a glass of wine while you're at it. Group together all the things you want to use, just so you get a clear picture of what you have to work with.

two. Books are your friends! Use your favorite books as show-off pieces or grab bound books to stack as height under other pieces. Don't be afraid to go horizontal or vertical with them! They're great to take up space and make the space look more colorful. Vary their sizes, too. The same size book across a shelf is boring!

three. Putting different textiles on the same shelf is always a yes. A metal object such as my "W" initial with a ceramic piece of pottery help create a fun contrast of materials. The juxtaposition of different organics together create a pretty picture. Add in a wooden cross or a feminine bloom to show a whimsical side of the person styling it. Even if a plant is fake, it adds a little pop of life to a shelf.

four. Always place a personal touch on your shelves. Something like a photo of your family, a favorite place, or a loved quote make personal and unique to your home. Like I said earlier, the best part of styling is putting your own spin on things. 

five. Blank space is okay! My bookshelf is fairly narrow so there isn't much room, but if yours is wider, take advantage of negative space. I'm eager to get a bigger bookshelf one day to play around with. Don't be afraid to place something in the center of a shelf and leave the rest of it empty. 

six. Layer. Put things in front of one another, even if you think it "looks funny" right at first. It creates depth and adds interest. This is when all of your fun little knickknacks come into play--grab those fun things that intrigue you and inspire you. Anything from an antique teacup to a candle to a small canvas...your options are endless. Fill in spots that look like they're calling out for a little something. You'll be presently surprised when you just start placing items; it somehow all falls into place.

seven. As with any good work of art, take a step back and walk away for a while. Sleep on it. Come back to your beautiful bookshelf the next day and take another look at it and see how you feel about it. Tweak it until you feel good about it, and then show off your styling! 

The key to any decorating in your home is to remember that it doesn't have to look like it came out of HGTV to be beautiful...the more unique it is, the better. Put your own spin on it and people that come in your home will be able to tell that your personality comes out in the decor! Have fun with it, friends! Xoxo

Welcome September // Goals for the Month

August has come and gone in a fury, and if I said I'm sad to see it leave, I'd be lying to you. It's been a month of waiting, of sickness, and of readiness to move on. I think our lives have to have those seasons in order to grow us, but I'm looking forward to what's next. My August goals were quite neglected, but for good reason, so there will be no beating myself up over not completing them. All I can do now is smile, be thankful for that month, move on, and make some goals for this month! 

August goals were:
  • Try a new class at the gym.  I did Spin once and probably won't ever do it again.
  • Make a new out-of-my-comfort zone recipe. I made a delicious pork loin that was a little intimidating to try--but it turned out amazing! Recipe here.
  • Run a mile without stopping. Not even close.
  • Send 4 snail mail letters to friends. Put them in the mail last week--better late than never :)
  • Have photos taken for blog purposes. I actually had an appointment set up with my favorite photog, then the weather didn't cooperate. As in tornado-ish weather, so we chose to postpone. 
  • Take a few days off of social media. Why is this one so hard for me? I had a day off here and there, but never in a row. 
  • Host a dinner party in our home. Nope. Planning one as we speak.
  • Read 1,000 Gifts by Ann Voskamp. I chose to read Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist first, so this one is next. 
  • Have a date night with Andrew. Had quite a few, and they were all just what I needed!
  • Start saving for our (hopeful) Italy trip next year. We've been saving well, just need to convince my hubby that Italy is a good goal! 

September goals are:
  • Have photos taken for blog purposes. 
  • Try a different class at the gym (NOT spin, for sure.)
  • Host a dinner party in our home, as casual or as fancy as I choose.
  • Do something that takes me out of my comfort zone.
  • Work on my prayer life--less of me, and more of Him.
  • Check some Christmas gifts off our list.
  • Do something spontaneous. 
  • Make plans with two friends I want to know better.
  • Work on my capsule wardrobe--narrow down my closet to only essential pieces.
  • Write. Just write...no guidelines, just do it.
I'm excited about September...we don't have any big plans, but it feels like something good is coming. I'm ready to see what it is! I'm looking forward to a change in the weather; that crisp air seems to just do something to my spirit. What are your goals for the month? Let's keep each other accountable! Xoxo