Archive for the ‘faith’ Category

what if?

Saturday, January 23rd, 2016

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if any of you out there are jennie allen followers, you’re probably also aware of the IF:gathering and all of the subsequent events and movements that have come out of her annual gathering for women to be equipped and empowered in pursuing lives of purpose. if you’re not familiar with jennie allen, you’ve come to the right place because i’m new to the club too. i recently started reading her latest book, restless, which basically speaks to the heart of every woman who has wondered if this is all there is to life. i’m sure i’ll have more thoughts on that once it’s read in its entirety, but the Lord has been teaching me so much lately through jennie and through lara casey’s book, make it happen. i’m learning that following the lord’s plan for my life is basically the opposite of the boring, disappointing picture i have in my head. He’s been inspiring so much lately and i feel ready to take some big steps during 2016 toward dreams He’s placed in my heart.

anyway, all that said, i’m extremely excited to share that the IF:gathering is coming to charlotte in two weeks, and is being hosted at my church, new charlotte. it’s technically free (although they ask for a $20 donation to help cover food and such) and essentially you’ll be joining 80-100 other women to watch the simulcast of the main gathering that will be happening in austin over the same weekend.

i’ve never been a huge fan of “women’s ministry” in many of its forms personally, mainly because i’ve never been able to relate to the young-christian-wife-mom-of-three-only-listens-to-christian-radio stereotype that i assume attend this type of thing. i will take full responsibility for that terrible misjudgment and admit that i’m sure it’s held me back from meeting many amazing women in the past, regardless of how our backgrounds align. i believe so strongly we are made for community and one of my prayers this year is that i will find deeply rooted friendship and community among more women in charlotte. i’m sure the IF:gathering is a great place to start, and i’d love it if you would join us. i’m excited to continue considering the question what IF i actually lived like Jesus? alongside other women in charlotte.

the details:

when: february 5 – 6, 2016 (starts at 7:00 p.m. on friday, so you can make it after work.)

what: the IF:gathering seeks to gather, equip, and unleash this generation of women to live out God’s calling on their lives. the world around us feels like it is crumbling and almost nothing seems certain, until we look to Jesus and see that our Hope is very clear and certain. He didn’t just give us salvation—Jesus is our salvation and the example of what it means to live in the fullness of grace and truth. what the world needs is His redemption, the very redemption and hope that lives inside of us. rather than shrink back, it is time to love like Jesus loved, serve like Jesus served, pray like Jesus prayed, and pursue holiness like Jesus pursued it.

where: new charlotte church, 11011 monroe road, matthews, nc
(don’t live in charlotte? check to see if there’s a local gathering near you!)

more info here and here. register to join us here!

and, as a fun additional note, i’m working with some great ladies to do the decor for the event. new charlotte is already pretty awesome-looking, but here’s a little inspiration board teaser of what we have planned for you…

IF Charlotte

image credits: 1. if:gathering; inspiration board clockwise from top left: 1. wedding chicks 2. frida vega solomonsson 3. brit+co 4. a daily something 5. mod wedding 6. apartment 34 via domino

the stone collective: february

Friday, February 28th, 2014

The Stone Collective Final logo

 

you guys, i’m really excited about this. a couple of months ago, my friend sarah contacted me about a really cool new idea designed to unite bloggers through worship and creativity on her blog, live it out! the stone collective is a community making much of Jesus as we create art, photography, prose, poems or music that commemorate the wonderful things God does in our life. based on the passage in 1 Samuel 7:12-14, each month we will collect Ebenezer Stones as a regular practice in the art of worship via our creativity. i’ve never been one to paint or dance or do anything really in terms of worship. the idea of syncing my creativity and my feelings about the Lord is a little intimidating to me for some reason, which is all the more reason that i was excited to jump into this project head-first. if my creativity is a gift from the Lord and everything i do, in essence, should glorify Him, why wouldn’t i want to use it to create as a response to His extraordinary blessings? i also love the idea of using my blog to commemorate blessings that the Lord has poured out on me monthly. i don’t journal on the regular, so what an extraordinary way to recognize His blessings, be thankful and remember His goodness throughout the year.

i’ll admit, i’ve been wracking my brain trying to decide what to do for my first-ever ebenezer stone, but the past two months have been ones of immense blessing in my life. so much so that i can’t stay silent. which is why i’m so thrilled to have this opportunity to join sarah and all of our blogger friends in this special kick-off…

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one of my favorite images in the Bible is that of a branch connected to The Vine. Jesus uses so much imagery surrounding nature and branches to describe our relationship with Him. in addition, i am consistently distracted by branches in nature. particularly in winter when they are bare. they are dead in our eyes, yet exquisite and very much alive inside, waiting for the right time to bloom again. but as much as one branch is beautiful, i am generally overwhelmed by the branches on large, mature trees. it’s these that captivate me the most. it’s in the simple beauty of the branches that the whole tree becomes majestic, in the infinite overlap and difficulty finding where one branch begins and another ends that they all grow together.

i’ve realized lately that as much as i use Christ’s branch imagery to guide my own life, most vines in nature produce more than one branch. and, once again, it’s their collective parts that makes the vine resplendent. a tree with one branch wouldn’t really be very magnificent, even if that branch flourished alone. in short, community has not been something i’ve realized i needed as much as i did, and in the past few months, the Lord has abundantly blessed me with friends that have made me realize how much our life is meant to be lived alongside others. it’s in our shared lives that Christ is the most visible to us and those around us. i’ve been so overwhelmed by this reality lately and so incredibly thankful for the extraordinary friendships and community that the Lord has given me. it’s a reminder to me of how much He loves me, how much He loves others, and how much He is glorified through genuine relationships and genuine community.

i love this picture above, my ebenezer stone for february, which i actually took on broad street in southern pines, nc (interestingly, where i met sarah and a place that truly represents family and community for me). it perfectly captures the many branches that make up the vine and how despite their individuality, they are all connected, all strengthened by one another, and all a part of a magnificent whole.

and now that i’ve talked all about community, want to join in on the stone collective? create your own stone and link up to LIVE IT OUT! blog. #TheStoneCollective. you can also see all of the others bloggers that are participating there – check them out!

failed new year’s resolutions

Thursday, February 6th, 2014

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there’s a general saying that i hear often. i think it’s even on some television commercial about arthritis pharmaceuticals – “a body at rest tends to stay at rest while a body in motion tends to stay in motion”. lately, this saying has reminded me of how long it’s been since i’ve seen the inside of my ymca, (um, before christmas? this needs to change.) but i’ve also realized that this statement extends beyond our physical activity into the habits of our day-to-day lives. experts say it takes about three weeks to form a new habit or break an old one, but when it comes to comfortable patterns of behavior or bad habits, i’d venture to say it takes far less time for them to creep back into our changed behaviors. since the beginning of the 2014, i’ve been working hard on being intentional. intentional about getting up in the morning and spending time with the Lord. intentional about saying yes to spending time with new people when i would really rather just stay home with my netflix. intentional about how i spend/budget my time. intentional about trying new things and getting out of my comfort zone. for the most part, as a general rule, i’ve been doing pretty well.

until this weekend.

i will give myself some grace in saying that during the week i work hard, which is true for most of us. i work eight – 10 hours and then i go home to work several more on freelance/blog/volunteer activities. i’m lucky if i’m in bed by midnight, if my dinner dishes are washed and if i showered. last week was a productive one. but for some reason, this weekend, i just CRASHED. i watched six movies and no less than four west wing episodes. i took at least three naps. i ate a lot of junk food. i bailed on super bowl plans in favor of making soup in my pajamas and watching more west wing. i ignored the pile of laundry in my room.

i won’t argue that sometimes we need down time. and i also won’t argue that an occasional netflix binge is good for the soul. i am not ashamed of the fact that i’m an introvert and a homebody and that staying in sometimes is exactly what i need to recharge. but i discovered this week that while a restful weekend should have left me ready to hit the ground running on monday morning, that i’ve been struggling since then to get back into the swing of life. when i separate myself from community, from social interaction, from productivity for a while, i have discovered that it actually has a reverse effect for me. instead of giving me the rest i need to be ready for more work, i slide into this weird world of no ambition or motivation. quite honestly, pushing myself back into this week when all i really wanted to do was go home after work and do nothing has been difficult. more difficult than it should have been given that i thought the changes that i’ve made since the beginning of the year were beginning to stick.

all of this to say, a little self-indulgence once in a while isn’t a bad thing. but it takes far less than three weeks to break the good habits i’ve formed and slide back into my comfort zone, which no matter how comfortable, is not where i need to be. i tend to get frustrated when my efforts don’t lend immediate results or success, but the thing is that intentionally making changes is harder than it seems. not only are we trying to form new habits that are unfamiliar and uncomfortable, but we’re fighting back against the old ones that continue to creep up behind us and pull us back into their comfortable familiarity. i’ve been reminded this week that our own willpower isn’t enough to overcome our self-destructive habits, and that’s where the frustration comes in to play. we think if we’re disciplined enough that true change is possible. but the truth is, we’re weak little humans controlled by our own sinful desires. the good news is, instead of being left to our own devices we can rely on the One who created us and knows all of our intricacies and weaknesses. He designed us to do so. it’s such an incredible feeling for me to know that God’s grace is new every day and it’s ultimately HIM who will manifest change in my life. our shortcomings, set-backs and failed resolutions are made new in His sight and it’s only by abiding in Him that we can begin to accomplish true change.

image credit: laura makabresku

broken

Thursday, January 9th, 2014

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“the more i think about the meaning of living and acting in the name of Jesus, the more i realize that what i have to offer others is not my skill, intelligence, power or influence, but my own human brokenness through which the Word of God can manifest itself. ministry is entering with our human brokenness into communion with others and speaking a word of hope. this hope is not based on any power to solve the problems of those with whom we live, but on the love of God, which becomes visible when we let go of our fears of being out of control and enter into His presence in a shared confession of weakness.”

– henri nouwen

image credit: pinterest

one word

Friday, January 3rd, 2014

intentional

i should start this post by letting it be known that i don’t really make new year’s resolutions and i most definitely don’t make them about diet or eating healthy. because i feel like it would be a sad existence if i couldn’t include things like bread and cake in my life. and bacon. and pancakes. last year was the first that i really focused on a word for the year, and while i really can’t take responsibility for anything i learned about hope in 2013, the Lord was faithful in teaching me some things despite the fact that i really didn’t take the time to study it or reflect on it too much. and this leads me to 2014’s word of the year. i always have good intentions, but i’m rarely very intentional about things. call it discipline or busyness, but the day-to-day demands of life/overall exhaustion/overcommitment/bad moods can often derail my best laid plans for how i spend my time. i believe that time is our most precious gift, and how we steward and use that time is an extremely important reflection of who we are and how the Lord is shaping us into who He intends for us to become. i don’t think i’ve been doing a very good job of intentionally managing my time at all. i know this is directly related to a lot of the things in my life that i’m not so thrilled about.

and this doesn’t just mean with the big stuff. this also means with little things that make my life happier. the other day i drove by the fresh market and lamented that i love it there but never go. there is literally no valid excuse for this. it’s close, it’s convenient, i frequently need groceries. of course it’s expensive, but there’s no reason i can’t budget $20 for the month to explore the store, eat free samples and pick out a few choice items. our lives are full of things we can’t afford to do, but if wandering the aisles at fresh market makes me happy, i don’t see why i should let the fact that shopping at super target/trader joe’s is more practical remove this simple pleasure completely from my life.

in short, i think in order to be the people we want to be and create the lives we want to live, being intentional is absolutely necessary. so folks, (drumroll please), my 2014 word is intentional. here are five simple applications for the way i plan to implement it this year:

1. i want to be intentional with how i manage my finances – i’m 28 and i’ve managed to survive with good credit and virtually no debt thus far, but i’ll be the first to admit that my approach to how i spend my money has been quite haphazard. this needs to change and it needs to change stat. i’m a little apprehensive to even admit the fact that i need to do this, but it’s very much the truth.

2. i want to be intentional in taking better care of myself –  this pertains to diet, exercise, work/sleep habits and overall regard for the fact that i have diabetes and sometimes eating an entire bag of swedish fish for dinner is not the wisest decision. sometimes. this is somewhat vague, but again, i don’t want to eat paleo or commit to working out five times a week because life is busy and sometimes cardio funk class just isn’t feasible. i want to leave room for life (and glasses of wine and hot dogs) to happen, but i know that i need to do a better job of recognizing that my body can only respond to the treatment it’s given.

3. i want to be intentional in being true to myself – living in charlotte is hard because a large majority of the women here look like they have stepped out of a jcrew catalog, a tory burch store, or a very expensive boutique that features a lot of chevron and monograms. unlike many cities, i don’t think the eclectic personal style that i find so inspiring elsewhere is prevalent here. not to say those women don’t look lovely – because who doesn’t love jcrew? but due to the lack of truly unique styles around me, i find myself intimidated to wear what i want to wear. i want to wear things like this. or this. or wear my new tulle skirt to work because why can’t i wear my new tulle skirt to work? this is likely going to manifest itself in other areas of my life, but my outfit choices are the first things that need my attention. a massive closet purge coming if you want in on the cast-offs, ladies.

4. i want to be intentional with how i spend my time – this refers to the aforementioned fresh market trips, for one. on fridays when i don’t have a lot planned for the weekend, i often think about all of the things i could do, but end up watching the west wing on netflix for hours at a time because joshua lyman is so dang attractive and president barlet makes me love america all over again in every episode. this however, is not always the greatest way to spend my weekend. i want to craft and blog and thrift and do all of the things that inspire and challenge me creatively. this also includes sewing more to accommodate goal number three. starting with a reproduction of this insane tibi skirt.

5. i want to be intentional in allowing the Lord to teach and grow me – as in, i need to make Him priority number ONE. i love the Lord fully, but i know i am seriously lacking in allowing Him the foothold in my life that He must have in order to transform me. this includes a lot more prayer, reflection, reading and overall monitoring of my thoughts. and it also includes being intentional in choosing joy even when i’m not feeling it. because heaven knows we all have those days.

so. basically this post has turned out to be faaaar longer than anticipated. so i’ll stop yammering on and move forward into the aforementioned being-intentional-about-my-sleeping-habits and go to bed already. is anyone else choosing a word for the year? would love to hear what you’ve selected!

here’s to an intentional 2014!

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addition: gracie reminded me this morning that there’s a really cool website written by mike ashcraft in wilmington that outlines this whole one word phenomenon. i was remiss in not including it in the original post! check it out: www.myoneword.org.

image credits: 1. jeanneoliverdesigns 2. pinterest via

new year, new blog!

Wednesday, January 1st, 2014

2014 collage

the new blooming branch is here! eeeeeeep! i am so excited to put this site – which has required a great deal of hard work over the past two months – out into the world. blooming branch has evolved a great deal since i started it in 2008, and i am beyond ready for this new chapter.

the original blooming branch was created long before pinterest or instagram existed and provided me with a creative outlet to capture the things that i found inspiring. since 2011, the blog really hasn’t been a priority of mine as i’ve found a great deal of what it previously supplied through the use of these social media sites. over the past two years, however, i have discovered that i miss the writing that comes along with my blog, as i’ve recently begun writing freelance articles for some online sources. i’ve realized that i don’t only love writing, but i love how much i learn about myself through it. i’ve also discovered that while i often feel like i’m alone in the things i am learning or struggling with, that so many other young women are experiencing the same. it’s been a tremendous blessing through conversations and the publication of these freelance articles to find that so many others can identify with the same day-to-day experiences i have. it is through honest community with others that we can best navigate life in Christ, and i want to continue creating that connection by being genuine and honest about myself and my life. blooming branch has truly been on my mind extensively for the past year, but my own fear and insecurities kept me from continuing to blog. with so many other lovely sites out in blogland, it was hard not to play the game of comparison. a re-brand and re-release of my blog, however, was something that i could no longer ignore. i believe that whether or not i gain a ton of readers or notoriety through this site, that the Lord uses it to shape me alone, and that’s important enough in and of itself. as i began moving forward with plans for this site, i read this extraordinary article about comparison and knew that i needed to remember these wise words. quitting my blog because i’m intimidated by others is a sad and silly reason to do such a thing. there will always be blogs (lots of them) that are better than mine, but that definitely doesn’t diminish the significance of my own – even if it is only significant to me. that’s been a really extraordinary lesson for me and one that i’ve contemplated and prayed about a great deal as i’ve worked on this site.

in short, releasing this new blog into the world has been a challenge on so many levels. there’s been a lot of frustration and a lot of learning. i don’t know much about html code or owning my own domain or fixing things in my CSS folder. i don’t really even know what CSS is exactly. there will certainly be some kinks and learning experiences to come, but i’d like to take this moment to thank a few important people who have been instrumental in making this new site possible:

lindsey lee hartsell – this girl knows more about building a business and making a website beautiful that anyone i know. i am thankful for her time, her expertise and her valuable input. and for introducing me to the genius that is odesk.

ben burns – ben and i have never met, but we connected through odesk when i hired him to create a new logo for blooming branch. he was patient. he listened to me. he put up with my perfectionist high-maintenance needs. he made gentle suggestions like a true expert.  he created a logo that is exactly what i didn’t know i wanted, all in order to save a sweet little puppy named munch. he’s been a lifesaver. i am extremely grateful for his assistance and know that i’ll be hiring him again. you should consider it, too.

ello themes – as if i have the time, money or expertise to create my own website. ello themes created this lovely template and then gave me instructions to implement it myself. it’s been a learning experience, but a good one. i am thankful.

i also think i’d be remiss without thanking google. i learn so much from it. when i have questions i ask google and it usually helps me find an answer. google is nice like that. always there when you need it. i’d also like to thank people like my parents, mrs. laurie, lacey and others who have continuously encouraged me, challenged me, and reminded me that blooming branch truly was worth my time and effort. you’ve been such a blessing.

anyway, i’m excited to begin 2014 with a blank slate of blog posts that have yet to be written about a new year that has been written by my Creator. i’m wearing my favorite sparkle sweater and am about to clink some bubbly and celebrate what is yet to come – the good, the bad and all those days in between. thanks for joining me on the journey. here’s to 2014!

image credit: 1.weheartit 2.weheartit

a patient advent

Sunday, December 22nd, 2013

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advent, for many reasons, is one of my favorite things about christmas. it’s such a beautiful, simple celebration of the Lord’s faithfulness amidst the harriedness of the christmas season. it seems every year i learn something new during advent, and this year has been no different. you can read about it here on ibelieve. i hope what the Lord has shown me in 2013 is just as encouraging to you as it’s been to me.

image credit: weheartit

thanks

Friday, August 23rd, 2013

Listen
with the night falling we are saying thank you
we are stopping on the bridge to bow from the railings
we are running out of the glass rooms
with our mouths full of food to look at the sky
and say thank you
we are standing by the water looking out
in different directions

back from a series of hospitals back from a mugging
after funerals we are saying thank you
after the news of the dead
whether or not we knew them we are saying thank you
in a culture up to its chin in shame
living in the stench it has chosen we are saying thank you

over telephones we are saying thank you
in doorways an in the backs of cars and in elevators
remembering wars and the police at the back door
and the beatings on stairs we are saying thank you
in the banks that use us we are saying thank you
with the crooks in office with the rich and fashionable
unchanged we go on saying thank you thank you

with the animals dying around us
our lost feelings we are saying thank you
with the forests falling faster than the minutes
of our lives we are saying thank you
with the words going out like the cells of a brain
with the cities growing over us like the earth
we are saying thank you faster and faster
with nobody listening we are saying thank you
and we are saying thank you and waving
dark though it is

– w.s. merwin 

image: waiting by vilhelm hammershoi via silent storyteller

hope

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013

happy 2013!

after a lovely christmas holiday, i ended 2012 with three petty traffic citations (none of which actually had to do with my driving and i’d like to think that cops on nye are more interested in citing drunk drivers than goodytwoshoes rule-followers like me, but alas, some state troopers are apparently bored) and kicked off the new year with flannel pajamas, my mom, a downton abbey marathon and a little bubbly. today i am back at work and making an effort to actually ignore the crazy to-do list (and the 250+ emails) that follow two weeks of vacation and take a proper lunch hour to blog and breathe.

i am excited about 2013, yet i have realized lately that i’m not really the optimist that i thought i was. i imagine exciting scenarios. change, excitement, future happiness, but i don’t really expect they will happen. i’ve found that i often expect things i wish would happen not to happen to avoid certain disappointment, and i think that’s a sad way to live. lately the Lord has taught me that it’s good to hope, good to trust and good to plan for the best scenarios. while disappointment is a fact of life, He is faithful and sometimes wonderful things can happen. i don’t want to be cynical. i want to be hopful.

i don’t really make new year’s resolutions because i like to think we’re constantly changing and improving for the better, not just once a year (and plus, does anyone honestly make it past january with the eat-only-clean-foods-do-one-thing-that-scares-you-everyday business?), but i do like the idea of making a motto or words to live by for a year. in 2013, i’ve decided that mine is going to be extremely simple: hope. there are so many beautiful scripture verses regarding hope and i’m excited to explore and memorize them this year as i not only rejoice in the hope i see around me, but hope in the plans that the Lord has for me and watch the way He uses them build my faith in Him and His goodness.

join me in hoping during 2013, won’t you?

“may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” – romans 15:13

image credit lipstick&curls via sarah martin

thanksgiving edition

Friday, November 23rd, 2012

as i sit on the couch this evening in my stretchy pants, surrounded by my family, black friday flyers, half eaten snack trays on the coffee table, and christmas decoration boxes waiting to be opened, my heart is full of gratitude for the blessings i’ve been given. sometimes i can’t believe how blessed i’ve been. sometimes it just doesn’t seem fair. 

but i am thankful for these blessings every year. the Lord has given to my family freely and while i still wait for particular things that i want to be realized, i am more certain than ever that He is in control and will fulfill my desires in His time. but this holiday, more than others, i think the Lord is teaching me that even if He doesn’t, and even if all of the things for which i am so thankful are lost, that He is still good. that He still loves me and is working in my life. it’s one thing to be thankful for the things in this world that are fragile and fleeting. it’s another to know that the things to which i hold so tightly aren’t the most important things and that without them, i still have a pupose, a hope and a future. and for that, i am most thankful.

i hope you all have blessed holiday weekends with your family. and lots of turkey and cranberry sauce.

image via dailycupofcouture

 

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