3 Poets Who Will Brighten Your Day

Nayyirah Waheed, Rupi Kaur, Mary Oliver

I woke up this morning to my husband giving me a kiss and telling me what time it was and that I needed to get out of bed. The unfortunate thing was that I thought I had already awakened, got dressed, and drove to work. Imagine my disappoint when I realized that was all a dream and I still had to wake up, get dressed, and go to work. When I oversleep (which is most of the time), my whole day is slightly thrown off and then I find myself in a bit of a grump slump.

Of course, coffee always helps. But when coffee isn’t helping, I have to pull in reinforcements. Some days, that’s poetry. While I like to write poetry myself, I often find that reading poetry revitalizes my soul. I see the beauty in the world, and fall in love with words all over again.

When I finally am a fully-formed adult and can wake up early in the morning, my ideal routine would involve french press coffee, Jesus, poetry, and some creative writing of my own. And bacon. Always bacon.

The beautiful thing about poetry is that it draws you in, encourages you to sit with it a while, inviting you to breathe slowly. Today I’m sharing with you the top 3 poets I read when I’m having an off day. You can find excerpts of their poetry in my journal, daily planner, and on little sticky notes by my desk.

I discovered Mary Oliver in college. I told my English professor, “I’m an English major, but I hate poetry and Shakespeare. So I’m a terrible English major.” As you would have it, I had been reading the wrong poetry. I had immersed myself in the likes of John Milton and T.S. Elliot. It turns out I love poetry, but I’m a more modern 20th/21st century kinda gal. Give me all the Mary Oliver and Gertrude Stein you can devour.

We recently read Rupi Kaur’s Milk and Honey for my book club a couple of months ago. I spent a Sunday afternoon cuddled up on the couch with a blanket and this book. I finished it in an hour. And then I read it again and again and again. Her poetry is short, but you have to mull over each poem, and the emotions it evokes. I could go back to this book again and again.

My best friend and fellow English major was recommended by our professor to look at Nayyirah Waheed. She shared with me her treasure, and I bought Salt. my junior year of college as soon as money was deposited into my account. Salt. is a book of poetry I love to open on a summer’s day. Nayyirah Waheed writes with a tight simplicity that cuts you and leaves you open.

Do you like poetry?
What do you do to ease a bad day?

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Choose Bravery

choosing bravery

One of the things that most defines my inner thought life is fear. As happy and bubbly as I am, a pessimist sneaks into my thoughts every now and then. Some days it’s a constant battle to think of the bright side instead of allowing fear induced thoughts to creep in.

When I was a freshman in college, one of my friends gave me an ornament with a Bible verse on the back. She told me she had prayed specifcially for each person and wrote down a verse that she felt like God was leading them to. On the back of my ornament was 2 Timothy 1:7: For I have not given you a spirit of fear, but of power and love and self-control. I appreciated the gift, but didn’t think too much of the Bible verse until a couple years later when I started my senior year and found myself fearful of everything.

I was afraid to graduate because I didn’t have a job, or a 5 year plan.

I was afraid of the world because there were so many terrorist bombings and evil being publicized every day.

I was afraid to get vulnerable and blog about my faith, because what if there were consequences?

And then I remembered: God did not give me a spirit of fear, but of power, and love, and self-control. God’s perfect love cast out my fear (1 John 4:18.)

The Anxiety Generation

Millennials are crippled with anxiety. We have been labeled the most anxious generation. Some experts think it is because we lack a familial support system. Half of us are living with our parents, and half of us have moved across the country and only see our family one or two times a year. Other experts think we have too many choices.

In my college psychology classes, we learned about the paralyzation of too many choices. When we have 10 things to decide from, we have to think 10 times as hard about what we want. Rather, when we only have 2-3 options to choose from, we are able to make a more informed and less overwhelming decision. Regardless of the origin of our anxiety, we are an anxious generation.

Be Brave

So you may remember that my word of the year is Be Brave. I was laying in bed at the end of December, thinking my word was going to be Creativity when the words “Be Brave” spoke so loudly in my heart that I opened my eyes right away.

“God, is that you? Are you sure you want me to be brave? What does this mean?!”

I kind of freaked out, because I’m a pansy and don’t want to do anything scary. I concluded that being brave meant dreaming, being vulnerable, and punching fear in the face.

And so far, so good.

Dreaming

I had been dreaming of starting a book club since I graduated college. I love to read, and I love to discuss. I need the intellectual engagement and I need a lovely group of people around me to push me to think about something differently, so in January, I started a book club.

Being Vulnerable

I like to say that Dating is Vulnerability 101. Engagement is Vulnerability & How to Communicate Through Stress 201. Marriage is The Vulnerability that Never Ever Goes Away Practicum Level 500. Vulnerability is real. And it is so beautiful.

After we got married, Pai and I moved to a new church. We loved our old church, but we knew God was calling us out into something new and taking us away from our comfort zone. A couple months in, I tried to figure out the blue feeling inside of me, and realized it was because I was lonely. I had moved churches, got married, and separated myself from a group of ladies. So I got vulnerable, and asked a couple of girls to get together a couple times a month. We share our stories, we study God’s word, and we are learning to be vulnerable.

Punching Fear in the Face

Yesterday I went kayaking and boat riding with some friends from church and my blogging & IRL bestie Tiffany. As we were kayaking around the lake I suddenly thought of brain eating amoebas. Y’all, I am so dramatic. I sat there in my kayak, nervous to actually get in the water because I didn’t want to be the rare case of a newlywed 20something year old who died of a brain eating amoeba. But I thought of the rarity of it. I asked myself, “Am I going to allow an irrational fear keep me from having the time of my life?” And that answer was no. So I jumped in the lake, and even tried to surfboard in the wake of a speed boat.

I didn’t want to surf board because I was scared. The moment I recognized my fear, I said “I have to do it. I have to try.” So I climbed out of the speed boat and onto the surf board and tried something new. I got water up my nose, and I had a blast. I got to test my strength, practice patience with myself, and celebrate the 5 seconds I stood on the board.

It’s easy to allow fear and anxiety rule our lives.

It’s hard to recognize what we need to do to make that change. For me, it is all about perspective. It’s about changing my mindset. It’s about choosing to be brave.

Apply for that job you’ve been eyeing.

Break off that toxic friendship that has been draining you.

Do something that allows you to step outside of your comfort zone, chase your passion, and makes a difference.

What is one brave thing you’ve done in 2017 so far? Tell me in the comments below!

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My Big Fat Zim Wedding

My Big Fat Zim Wedding

I know what is on everyone’s mind when they go to a wedding. 1) Will there be a cocktail hour? 2) Is the food good? 3) Will there be dancing? 4) How many slices of cake can I get away with eating?

My Big Fat Zim Wedding

There wasn’t a cocktail hour because several of our families members are opposed to alcohol and we didn’t want to offend anyone. Plus, it’s cheaper. But in lieu of a cocktail hour, we did have a coffee bar with cookies and hot chocolate, etc. The food was good, and by God will there be dancing. The party was lit.

After our wedding ceremony, chaos ensued. The room was flipped immediately into the reception hall, and we tried to get 100+ various family members together for group pictures. I was joyously stressed. During the family pictures, dusk was falling and people were getting caffeinated and chocolate wasted. The takeaway favors were tacky Christmas mugs, which not many people took away, so I have a couple totes in my basement of tacky mugs that my mom and her band of faithful friends rummaged for at various thrift stores from September – December. If you want a tacky Christmas mug, hit me up.

My Big Fat Zim Wedding

In Zimbabwe, when the wedding party enters the reception hall, they do a dance called Ma Steps. Pai’s mom and sister and Pai choreographed a dance for us to do, and so when it was time for the party to start, we gathered outside the venue, and danced our way in. It’s a great way to ensure you have a killer entrance. Ma Steps can last anywhere from 3-10 minutes. We made ours simple because there were a lot of white people in the wedding party.

My Big Fat Zim Wedding

My Big Fat Zim Wedding

The dancing broke away because we all know food is the most important part of the reception. We served a traditional Zimbabwean meal, and my favorite winter time meal – soup. A traditional Zimbabwean meal is comprised of 3 things you eat all at once. There is sadza (a cornmeal patty), muriwo (collard green veggies), and ne nyama (meat stew.) You break the sadza off with your hands, dip it in the muriwo and hte ne nyama, and put it all together to eat it. OK so you don’t have to eat it with your hands, if you’re at a wedding per se, but it’s way more fun to do so. I had a soup bar on my side, because homegirl loves her some potato soup and chili in the winter. I loved that even though our venue required us to cater, they also allowed us to have someone bring in Zimbabwean food. Several of my mother in law’s friends spent the wedding day cooking trays of food at their house and bringing it together. It was a huge hit.

During the dinner portion of the reception, there were speeches upon speeches upon speeches. Pai’s familiy is very intentional in how they do everything, so they brought in about 5 additional people to share advice and congratulations (which, if you want to say in Shona, is Makorokoto – pronounced: mah-core-oh-koe-toe. See? I bet you didn’t know you were going to learn another language when you read this post today.)

We also had some entertainment before the dancing started. Pai’s sister and cousins did a dance for us they had choreographed, and his parents’ friends brought instruments and sang a song. Then the party really started.

My Big Fat Zim Wedding

You know those weddings where you’re wondering, “Will anyone dance?” This was not one of them.

After Pai and I danced, my dad and I danced, Pai and his mom danced. But they did it a little differently. In Africa, they have the saying, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Even though Pai predominately grew up in the US, he still grew up surrounded by community and several other “mother’s.” After he and his mom danced for a moment, they invited aunties, friends, and other women in the family to join.

My Big Fat Zim Wedding

My Big Fat Zim Wedding

My Big Fat Zim Wedding

Once the dance floor opened to everyone, no one stopped. We had a mixture of American, Zimbabwan, and South African music playing and the beat was bumpin’ the entire time. There was one point where I was in the middle of the dance floor with everybody and it felt like the floor was bowing. I thought maybe I was just really dizzy from all the action of the day but no, the floor was definitely bouncing. I’m sure the people in the restaurant below us were none too pleased with their noisy dining experience.

One of my favorite dancing moments was with my 11 year old brother. He came up to me during the dinner portion and asked if he could request “Juju on that Beat.” I have no idea how to juju on that beat, so when the song came on later, I found him on the outskirts of the dance floor and followed his lead.

My Big Fat Zim Wedding

We tossed the bouquet, Pai grabbed my garter, and we cut the cake. The cake cutting ceremony is another Zimbabwean tradition. After we serve cake to each other, we then serve cake to our families. I serve Pai’s, and he serves my mine. It’s a way to honor the new family we are a part of, so I thought that was pretty cool to be a part of.

My Big Fat Zim Wedding

My Big Fat Zim Wedding

My Big Fat Zim Wedding

My Big Fat Zim Wedding

Dancing continued, and cupcakes were doled out. His aunt had made the traditional wedding cake, and my boss’s gift to me was making cupcakes. Y’all, she makes the most bomb cupcakes I’ve ever tasted in my life. So it really was the best.

My Big Fat Zim Wedding

The DJ basically had to force everyone off the dance floor when it was time to shut everything down. Pai and I exited the venue in a tunnel of bubbles to a car that was full of balloons, a few other balloon-like things on the windshield wipers and gear shift, and lots of messages written ALL over the car as if anyone at the hotel were curious as to what we were doing that night. . .

My Big Fat Zim Wedding

It was unbelievable. So there you have it, the highlight reel. There were several stress tears, emotional breakdowns, and learning to love each other better through the chaos, but I would do it all over again to be married to this guy.

My Big Fat Zim Wedding

To catch the rest of the journey, you can find them below.

The Bridal ShowerSaying Yes to the DressThe I Do Crewa Literary Bachelorette PartyMy Big Fat Zimbabwean Rehearsal DinnerThe Ceremony

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5 Ways to Rock a Swimsuit this Season

5 Ways to Rock a Swimsuit this Season

Who here has felt personally victimized by a bathing suit? I can recount numerous times growing up where I was choking back tears in the fitting room as I tried on bathing suit after bathing suit.

Now that swimsuit season is fully upon us and I’ve been married for 6 whole months, I realized that some things on my body have changed. The beginning of marriage is like puberty all over again. Your body starts to change, and your hormones are out of whack, and you’re establishing a new identity.

The Sin of Scrolling

The more I scroll on my Instagram feed, the more I start looking at pictures of myself, and the more I feel down on myself. It came to a head yesterday when we got our staff photos back and I sat in my office, big fat hot tears rolling down my face because I realized how self conscious I have been feeling about myself and my body.  I had a good little cry sesh, ate lunch, spent time with Jesus, and came back to the photo at issue and saw that it wasn’t really as bad as I thought it was.

We compare. So much. I do it, you do it. We all do it. We look in a magazine or our Instagram feed and look in the mirror and see that someone else has something we don’t have, so we feel like we don’t measure up, forgetting that each of us has something that someone else wishes they had. The women on the magazines always have the skinniest, toned legs, but we know that is airbrushed. Now we have Instagram models. Who still have the skinniest legs. And not every girl with an iPhone can airbrush those beauties.

James 3:16 tells us, For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.

My heart breaks to think about how many pre-teen girls are growing up glued to their Instagram right now. Comparison is at an all time high because it is so accessible. And when we compare, we try to find ways to be better, overcome, or somehow measure up. We starve ourselves, we throw up, we cake our faces with makeup. And instead of measuring up, we imprison ourselves to our insecurities.

When we compare, we are focusing solely on ourselves and what we lack. By focusing too much on ourselves, we are distracted from our destiny. We are sidetracked from our potential, and from chasing our dreams – which is exactly what the enemy wants.

Swimsuit Season

Swimsuit season is a big deal for women. There are diets, fads, advice on how to get swimsuit body ready. I know all the ab workouts to have a perfectly toned bikini  body. I also know how much I love to eat tacos.

Because we are in a fitness trend society right now, there are a lot of healthy lifestyle ideas going around right now, which is a good thing. I believe we should live healthy lifestyles, but every body type has a different definition of healthy. Not everyone will be able to rock a thigh gap, because their bone structure is not built that way. A girl can run and run and run and eat healthy and still have a little pudge around her belly, because her body is just built that way. And when we look at each other and compare, the only result we will get is hating ourselves.

I hate that our society is so hyper focused on our appearance, that even if we think we walk with confidence in a bathing suit, there is still the voice in the back of our head that thinks, Can they see how my thigh jiggles? Does this bathing suit make look ___ Insert your own insult, because we are all definitely guilty of pointing out every flaw. Like my mama always said, I am my own worst critic, and I bet you are too.  Instead of enjoying myself, I find myself wondering what other people are thinking about me.

Choosing Confidence

I have a teenage sister, so I am constantly thinking about how I view myself, because I know that she is looking to me and my other sister to see how we interact with our bodies.

I don’t want her to feel insecure in a bathing suit, so I am going to have to show her that I am not insecure in a bathing suit. And in order to do that, I am going to have to choose not to feel insecure, and celebrate the things my body can do.

I don’t want her to feel like she needs to lose weight when her body is normal, so I am going to have to show her that it is not about being skinnier, but it is about making healthy choices. I’m going to have to start eating more vegetables, and less potato chips. But if I’m at a cookout and there are potato chips, yes I will eat them. And I’ll have a brownie, too, because I’m not going to neglect the good things in life. A good thing in life for me is a sunny day and a pool, so I am going to rock my swimsuit this season, and enjoy a little splash under the summer sun.

5 Ways to Rock a Swimsuit this Season

1 – Like they say on Annie,  You’re never fully dressed without a smile.

Even though swimsuits mean we are barely dressed, at least we can smile and light up the room, er, the pool area.

2 – Find a swim suit that flatters your body type & makes you feel cute.

I know, this is a tough one. The one reason I do like two pieces is that I can mix and match sizes. There are some two pieces I will never be caught dead in because I’m not about to be the girl who wore an itsy bitsy tweenie weenie yellow polka dot bikini. I’m really digging the high waisted trend right now; it’s a modest way to rock a two piece and cover up as well! If two pieces aren’t your thing, there are so many cute one pieces around. Online shopping for bathing suits can be scary, but I had a really great experience buying my bathing suits with Cupshe, and they have so many cute items!

3 – Drink lots of water.

Because you’re having fun in the sun and dehyrdated looks and feels beautiful on no one. Duh.

4 – Stop looking at yourself so much.

Let’s face it, everyone else is feeling too self conscious about their own problems to notice you in a bathing suit. When I notice other women in bathing suits, I’m looking at the suit, not their body, because heck their swimsuit is cute! I’d imagine a lot of other women are doing this, too.

5 – Speak kindly to yourself.

I heard the other day that we think around 55,000 words a day to ourselves. 70% or what we say to ourselves is negative, unconscious self talk. We also repeat 95% of the same statements to ourselves. If we are spending 70% of our time talking negatively to ourselves, what are we going to become? We are going to become what we have declared over ourselves. Half the things I say to myself I would never say to my best friend, because I don’t take pride in being mean to people, but I have no problem in being mean to myself. The ugliness that sits in my thoughts will eventually make its way to my face, and I certainly don’t want to have an ugly face.

So tell me, what is something you love about yourself when you wear a swimsuit?

 

 

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Move Your Mountain

Move Your Mountain

Happy Monday!

Last week seemed to last forever, which, since Pai and I were on a mini vacay for the extent of it, was a good thing. We had so much fun traipsing about Greeneville, SC. I can’t wait to share all the good eats we had with you soon!

A Mustard Seed Faith

When I was a kid in Sunday School, I was told that if I had faith as small as a mustard seed, I could move mountains. In my naive 6 year old mind, I would focus on a mountain, pray and ask that God would move it. And the mountains never moved. I’m glad they didn’t, because my 6 year old mind didn’t understand the implications of such a geological shift.

Growing up in the church, I’ve always heard this saying. I didn’t know what mustard seeds were until about a month ago. I honestly thought they were sesame seeds like on a hamburger bun because those were always pretty small seeds to my young mind. I’ve since learned differently. Mustard seeds are one of the smallest seeds in the world, and are actually used as spices in some areas. I’ve never seen a mustard tree in my life, but I learned they grow in the Middle East primarily due to the hot climate.

So why does the Bible tell us to have faith as a mustard seed when the seed is so small? When planted, a mustard seed grows into an enormous bush-like tree with an extravagant root system.

Building Faith

Four years ago, I went to the Dominican Republic to intern at a shelter for women coming out of sex trafficking. My summer had started in chaos. I had a plan to act in a short film that fell through, another job prospect fell through, and my boyfriend and I broke up. I was devestated. So I fled the country. (Kidding.) I heard about a ministry that worked with women coming off the streets, and I knew that was something I wanted to pour into. So I applied for the ministry mid-May; I didn’t hear that I received the internship until June 19th, and the intersnhip started July 1st.

I was overwhelmed. Why would I find out twelve days before I needed to be there? How would I raise $1500 in such a short amount of time?

I’ve learned over and over again that God gets to show off when we are in these tight squeeze situations. We’re walking along in our journey and we meet an impossible mountain.

Impossible mountains are planted in our way so that we are forced to rely on God and our community. We cannot overcome anything by ourselves.

I didn’t fund raise for my mission trip to the DR; instead I just put a note on Facebook explaining my situation, and my community stepped in. I trusted God to walk with me through that mountain, and he showed up. 2 days before I flew out to the Dominican Republic for a month, I received more than what I needed to cover the expenses.

Having a Miracle Memory 

Mountains are always going to show up in our path. Some we will walk over, side by side with our community, and some we will need faith to move.

Any time a mountain shows up, I freak out. I forget that God has walked me through and helped me to move mountains in our life before.

It helps to have what one pastor calls, “A Miracle Memory.” A miracle memory is a timeline or testimony, if you will, of miracles you have seen in your life.

Recently Pai and I have been praying for a miracle. When I thought everything was fallen apart, I remembered the miracles God has performed in the past. I wrote them down, and I submitted my anxiety to the Lord. A few days later, we received a miracle. Even though it didn’t show up the exact way we hoped, the season we get to walk through together has produced more faith and more miracles.

Moving Your Mountain

A mustard seed-like faith is more than just moving mountains. It’s also about the extravagant root system. When we choose to walk out in faith, our roots deepen and widen, further grounding us in our relationship with the Lord. We become immovable, even when the circumstances around us are chaos.

Our mountains don’t move because we want them to. They move because we believe in a God who can.

“For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”
-Matthew 17:20

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