2018 Reflections

Around this time every year I post a series of questions I’ve used to process and look forward. I love this time because it helps me make sense of the year and enter into the next with renewed perspective and hope for what’s ahead. I didn’t do much reflection this year; to be honest, I’m really ready to move on. So I’m doing something a bit different for my year end post. I hope you’ll join me!

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Rather than reflecting on lessons learned, I decided to reflect on my relationships. Who did I learn from? Who did I feel supported and loved by? Who made a lasting impact on my life? As I started listing people, I realized I did learn a lot this year, and I’m more thankful than ever for the people in my life. My biggest takeaway from 2018 is that I am rich in relationship; I’ve got some really great people in my life. And I want to be that kind of friend to others, too! Keep reading for some questions to help you reflect on your relationships with a few challenges to begin your new year.

Step One:

For each of the questions below, write the first name that comes to mind and then identify why you thought of them.

  1. Who supported my dreams this year? How?

  2. Who challenged me this year? How?

  3. Who comforted me in hard times this year? How?

  4. Who did I feel most encouraged by this year? How?

  5. Who’s words stuck with me most this year? What were they?

Step Two:

Next, I want you to list each of your family members, mentors, and few friends. Keep your list under 10, unless you’re motivated to keep going! Now put a word or phrase next to each name. What did your Mom teach you this year? Your brother? Your best friend from home? See below for an example.

  • From my Mom, I learned about letting go.

  • From my Dad, I learned about embracing internal work.

  • From my brother, I learned about moving forward with life, no matter how many challenges life throws your way.

  • From my sister, I learned about the power of ownership and both repentance and forgiveness. And I learned about the mercy of God.

  • From my Grandmother, I learned about giving thanks.

  • From my friend Claire, I learned about comforting and mourning with others.

  • From my friend Tiera, I learned about embracing the gift of suffering.

  • From my friend Kristi, I learned about the transformation that takes place in risking to love.

There are so many others I have learned from, but this list should get you started.

Step Three:

Let’s flip this a bit. Think about the people in your life that YOU can support this next year. Look back to the questions in step one.

  1. Who’s dreams can you support this year?

  2. Who can you challenge this year?

  3. Who can you comfort in hard times this year?

  4. Who can you consistently encourage this year?

  5. What words can you share with someone who is experiencing something you’ve dealt with this year?

Make a commitment to keep this list in front of you throughout the year. And make plans to follow through on your intentions! HOW and WHEN will you support each of these people this year?

Step Four:

Let’s take a brief moment to pause to see if anyone else comes to mind. Is there someone who has been on your heart recently? Maybe someone you’ve been meaning to connect with?

My challenge to you would be to identify relationships in different spheres of your life. Choose someone from your workplace, your community group, church, yoga studio, and neighborhood. Try to think about people who are different than you in some way. Can you initiate with someone of a different race, background, interest, or socio-economic status?

  1. Who do you feel called to invest in relationally?

    1. At your work?

    2. In your neighborhood?

    3. In your community group or church?

    4. At your health club or fitness studio?

Plan to initiate a coffee date or dinner with the person(s) you identified in this step. Or maybe start small with a phone call, a quick hello at the gym, or a direct message through Instagram. Identify your plan of action next to each name on your list.

Step Five:

Finally, I want to invite you thank your people! Can you send a letter or an email to the friends and family you learned this year? Can you thank them in person the next time you see them?

The older I get the more I realize how important relationships really are. Join me in thanking the people who make our lives better and looking forward to investing in others. Here’s to a new year full of rich relationship and community!

The Explorer: Cool But Hype

As I stepped into the black Toyota Camry I was instantly surprised by a cloud of air freshener or cologne, I couldn't tell which. A kind man greeted me and asked to confirm the location of my destination. Although I had never been to Phoenix before, I had read about a sweet little coffee shop not far from the airport. 

My Uber driver asked why I was in Phoenix, assuming I was attending the Fiesta Bowl in a couple days. At the time I wasn't aware there was a bowl game in the area, which tells you how much of a football fan I am. After pointing out a few sights (with Drake playing in the background), he explained to me that Phoenix was "chill and cool" but could also "get pretty hype." I laughed and told him I looked forward to my visit. 

Toward the end of my trip, I thought back to that man's honest assessment of his city and smiled to myself. I think he was right. 

I had been looking forward to our New Years trip for months, and although I had only gotten four hours of sleep the night before, I was anxiously awaiting the arrival of my travel mates. My college roommates and I hadn't spent quality time together in nearly four years, and it was a sweet reunion to say the least. 

As our little posse of four settled into our Airbnb for the weekend, we started putting together an itinerary and a grocery list. At first I was a bit reluctant to rent an Airbnb, but by the end, I realized our little vacation home was a highlight of the trip. We decided to split meals, cook some at the house, and also leave room to explore some local spots. After all, I do love exploring. The four of us together living under the same roof again for 4-5 days was both refreshing and nostalgic. 

Multiple music videos created, meals cooked, coffee brewed, and local adventures found. I think each of us would have been content to linger at the dinner table with a glass of wine after eating a home cooked meal and catching up on life for hours on end. We stayed up noticeably past my normal bedtime chatting (and dancing) into the wee hours of the night and let ourselves sleep in an extra hour or two. 

Now we live all over the country - from California to Tennessee and a couple places in between. Although I'm not exactly sure how we decided upon Phoenix as our destination of choice, the city exceeded all of our expectations. If you're looking for a weekend getaway spot, Phoenix is a great option! See below for some of our favs and list of recs. 

1. Luxe Central

The moment we walked into this coffee shop meets bar and local bakery, I was obsessed. The vibe is very eclectic and cool; I felt as though I stepped into a scene in a magazine or some sort of local club or collective. I ordered a soy latte and vegan lemon poppyseed donut - 10/10 would recommend. And if you're debating whether or not to get a treat with your coffee, just get one. You won't be sorry. 

2. Songbird Coffee & Tea House

When I first arrived in Phoenix, I was several hours ahead of my travel mates, so I sought out this sweet little local coffee shop near the airport. It feels very homey and airy inside - the perfect place to spend an extra few hours. The baristas were very friendly and even offered me several other recommendations in the area. My friend Megan and I stopped there again on our way out of town and enjoyed it just as much the second time. 

3. Camelback Mountain - Cholla Trail

Everything I read about Phoenix before we went referenced the amazing hiking trails in the area. After researching a couple different options, we landed on the Cholla Trail at Camelback Mountain. The hike was only a couple miles, but it definitely escalated toward the top. There's another trail on the opposite side of the mountain, but we were told it was slightly more difficult / intense. The scenery was amazing and afforded us an incredible view of Phoenix. I thought the duration of the hike up and down was perfect, although we ran into the whole Clemson marching band on the way up! 

4. La Grande Orange

My friend Claire recommended this little joint and it did not disappoint. When you first walk in, it's as if you are entering a market, but to the side, beyond the pizzeria, there's a little room and bar where they serve brunch. I ordered the Madame Croque and was very pleased. If we had more time, I would have loved to explore the little market, but I suppose that leaves something for my next trip. 

5. Scottsdale Art Walk

Our little crew happened upon this event our first night in town. We ordered tacos from a local restaurant and bar and then decided to walk around and explore downtown Scottsdale a bit. After walking into one of the galleries, we learned each Thursday night galleries and artists open their stores for visitors and guests. Although none of us purchased anything, it was fun to walk around and peruse. 

6. Chelsea's Kitchen

This restaurant is owned by the same people that run La Grande Orange, so we knew it was going to be good. We came here for dinner on New Year's Eve and definitely splurged a bit. I ordered the Swordfish tacos, which were delish, and also helped myself to a bit of my friend Megan's brussels sprout salad. The cocktails were spot on, the service excellent, the vibe was classy and a little mysterious - overall great choice. 

7. Postino's

A friend in Waco recommended this little restaurant to me, and I'm so glad she did! The restaurant is also a wine bar and the service was incredible. Each person we met was so friendly and helpful and offered to customize the menu however we wanted. I ordered a glass of the house merlot and my friend Megan and I split several bruschetta dishes. Our favorite by far was the apple, brie, and fig bruschetta - 5 stars, people! 

8. Futuro

This coffee shop is very minimal and modern and the coffee did not disappoint, ya'll. I was a bit skeptical when I walked in and saw some interesting art pieces on display. Yet after ordering my cold brew coffee with coconut almond milk, I was sold. I'm not sure this would be a place to socialize (I didn't quite get the same homey feel as Songbird) but it's definitely worth a try. 

There were so many other great options and places to explore - I wish we had time for them all! Other things worth mentioning that were highly recommended are The Desert Botanical Gardens, Paniq Room, Bink's Midtown, Liberty Market, Cartel Coffee & Brewery. There's always a next time!