Painful Endings & Small Beginnings

This time last year I felt as though my life plan had just pulled out from under me. I was confused, hurt, lonely, frustrated, and desperate for some sort of direction. I was still reeling from the shock and pain of a break-up and disappointing loss in my family. The trauma of my summer experience working with refugees was fresh in my mind, and I had just quit my job, abandoning my only source of steady income. It was as if I had just experienced an earthquake, and the ground I was standing on didn't exist anymore. 

I'm starting to wonder if your 20's are made up of a series of painful endings and small beginnings. At over halfway through, my guess is looking pretty spot on. Maybe you can relate. The death of friendships. The death of dreams. The death of future plans. The death of love. That's a lot of deaths. And a lot of closed doors. 


You've probably heard the saying "when one door closes, another opens", right? But that's probably the last thing you want to hear in the midst of a painful ending. Like a break-up, or any kind of loss, really. 

In the kitchen of a family friend last fall, I remember tears falling and nearly ugly crying as she encouraged me with the words above. Another door would open soon, she offered. And she was right, but if only it was that easy (or fast). 

I was both frustrated and comforted by her words, wondering if what she said was true. I pictured myself in a hallway, knocking on doors, waiting for one to open, or for someone to at least tell me if I was getting closer. I felt stuck. 

But that's where the good stuff happens. It's where we learn to dig deep, find ourselves and God, and grow up. I didn't know this season was on the other side, but now, looking back, I'm so grateful. I'm currently living a new dream in LA pursuing grad school and working at a creative marketing agency. Oftentimes the painful endings lead to the small beginnings we've been waiting for. And I wouldn't change it. 

My decision to quit my job last fall prompted me to start writing and freelancing, which ultimately led to the development of my first work guide, Build Bridges Not Walls. Sign up to receive this free resource and join us in creating honest conversations with people different than us. 

A New Approach to Summer Goal Setting

Though it's currently winter in Cusco, to me it still feels like summer. The anticipation of time, open space, sun rays, and plenty of moments to savor. To me, summer is a season to take in, let loose, and enjoy. 

Photo by Megan Shipley

Photo by Megan Shipley

This time it's a bit different since I'm overseas, yet I feel the same anticipation in my spirit, longing to savor and enjoy and taste true life. I recently wrote an article for a friend who owns her own personal training / nutrition coaching business and she asked about my beliefs on health. I thought for a while and answered that I think the most freeing way to approach health is to view it as something to enjoy, rather than something to fear or shame. 

I've done too many things out of shame. And I know enough to know it's not how life is meant to be lived. As the first official day of summer approaches, I think to myself that my summer goals should be things to enjoy, like my health. The months leading up to summer can be spent performing and reaching, perfecting this and that for the arrival of summer. Now that summer is here, take a breath, pause, and give yourself permission to savor. 

If you need a starting place for your summer goals, see the questions below. I hope you take time to breathe deeply, rest, pause, savor, and enjoy. 

1. Pay attention to how you feel entering this new season.

Are you tired, ragged, exhausted, and in desperate need of rest and a little extra space? Or are you feeling excited, motivated, and anxious to experience all that's before you? Maybe you're somewhere in between, but once you're aware of how your spirit feels, use this as a starting point to determine your needs and rhythms. 

2. Identify where you want to be come August or September.

What do you want to receive or build or be? Think about your needs heading into this season and imagine the finish line. Take a moment to imagine your life at the end of this season and paint a picture for yourself. Now identify two or three areas you'd like to focus on in order to achieve that end. Maybe it's your health or a new skill or time spent with the people you love. 

3. Think about what you enjoy most about summer.

Is it days at the pool, fresh watermelon, roadtrips to the beach, or hours with your summer reading list? Once you identify your favorite summer pastimes, make a list of two or three you want to prioritize this summer. 

4. Ask yourself what would stand in the way of you getting what you need and enjoying this summer?

Is it comparison or your inability to say no? Is it the little lie in the back of your head that makes you feel obligated and ashamed? Bring it to the light, write it down, and tell yourself out loud you're not going there this summer. 

5. Try something new.

Make a list of a couple things you've been wanting to try but haven't found the time for. Maybe there's a new restaurant in your neighborhood your friends have raved out or a new recipe you found online. Maybe you've always wanted to learn to surf or play tennis. Pick a couple and then schedule a time to try each one! 

I hope that by following these five steps, you'll step into Fall refreshed and full, ready for the next season and thankful for the last. 

Four Life Lessons From Waco, Texas

I've been officially moved out for over two weeks. And that feels real strange. Yet as I sit here in my living room in Cusco with a little time to myself, I am beyond thankful for what my last home taught me. Waco is where I became my own person, and it's where I found my people. 

I moved to Waco in February 2014 to get some healing and space with a people and church I trusted and to work with Chip and Joanna Gaines before the HGTV show even aired. I lived with the sweetest family of 7 and eased myself back into normal life one day at a time. I look back at that time as one of the most formative seasons in my life. 

I am thankful for those who took a chance to take me in and became like family to me. I am thankful for the friends who stood by me and those who became new friends in the process. Each of you helped shape me into who I am today. 

As I reflect on my last few years in the sweetest little town and community, a couple life lessons come to mind. Who knew one place could teach me so much as I navigated life in my early - mid 20's. #wacotown, you've been good to me. 

1. It's ok to fail; there will always be people to help pick you back up again. 

I'm so thankful for the ways God let me fail so that I'd learn not to depend on my own strength or abilities (easier said than done). I've failed many times, but my most noteworthy season of failure occurred just after I graduated college. I couldn't find a job, I was in several messy relationships, and I felt as though everything I tried to jump to next suddenly disappeared and I was left empty handed yet again. But the people around me carried and loved me in ways I can't seem to find words for. Some were expected, others were not, but the friends and family God placed in my corner shaped me in so many ways. 

2. When small people gather around a great vision, big things can happen. Team work makes the dream work, people. 

When I first moved to Waco, I stared working at a tiny bistro table in the shop window of what would eventually become Magnolia Market. I was tasked with launching and setting up the retail store and soon realized I was in wayyyyyyyy over my head. I still think it's a miracle they even trusted me with their vision - such an incredible honor. 

By beginning of July, the business was bursting at the seams, but our little team worked around the clock to turn dream to reality. Chip, especially, challenged our team to eliminate the word "impossible" from our vocabulary, trusting things could get done if we tried hard enough and committed to a vision bigger than ourselves. And it worked. I learned a valuable lesson about hard work and positivity and realized I could do a lot more than I thought I could. 

3. Your 20's are for trying, and it's ok not to get it right on the first try. 

Oftentimes I feel guilty when I think about all the different jobs and positions I've tried in the last 4 years. I don't want to be perceived as an uncommitted millennial who can't make her mind to save her life. But a friend told me once that your 20's are for trying - no one expects you to get right on the first try. This truth set me free as I realized this is the time in my life to try new things, fail, try again, and then work to find the best fit!

4. Building history with people is more valuable than building your resume. 

I've been challenged to view success differently, recently. And rather than seeing it as a black and white concept, I'm starting to think success encompasses much more than we think. To me, it's not about building the best LinkedIn profile or perfect resume. Instead, I think it's about embracing life and stepping forward confidently and wholeheartedly, tending to our own hearts and staying committed to others around us. I've heard it said that relationships make people rich, and if that's the case, that's the kind of success I want to pursue. 

Waco, you've changed me, and I never thought I'd grow to like you as much as I do now. Thanks for the mems. I'll be back soon. 

25 Things I Learned In My 25th Year

In a week I'll turn 26, and for some reason, I've been dreading it. I'm not the kind of person who forgets or doesn't celebrate birthdays - they have always been a big deal in my house - yet something about turning another year older perpetuated the feeling of being behind most of my peers. But this last week my perspective changed, and rather than looking ahead into 26 with a negative lens, I'm moving into my next year more thankful than ever. 

To celebrate this change of heart, I've compiled a list of the top 25 things I learned this year. Twenty-five was an interesting year - I began thinking I knew the direction my life was heading and felt pretty secure about where I was and what I was doing. But about halfway in, all the questions resurfaced as the unexpected showed up and rearranged my neat little plans. And I'm here to say I'm all the better for it. 

  1. I learned making plans is overrated. 
  2. I learned the importance of vulnerability and barring my own heart process in front of others, no matter how deep or painful. 
  3. I learned there's no "right" answer or direction. 
  4. I learned how to pack for 3 months in one backpack. 
  5. I learned everyone is messy; we're all just looking for people to jump in the boat with us. 
  6. I learned that once I put my mind to something, I can actually do it. 
  7. I learned God has my best in mind. ALWAYS. 
  8. I learned how to not look like a total loser in the weight room at the gym. 
  9. I learned following the crowd typically isn't life-giving or fruitful, nor does it accomplish what I want. 
  10. I learned how to register and start my own business. 
  11. I learned I enjoy flexibility but really need accountability. 
  12. I learned how much I need a calendar or planner (and that I actually need to look at it everyday). 
  13. I learned I have some really great people in my life. 
  14. I learned how much I love being on mission in my daily life. 
  15. I learned deeper is better than faster or longer. 
  16. I learned how to use Adobe InDesign. 
  17. I learned airline mile points are a real thing (S/O to American Airlines for the free flight last month!). 
  18. I learned settled is better than anxious. 
  19. I learned how to make royal icing sugar cookies. 
  20. I learned I still haven't outgrown my music video days... in fact, I think I might be still in my prime. ;) 
  21. I learned options may be a great thing, but only God opens and closes doors. 
  22. I learned the trick to wearing pajamas to work each morning: working from home. 
  23. I learned how to enjoy the simple, even when it means you're stretched really, really thin. 
  24. I learned curating your own social media content is challenging, but the trick is finding a balance between strategy, spontaneity, and real life. 
  25. I learned Good is coming. 

Cheers to 26!

How to Host Your Own Personal Retreat

This past weekend I took off for a quick 24 hours to get some rest, space, and time to look forward into the new year. It's something I try to do a couple times a year if possible to pause, reset, and get what I need to keep going and saying yes to what's in front of me. 

Once my roommate and I arrived at her family's homey sweet little lake house, I immediately breathed deep and realized there was finally a sacred space for all the thoughts rolling around in my head to fall away or find some place to land. I didn't have anywhere to be or anything to do - it was just me and that little lake house in the middle of East Texas.

This time I did go along with a friend, but we intentionally separated for most of our time (me upstairs and her down). We did get some time together during dinner and breakfast the next morning, but it was important to both of us to carve out some time by ourselves and with God. Typically I go alone, but I didn't mind having a friend to make the drive or eat meals with. And I'm not too fond of sleeping all alone, either. 

There's something about getting out of town away from all the responsibilities of everyday life to allow yourself to let go for a little while. If you're feeling overwhelmed, stressed, or as if there's a billion thoughts running wild in your brain and you need some space, take a personal retreat. I promise you won't regret any time you intentionally set aside to keep your mind and heart healthy. 

I've put together a list of some packing tips as well as ways to prepare and spend your time. In the end, don't stress about making your personal retreat the perfect experience. Set some expectations on the front end, but allow your mind to wander and your heart to settle. This takes time and I almost always come home with something different than I originally imagined. 

  1. Pack comfortable clothes. No one wants to relax in a pair of tight jeans. 
  2. Pack a book that you've been wanting to read or some sort of activity that refreshes you (i.e. not the 1,000 page biography that's been sitting on your shelf for years). Sometimes I'll pack a small puzzle in my bag or the ingredients for a recipe I've been wanting to bake. 
  3. Throw in an extra notebook or two. If you're like me, and you have a short term memory, you'll want some extra paper to be able to write down all the thoughts coming to mind during your time away. I also like to visually see how the thoughts come together, so the bigger the paper, the better. 
  4. Bring a portable speaker. This has been a game changer for me - music is both soothing and empowering to me and oftentimes a little background music tends to our souls in a way words or thoughts never could. 
  5. Make a list of what you want to reflect on or think about before you leave. You may not get to everything on your list, but at least you've got an idea of where you want to go. (If you need help, take a look at my previous blog post with 20 questions for the New Year). 
  6. Turn off your phone. You won't regret taking time away from your friends and social media networks for a day or two. I actually found this quite freeing. 
  7. Let yourself sleep in (or go to bed early). The point of taking a personal retreat is to come back rested and refreshed. 
  8. Drink lots of water. This may sound funny, but drinking water makes me think more clearly and also helps flush my body of any unnecessary toxins. I'm not a health expert, but there are so many benefits to drinking more water. Do yourself a favor and pack a water bottle or two. 
  9. Set aside some time at the beginning to process emotion. There's almost always emotions lurking beneath the surface of our hearts, and if ignored, they begin to take root as much deeper issues. A wise friend once told me to carve out time in my schedule to grieve the disappointments in my life and to celebrate the happy moments. When I intentionally pause to allow the raw emotion to surface, it frees my heart to be itself and to release whatever I've been stuffing or holding onto. I'm an emotional person, so this may be harder for you, but try to give yourself some time to think through your current circumstances and check in with your heart. 
  10. Do something active. I wholeheartedly believe there's a deep connection from our physical bodies to our hearts and minds, and whenever we engage one, we must engage the others. Sometimes I have to do something physical in order for what's in my head to safely deposit deep down into my heart. 

This is not an exhaustive list, but I do hope these ten tips are helpful to you as you plan your own personal retreat. My retreat will likely look very different than yours, simply because we are different people with different needs. Be free. Do what you need to do to get refreshed. Happy retreating!

20 Questions To Ask Yourself Before the New Year

Anyone started on their New Year's resolutions, yet? 

After Christmas I typically put aside some time to process the past year, look for themes, and identify and articulate what I learned along the way. Reflection is powerful - if neglected, we forfeit the opportunity to build on what we learned and experienced throughout the year and often become ignorant to our own lives and what's happening under the surface.

Once I spend time reflecting, I look forward. It's popular this time of year to set goals, but I also think through how I want to achieve those goals and what sort of rhythms or boundaries I'm going to put in place so that I know what to anticipate and what to say yes (or no) to. Even if you're more spontaneous than structured, preparing and looking ahead creates an opportunity to take advantage of, anticipate, and be expectant for the new year. And I for one could use a little hope moving forward. 2017 is going to our year, friends. 

Below are some reflection and anticipation questions to help you get started and feel prepared heading into the New Year. 

  1. What are some highlights of 2016? Make a list of 5-10. 

  2. What kinds of disappointments happened in 2016? Make a list of 5-10. 

  3. What are some game changers of 2016? Maybe a specific friendship or a goal you set or some kind of rhythm you put in place. 

  4. Can you list any specific "grace moments" you experienced this past year? Where did you experience grace and from whom? 

  5. Who did you most learn from this year? And what did you learn? 

  6. What worked for you this year? 

  7. What didn't? 

  8. Can you identify any themes? What's something you kept coming back to? Maybe some word, phrase, category, or passage comes to mind. 

  9. Now can you begin to list your top 3-5 takeaways? 

  10. Out of your list of takeaways and themes, which do you wish to focus on or develop this year? 

  11. What are you hopeful for in 2017?

  12. What sort of promises or dreams are you believing for? 

  13. This is the year that __________.

  14. Who do you want to learn from this year? Why? How? 

  15. What do you want to grow, advance, or move forward? This can be in your own life or in some place you're investing in. 

  16. What's your edge? In other words, where are you going to dig a little deeper, move a little closer, risk a little bigger?

  17. What do you feel most passionate about or invested in going into the new year? How can you make these things a priority? 

  18. What sort of rhythms will you put in place this year? (Daily, weekly, and monthly)

  19. What will you say yes to this year? List your top 3-5 priorities to help guide you. 

  20. If you were to sum up what you're most excited for, what you want to focus on and develop and move forward with, what sort of theme or word would you choose? I like going into the new year with a word or phrase that's easy to remember. I'll often keep it in front of me in creative ways throughout the year. 

After answering some of all of these questions, think through the best ways to check in with yourself throughout the year. I like to take a weekend (or at least a day) 2-4 times throughout the year to revisit my goals and plans. It helps keep me focused and hopeful. 

Lastly, once you reflect and think ahead, do yourself a favor and thank the people you learned from this year and notify those you want to learn from next. You may even decide to send your questions to a close friend for accountability or a second pair of eyes. I think we're our best selves in the context of community - don't be afraid to reach out and recruit others to help you meet your goals!