Monday Mantra: don’t sweat the small stuff


Don’t sweat the small stuff.

That’s what I’m telling myself over and over again on this Monday morning.

I’ll be real with you. I’m super stressed out because my dog (he’s adorable by the way) keeps barking while I’m at work and I’m lucky enough to live on a hallway where people are trying to sleep during the day.... Sigh. I’m stressing because it makes me feel out of control and anxious and because I don’t know how to fix it. I’m stressing because even though in the big huge grand scheme of life this is a very tiny thing, it feels really big to me right now.

That’s why we have this mantra in the first place. Because our tendency as humans is to get really worked up over things that actually don’t matter that much. And if we’re being really honest with ourselves, we are usually stressed out mostly on account that we don’t have control and even worse, don’t know how to get it. So we stress, we sweat and we worry and we fret and we desperately scurry around like chickens with our heads cut off trying to find solutions and gain some sort of control. And sometimes it works—for a little while anyways. The problem is, it’s usually only a temporary fix and short lived relief. The problem will usually show itself again or another one will take its place and we’ll find ourselves back where we started.

Here’s the thing. I sweat the small stuff because in reality, I don’t think that God has time to. I consider praying about it, and then I think that God has more important things to deal with and so I keep going at it on my own. That’s true. He does have bigger things to deal with than our small stuff, but He’s also deeply in love with us. The small stuff that feels like big stuff to us matters to him because it matters to us. He wants so much to be involved in every aspect of our lives. He wants us to come to Him with whatever is weighing heavy in our hearts—big or small. He wants to carry all of it for us so that we can live freely. Nothing is too big OR too small for Him.

So here’s the truth. If the thing weighing heaviest on my heart today and holding me down with worry is my dog barking in my apartment, I can tell him that. I can tell him as many times as I need to today, as many times as it worries me. And I can trust that He will listen and He will care and He will sweat the small stuff for me.

So, soul sister, don’t sweat the small stuff today! Especially on Monday when it’s so easy to do! He’s got ya and he wants to carry all the Monday-ness for you!



Our Cloud of Witnesses


"Do you see what this means--all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we'd better get on with it. Strip down, start running--never quit!"


I'm sure you've heard about them before, "our great cloud of witnesses." I love the way the Message version puts it--pioneers who blazed the way for us and veterans cheering us on." Whichever version you prefer, have you ever really stopped to think about this and what it means for us in our context?

I know I hadn't really the first hundred times I'd heard it or read it. I mean, not really anyways. I understood what it was getting at, but I hadn't really taken much time to sit with it and let it sink in. When I finally did, it filled me with so much passion and joy and this overwhelming sense of encouragement and peace. I think that's the whole point! And I think right here in this little nook between Mother's Day and Father's Day is a really great time to stop and really let this soak in! 

If you backtrack up through chapter 11, the author is explaining genuine faith to his readers (us included.) He describes faith as, "the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen." And then he goes on to  provide all sorts of examples of people (mostly their ancestors) who lived out that definition and left legacies for them long after they were gone. He goes as far back as creation and down through Abel to Noah and onto Abraham, the "father of our faith." All of these amazing men and women who took crazy risks and looked totally foolish to live out their faith in God. And now, they are up in heaven with God looking down and cheering them on in their own faith journeys. 

w o w 

When the author was writing this, faith in Christ was a crazy risk. It was hard and complicated and came with a lot of dangerous consequences, tough sacrifices, and probably a lot of loneliness and isolation and fear. It certainly wasn't an easy choice to make or an easy road to walk. This had to be so encouraging for readers. To know that even when they felt so alone or defeated or terrified in their faith journey, there were mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters in faith looking down on them and rooting for them to keep running and to finish the race so they could someday join them in the presence of God. 

And guess what. Faith in Christ still isn't easy. It still requires sacrifice and and still comes with risks and loneliness. But we still get that cloud of witnesses--of pioneers and trail blazers and veterans--who went before us and are sitting with Jesus cheering us on in our own faith journeys. And the cloud has only grown and gathered cheerleaders! All of those New Testament church planters and martyrs and generations of persecuted Christians, and all of the loved ones that we've had to say goodbye to...now they're part of our cheering section! They see, they look on with pride as we fight for our faith and navigate difficult situations and keep running when we would rather lie down or move forward; when we would rather retreat. And they fist bump and they hug and they shed tears of sorrow and joy for us as we press on towards our goal of joining them someday. 

I don't know about you, but it sparks something inside of me to imagine my favorite Bible characters like Esther and Noah and Peter, and some of my favorite faith heroes like Elizabeth Elliot and Amy Carmichael and my dad all up there with Jesus rooting for me and believing in me and cheering me on all the way home. 

I don't know how Mother's Day and Father's Day are for you. I don't know if you are struggling in your faith or a little bit lost or maybe frustrated. I'm not sure if you feel lonely or if you're wondering if you should just turn around and quit now or lie down because you're so tired and you can't go on. I don't know. But don't. Don't stop struggling and don't believe the lies that you're alone and don't turn around or quit. Because you've got a great big giant cheering section up in the sky and all they want is for you to finish the race and to make it home. And we want that for you too. Girl, keep running! And take heart because we're ALL in this crazy, risky, scary, curvy, beautiful faith race together!




Plants That Are There For You

It can't just be us that are absolutely obsessed with the little fellows.

Potted plants are taking over every bookshelf and window sill of this generation. On the whole, we're not great at them, but we love them and we're fighting to be plant people.

Today we're showing up and helping you be those plant people that you want to be-that we want to be too. This post has some plants that will meet you in the middle and work to stay alive. They're simple, uncomplicated, and they bring all the goodness of green and clean air into your space. We've also got some cool resources for all of your window sill needs that we think are just so much fun!

We thought about posting some great Pinterest links here (and we will) that tell you the easiest plants to keep alive---but then we realized we don't always trust those. I (Rachel) have killed quite a few of those "easy to keep alive" plants. I figured I would just share my own personal experience and you can trust that if I can keep it alive, so can you. And then I'll share all the indoor garden dreams I have below, because #goals.

BAMBOO



If you're looking for a literally NO maintenance plant that will shoot up and spread all the green and good air vibes, this is the one. This is one of two plants that I've literally never killed and have had in my space since college.  You can set it literally anywhere and all you need to do is fill it with water whenever it's low. There's not even any dirt involved! I particularly love bamboo for the bathroom where you don't often get much light, but it's a great little burst of green for desks or random corners where most plants would just shrivel up. To top it off, bamboo is affordable and can be found pretty much anywhere!


POTHOS & PHILODENDRON




These ones are honestly hard to tell apart...I am pretty sure I have both of them in my house at the moment and I'm not sure which is which. The bottom line is, I've had them both and kept both alive!  You'll know it as soon as you see it and there are a zillion different versions. In Mexico we called it Telefono and I love that...I think because of the way it spreads and climbs and falls. This is the second of two plants that I've never killed. They don't need much and they sort of sneak up on you. They fill any little corner in such a sweet and lovely way. You can see I've had all sorts of colors and versions--this one is great for air quality in your space as well.

Here are a few others I've had in my little studio garden for quite some time now....
All of these I've purchased from my local grocery store or from this adorable plant shop we have here in my neighborhood literally called, Plant Shop. You can pick plants up from anywhere, bur I will say, I've noticed the difference in quality when you spend a bit more and buy from the place that knows what they're bringing in and what they're doing with their plants. I love my local shop because not only will they help me pot appropriately before taking my plant home, they will also respond when I send photos through Instagram needing help with a plant that is struggling. Sometimes going to the experts really pays off in the long run! I've surprised myself with how many of my plant babies are holding on--even through the Seattle winter! Now the sunshine is out and really ALL I do for these guys is give them sun and water once a week. I water on Sundays usually either with a can or by putting them all in the sink for bath time. I also try really hard to fill up the window sills and let them soak in the sun whenever we manage to get some around here! I do get a lot of nice light in my place but not in every little corner, so I try to move these guys into the light whenever I can!





I will share a few links below with some really helpful resources to identifying house plants and some easy and straightforward how-to guides for care.  

There really is SO much information out there. I suggest heading to Pinterest as a search start. I've founded and pinned so many plant related things that I reference often!

Better Homes & Gardens



Lastly I'll share with you a recent discovery and new obsession! The Sill. A friend of mine came over this past weekend and was asking about all of my plants and where I got them. I mentioned my beloved Plant Shop in Seattle and she looked at me with a smirk on her face..."Have you seen The Sill," she asked? I hadn't. It's an amazing sight where you can shop for house plants and have them delivered to your door. STOP IT. I'm in HUGE trouble I can tell you that much! And honestly, back to that note on quality, their prices are not too awful. They send them in darling pots and even sets. You might just have a ton of fun this Friday taking a scroll and inviting some green vibes into your home! 




Sunday is Coming!

We don't know about you, but Easter Sunday just might be our favorite Sunday of the whole year!

When we were kids, Easter usually meant a brand new dress covered in flowers and a new pair of shoes and some lacy socks. We hoped and prayed in the weeks leading up to Easter that the weather would be kind and that springtime would actually show up so that we could wear our new threads and actually enjoy the springtime treats contained in our Easter baskets. How many times did the Midwest disappoint and send snow on Easter forcing us to cover up our dresses with leftover winter sweaters and causing arguments with our moms over whether or not we could actually wear our shiny white patented leather shoes? If you aren't from the Midwest than perhaps none of that means anything to you. My (Rachel) mom was a very firm rule follower and did not believe in white shoes until Easter Sunday, so you better believe I was ready for them! And who wanted to get an Easter basket full of bubbles and sidewalk chalk that had to sit waiting to be used for the next month until the sun finally decided to show up? And poor grandma with her lovely hanging flower baskets that she would have to keep in doors until the frost finally went away for good!

Easter was just fun. It was a celebration in every way. We have carried many of these traditions into our adulthood--still venturing out to Target or Old Navy the week before Easter Sunday to grab a new floral printed pantsuit and a pair of cut springtime shoes. Moms still give us "Easter baskets" and we still indulge in the occasional Reese Egg (because no doubt they are the best that Reese's has to offer.)

But it's so much more than that, isn't it! It's more than new sundresses and shiny new shoes and baskets filled with sweets and springtime treats. It's more than ham and colorful hardboiled eggs and baby marshmallow chickens. It's more than blossoms on the trees and hunting for plastic eggs filled with goodies.

Easter is a reminder that we've won--the ultimate prize. It's a reminder that life is ours for the taking and the keeping. It's our ultimate hope! It's the thing that we cling to above all else and the foundation of the faith that we fight for all year long. Easter is an empty cross and an empty grave and our Savior alive and well and walking with us through life and into eternity.

Today we thought it might be fun to share with you some of our favorite passages to read through leading up to Easter. These are the passages that grip our hearts with the truth of the Gospel and prepare them for our favorite Sunday of the year!



Isaiah 53
It never ceases to amaze me how spot on this prophet was. THOUSANDS of years before Jesus showed up on the scene, Isaiah was walking the very streets of Jerusalem that Jesus would walk prophesying in vivid detail what would happen to Him and what it would mean for the world. I often read this passage to people without letting them know where it's from and then ask them to tell me where they think it might be found in Scripture. They almost always say a Gospel--because that's exactly what Isaiah was writing--THE GOSPEL. This passage is such a beautiful reminder that Jesus was not an afterthought or a quick fix to a problem that God couldn't seem to solve. Jesus was always the plan. Salvation from ourselves was always God's heart.

Psalm 22
This is another passage of Scripture that beautifully depicts what Jesus will do for us long before Jesus walked the earth. What's extra beautiful about this passage is that it's from David's personal prayer journal. This passage is King David crying out to God in his own despair and pain. He had no idea that it was painting a picture of Jesus on the cross and how His sacrifice would ultimately fix the problem of our sin and despair and pain. If you ever doubt the truth of Scripture, take a second look at these threads running throughout it and the detail that couldn't possibly been contrived or replicated with this much time and space in between. 

Isaiah 1:18
Even though God hated the sin of His chosen people, He made it very clear He was not going to give up on them. Still He invited them to the table and to conversation with Him. Still He was planning to make it right with them and to find a way out of their mess. This is still true for us because this is His heart.

Hebrews 4:14-16
Thanks to Jesus and His sacrifice on the cross, there is no more space between us and God. The curtain is torn in two and we have full access to the throne of God. We can approach at any time and in any state and know that He will look at us and converse with us. 

Romans 1-3
If ever I need a good, solid reminder of where I've come from and all that Jesus has done for me, I go right back to Romans. These chapters lay it out so plain and simply. I was a sinner destined to die but God loved me enough to find a different way--Jesus. 


We hope you'll enjoy a good solid dose of Jesus and all His goodness in these final days leading up to Easter Sunday--the day that defines us and gives us hope and solid ground to stand on!





Photo for Thought (from Paris)

Image may contain: sky, tree and outdoor




You know those moments....the ones that quite literally take your breath away? Like, in the very best way? The moments you are certain you won't ever forget. The ones that are etched in your mind and your heart so vividly and sweetly? The moments that surprise you and catch you off guard and stop you in your tracks? 

Have you had any of those moments lately?

I sure have. 

I recently traveled to Europe. It was my 30th (belated) birthday present to myself. I had never been but had always wanted to go. Luckily I have some friends doing life on the other side of the pond and so it all just sort of fell into place. 

{an excerpt from my journal en route from Switzerland to Madrid}

"I left my pajamas in Paris. Well, actually in a quaint little town about 4o minutes outside of Paris, but still. 
This trip felt so far away for so long and then all of a sudden it was here--and I'm here--on the other side of the ocean like I've always dreamed at nearly 30.5 years old. Seeing friends and going on grand adventures and soaking up culture and collecting life experiences. 
I walked almost 39,000 steps in one day of Paris and who even knows how many the next (since I killed my Fitbit with day one.) I saw Paris in the springtime from corner to corner. Quite literally. From Bastille to the Eifel Tower and back. We just walked and wandered with no real agenda, just open minds and open hearts. We just stumbled upon Paris pieces and magic as we walked along with crepes and macaroons following the Seine. 
It was every bit as magical and inspiring as I always imagined it to be. It captured me and took my breath way so many times. It is just as it's always pictured---old and historical and classic and fancy and grand and artistic. There's this magic and loveliness that sort of hovers around it. It's busy and it's fast but it's also somewhere that time slows down and it sort of just takes you for a stroll. It's bright and edgy but soft and romantic at the same time. 

I ate macaroons that tasted like a fresh French boquete and filled my mouth with floral in the most delightful way; vilot and rose and lavender.  I wore stripes and ate avocado toast in the Latin Quarter (I was so wrong about what that even meant for the record) and navigated the Paris underground like a local--mostly. 

years ago my bedroom full of Paris dreams. Light switches and lamps and tiny figurines. Paris somehow in my heart and eyes before I even knew her. Long before. But I always knew I wanted to know her. I think she has that effect. One little glimpse of her sparkle--even from afar--and you can't get it out of your system. Not until you find her. 

And now I'm back in the clouds. Flying into the Spanish sun to Madrid. My journal pages splattered with Swiss chocolate."

You go to Paris to see the Eifel Tower. Everyone knows that. I mean you go to see other things too, but it's obvious that she's the main attraction. We got off the train and decided to just forget the map and walk until we found her towering in the sunshine above the city. It took much longer than we expected and a few wrong turns. We saw a lot of Paris in pursuit of her. Just when we thought we were nearly there, we would lose her sillouhete in the skyline yet again. 

And then she surprised us. We turned down a quiet little street a few blocks off of the main road and away from the river quite sure we were lost once more. And there she was--just peeking out at us in the loveliest and simplest way. We didn't approach from the main entrance or the touristy gates, just from a tiny little rue off the beaten path. And I wouldn't have had it any other way. I just stopped--frozen--my neck straining backwards to take it all in. The height and the detail and the blue sky background. The sunshine sparkle all over her. I snapped a photo in exactly that spot and that state of mind. I didn't move to get the building out of the shot or to get a focused, straight on shot. I wanted to capture it just as I had seen it--mostly how I had felt it in that moment. The peeking, the surprise, the perfection of it. The way I knew it was etched in my mind and my heart. 

Here's the truth. You don't have to be in Paris or Madrid or even on the other side of the world to have these moments. Not in the slightest. They are all around, I think more often than not, in the everyday ordinary just waiting to be discovered. And while I love having them in Paris, I sort of love them more in my own neighborhood--the way they lighten and brighten up the most mundane days. It only takes open eyes and hearts and minds to see them and to let them take our breath away and to capture us. 

The truth is that it's easy to be looking for them when we're in Paris or Madrid. It's trickier to keep those open eyes and hearts and minds when life is chaotic and routine and mundane and we are just scurrying and hurrying through. But that's when we need them the most. To remind us that life is indeed very beautiful and it's just waiting to capture us and to take our breath away! So let go of the map sometimes and just go for a wander. Eat the cookie, buy the coffee, follow the river, and wait for life to peek out at you in the sweetest ways <3






1 Piece 5 Ways: The Parisian Way


If you haven’t caught it in our social media posts lately, I’m currently on holiday in Europe. In non-fancy European terms, I’m on vacation.

I have always wanted to go on a European adventure. I decided my 30th birthday was the perfect opportunity. My work on the other hand did not prefer me scampering around Europe in the height of our hiring season—so a half birthday trip it became. I stumbled upon an amazing deal and paid less to go back and forth to Europe than I do to visit family in Ohio. Still not sure how that is a thing, but it is. The only sacrifice to my under $400 ticket to Europe was that I could only bring a carry on—no checked bag. I won’t lie. I was a bit nervous about two full weeks in Europe with such limited space. How would I have options for all of the cute Instagram posts!? I decided ultimately it was worth the sacrifice, especially to have some extra cash on the ground for fresh macaroons and after several people telling me I wouldn’t want to be back and forth across Europe with a lot of baggage. I decided to accept the challenge.

That meant I had to get strategic. I’ve mentioned in the past that I travel pretty minimally, but this was going to be minimalist traveling at a new level. I needed to pick pieces that would work together and on top of that wouldn’t make me look like an obnoxious American—that part is just all me. (I should also note, I had the security of knowing that I would be staying with friends and have access to laundry should I need it.)

After lots of hours lost on Pinterest researching how to dress like a Parisian and a few strategic shopping trips, I felt that I had perfected the pieces I would take. Today I’m going to show you how I packed for Paris (and the rest of Europe) for two weeks in a small bag.

Here’s the breakdown:
Pants: 3
Leggings: 1
Shirts:
Dresses: 2
Sweaters: 2
Scarf: 1
Pajamas: 1
Shoes: 3
Undershirts: 3
Underware: 7
Bras: 2
Socks: 7
Jacket: 1

Pants
Start with a base. Choose three pair that will be versatile and support all of your other pieces collectively and a range of looks and comfort levels. I chose a pair of dark wash straight leg basic jeans, a pair of army green linen boyfriend chinos, black leggings with a cute bow ankle feature, and lighter wash jeggings that I traveled in.

Shirts
Shirts are a lot easier to get carried away with. They seem small enough and we convince ourselves that they won’t take up much space and that we need to have options. Shirts are often statement pieces in our wardrobes and some of our favorites. Shirts is where I usually have to exhibit a lot of self control. I think with shirts it’s important to have a priority list and perhaps a friend to help filter and make cuts that are just too hard for you.
Consider: weather, culture, comfort, occasions, and space
I knew it would be early spring when I arrived, but checked the weather just a couple of days before leaving to finalize my packing. I chose a couple of looser and longer button downs to wear with jeggings or leggings, a simple, white, comfy T, a couple of patterned tanks I really loved (stripes and zebras) and a pretty and fancier black baby doll top. I chose all black and white shirts to keep it simple and interchangeable and classic European. I made sure that all of them worked with at least one (potentially more) of my pants and that I would like the look and feel comfortable. I did choose black and white with some prints that  I still felt had my personality. I let myself bring one floral top (that still I made sure I could wear with all of my black theme)

Dresses
I do love dresses and I kept imagining which one I would wear for my instagramable moment beneath the Eiffel Tower. Once I started packing, I realized they were not all going to make the cut. I limited myself to one light, loose shirt dress that was white with little black polka dots, and one long sleeved cotton black dress with white stripes. I could do either with or without leggings and both worked with all of my shoes and sweaters as well. Versatility and comfort were keys with these

Sweaters
I am visiting Europe in the springtime and knew that would call for some layers. Layers often require more space as sweaters tend to be bulkier and take up more space in our bags. I had to be extra strategic when choosing these. I did some research ahead of time here. People mentioned that cashmere is great for warmth and versatility and also isn’t too bulky. I headed to an outlet and found myself a super discounted, oversized, black wrap sweater. It would match everything else and also work well casually or on nice occasions. I had another oversized charcoal sweater that I used for travel and when I arrived.

Shoes
I’ll be honest. Shoes are not so hard for me. I don’t have many of them because I live that city life. Shoes are ALL about practicality and comfort for me always. I settled on one pair of sparkly gold flats—thought about black but wanted a little pop of fun mixed in with all the black and white. Gold flats are great for that! They’re still neutral but they ass a little something. I found a pair of black and white tennis shoes (something between athletic shoes and less) that I planned to use on all of my touring days, and I wore a pair of short, army green rain boots on the plane—I wanted to have something for rain and or hiking and also didn’t want to waste precious carry on space.

EXTRAS
Scarf
I brought along one oversized camel colored scarf (from H&M men’s section actually) I also traveled with this as I tend to get cold on planes. It remained neutral but added something—a layer of sorts—to all the black and white.

Jacket
I did a LOT of research ahead of time on a jacket as well. I needed something warm but not too bulky that would take up my whole carry on. I started with North Face  and REÍ but just didn’t live any of it. I stumbled upon a down coat in rose gold by Guess at a random outlet store.it was light weight and meant for packing and I loved that it wasn’t a crazy color but also not black or gray. It also had a cool zip in hood/sweatshirt layer that sold it for me!

Toiletries
Something to keep in mind here is that you have to keep these to a minimal if you’re only traveling with a carry on. All of your toiletries have to be less than 5 ml and if traveling through Europe, small enough to fit in a small plastic ziplock bag. I had some fun with this. I love perfume but often can’t take my favorites. I decided I would take this opportunity to try out a perfume I had liked many times while exploring Sephora. I spent $20 for a small travel bottle of it—this is not only a great way to travel but also to try something out for a while without investing in the huge, expensive bottle! I also used it to try out a new scent of Love. Beauty. Planet shampoo and conditioner. I only took my absolutely essential essential oils and agreed with friends to borrow body and face wash. I grabbed some travel packs of makeup wipes too.

Undergarments + socks
I kept all of these very minimal and neutral because I knew I would have access to laundry. Three undershirts in black, white, and nude/pink and one week of socks and underwear. I also kept bras and pajamas to a minimum knowing I could wash halfway through.

** I am about one week in to my two week trip. I’ve been happy with my selections thus far and I’m feeling pretty successful in my endeavor to look adorbs in Europe with just a carry on worth of stuff!



Sunday Takeaways from Spain


This last Sunday, I had the incredible opportunity to attend International Church in Madrid, Spain and a sweet friend who is servicing there, Cara McSween. It was a real honor and so sweet to be immersed once again in one of my heart and love languages, Spanish.

I was reminded that God speaks to us so personally and that hearing the Word of God in your own language matters so much. We should always be supporting and carrying the spreading and the preaching of the Gospel in native tongues. Hearing God’s Word in your own language is a very personal and powerful thing. I was also reminded how God can find us in any language. Across language and culture barriers, God still worlds and speaks and grows His church. I may not always catch everything in Spanish, and I may not always communicate as clearly as I would like in Spanish, but even in Spanish, God still finds me and speaks to me and connects hearts. Sometimes Words of God and about God resonate even more sweetly and deeply with me in Spanish.

Languages are a beautiful thing—the fact that God and His purposes and His heart and His love transcend languages and culture is even more profound and beautiful.

Here are a few of my takeaways from Spanish church and out of John 4 this past Sunday in Madrid:
1. “Believe the bare word of Jesus and go on your way. “ -John 4:51

2. Believe what Jesus says just because HE says it.

3. Move our faith from our eyes to our ears

4. The spoken word of Jesus and the spoken name of Jesus have incredible power
5. Very often, OUR action brings HIS action on our behalf—faith in action makes miracles
6. Jesus wants salvation more than healing—more than anything else for us



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