Thursday, April 10, 2014

When Blogging Hurts


I haven't been blogging regularly in a long time. 

So it feels odd to even be talking about blogging, because I'm not really even a blogger anymore. My Instagram feed has become my "mini-blog" -- it's quick, easy and to the point. Blogging takes much more time, effort, vulnerability. 

Today I can not not talk about a certain subject. Hopefully writing it out will help me be a little less frustrated about it... Writing always has a way of doing that. 

A few days ago, my sweet friend Casey posted the video trailer to her husband Chris's documentary movie "American Blogger" that will be released in June. We got a preview of it while we were at HopeSpoken, and let me tell you-- all of us were geekily excited about it. In the movie, Chris drives around the United States in the family's Airstream and interviews dozens of bloggers, giving those who don't really understand the blogging process or who are just genuinely interested in blogging a better glimpse into the life of the American Blogger.

Yesterday while I was at home trying to relax after a super busy morning, I got a text from one of my "people." :) She asked if we had seen the Internet ablaze with the "American Blogger" fury. Apparently people were up in arms about the trailer-- everything from frustrations over the lack of diversity featured to annoyance of the voice of the narrator. The bloggers featured were belittled, name-called and mocked. The creator of the film was made fun of and his character questioned. 

Now as a friend of this person, who's husband is being attacked like this-- let me tell you that it straight up ticked me off. I don't use my relationship with Casey as something to just throw around. A few years ago, we worked together and talked day in and day out. I told her when I found out I was pregnant, I told her when I knew huge events in my life. I've called her when I need Godly advice. I trust her. I trust Chris. I respect everything they are about. 

I've had my own share of blogging frustrations and drama, but I really don't care about that anymore. I've come to the conclusion that the relationships lost through it are people that weren't really friends anyway and were really only out for their own personal goal of getting ahead. Their true colors have shined through. I've let that go. 

But today? When we see stuff like this online and it makes our blood boil? And it makes us want to jump at our computer screens and curse blogging and delete our blogs all together? When our friends get hurt and mocked-- we choose love. 

We pray for these people that choose hate. We love on these people who hide behind their computer screens saying things they would never say to someone's face. We show kindness to those whose jealousy and insecurities are igniting such a fury among them. We pray, pray, pray and choose to not let it get to us because in the end, blogging does so much more good than harm. 

Luke 6:35 
But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil."

1 Corinthians 13:4-7
"Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things."

Thursday, April 3, 2014

HopeSpoken 2014: A Review

This past weekend, I left for the very first HopeSpoken conference in Dallas, Texas. I bought my ticket last March, and the months trickled by as I waited for it with anticipation. But it was always something lingering away in my future to hope for. A time for me to get away and refresh my soul. And that is exactly what happened. 

I am still trying to find the words to accurately express how incredible HopeSpoken was for me. It wrecked me in the best ways possible. It brought down walls that were up, and it opened my eyes to areas in my heart that were concealed to pain. It helped me find closure in things that I don't understand, and find forgiveness for others in areas of my heart that I didn't know existed. It helped me heal; and it helped me grow. It helped me move on, and it helped me find renewed hope.

Let me start by saying that I do not have one bad thing to say about this event. It was pure perfection from beginning to end. And if you know anything about the last blog conference I went to, I was very gun-shy to try another one. This event entirely renewed my hope in blogging altogether. It reminded me of why I started blogging and how I connected in the first place-- it was Jesus. It was not growing an audience, gaining followers, or talking strategy. I was not looking for that at HopeSpoken. And that was exactly what I got. No blog talk. No one handed out business cards. No one bragged about their latest collaboration. I think there is an assumption that HopeSpoken is a blog conference because there are a lot of bloggers who attend, but it is for every woman-- whether they write a blog or not. 

It was about Jesus, all about Him. 

A few days before the conference, I experienced major fear. Not fear of attending the conference. I am naturally a pretty extroverted person and can do okay in situations where I am by myself (doesn't mean I am always comfortable). I knew that even though I had never met any of the ladies attending the conference in "real life" I had some pretty awesome girlfriends from all over the United States waiting for me in Dallas. 

But the fear... oh the fear. It crept in like a tidal wave. Fear of death. Fear of planes. Fear of flying. Fear of leaving my child motherless. Fear of leaving my husband a widower. All those fears that literally now exist for the first time now that I am a mother. As soon as I got on the plane, I just prayed and prayed and God alleviated those fears. I started to begin to enjoy my flight. I remembered how much I love to travel alone. How invigorating and empowering it feels. How much I love airports and travel and how much of a rush it gives me. 

I arrived in Dallas around 11:30 AM and a girlfriend of mine that I knew in San Diego but who now resides in Dallas picked me up and took me to the hotel. I got a foretaste of the incredible authenticity I was about to experience at the conference when I met the very first "blog friend" of our bunch in the hotel lobby. Lisa was everything I expected her to be-- genuine, sweet, transparent, and just plain lovely inside and out. 5 minutes in to our conversation and we were talking about real, painful things. This was Jesus. This was community. We chatted for about 30 minutes and then Amy arrived. Bubbly, sweet, life-giving, lovable-- these are words that I think of when I think of Amy. From the second she arrived, I was smitten with her. She was just the friendliest little thing. When you talk to Amy, she really looks at you. When you talk, she takes you in. You feel like she is really listening. Lisa, Amy and I were all starving so we walked down the street to Denny's for a bite to eat (we were in a business district with not a lot of dining options, but that was entirely okay because I will get to the food later!). The three of us sat and talked like we had known each other for years. It was just incredible.

Again, Jesus. When you have Jesus in common, everything else clicks. 

We walked back to the hotel and there was Ruthie, Jon and baby Ford in the hotel lobby. My heart burst! Ruthie and I go way back. Our kids share the same due date and she was a huge prayer warrior for me to get pregnant with Eden. She is so special to me. And seeing little Ford just made my heart leap! He is the cutest! With her were new friends Jackie, and Katie-- two more incredible women that added to a weekend of true authenticity. We didn't get to meet until later, but Teressa, Heather and Amanda all arrived a bit later and we met up at the conference. Wow, what amazing women! The latter two women and I go back a few years. Incredible to finally meet them!

Those of us that were at the hotel freshened up a bit and headed over to registration across the street at the DoubleTree. Immediately I was captivated by the decor. It was gorgeous. Tons of gold, pink, blue, orange-- you name it!-- glittery paper flowers everywhere and hand-drawn gorgeous chalkboard signs. Beautiful, joy-filled women passing out swag bags and greeting us with huge smiles and warm welcoming hugs. 

This. This was what I had been waiting for. My expectations from the second I arrived were expelled out of the water. This was my community. This was probably, most likely, what Heaven will feel like.

I saw so many faces that I have connected with over the years. I hugged so many women. I cried, laughed, wept and constantly smiled from start to finish. The first night there, we connected in small groups and we met three more times the following day and once more in conclusion on Sunday. My small group leader was the incredible Hannah Singer, who I met a few years back when Jamie was doing her weekly "We Encourage" link-up. We had no idea prior to the conference who our small group leaders would be. God knew we needed Hannah. She was so calm, wise, and life-giving.

Some things I learned while at HopeSpoken:

From our first keynote speaker, Shauna Niequst (her book "Cold Tangerines" is a favorite) // "We make the choice to hustle-- we say "yes" to the schedule and the hustle because of what we feel like it will bring us. Saying "no" gives us "yes" to: family, marriage, church, life. I am not a solider. Tough and hard is not something to aspire to be. This is what the world teaches us. God teaches us to love. The word "should" is a warning sign! "I should be doing ___." "Should" never brings peace and happiness. Busy is a drug and a defense. We do not have to be hustling. Lay down busy." 

From Leslie Padgett's session // "God tells us who we are before He tells us what to do. He quiets us with his love. He binds our wounds and wants to weep with us. Am I carrying too much on my own? Am I self-reliant?" 

From Jami Nato's session (this chick is hysterical!) // "The cross... just put me in the shadow. Bible stories are not about the brave and the valiant-- they are about the screw-ups. When we believe that we don't have to have it "all together"-- that will tell us who we are. If it doesn't point to something greater, it is not the Good News. The Good News is that we are hidden in Christ. Rules and lists should show us -- "I don't measure up! But guess Who did!" Moses did not get to the promised land, but He did see God." 

Discussed in our "life stages" small group on Saturday night with other young moms // "Self-care" is not a liberal, feminist statement. As a woman, I need rest and I need spiritual refreshment in order to be the best I can be. It also opens my eyes to what I have-- a beautiful life with my husband and babies. Although it is far from perfect, it is mine and it is incredible. It helps those I love see how they need me-- how we are a team. To hear the words from my husband, "Babe, I appreciate you and all you do at home for our family. You do so much for us. I get it." -- those were words that I was not necessarily seeking out but words that brought refreshment to my soul that what I am doing each day is not in vain. No one can give me rest unless I seek it for myself and ask for help. 

Leaving Joshua and Eden // the confidence it gave my spouse was worth the trip all together. Eden is more attached to him than ever. He had some major quality time with her that was priceless. Despite my initial fears of leaving, as soon as I was on the plane, I was at peace. I missed them something awful, but I knew they were having a great time together. Our reunion was something I will never forget. Eden just kept looking at me, staring at me, taking me in-- all while she held my hand in the back seat. This time apart was my first time away since I became a mother, and it showed me how blessed I am to be one.

What HopeSpoken was not // I never once felt it was cliquey. People definitely had their groups of friends that they knew previously or who they bonded with over the weekend, but did I ever feel like I could not just pop in and introduce myself at some point or just pop in for a quick chat while in the food line? No. Never once did I feel unwelcome. Never once did I feel uncomfortable waiting in the bathroom line. Never once did I feel like I was back in junior high. Never once did I feel like the ladies who ran the conference or some of the "big bloggers" were too good for me. Never once did they make the conference all about them. From the very first introduction, they expressed that it was "all about Him." I mean, really? They were simply the vessels being used by God for this production. "Big bloggers" were not parading around with some sort of special gold badge of honor. Most of the big bloggers that were there were simply in the background, just enjoying their time there and being spiritually fed themselves-- not even speaking or leading a small group. On Saturday night, I got to spend some one-on-one time with Casey and Danielle and I broke down in a huge, ugly cry. They just sat there with me and listened. These two women, tired and weary themselves after months of planning this huge event, just sat with me and got teary eyed. It was beautiful. 

My small group, led by Hannah Singer // this was definitely a huge highlight of my trip. Getting to connect with my small group ladies several time in the day was exactly what made HopeSpoken special to me. We prayed, cried, and laughed. The authenticity that was in our group was there from the first beat.

The food// The food was awesome! I have no complaints here. We were fed breakfast, lunch, and dinner, usually in a buffet style. The line wrapped around the halls but moved efficiently. We had a perfect mix of veggies, protein, drinks and more. Coffee was always brewing and there were tea options, too. Candy was overflowing at different stations. There were cake pops, donuts, cheesecake, dark chocolate cake-- my sugar tooth was in for a real treat! After my last blog conference, where I literally starved the ENTIRE weekend, the food was something I really noticed and appreciated. 

The accommodations// We did not stay at the DoubleTree, where the conference was located, but across the street at the Sheraton. Ruthie was so generous to bless us with a free room because she had hotel points. It was nothing more than a 5 minute walk to-and-from the conference. The DoubleTree was clean, the staff was pleasant, and the restrooms were always tidy.

The presentation// I don't even know where to start! From the second we walked into registration, we were greeted with beautiful, large gold, blue, black, yellow, orange (you name it!) colored tissue pom-poms everywhere and gorgeous chalkboards with Casey's beautiful handwriting written on them greeting us at HopeSpoken. The rooms were always lit up with tea lights, soft white twinkle lights and more. The stage was beautifully built by Chris, Casey's husband, and was decorated with more twinkle lights. The whole conference was just lovely and magical. So much thought and preparation went into this conference and it was definitely apparent. 

The concerts// We heard from the amazing Tim Halperin and Jenny Simmons (and more!). Specifically these two were the headliners but we were also blessed with other musicians in-between that led us in worship. Jenny specifically just blew my socks off. On Saturday night, we had one straight hour of worship with her. She used to be in the Christian band "Addison Road" and to hear her songs live were off the hook. I think I started crying when she sang "Oceans"-- it's by far my song of the year. She also shared stories of hope and redemption in-between her songs and some of the stories she shared I will not ever forget. 

The swag bag// So much swag! From No41 to KirtleyMichelle to BetterLifeBags, we got some sort of treat. I especially loved all the prints. Knowing that my sweet little one can play in her playroom and be surrounded by such truth on the walls-- that makes this mama happy! Thank you to all of the very talented women who blessed us with their talents! And to my dear friend Heather who also gifted me with her awesome book to read. And to Leslie and Hannah who also gave their groups prints for the home. Such a blessing! 

My review// A solid 10 out of 10 stars. No words for how incredible it was. Have I said incredible?! 

On Monday night, I was sitting at the computer writing emails and Joshua walked in and said, "Are you buying your ticket for next year or what?" :) I will be there and I hope you consider joining me. Tickets should go on sale in a few weeks! 51 more weeks until HopeSpoken 2015!

Friday, March 21, 2014

My 29th Birthday + The Gender Reveal of Our Sweet Babe

This week we celebrated my 29th birthday, I was surprised with a surprise birthday party, and we found out the gender of our sweet baby! It was a perfect week, to say the least. All along, I thought this baby was a boy (major dreams, intuition, say what?! I am not listening to myself next time) but we were definitely surprised with a beautiful baby GIRL! She is healthy and just as cute as can be. We got to see her via 3D ultrasound and she has the cutest little button nose just like her sister :) We found out the results at the same restaurant we found out the results of Eden... it was kind of an amazing trip down memory lane. This time, we went to a children's boutique and gave the cashier the gender results and she packaged a Little Giraffe blanket and book accordingly. We are so thrilled to welcome another little girl into our family and are looking forward to this August with much anticipation and joy! 

Friday, March 14, 2014

Life Update

Today marks...19 weeks of pregnancy! 19 months of Eden's life! (19 is our lucky number and it is absolutely hysterical to me that these dates fall in line today.)

We've also been in our home for 4 weeks today. I can't believe it's already been a month! Time has flown and it's been extremely busy. I hate how poorly I have documented this exciting new life event! I am continuing to accept that blogging just has to take a back seat during busy seasons of my life. 

We chose to paint the interior walls of the house ourselves rather than have our builder do it (it came with a basic white color) so that we could have more creative control. The quest for the "perfect gray" was quite the task, I tell you! We finally found a color that we fell in love with after coating our walls 3 other times with color that just did not work. This house has a lot of natural lighting and the gray colors we picked turned a blue-ish color at different times in the day. We finally landed on "Graphite" by Restoration Hardware, matched at Lowe's using Valspar. 

Eden is growing like a weed and is starting to talk a lot. I can have a full conversation with her where she understands everything I am saying and although it's a lot of mumbling, I fully am aware that she is "getting" what we are talking about. She also loves to kiss my belly and understands that mommy has a baby in her belly-- even though I am sure she will be quite shocked when that baby comes out in real life! ;) She waves to everything all the time, and when she stumbles upon something for the first time she often greets it with a "Hello!" and then a wave. She continues to be an amazing sleeper-- about 12-13 hours a night and a 3 hour nap in the afternoon. She is very aware of her personal space and goes through phases where she does not do well interacting with other kids and does not like to have them touching her. We have had to kick the discipline up a notch with being consistent and following through ("no" means "no," etc.). She is generally a very easy kid and we are so thankful to be her parents. 

We are one week shy of finding out the gender of this sweet little babe that is growing inside of me! My pregnancy with Eden consisted of a lot of fears about miscarriage; and this pregnancy has consisted of a lot of fears about the baby's health (probably because I feel like I am taking a lot less care of myself). But overall, I have found that the 2nd pregnancy is so much easier in a lot of ways-- you know what to expect and you've been through the whole rodeo before, so you are kind of gifted with more confidence. I have felt since day one that this baby was a boy, but watch me be wrong! Either way, we will be extremely excited. I feel the baby move daily and occasionally get a good kick. This one is a lot more active than Eden was, and I have found that the movements seem stronger a lot earlier on. It's funny how every pregnancy is different; I often chuckle that that is probably God's way of preparing me for a completely different child than what I have now! 

Life is good and we feel so blessed right now and always. I'm hoping to return to blogging more consistently now that we are a little bit more moved in! I'm headed to Dallas at the end of the month for HopeSpoken-- really can't wait to be refreshed for a few days with some awesome Christian women and hope to return with a whole new sense of renewal!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Closing Time

We're officially homeowners again! I wanted to document it on this little journal space of mine... something I never want to forget are these huge milestones of ours. God is good and faithful and we feel blessed to be trusted to be the owners of such a beautiful space to call our own. I really can't believe it. More pics coming soon! 
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