To Tuscaloosa, With Love

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As you’re reading this, I’m packing all my belongings (yes I have far too many for a woman who lives alone) into a UHAUL and embarking on my latest adventure of moving back to my hometown. Many years ago, I said I couldn’t see myself moving back to Greenville. How would I ever use my degree and make an impact? But here we are now. God works in mysterious ways.

Tuscaloosa, you’ve been home for FIVE whole years now. You will always hold a special place in my heart. I came here to step out of my comfort zone and boy did I. Tuscaloosa, I found myself within my time here. Between the long hours in school, your never ending traffic and many cups of coffee- I found who God called me to be.

It’s here that I learned to live on my own and assume grown up responsibilities. Here is where I learned to be comfortable in my own skin and being alone-quite literally as I lived alone for the first time. I gained knowledge and not just that from a degree. It’s where I took my first “adult” job. I experienced heartbreak and the joys that come from making new friends. I discovered my love for red wine and a good latte-drinking too much of both over the last few years. I found comfort in a church that allowed me to raise my hands and worship freely as I always longed to. I turned away from God and then felt his embrace as I ran back into His arms.

It’s here where I discovered I wanted to make an impact with my skills and talents. God placed that longing on my heart to lead my to my next career move. Tuscaloosa, your sunsets will always be the prettiest, your traffic cones that never seem to go away will always be annoying, and your sense of community will go with me wherever I am.

I will absolutely be back to visit, but for now it’s a see you soon. I’m taking my love with me, but a little piece of my heart will always belong to you Ttown.

With love,

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Date Night

Words are my love language. But quality time comes in at a close second. Although my boyfriend and are technically long distance, I am grateful we get to spend a good amount of time together weekly. I cherish our time together always, even if we’re just watching an old movie I’ve never seen and he’s filling me in on what’s going on.

Sometimes I enjoy something a little different than the normal however. I like date nights. They don’t always have to be to nice restaurants-but it is fun to get dressed up more than normal for the night!

He surprised me by taking me to a steakhouse we’ve been talking about going to forever. I had seen pictures of the steak and potatoes and they were drool-worthy. So we made the drive and it was absolutely worth it. Plus it gave me the chance to dress up in a few new things from my favorite local boutique, True South.

I picked up an open back sweater and a brown corduroy skirt I had been eyeing on their Instagram for a while. I paired it with these Target over the knee boots and it worked perfectly for dinner and meeting up with friends later. (Photo creds to my sweet boyfriend)

What’s your favorite date night activity?

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Cold Weather Comfort Food

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It’s been unusually cold here in Alabama lately. So cold, I don’t even get that warm and fuzzy feeling from my coffee in the mornings. For a while, it didn’t even feel cold enough to wear sweaters. Now I can’t layer enough clothing to stay warm.

I don’t know about you, but this kind of weather makes me want to just stay in and cuddle up in my favorite chair with a fuzzy blanket and watch Hulu. Typically I will muster up the energy to brave the cold and go to the gym after work. There’s no better motivation to get through a good workout than knowing you have dinner waiting and ready for you at home. Y’all know what I’m talking about-using your CrockPot. 

Slow cookers are the easiest way to have dinner done when you come home after a long day. Or for mamas who are so busy chasing babies they don’t have time to cook a full meal. Or for basically anyone. If you don’t have a slow cooker, go get one now.

My go-to recipe for this time of year is a Chicken Taco Chili. I love it and it’s been a hit with many others I have made it for. Pair it with crescent rolls or garlic knots and you’ve got yourself the perfect comfort meal.

Ingredients

  • 1 16-oz can black beans
  • 1 16-oz can kidney beans
  • 1 16-oz can tomato sauce
  • 2 14.5-oz cans diced tomatoes w/chilies
  • 2 small cans of corn kernels
  • 1 packet taco seasoning
  • 3-4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • Half of one onion chopped (option)

Combine all the ingredients and seasoning (I throw in salt, pepper, garlic powder, etc… Basically whatever I’m feeling or know I like.) Place the chicken breasts on top and cover. Cook on low for 8 hours or high for 6. A little before serving, remove chicken and shred. Return chicken to slow cooker and stir in. Top with fresh cilantro, shredded cheese, and/or sour cream.

It might be one of the easiest/cheapest/tastiest recipes I keep in my favorites. Plus it lasts me for days which is great for a girl on a budget!

Give it a try and let me know what you think!

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New Year, New Me?

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As 2017 comes quickly to a close, (no really, where did this year even go?), and I begin to think about 2018 and my goals and dreams for the year, the things I want to happen, the relationships I want to flourish, the tasks I want to cross of my list, God is telling me to slow down. He’s telling me to slow down because a year from now I’ll be sitting here writing the same thing. Wondering where the year has gone while I look back on photos of the memories this year holds.

You see, it is so easy to get caught up in the list making, the telling God what you want or need to happen, the thoughts that sound something like, “If only this could happen in 2018, I will be truly happy.”

Trust me, I did it about five minutes ago. I know where you’re coming from. This year has been a year of change and learning. Learning a lot about myself. Learning that the joys in this life come from the people you share the simple, small things with. Joy doesn’t come from getting a new home or a big raise. It comes within the day to day moments spent drinking your favorite coffee or seeing your sweet baby take their first steps.

God is telling me “I bless you far more than you dare to ask.” See God has a good sense of humor. As I write my monthly goals, budgets, and to-do lists for the upcoming year, He’s laughing because he knows He already has every single item already checked off the list. God is telling me He’s going to bless me with things I couldn’t even fathom to scribble in my 2018 planner. Things and people and moments I will never know I needed until God places them in my life. All my worries and concerns are already taken care of for the next year, God has already worked them out before they even settled into my heart.

Now I’m not saying anyone is in the wrong for planning what you want to achieve in the next year or setting resolutions-nope, not at all. But I am telling you God has spoken peace over every single thing already.

This year has brought some amazing things my way-most importantly some amazing people that bring my life so much joy and laughter. I get caught up in stress and boy do I forget to cherish them and all they do for my life. I don’t give them, or God, enough credit for the impact they’ve made on my life.

Friends, instead of spending your last few days of this year huddled over the budget sheets and color coded lists, worrying about how to become the “new you,” relax and relish in all that God has done for you this year-both big and small. All the times you felt like you were never going to see the other side of that dark hole, but here you are, on the other side. See God doesn’t need or want there to be a new you, He loves us just as we are.

Sit back, because God has your back and He’s going to bless you far more than you could ever imagine in 2018. Don’t dread the start of a new year, be thrilled to tackle it with God by your side.  I am so excited to see what He has in store for myself and each of you.

 

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College Exams

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It’s that time of year. Yes the holiday season. But also time for college exams. Whether you’re a freshman or senior, every semester when final exams roll around, the stress is still there. You would think as you get older, you would feel more prepared. But as the classes get harder, so do the exams. If you’re anything like me, you might let the stress get to you. When I’m stressed, I am STRESSED. Here are a few things I used over the years to make it through the dreaded finals week.

  • Write out every exam. Whether it be a test or presentation or final paper, write it in your calendar just as you would any social event.
  • Write out each chapter covered on the exam as well any articles and PowerPoints, or book chapters going to be covered on the exam. Then, see how many days before the exam and divvy up the chapters and PowerPoints and articles evenly to look over and study.
  • Index cards. You’ve probably been using these since high school, but they’re also good for managing your days. Make each index card into one day. Use them to keep track of meetings, class times, phone meetings, due dates, and daily to-dos.  It’s easy to pull out the stack of cards and see if you have time to schedule a study session at Starbucks or not. And for some reason, having separate cards (as opposed to one spread per week in an agenda) makes you realize how much time I actually have to work on things.  Basically, it keeps things in perspective.
  • Make sure your desk (or study space) is organized. Keep your laptop, glasses, iPad, index cards, and Sour Patch kids (anything but chocolate) within reach.
  • Take a break (that doesn’t involve eating food). Many times while studying, I would get bored and just start snacking for no reason. I’d walk to the kitchen, grab the snack, walk back to my desk, and inevitably continue working while eating whatever snack I chose. That really doesn’t even count technically as a break! Give yourself a manicure, go for a walk, read a (non-school related) book. Definitely avoid napping and online shopping during breaks.
  • Use an app to lock you out of apps on your phone or sites on your computer that you don’t need to be on while studying or writing a paper.

I could give you all the tips and tricks in the world, but the most important to remember is your identity isn’t in making an A+ on every project, presentation, and final exam. If you don’t make that A+, it is not the end of the world (although it will feel like it for a little while). Your identity is in your purpose here on Earth and the greater things you’ll do to further the Kingdom of God. So color code your planner, get a good Spotify playlist going, and grab a good cup of coffee (or two) and get to studying!

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#blessed

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Why is it we center all of our feelings of thankfulness and count our blessings only around this time of year? What happened to the rest of the year? All the other weeks, days, and seconds spent living here on Earth? Why is it only the holidays bring out those feelings and thoughts?

I’m sitting here guilty as charged. I spend life go, go going and rarely stopping to thank God for the blessings in my everyday life. The people, my job, a warm place to sleep at night, food in my fridge, my health, etc… When I think back on where my life was a year ago compared to now, I’m thankful for the progress and change that has happened. I’ve graduated college, almost spent an entire year with my current company, started dating an amazing man, and made some really wonderful friends along the way. Even through the bumps and the bruises, He has blessed me abundantly.

So why are we not counting our blessings daily? In between what we consider “big” miracles, a lot of good things are happening around us and to us daily. If we started counting our everyday, messy lives as blessings, what a different perspective we may have. A joyful perspective. If we started thanking God for the food in front of us, the car that gets us to our 9-5, and the moments just spent sitting around watching football with the ones we love while our favorite soup cooks away in the Crockpot in the kitchen, we’d see that every day, every moment is a miracle. Everyday should feel #blessed.

If our perspective changes and aligns this way, it makes the tough days much, much easier. When we start to see everything as a blessing, the days that the we can’t catch up on the emails or we get hit with an unexpected bill, you see the bigger picture versus getting caught up in that small “tragedy” all day.

I try not to get on any social media for the first hour or so after I wake up. This can be tricky, since social media is my job. If the first thing you do every morning is scroll through Facebook or check Snapchat and Instagram, it will have you feeling defeated about your day before you even roll out of bed. Someone or something will have you feeling like you’re job, house, family, significant other, or just yourself is not enough. This turns into feeling like you need something different or something more. By staying off my personal social media for a little while, I can focus on what’s really important. I recommend the first 5 app first thing in the morning- yes, that’s only FIVE minutes of your time to get your mind right for the day.

I challenge you to thank God for one thing every morning before you crank your car. Keep a sticky note on your steering wheel or dash to remind you. It will set the mood for your whole day and align your perspective with His.

Let’s be a generation of people who thank God every day for this life, not just the ones who do it once a year. Let’s be a generation of people who are thankful for the mess that life can be and never compare our blessings to the those around us.

 

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Gracious Words

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You ever get in one of those moods? A moody mood. You can’t describe it or why you’re even feeling this way. You just feel tired. Down and out. Like you’re in a never ending cycle of Mondays. Nothing is really wrong per say, but you’re just not excited about life. You’re looking for much needed encouragement to feel like your joyful self again. Someone to say “you can do this!” You can make it through another week. You can make it through that meeting. You can make it through that tough exam.

But sometimes it may feel like you don’t have anyone. No one understands what you’re feeling or they’re ignoring you because you snapped at them over coffee in the break room (sorry to anyone I’ve done this to at work). And honestly you don’t even understand what you’re feeling.

Some might blame it on being a woman (hahaha boys keep the comments to yourself). But really there’s no reason for it other than life wearing you and your spirit down. The constant cycle of heartbreaking news on our televisions and social media can do that to you. Don’t let satan take a foothold in your life through these channels. One of my favorite things to do when this happens is to pick out a few Bible verses that I love. From there I write them down in my planner, on notecards to pin to the bulletin board in my office, write them on my bathroom mirror in dry erase marker, or set them as the screen on my iPhone. Go to Pinterest for inspiration!

  • When you say “I’m too tired,” God says “I will give you rest.”- Matthew 11:28-30
  • When you say “I can’t do it,” God says “You can do all things.”- Phillipians 4:13
  • When you say “I’m not able,” God says “I am able.”- 2 Corinthians 9:8

According to scripture, uplifting and encouraging words are beneficial to the soul. Proverbs 16:24 says “Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” Remember that this doesn’t just apply to ourselves however. Singing sweet songs of praise and encouragement to others not only lifts their spirits but ours as well. Recently there have been countless times where I mentally chose to decide my words weren’t going to better anyone or the situation and kept them to myself. Whether it be an argument or complaining about your food, try it my friends.

Some people say fake it til’ you make it, but I say “faith” it til’ you make it. You’d be surprised how much choosing to be joyful can change your mood daily. After a little while you realize reading those uplifting verses or complimenting your coworker isn’t just a choice, but a daily habit of your joyful soul. I can’t tell you how many times “forcing” myself to say okay I’m not going to let this bad mood get to me or ruin another day. When you say enough is enough, it will lose its foothold on you.

To my friends feeling like everyday has a case of the Monday’s. My friends who feel like they’re in a slump and just don’t know why, this one is for you. Grab your favorite drink from Starbucks-mine is currently the Caramel Apple Spice and dig deep for some verses to write down and keep for future slumps like this one. If you feel like you don’t have anyone to talk to or want some more ideas about combating mood blues, send me a message on my Contact page. Leave your favorite Bible verse for encouragement in the comments below!

 

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